The title of this blog sounds like the moment a couple realizes a relationship is over. The couple starts analyzing things and remembering all the good and bad times. If you follow the United States Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) then that’s where they or we are this morning. How did the USMNT fail to qualify for the 2018 World Cup? The answer to that question is too broad and too tough to come up with right now. There are a lot of contributing factors. Last month Alexi Lalas went at the team but it didn’t help.
On September 29, I was invited to join U.S. Soccer Voices. If I remember correctly the group will consist of about 10,000 “fans”. I had to answer a series of questions in order to join the group (before they sent back an email a week later saying I was accepted”). They asked questions about age, race, sex, etc. along with questions about my knowledge of US Soccer. This is one step in the right direction. I don’t think 10,000 fans have the answer. I do feel listening to us will help. I also think that having a diverse group to receive feedback from will help. Soccer in the United States of America – especially at the youth level – is a rich man’s sport i.e. predominantly white while in other countries it is played by all. An effort has to be made to get more people in the United States interested the game. From youth all the way to adults.
The next thing I’ll touch on is how and where we play soccer. For the most part soccer in America is confined to 11 on 11. A friend jokingly asked me “what is the term for a ‘pick up game’ of soccer?” I could only laugh because I had no answer for him. To his point though, where are the ‘pick up games’ of soccer being played? On some days you may be able to ride by a field and see some people kicking about. That’s nice but it’s nothing like that in other countries. They play soccer the way we play 3 on 3 basketball…anyway or anywhere possible. It’s a part of their culture. I watched a documentary called Concrete Football a few weeks ago. Nike went to different parts of France and looked at the way they play “5 a side”. 5 a side is a 5 on 5 game of soccer played anywhere possible. In the documentary they showed how the games were very similar to pick up games of basketball in America.
Since diving into soccer I’ve become familiar with a bunch of terms related to the sport. Two terms that stick out are technicality and tactics. It has been stated at nauseam that the USMNT often walks into major International competitions with average talent. The lack of talent leads to another tricky debate so I’ll stay away from it. I mentioned technicality above, in soccer this term refers to a player that is able to dribble, pass, think, and create with ease while the ball is at his or her feet. Basically skills. The USMNT don’t have many players that can do that. At this moment, many will argue that they only have one – Christian Pulisic – that can. The other term I used is tactics. Tactic or tactical ability can also relate to a player’s ability to maneuver with the ball. In this case I’d like to use it as it relates to setting up a team to play a match. The USMNT has no idea of how they want to setup tactically. Meaning they don’t adjust or show any ability to adjust to their opponent. The USMNT has been credited for their ability to win the endurance side of matches but that’s not enough against the best. Matter of fact it hasn’t been the enough to win against what many consider to be inferior opponents. Running around the field like the Road Runner doesn’t help if you don’t have technical skills or tactical awareness.
The takes will be sizzling over the next few days and that’s to be expected. It’s what happens when things cool off that will matter. I bolded four words for a reason: Diverse, Culture, Technical and Tactics. They all go hand in hand if the USMNT wants to move forward. Like every good relationship you need a solid foundation to stand on. Not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup has rocked the USMNT’s foundation so I leave you with this from Deborah Cox. USMNT please change our minds…