Reality sets in: USA hasn't progressed

[MY VIEW] Lost in the euphoria of its dramatic passage into the second round and demonstrated clearly in its loss to Ghana is that the USA has hit a frustrating plateau. There has been no significant increase in U.S. national team talent for a decade.

Thanks to the brilliance of Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, and an admirable fighting spirit, Coach Bob Bradley’s team went undefeated in the first round and won its group.

That achievement overshadowed for a while this team's troubling lack of depth.

In its last six World Cup appearances -- an era that began in 1990 when the USA qualified for the first time in 40 years -- the Americans have now reached second round in three times, including once on home soil in 1994.

It's best run was the quarterfinal finish under Coach Bruce Arena in 2002, with a squad deeper in talent Bradley’s 2010 team.

Up front in South Africa, the USA’s main man was Jozy Altidore, who scored just one goal in 30 league appearances for Hull City last season in the Engish Premier League. Altidore went scoreless in South Africa.

When rising star Charlie Davies was ruled out because of car-accident injuries, Bradley went on a desperate search for another forward and the best he could come up with was Robbie Findley, a slightly above average MLS player.

The 2002 squad was spearheaded by Brian McBride and Arena had no problem providing him with suitable partners, including Donovan, Clint Mathis, Josh Wolff – all of whom made key contributions.

Eight years ago, the midfield included Claudio Reyna and John O’Brien. In 2010, Michael Bradley had a good tournament but neither his partnership with Ricardo Clark nor Maurice Edu was near as formidable as the Reyna-O’Brien duo.

That Oguchi Onyewu went eight months without playing before the World Cup showed in his first two appearances, and eventually Carlos Bocanegra moved into the middle to partner with Jay DeMerit, who played every minute.

DeMerit, who plays in the English second division, has gone far on his limited skills and superb athleticism, but why is it that the United States can still not produce well-rounded central defenders – who can thwart and handle the ball well?

We have not seen another U.S. central defender as good as Eddie Pope, who started all the 2002 games.

The USA provided some thrills at this World Cup, with their first-round comebacks and the dramatic win over Algeria. They won the hearts of Americans who never paid much attention to soccer.

That’s a significant achievement. But this World Cup performance leaves us with the lingering question of why a nation with so many players and so many resources hasn’t shown more progress since becoming a World Cup regular two decades ago.

50 comments about "Reality sets in: USA hasn't progressed".
  1. Joe Addison, June 26, 2010 at 8:27 p.m.

    Well said Mike.

  2. Valerie Metzler, June 26, 2010 at 8:48 p.m.

    Good points, all.

  3. T michael Flinn, June 26, 2010 at 8:50 p.m.

    Edson Buddle over Findley. Edu over Clark. We have talent. Not properly used.

  4. Ihor v Kutynsky, June 26, 2010 at 9:13 p.m.

    We have a totally different culture,we have volunteer parents coaching at young age groups,winning above all is emphasized over skill and guile,long balls are the norm at "higher levels" that includes college "soccer",players are overcoached and overorganized,too much false euphoria leading to disappointments,and above all impatience which places impediments toward progression and development.Add to it all,the plethora of crazy tournaments,overtraining,participation in numerous activities at the same time,and there you have it! The balloon can only take so much air.

  5. David Hardt, June 26, 2010 at 9:18 p.m.

    Maybe it is time to start developing American Soccer players at the youth levels instead of trying to just win there. Big and fast but unskilled can win at lower levels but skill trumps size at the higher levels. Look at U-17 results the past many years at the higher levels. Then they go on to College, more, brute ball, and a few of them go MLS. Sorry not the top league by far. I support Pro soccer in the US but to see the aged foreign players come in for one last pay check shows the general quality of that league. Brute ball fails at the highest levels. Time for a youth development change. Academy might be a step in the right direction but with playoffs and large areas of the country with Academy gaps, a lot more needs to be done.

