I am crushed and heartbroken, and don’t know how to take the emotions inside and transform them to words. The US, despite all of its advantages as a nation, couldn’t muster up what it takes to be in the 2018 World Cup. Tonight they were eliminated by Trinidad & Tobago. A team that had nothing to play for other than pride. It is unacceptable and an entire nation should be hurt and pissed off about it.
There won’t be any highlights tonight. I am not going to break down the game or the stats or the goals. You can look them up, or just tune into any major media outlet and I am sure you find what you are looking for right on the front page.
What I would like to do is share where I think we should go from here. How do we proceed from our darkest moment, and use it to propel us to new heights? The US has limped through qualification ever since it was eliminated by Belgium in the 2014 World Cup and some things need to change now.
Change #1- Time to clean up shop
It is time for changes within the USSF and it starts at the very top. Sunil Gulati’s time as the President of US Soccer should come to an end. Gulati’s is up for reelection as President of USSF in 2018 and he should be replaced. I don’t know by whom just yet, but I think it’s time.
Bruce Arena should be removed tomorrow. We have plenty of time to search for the best replacement, we don’t have another meaningful soccer match until 2019 when we play in the next CONCACAF Gold Cup. We have a 2 year break to find the right coach. You could go stateside and hire the likes of Peter Vermes, or we have the option of going international and begging a top flight coach to resurrect US soccer from the abyss, Jurgen Klopp anyone?
Change #2- Play the youngsters
No current US player older than 30 years old should be ever called into the national team again. We have 5 years until the next World Cup in Qatar and the youth movement should begin full-steam ahead.
Pulisic is the future of the US, he scored or assisted on 12 of the US’s 16 goals in the Hexagonal. Frankly, if he had not exploded onto the scene last year for club and country, the US would have been eliminated from qualification many months ago. Start building around him.
Youth movement means we say goodbye to old stalwarts. No more 38 year old starting keepers and no more 34 year old aging forwards. You make Christian Pulisic the captain and you start (19) Matt Miazga (22), Paul Arriola (22), Jordan Morris (22) and Bobby Wood (24). You call in the likes of Justen Glad, Danilo Acosta, Brooks Lennon, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Emerson Hyndman, Josh Sargent and many of the U-23’s, U-21’s and hell, even the U-17’s. You schedule a crap ton of friendlies and give them as much international experience as you can before the next cycle of qualification kicks off for the US in 2020. See what they are made of, test their fortitude in every way that you can. We have held onto the old guard for too long now and it is time to rip off the band-aid.
Invest everything you have in the academies. The RSL academy is a great start, we need more just like it. Every MLS team should have one. If we are to be great it starts with the academies. The players that will play in the 2022 and 2026 World Cups are currently with the U-15’s and the U-17’s. Get them ready now!
Change #3- You hold all involved accountable
Soccer has always been seen as a lesser sport in the US given the likes of the NBA, NFL, and MLB. In tough times we have always fallen back on this notion that we could be better with more money in the sport, or if our “top athletes” would choose soccer over the other sports, or if we are just more patient. That is all crap. It is an excuse and it is cancerous to real progress for the sport here. Effectively, we have given US soccer a pass and we need to start holding the USSF and the players more accountable.
There are 321.1 million people living in the great US of A. That is a lot of people and that is a lot of kids playing sports. There are 334,252 people living in Iceland, they qualified. In fact, many soccer powerhouses in the world have populations far smaller than the US. Even if only 10% of our nation plays soccer and cares about the development of the sport here, that is still 10x the people of Iceland. Last World Cup winners Germany, have a population of 82 million. We have 4x the number of people living in our country. We have the talent, we have the athletes, the youth academies, and all the resources to get it done. What we no longer have are excuses.
Change needs to come to the US Soccer Federation. We all need to take a long look in the mirror over the next couple of days and realize that we have been on a long slow decline and tonight it came to a head. We can use this as the moment of resurrection, or we can wallow in our self-pity and continue down the road of mediocrity. But now is the time to decide.
I am going to quote Batman, it has been a long night, sue me. Gotham City’s District Attorney Harvey Dent said it best, “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Tonight many of our nation’s great soccer heroes became villains of sorts. Despite Clint Dempsey’s early stunner against Ghana, or Howard’s couragous efforts against Belgium in World Cup 2014, or Michael Bradley’s dogged determination in World Cup 2010, they will always be remembered as the core of players who couldn’t get it done when the nation was counting on them. Their legacy’s will always be tied to tonight. Good night, and may the soccer gods have mercy on our souls.