Over the past decade, soccer has grown tremendously in America. What was once a foreign oddity has become an ever expanding empire of interest. Club teams are popping up across the United States and attendance for matches has boomed. Recently, North Carolina FC was fully established in Raleigh/Cary, North Carolina. The clubs creation brought excitement for profession soccer right here in our own state. The future of soccer is looking extremely bright as these programs inspire tomorrow’s youth to be at the top of the league. While all this excitement is being brought to soccer, the U.S. men’s national soccer team has fallen flat. With almost unending resources, the U.S. should be a constant contender in the World Cup. Yet, we aren’t.
The USMNT played Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 10, this game being the deciding factor for the USMNT’s slot in the 2018 World Cup lineup. As much as there was riding on this game, the team seemed extremely relaxed during this match. Trinidad and Tobago, named the underdog well before the match began, had much to fight for during this game, the most important being pride. In what should have been an open and shut game, the USMNT allowed their substitutes to enter the game and gain playing time quickly became a disaster. With Trinidad and Tobago considered largely as the losing team, the U.S. left the locker room believing their opponent to be a lackluster experience. This was the team’s largest, and most fateful, mistake. While most of the possession play was controlled by the U.S., Trinidad and Tobago worked their own little trouble into the mix.
The one true goal that Trinidad Tobago scored was pure luck, the other being an own-goal. The “shot” was a shanked cross, something that should have been easy caught and controlled by the goalkeeper, Brad Guzan. Unfortunately, Guzan could not find his way back to his line and tripped on himself, making for one heck of a goal. In this respect, Trinidad and Tobago found the USMNT’s weakness and was gifted an extremely lucky opportunity. This goal almost immediately solidified the fate of the U.S. for the rest of the match. The game saw weak attempts to fully gain possession, weak on the ball, and tack-less for the U.S. team. The second half was overall uninteresting. When the referee’s final whistle blew, Trinidad and Tobago rightly deserved their opportunity to celebrate this exciting opportunity. And the USMNT rightly deserve to sit and reflect on all their past mistakes.
Pushback to the games results came almost immediately as Twitter exploded with angry commentary from fed-up fans. With the USMNT having more than enough resources, not extending their stacked roster, their fans had enough. Many fans pointing their anger to the coaching staff change where Coach Jurgen Klinsmann was fired and replaced by Bruce Arena. This change was meant to bring fresh, new ideas to all aspects of the team. What was once fueled by excitement quickly burned out in the reality the team faced. With almost all coaching transitions, there come complications. These complications can be found within team dynamic first and foremost. A team becomes comfortable with a coach over a period of time, throwing a new coach into the mix disrupts the original flow.
Another issue fans have brought to the forefront is how much money is being constantly funneled to the advancement of soccer but how not much is being shown in return. Taylor Mackey, sport analyst, brought the argument that our USMNT roster is filled with too many players that are more interested in their paycheck rather than the beauty of the sport. Most players are making a great amount of money from their part on the team, while also benefiting from endorsements from major sport companies. These players are paid well enough to win games, to win major championships and to qualify for the World Cup.
Overall, Trinidad and Tobago were gifted an incredibly lucky win. What could’ve been a blowout by the USMNT became a fight for life in the World Cup by both. Trinidad and Tobago earned their stripes during their fight with their constant passion and desire to taste what even qualifying would feel like, while the USMNT seem to become complacent, and luckily we caught this just in time. What could have slipped through the cracks for years to come can finally be stopped. But the right steps must be chosen and done in a timely manner.
The U.S. does not have much longer to sit in the dirt and cry over this loss. The U.S. have their chance to get up and fight again, the American spirit. In the face of adversity, wholesale changes are expected to come about within the next five years; one of the biggest changes being the culture that these athletes are playing in. Hopefully within the years to come, the U.S. will step back to their rightful place on the world stage – for now it’s time to rebuild.