  6. Miguel Estremera, June 26, 2010 at 9:38 p.m.

    Despite Lalas' characterization of Donovan as the greatest American player ever, it wa Reyna who carried us to quarterfinals in 2002 and it was Reyna who balanced the attack so we struck the attack through all 3 channels. Alexi it is Reyna who still stands tall as the best American player of all time! It gets me sick when I see MB playing in his role.

  7. Lewis Woodward, June 26, 2010 at 9:45 p.m.

    Good points, but we need to also stay positive - the interest in the sport is growing gradually, and the Cup as a spectacle here in the states was much higher this time around than ever before. Our expectations are higher than ever as well.

    Don't blame it all on the players - it's time that our coaches start heading oversees to gain experience like our players have. Although I think Bradley has done well, his knowledge and experience is limited by staying here. Our results will only improve if our coaches improve, both at youth and professional level.

  8. Paul Bryant, June 26, 2010 at 9:48 p.m.

    Miguel, Reyna was a better intuitive player, but Donovan is a better athletic player.

  9. Dane Straight, June 26, 2010 at 9:55 p.m.

    Ricar-DOH, least we didn't see REDcardo today. My poor wife has had to listen to me complain about his (and Findley's) inclusion in the squad for a month, let alone in the starting line up. I agree though with pretty much every point made. I am a college coach and have seen many parents caught up in which club their child plays for and what their teams record is...not to mention how many goals their kid scored in their last game (when your child is playing 3v3 I would hope they would score). But college coaches do tend to gather where talented teams are so parents follow suit to get their child on that all-impressive college scholarship (I'd rather have my kid play than be on scholarship). Klinsman basically stated several years ago that the game itself has lost the sandlot creativity of years past. We can no longer let our 6 year olds just play...we have to have a high paid coach to teach them to play.So instead of players who have creativity and individuality we crank out athletes who fit systems but once they get out of that comfort zone they can't improvise or improve unless the coach tells them what to do during each timeout...oh wait we don't have those.Shoot!

  10. Ken Morris, June 26, 2010 at 10 p.m.

    Miguel & Paul,
    I beg to differ with both of you on this. Tab Ramos was the best American player of all time. More skilled and less lazy than Reyna. More intuitive and creative also. And, he didn't have the habit of disappearing for long stretches of time like Donovan. It's a shame he got injured so much.

  11. Ken Morris, June 26, 2010 at 10:06 p.m.

    I hear what y'all are saying about creativity and the tendency of over-coaching our youth, but this team sorely needs a lesson in fundamentals. These players don't trap, pass or shoot well at all. Our strikers cannot hold the ball and wait for support; their first touch is often errant. Passing is atrocious on this team. Goal keepers punch balls back through the middle; defenders often clear through the middle as well.
    Further, our players need to feel embarrassed when dispossessed, then maybe they'd fight to get the ball back.

  12. Ted Westervelt, June 26, 2010 at 10:13 p.m.

    Why save all these brilliant opinions for afterwords? Can we please get a proper soccer league now? Is the 50 MLS contract on American soccer binding? Do we have to wait until 2035 to voice our opinions on that mess. Ghana was too poor to fly fans to the game. Is the USA is really too poor to field a proper league?

    Donovan beat a UMNT scoring mark set in the Great Depression today, so we know that the youth of the game is a pretty lame excuse.

  13. James Madison, June 26, 2010 at 10:22 p.m.

    Well said, Mike. If Findley is the best we have in place of Davies and we have no suitable replacement for Ramos and Reyna, we are "thin" at best.

    Players, not coaches, play the game, but Bradley should have explaining to do to those who decide on the national coach for his decisions to start Clark and Findley in place of Edu and Feilhaber despite how much better the team had played in previous matches with the latter two on the field instead of the former pair.

