MIKE WOITALLA: It doesn't make sense

I remember the day Steve Sampson stopped making sense as if it were only yesterday. But it was more than a week ago. It started with the World Cup opener. For it, he created a system of play that left out the best midfielder in U.S. history, Tab Ramos, and one of its best defenders ever, Marcelo Balboa. After the game he told us that the U.S. held the ball well, Eric Wynalda was not alone on the frontline, and Roy Wegerle gave a good performance. I thought he might follow that up with, it's hard to find a cafe in Paris. Then came the Iran game and Sampson benches Wynalda, the all-time U.S. leading scorer. Wegerle, who doesn't even make an impact in MLS, starts up front. The U.S. loses, 2-1, and is out of the World Cup. Sampson tells the press he's proud of his team because it played attacking soccer and took risks. Is it a noble achievement to play ineffective attacking soccer in a game you have to win against Iran, a nation that had never won a World Cup game? As time passes, Sampson won't be judged simply on his World Cup debacle. When he took over for Bora Milutinovic, he unshackled the players from a rigid defense-minded system and they played the most entertaining soccer managed by a U.S. national team. Sampson finished fourth at the Copa America. He beat nations like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Austria and Scotland. His commendable media relations and fluency in Spanish helped popularize the national team beyond previous standards. Then he fiddled around so much with his lineups he wasted this team's formidable experience. He put a system before his players. Now the U.S. needs a coach who wouldn't do that.
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