American Soccer Must Embrace Change

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Kevin-Prince Boateng celebrates after scoring on the United States in the 2010 World Cup. (Photo: AP Photo)
Kevin-Prince Boateng celebrates after scoring on the United States in the 2010 World Cup. (Photo: AP Photo)

 

Some American soccer fans need to embrace the concept of change for the sake of improvement because this collective mentality puts pressure on The United States Soccer Federation, The United States Men’s National Team, Jürgen Klinsmann, and Major League Soccer to have higher standards.

There’s no denying the growth of soccer in the United States or the increase in talented American players, but The United States Soccer Federation is going overboard with its level of celebration and almost propaganda during World Cup qualifying.

One thing in particular that was disconcerting was the shirt that Jürgen Klinsmann was wearing that had “Qualified” written across the front of it after the U.S. qualified for the World Cup.

While the players, fans, and coaches celebration after the United States had qualified for the World Cup was understandable and definitely appropriate, that t-shirt was Jürgen Klinsmann essentially going overboard with his bragging about the United States qualifying for the World Cup in the weakest soccer region in the world.

Celebration and congratulations were in order, but Klinsmann’s publicity stunts like the “Qualified” t-shirt, the fist pumps after beating weak teams, and walking down to the field before the 2013 Gold Cup Final was over look slightly ridiculous when he has so much work to do in order to strengthen the United States Men’s National Team at several positions to close the gap with better national teams.

The coach of the United States has continued to refuse to address or correct the issues with the weaknesses at the outside back positions and the failure to incorporate a playmaker to balance out his two-man defensive midfield.

He has also not evaluated enough center backs to really know who the best American center backs are. There are some real concerns with the ability of Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, and Clarence Goodson to handle better attackers.

When the United States beat Bosnia and Herzegovina, John Anthony Brooks and Geoff Cameron were starting at center back, so there’s no way to know how Gonzalez and Besler would have done.

The counter-argument to this is of course that the U.S. beat Germany’s B Team when Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez were starting, but anyone watching that game could see that Germany was clearly not trying very hard until the U.S. went up 4-1, at which time Germany quickly scored two goals in a matter of minutes without any difficulty.

The problems with the United States Men’s National Team are not with the player pool, but U.S. Soccer and American soccer fans need to acknowledge that the sort of line-ups that Klinsmann uses and the lack of balance and/or talent in his rosters in certain areas will be a major problem in the 2014 World Cup.

It is a time to celebrate the growth of American soccer and the influx of young and talented players, but the rosters and line-ups that Klinsmann has been using will not get the job done in Brazil against top national teams.

Klinsmann himself has said that the 23-man roster that he uses in the World Cup will look different than the 23-man roster than he is currently using, but he has also shown a tendency to not really mean what he says.

Now is the time for Klinsmann to incorporate the new players that are needed to bolster the roster, and even if he doesn’t start them in the final two World Cup qualifiers, then he still needs to have them among the 12 non-starters on the roster.

The recent snubbing of Chris Klute and Shane O’Neill from MLS’ 24 Under 24 rankings, the ranking of Juan Agudelo way down at the sixth position on the list, or the ranking of José Villarreal at 11th show that even many of the employees of MLS are not adept at judging talent, and this recent list demonstrates a larger problem with the inability of some Americans to recognize talent and to recognize the need to support players with a level of skill that is closer to the skill-level of other national teams, in order to beat the better national teams.

On the bright side, the United States is really close to closing the gap with better national teams with the exception of teams like Brazil, Germany, Spain, Italy, etc, but changes will have to be made to get closer to those teams.

With roughly one year until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, there is plenty of time to season better players and strengthen weaknesses.

 

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