  14. Ken Morris, June 26, 2010 at 10:31 p.m.

    Right, James, someone needs to explain why the only one on this team able to possess and distribute the ball, Feilhaber, isn't starting every game. And I don't know if Buddle is the offensive answer or not, but I would have liked to find out. Not that the MLS is a great league, but he was "hot" in the MLS before joining the national squad.
    How long do we have to wait for Altidore before replacing him with someone else?

  15. Ken Morris, June 26, 2010 at 10:36 p.m.

    Ted, citing Donovan's scoring record is not evidence that our youth system is high quality. Donovan is only one player; if our youth were being trained well, there would be countless top quality players. Evidence for this is wide spread, just look at the EPL for instance. For every quality American player you can name, there must be five times the English players. This is why, when we sent our number one player, Claudio Reyna, overseas, he wasn't even good enough to play is regular position.

  16. Steve Cardona, June 26, 2010 at 10:36 p.m.

    What a great subject. Great effort by Donovan who again(needs supporting cast) shows his soccer IQ is above the rest of his teammates.
    The Coach had his chance to field who he thought gave them the best chances. Now he needs to move on. I saw many games in qualifiers this year where the defense was always suspect. M.Bradley has to go to the reserves.He was too green to be in this event. They needed a true ball-winner and a true creative player. I can't believe these are most talented players we have available.

    Mike,why doesn't the US bring in an international coach? Many countries accept that no coach in their in-house leagues will pick the best players. Or are at a international coaching level.

    It seems it's who you know-who we play ball.

  17. John h Borja, June 26, 2010 at 10:52 p.m.

    I'm sorry, but there is a huge talent pool in the U.S. Hercules Gomez, is just an example of the type of players that demonstrate just the tip of the iceberg of great talent. There is a huge blind side in the U.S. in the choice of players, not only for the U.S. team, but also for MLS. Futbol cannot be just bulk players like Josie Altidore if we are to adequately compete on the world stage. There are many players of the body type of Messi in the U.S. The mentality of American coaches, also, is stoggy and not creative. Futbol is not rugby or football or even basketball. Futbol is finesse and stamina and speed. When we get those elements in our US mix we'll be well on our way to a shot at the final 4. On the other hand, Charlie Davies was sorely missed.

  18. David Borts, June 26, 2010 at 11:01 p.m.

    It is of course a great disappointment but alas hopefully a reality check that the USSF will listen to. First a coach with a knowledge of tactics and not just 40yd dash times. Robbie Findley showed his speed today and his incredible lack of sophistication as a scorer and striker. Bob Bradley showed his American attitude that speed alone is the answer. Ricardo Clark once again is Bradley's vision athleticism over soccer tactics, skill, and vision. We can be thankful that our team is relatively fit and that we now have several top level players. We have become a nation that is developing large numbers of second and third division pros. We have the money ingenuity and a vast pool of athletes in this country. It is the role of the USSF as the catalyst and the MLS as the engine to tap these resources and bring soccer to the next level in the US. The USSF through its investment in its Academy system has made a first step. The hiring of Jurgen Klinsman as our National Team Coach is the next. The MLS has the next and perhaps larger role to play i.e. to create a true Division 1 soccer League in this country in which our young professionals can truly develop to the level of World Class performers in which every match is meaningful and fans actually rush to the turnstiles to see matches. "Build it! They will come"

  19. Ken Morris, June 26, 2010 at 11:02 p.m.

    I agree with you, John, but I also think our youth system needs some help.
    I can't believe these are the best players we have available to us. I grew up in Central California, and my U-16 and U-19 teams competed in the nationals. A large portion of that U-19 team got college scholarships. That said, Los Angeles and S.F. seemed to get all the attention when it came to choosing talent. Heck, we even beat Paul Caligiuri's Diamond Bar team on our way to the nationals. We had some players on our team that were unbelievable, yet we never got a sniff from national team scouts and coaches. When I see the same stale players get chosen now, I've got to believe scouts and coaches are politically motivated, lazy or perhaps just throwing bones to their "favorite" players instead of searching for the absolute best talent we have.

