Photo courtesy of si.com | United States men’s soccer head coach Bruce Arena (middle) resigned from his duties last week. The team still has not named a new head coach. The national team failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
On July 1, 2014, the United States Men’s national team squared off against Belgium in round 16 of the 2014 World Cup. Even after a crushing 2-1 defeat in extra time, the buzz around United States soccer was at an all-time high. For the past four years, the growth of soccer in the U.S. has been exponential. Many foreign stars have been coming over seas to play in Major League Soccer (MLS).
Everything for soccer in the United States seemed to be moving in the right direction, with the MLS on course to become a powerful league in the future.
Then, the wheels started falling off. Several home losses in World Cup qualifying matches led to the firing of head coach Jürgen Klinsmann and, most recently, the resignation of Bruce Arena. A detrimental moment to the United States soccer community occurred when the national team failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, hosted in Russia, with a loss to Trinidad & Tobago last Tuesday.
Arena’s squad only needed one point to clinch its bid into this summer’s cup. A win or draw would have guaranteed the men’s team an invitation to the World Cup. Going up against a far worse opponent in Trinidad & Tobago, it seemed like there was no doubt the United States would find a way to punch its ticket. Little did anyone know the U.S. would fall 2-1 on the road to Trinidad. This left the doors open to countries such as Honduras and Panama who were victorious in its latest matches. Both countries surpassed the United States in points, giving Panama an automatic bid and Honduras a chance in a one game playoff to qualify for the cup.
The absence of the United States in the World Cup left fans speechless wondering what could be wrong with soccer development in a nation with 300 million people and more than 1 billion dollars in funding for soccer leagues, player development and facilities.
It is quite hard to believe that in a generation of soccer players who had all the benefits in the world given to them they are unable to find 11 soccer players that have soccer in their blood. As of right now, there are only a few bright spots on the current United States roster. These include the young star Christian Pulisic, defenders John Brooks and Deandre Yedlin accompanied by an up and coming attacker in Bobby Wood. With the U.S. not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, it has hurt the growth and development of the program and has taken four years away from our young players to show their skills on a world stage.
United States soccer has been held back because the organization seems to care more about legacy than talent. Players such as Clint Dempsey, Demarcus Beasley and Tim Howard have left their mark on soccer in this country, but there are times when teams need to part ways and clean house with its older players. It is time for soccer in this country to start caring more about winning than what players have done in the past.
If that can’t happen, the U.S. will never make the crucial step toward being an upper-level team. Hopefully, the recent events have opened the eyes of those who are a part of U.S. soccer, because they don’t owe anything to themselves; they owe it to the soccer fans of this great country.
By: Tim Kramer ~Staff Writer~