Jump to content
  • Unfortunate glory and the US national team

    Duane Rollins

    For those with a sense of history, the bookending of the start and finish of the United States’ consecutive men’s World Cup appearance streak was fitting.

    It started from Trinidad. It ended there too.

    However, in the time between Paul Caligiuri’s “goal heard round the world (or at least in very specific parts of a largely indifferent at the time America)” and last night’s capitulation to a clearly inferior T&T side, so much has changed that the two events may as well have happened in different worlds.

    Then the USA was a scrappy group of underdogs that hadn’t been to a World Cup in the modern era. They had no pro league and the 1994 World Cup had not yet been awarded to the USA. Hell, Canada was better than the US back then.

    But that started to change that day. Over the next two decades the US established itself as a consistent World Cup maker and solid middle power. Famous wins came – Spain in the Confederations Cup, Mexico in the Round of 16 in 2002 – and what was largely a niche sports product became decidedly mainstream, at least when talking about every four years.

    If you had been around prior to 1990, that rise was remarkable. If you came after, it was still impressive, but also frustrating. The United States is not used to being a middle power in sport. It’s not something that sits well with Americans, who want to be at the top of the world in everything that they do.

    And they have reason to want that and to believe it possible. The USA is rich – spectacularly rich – both literally and in human resources. The country has amazing infrastructure that is the envy of more established football cultures.  Those factors really should be enough to overcome the fact that the sport was not part of the country’s soul, like it is in much of the world.

    But, it didn’t. After a solid upward trajectory that ended with a missed Torsten Frings handball that, if called, would have sent the US to a World Cup semi-final, things just kind of stagnated at a men’s national team level. There had been positive changes – MLS improved greatly, attendance at games massively increased and the women’s side of the game boomed – but there were still issues that were clear to anyone who was paying attention.

    There was fractures in the youth systems, professional teams were sacrificing young domestic talent to bring in big, foreign names, too much of development was left to an inadequate NCAA system and, it appeared that profits – especially as it relates to pat-to-play -- were being prioritized over true technical work.

    As with anything, the solution to those issues is not simple, but it starts with recognizing that there is a problem.

    After a slip back to the pack in 2006, people were starting to have those hard conversations. It may not have reached a critical mass, but influential voices were starting to make themselves heard towards the latter part of the last decade.

    And then Landon scored.

    The last minute Landon Donovan winning goal over Algeria became the true “goal heard around the world” of US soccer. It happened not with a few football geeks watching, but with a nation of soccer bros cheering it on from packed pubs around the United States.

    Donovan’s goal is, without a doubt, the single most memorable moment in modern American soccer history. It also might have been a little bit of unfortunate glory. It changed the narrative from “what are we doing wrong” to “we believe that we will win.”

    The evidence didn’t back up the latter belief.

    In hindsight, the USA’s 2010 World Cup is completely uninspiring. A point was saved against England because of a bizarre keeping error, two goals were allowed against unfancied Slovenia and it took 91 minutes to find a goal against an Algerian team that finished bottom of the group.

    The US was two minutes from going home. As it was, they were home a few days after the exhilaration of Donovan’s goal, with Ghana finishing off a mediocre 1-1-2 World Cup for the USA.

    But, the thousands of new fans that came into the fold that day don’t remember the fits and starts versus Slovenia and didn’t care about the systemic issues were there to see if you looked hard enough. They just saw the goal. And they were ready to see more.

    So, seven more years have passed and the same issues that were there in the 89th minute versus Algeria remain. They’re just seven years deeper and more difficult to address. As many have pointed out those seven years are black hole in US development, with very few players developed during that time having a significant role in the current side.

    Again, this take, like any, is overly simple. However, the narrative matters and American fans, observers and influencers are operating under a much different narrative today.

    This time Landon wasn’t there to save the day and the next Landon won’t have an opportunity to do it on the biggest stage for another five years.

    Believing that they will win is no longer going to cut it. It’s time for USA soccer to start working towards that.            

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    There are no comments to display.