  20. Scott Ellis, June 26, 2010 at 11:31 p.m.

    Until CONMEBOL and CONCACAF merge, round of 16 and quaterfinal showings are most likely the best the U.S. can hope for. Qualifying out of our region simply does not prepare us to truly compete in the World Cup. Mexico's lack of knockout phase success over a lot longer period of time shows that having to play the El Salvadors and Jamaicas (no disrespect to these or any of the nations in CONCACAF)to get into the big show will never allow us to win the big show. The third and/or fourth teams from our region are always group stage fodder, though I root for them to succeed every W.C. Both the U.S. and Mexico qualify too easy and then disappoint when the competition gets tougher. Until our's and South America's federations merge it seems it always be the same old song and dance for Mexico and the U.S. in the World Cup. Bueno Suerte Mexico manana.

  21. Kevin Leahy, June 26, 2010 at 11:35 p.m.

    Your proof is in how we played with the time dwindling down. We kept pounding long balls. We scored the winning goal against Algeria by playing to feet and moving the length of the field in twelve seconds to score. Our inexperience shouldn't be an excuse after six cosecutive World Cup's.

  22. Ken Morris, June 26, 2010 at 11:39 p.m.

    Not inexperience, Kevin. Lack of fundamentals!

  23. Eric R., June 26, 2010 at 11:59 p.m.

    Not sure which US teams anyone's refering to here, but I thought we did better this time than we have in the past, despite going down in the 2nd round. By this time, we had a team on the field where our stars had spent the last 30 minutes of Wednesday's game sprinting like crazy people from end-to-end. They were tired. Clark started today instead of Edu; I don't know why. Findley shouldn't have started, it should've been up to Buddle's skill to beat Ghana's defense. When the equalizer came, the team looked like they needed a breather-and probably did. There's blame to go all around if we want to do that. But this is by far the strongest and most skilled team the US has ever put on the field. What we still lack is reliable forwards who pose a serious threat; that too will come in the next couple of cups...

  24. Thomas Brannan, June 27, 2010 at 12:01 a.m.

    With the title of this article finally someone is on the right track but development is not. We have Academy teams, what really is that? The same players and coaching staff as before the Academy teams Only now they spend more money flying all over the place. A few years ago when started, the headline game on the site was "Monkey in the Middle". Is this the coaching education program to foster development in the USA? We don't need more interviews. The references to Brute Ball are right on track. College soccer is like a reference I read one time referring to life in the middle ages. It was short and brutish. Get a foreign coach, who would want it? No one in their right mind. Houllier? why would he want it? was referenced prior to Bradley. Bradley is here by default.
    Experience, Princeton-MLS-is that good enough to go to the World Cup? Two central mid fielders behind two flat forwards protecting two slow central defenders? Tactics Tactics Tactics where are they? Not enough space on that one. Alexi, if you were quoted properly above and you think Donovan is the best ever, I'll give you he MIGHT be, you never seen Charlie Columbo at Fairgrounds Park. The English seen him in Belo Horizante. Ask Walter Bahr. Gyan would not have gotten by Columbo. These are not bad people here everyone is trying. No one wanted to lose today. My intent is not to ridicule. To a large degree the problem is systemic as referenced above numerous times by others. However,as Sun Tzu says it is the fault of the General. The General is a volunteer. Where is the leadership to make it better?

  25. Scott Ellis, June 27, 2010 at 1:07 a.m.

    Feilhaber doesn't start,Ken,nor play enough because to play him consistently would be to sacrifice Michael Bradley's position. Feilhaber is the attacking creative midfielder we needed, not the second defensive mid that Bradley is. That is also why Freddy Adu never was given a chance to be a part of this team three years ago.

  26. Barry Ruderman, June 27, 2010 at 1:25 a.m.

    Mike Woitolla: Fair comments, but perhaps you would be a bit kinder if you had been commenting on USMNT in Sep 2009, rather than Sep 2010. We had some very bad luck with fitness this year. 3 banged up central defenders, 3 or 4 central midfielders missing most of 2010, bad luck with Charlie Davies and a tired and beaten up Clint Dempsey. In 2002, we got lucky against Portugal in qualifying and then beat Mexico, whom we know how to beat on a consistent basis. Our current talent pool is deeper and let's face it, 80% of our biggest weaknesses would go away if Giuseppe Rossi and Nevin Subotic had chosen to suit up for the US. It would be entertaining to put the 2002 and 2010 teams on the field and you might be right, perhaps 2002 would prevail, but the fit 2009 team spent 1.5 matches in a major tournament looking as good as Spain and Brazil. I can't recall getting that sort of thrill out of the 2002 side (and I was in the stands in Korea for the Mexico-US match (watch for the ball flying out of the stands toward Claudio Reyna in the first half, as he's taking a throw in at the near sideline, just after our first goal--sorry Claudio).

  27. Ken Morris, June 27, 2010 at 1:39 a.m.

    Scott, you are so right! I do believe Bradley should be on this team, if for no other reason than his work rate and heart, both of which eclipse every other player on this team. Feilhaber, or someone like him, is an absolute necessity! Without him, we sacrifice almost any chance at creativity as well as any consistent possession. This team is barely able to string together three passes, except for short periods of time. During those times, the US plays well. Unfortunately, those times are rare at best.

  28. Ken Morris, June 27, 2010 at 1:54 a.m.

    Eric, although you are correct about needing more proficient scorers, this team's biggest weakness, at least lately, is the defense. They got burned doing things defenders have learned not to do since childhood.
    Add to the poor defense an uncreative midfield that sports a guy, Dempsey, that only periodically embraces his defensive responsibilities. At present, I cannot think of a more average and bland midfield than ours.
    As for the offense, Altidore couldn't score from the penalty spot if the goalie closed his eyes, sat down and took a phone call. Findley is fast and...well, he's fast! Why not give Buddle and Gomez a decent chance. Is it even possible to be worse than Altidore and Findley?

  29. Chad Mcnichol, June 27, 2010 at 2:07 a.m.

    Great article and lots of good comments. Agree wholeheartedly that it starts with a problem with our youth development. I am usually the first guy to say the focus must be on skills and the technical. The US often seems lacking in that regard. But am I the only one who feels the US team plays a very boring and predictable tactical game as well?

    I'm not even getting into the nuances of the "tactical". Let's talk basics. Top teams like Argentina, Brazil, Portugal and good African teams play a style that features close midfield support and passing to the feet of a player in the middle of the field. Typically, a player in possession has at least three options, and at least one of those options is a penetrating pass on the ground to a player who is showing for the one in possession. Typically these support players bother to make simple "check runs" to create space to receive the ball. They seem to want the ball!

    The US team typically spaces much further apart in the midfield and passes to feet to the middle much less. Midfielders, especially Bradley, often begin to trot downfield in anticipation of the long ball. Far too often, even when there are 5 or more US players in the attacking third, the ball is passed around from one flank to another while the forwards stand idle in line with the defenders. With no other options and no good way to get penetration, and ball soon makes its way to the corner for a lazy, predictable cross into the box. The defense, able to track both the ball and forwards simultaneously, are happy to see this type of offense.

    That is the more-often-than-not way the US moves the ball, and I never saw once saw it effective this tournament.

    Perhaps this is more evidence that our youth need better game intelligence, which does not come through playing the "team development", safe style that wins games at the youth levels. Yes we need technical skill first. But I'm guessing our lack of free play is also showing itself as an overall lack of game intelligence.