    Please sign in to comment

    You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

    Sign In Now

  • Image from iOS.jpg

  • Posts

    • At this point it feels like none of the players want to step on Davies toes.     Eustaquio would be my guy but I’d all be for Kamal Miller as well.  Love a Center back as captain as well but I think the fear is that Kamal has hit his ceiling in MLS and that in general we hope to have Center backs playing at higher levels than MLS which means Kamal would be pushed to the bench.  FWIW I’d have no problem with Kamal being captain while playing in MLS.  I think Ream is solid captain material.  My only fear is that if Miami is the height of Kamal’s career, and he will be surpassed in coming years.  I like Kamal, Johnston and Eustaquio as captains but it really it’s going to also come down to our next head coach.  With formations and preference, both Johnston and Kamal are not sure starters whereas Eustaquio is a sure starter for the foreseeable future. 
    • He also posted this right before that tweet you posted above. https://x.com/canmntbible/status/1729330453193085279?s=46&t=tKRu86Vea8ViJ1G0Nj6cIA   and this https://x.com/canmntbible/status/1729330935030480951?s=46&t=tKRu86Vea8ViJ1G0Nj6cIA Which had me thinking it was Cedric Toussaint committing to Haiti that he was talking about.  But with him seemingly leaving it as a cliff hanger makes me think it has to be someone else.  Or not very well thought out cliff hanger.  
    • https://x.com/canmntbible/status/1729332983520264538?s=46&t=spIaqlQfufAO3HreB1455Q canmnt bible guy saying some bad news apparently about a dual national, but tweeted after that there’s some good news attached to it? No clue what this is referencing. I know Jamaica is making a big dual nationals push, so I wonder if Jebbison, who I think is eligible, decided to play for them or something.    No idea how legit this guy’s sources are, but he posts a lot about the team, so maybe something to keep an eye on 
    • Recent example of Perruzza at HFX too.
    • Small sample size admittedly but addling to the point, even strikers like J Hams, E Welshman and others that have come back to CPL have not torched the league either 
    • Ya. I'm not even sure who it should be. One thing I don't like is having a keeper as captain. I like it to be a field player
    • I thought of that - but I would like to see it more before I give any thoughts on it. Could be worth considering in this conversation though, certainly. 
    • David just captained Lille on the weekend
    • That's odd. Why would the USA only want to play a single match? Not really like them, is it? I dunno....this is feeling like the past few windows where he have declared we may consider playing a friendly but already the options are dwindling quicker than we can get the word "friendly" out of our mouths. 
    • Who should captain Canada. That's an interesting topic... Davies - The most talented player at the highest club level can sometimes captain your side on the strength of those things alone, but I could see it going both ways with Alphonso. It could galvanize him and push him to a new level with the National team and drag the team along by extension, or it could put too much pressure on him and bring his worst qualities out. I am split 50/50 on this, but leaning towards NO because already there is uncertainty around how we use him? What his best position is? And I think everyone would agree we don't consistently get the best out of him - so putting the armband on him? I think it just putting the cart before the horse at this point. Figure out where and how to use Davies first and once that is settled maybe then he could grow into the Captain role.  Eustaquio - My gut reaction is always YES YES YES. He's playing at one of the higest levels and is the heartbeat of the team, so again that makes him an obvious candidate. He doesn't have to bark at the guys, just lead by example and give the lads a boost. These are all things in his favour. Unlike Davies, I don't think anything changes with Stephen whether you declare him captain or not - he's a mature player in his prime who knows what he is - I just don't see it affecting his game negatively and maybe it gives him a slight boost, but honestly I feel like this player is already at his ceiling for club and country. I think we could do worse than Staq as captain, but let me consider who else may be an option... Johnston - If you asked me this last year I would have probably said he's a front runner. Supposedly he has a world class mentality, which I don't doubt if you can pull yourself from League 1 Ontario to MLS and then to Celtic, but I do have some doubts. Firstly, is this a guy who is a locked in starter? Right now I would say no and last year I would have said yes. I think someone who doesn't always start can be an alternative captain, or a stand in captain, and maybe that should be bestowed on him, but you want the guy who is THE captain to be starting matches consistently and personally I think Laryea offers more than Johnston at the moment, depending on the opponent and such. Laryea was fantastic over the past two matches and Johnston was decent. Not outstanding, but decent.  Miller - I like what @Shway is saying there about him upthread, but I don't know if I am sold on the idea. What it could do is help Miller elevate his game to another level and maybe find some consistency. As good as he can be on the ball and in the tackle, he still seems to have a mistake in him. Maybe the responsibility of wearing the armband would help him stay dialed in, because the lapses with Miller are obviously mental. On the other hand, there are bigger factors than just who will benefit most from wearing the armband. Do the players see Miller as a leader? Does Miller see himself as a leader? These are things that are required and things I have questions around.  Hoilett - This is the one guy who has actually worn the armband so not much to break down here. He was seemingly the 3rd captain after Atiba and Borjan, so maybe he is the number 2 right now until Borjan goes and maybe with Milan possibly out of the door he is THE captain. The players are going to respect him on and off the field, respect his talent and his career and contributions, even as he enters his twilight. I can see him being like Atiba - defacto captain on and off the field - but obviously has to be on the field to wear it. Is there anyone else? Vitoria? Kind of like Hoilett, no? Here is how I will sum it up starting today: Borjan Hoilett Vitoria  Eustaquio And when Borjan and Vitoria are phased out: Hoilett Eustaquio Davies (maybe Johnston or Miller) I think Davies as a vice captain or assistant captain could prevent him from putting too much pressure on himself, but give him enough responsibility to affect things positively. Regardless the players will look up to him no matter what.
  • Create New...