  30. Robert Kiernan, June 27, 2010 at 2:49 a.m.

    Well first things first... it certainly can be argued that if a few breaks had gone our way with the health of our squad, things might have been very different... If Charlie Davies had been fit, if Jermaine Jones had been fit, if Onyewu truly had been fully ready...if, if,if...but there are other nasty little questions that rarely seem to be asked...such as our left flank being a problem for the last few YEARS, and little or no real change made by this coaching staff to address this rather major flaw. But also there is just the way we have tended to go out and play our games... simply put, when we try and play a more controlled style and pass to the feet instead of resorting to 40 and 50 yard "hopeful" balls...we tend to penetrate and succeed... but to play that way you need to find and cultivate players with a soccer brain and decent they John O'Brien at Ajax or Reyna, Ramos, or now a player like Paco Torres or Benny Feilhaber. But we still are playing the "he's big" or "he's fast" nonsense all too often and so a player of smaller stature just tends to not get selected very often...and this extends all the way down the ladder of select teams and ODP.
    Look at Messi or for those of you like me who are old school, the Dane... Allan Simonsen, both unquestionably world class in just about every respect, or Bruno Conti... yet these are the type of players that tend to get themselves weeded out of our selection process because they are "too small" or "too individualistic" and so we don't have another Cruyff or Pele...we would have by this logic said that Gerd Muller wasn't defending enough or that Beckenbauer didn't use his left foot well... and we would be right...TECHNICALLY...but we also would be utter fools, which sorry to say we often are.
    These are the facts of life in the US soccer community and AREN'T likely to change anytime soon.

  31. Brian Herbert, June 27, 2010 at 4:41 a.m.

    Wow, I read all 30 comments so far, and the last two, by Chad and Robert were particularly sharp. Here's my take on it! The USA is the land of individual liberty and entrepreneurship, right? Yet soccer in the USA is dreadfully monolithic, feudal, and political. We don't have a player problem (talent pool) we have a problem with the adults in charge and our "closed" system. I can't cite all the examples in this brief space, but let's start at the top: The MLS structure is whack - no other country has transfers and fees controlled at the league level rather than the club. Next, USSF has one resident academy in Florida. Whenever that much power over a player's future is held by one group there will be politics as well as "cover my butt" decisions that lead to selecting based on size and speed rather than taking a chance on a player who can just play the game incredibly well. We annoint the players as "the future of U.S. Soccer". Is any coach/scout that visionary that they can determine such a thing? NO! Just look at draft picks in any other sport, how often are they wrong? I'm sure that all the Bradenton academy players are at least very good, but it's ridiculous to think that in a country of our size this set of scouts can say "these are the best." PROVE IT, by having multiple club-controlled resident academies that compete! OK, next up: the young player! We call youth programs (my son is U11) "academies", but even at U9 and U10, the coaches (who tend to see no problem with the system they grew up in) run these teams the same way they were run when I played, which is to say they implicitly pick winners and losers at WAY too early an age rather than allowing the winners and losers to be flushed out on the pitch over time. Also, parents sometimes use their money as a threat to get their kid on the "A" team. The result? That poor kid, or kid with parents who don't play politics, who might be the next David Villa never gets the attention, exposure, and POSITIVE BACKING FROM ADULTS that helps him get a fair shot at competing for the top spots. So, in my opinion we have no idea how much young soccer talent we have in this country, because our eyes are not open to seeing them.

  32. Brian Herbert, June 27, 2010 at 4:55 a.m.

    Sorry, one more thing! We need multiple pro-club controlled resident academies that have transfer rights to developmental players (and no MLS, you don't get to play middleman!). Right there, we cut through a lot of BS, because the possibility of developing that player who generates a multi-million dollar transfer will drive player development toward skills that are competitive in the international game.

  33. Russell Gray, June 27, 2010 at 7:57 a.m.

    Coaches son playing on the team? Sounds like an American soccer team to me.

  34. Eric R., June 27, 2010 at 8:30 a.m.

    Ken: Agree on most points. I don't think Dempsey was asked to do anything defensive. It could be in his skill-set, but still, not what he's asked to do. I would point out that he's a consistent attacking threat though. On Jozy and Findley, I'm with you and think Coach B under-utilized Buddle and Gomez.

    Someone above also mentioned not using Feilhaber (or bringing in Adu) because of Bradley's position. I put this on the coaching; almost all the mid-field was told to attack: Dempsey, Bradley, even Donovan (who tends to disappear on defense). Center D was repeatedly caught out of position. There's any number of things we can say about the team. But I still think this was overall the strongest team we've sent to the WC, despite lack of depth on the bench, lack of goals (we didn't really score much) and considering the porous nature of our D in all 4 of our matches.

  35. Steven SIegel, June 27, 2010 at 9:49 a.m.

    The depth of ignorance displayed in this thread is breathtaking.

    The USA lost because of letting in early goals: and the culprit is the same problem we've had for years, a slow back line. Does this sound familiar: (1) an opposing player gets goal side of his man (2) the closest center back does not react quickly enough (3) the opponent cuts to the goal and slips behind said center back. (4) direct path to goal.

    Second point: the USA had two great substitutes for Charlie Davies: Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. BB's insistence on keeping them in midfield and using the other options in the first half meant we were slow to start and attacks would be blunted.

    The USA played the Beautiful Game in every match - at least in the second half. It is rarely played anymore by any team. No flopping, no clutching onto your face when an opponent bumps into your chest, and the kind of combination play and creativity that lets you systematically control and advance the ball. LD, CD, JA, MB are superstars in my book. You are all sour because the USA got beat by a mentally and physically tough team that didn't make a mistake in 120 minutes of soccer.

    You can't compare the USA to Germany, England, Argentina, Spain, Brazil. Portugal, arguably one of the most talented teams filled with stars, needed to win a playoff against Bosnia to advance. Same for France against Ireland. Meanwhile, USA won the hexagonal over Mexico.

    Anyway, end of rant. The USA gained a lot of fans in this World Cup because of their style of play: a tribute to the players and the system. Not perfect but a beautiful, beautiful team.

  36. Chad Mcnichol, June 27, 2010 at 10:47 a.m.

    Steven Siegel: I do think you might be missing the big picture. You could say "the US lost because of letting in early goals", but that sort of describes the mathematical way we got the final score rather than the "why". If the US played a fundamentally-sound style that (1) Maintained possession to keep the other team from generating offense with the ball and (2) Consistently generated quality opportunities instead of hoping to capitalize on defensive mistakes, I submit outcomes would be different. I do not think the US team effectively accomplished either of those basic objectives. In short, do you REALLY think the US played the "Beautiful Game" characterized by systematic ball control and creativity? I would like to be positive about the team, but quite honestly, I would describe the US style as uninspired, predictable, not at all creative, and relying on hustle rather than ingenuity, for the reasons I tried to outline in my first post. I find their style somewhat clunky and not at all systematic or purposeful, although they have certainly accomplished a whole lot with an unrefined style, thanks to heart and raw athleticism. But is that where we want to leave US soccer? While it would be silly to try to get any country, including the US, to copy the style of any other country, why can't you make very general observations that compare the US productivity on and off the ball to the most talented teams? This is what I did in my first post. Brazil can execute a particular possess-and-penetrate-style offense much better than the US, and that's ok. We can only ask that the US players execute to the best of their technical ability - tactics are only as good at the technique used to implement said tactics. But I submit they don't seek to execute the tactical basics...they don't usually even try to make penetrating passes to feet or show for each other in the midfield. Giving the player in possession multiple options is a very broad tactical concept that should be fit into anyone's playing style. Far from being sour about the fact the US lost to a tough team, I submit that failing to expect the US to play with good basic tactical concepts is to have the lowest of expectations that are certain to keep US soccer where it is, at best.

  37. Scott O'Connor, June 27, 2010 at 12:41 p.m.

    As one of my non-soccer fan neighbors asked me after the game yesterday, "With all these kids we have playing soccer now, why aren't we getting any better in the World Cup?" My answer was that our best athletes probably still decide to play basketball, football, and baseball because that's where the big bucks and dreams still are. Wouldn't a back line anchored by the likes of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James be an awesome sight?

  38. Kent James, June 27, 2010 at 2:32 p.m.

    Good column, Mike. Barry Ruderman's comment about missing Guiseppe Rossi (who was unbelievably left behind by the Italians) was on the mark; Rossi could have been the player we've been missing. Scott Ellis' point about the need to merge CONMEBOL and CONCACAF is also a good point, since Mexico seems to have similar limits. The national team playing in a meaningful American Championship (including both North and South America) would give us (and Mexico) more relevant experience against quality opposition in meaningful games.

  39. Aldo Baietti, June 27, 2010 at 4:40 p.m.

    It takes a long time to develop into a soccer power house. The program is working. Patiernce. what do you thinki otrher countries are sleeping? go USA!!!

  40. Steven SIegel, June 27, 2010 at 5:23 p.m.

    Chad Mcnichol, the US dominated in the second half in their final three games, and they had a lot of good possession and touches against England. The "why" of going down a goal is pretty simple: a lack of guile. This translates as the defensive line - and the defensive midfielder - not realizing when the opponent gained an advantage and not reacting quickly enough. At the beginning of each game, they were simply not galvanized in their play. They were able to correct this in the second half, but it really comes down to lack of attention.

    I really do think that the US moved the ball very beautifully in the second halves. Part of the equation was teams dropping back, another part was pushing either Dempsey or Donovan forward in place of 'Flavor of the Day' Striker #2, and the third part of the equation was the whole team working as a unit with great technical skill and poise. I think they showed skills I've never seen from a US team before, as well as some naievete reminiscent of 2006.

  41. Jeffrey Organ, June 27, 2010 at 6:18 p.m.

    I am in complete agreement-we have not advanced in the last decade.

    Why is it that Mexico can produce talents like Dos Santos and Hernandez and we can't-at least through our youth system.

    Why can't we even produce a deep stable of defenders who have pace and are comfortable with the ball at their feet. Tell me who are the defenders that we can count on in 2014?

    I think the answer to these and many other questions is the inability of US Soccer to understand what is wrong and blow up the whole system. They are trying, but half-heartedly.

    We need a top technical director to come in from Latin America and reshape the program. It is time for the Bradley's, Rongon's, etc. to step aside. They have done a good job of getting us to where we are today, but are incapable of getting us to the next level.

  42. David Huff, June 27, 2010 at 7:08 p.m.

    Banal Bob (aka 'MLS Bob') needs to be held accountable for his starting lineup decisions with regard to Clark and Findley in the most important match of WC2010 for Team USA. Clark was a known quantity in terms of his inability to maintain possession and make bone-headed mental mistakes and Findley is a north-south sort of speedster who simply cannot finish. Edu and either Buddle or Gomez should have started.

    The USSF that brought us Bradley should also be held accountable for their failures, Sunil Gulati and Dan Flynn need to be gone. Recall it was they who were unwilling to give Klinsmann suffient control of the program so that he run things to bring it to the next level. They also refused to look at bringing on board other similar coaches of quality such as Argentines Pekerman and La Volpe who conducted themselves well for Argentina and Mexico during WC 2006. Why doesn't the men's program deserve a foreign coach who can raise things to a new level? The women's program has benefited greatly since bringing in Sweden's Pia Sundhage to replace the awful Greg 'Long-Ball to Abby' Ryan back in 2007 after the Hope Solo fiasco. Coach Pia has that team playing attractive soccer that uses the full range of technical skills. A seriousa house-cleaning needs to be done at USSF if we are ever to get past having a mediocre men's program. I want to see the US win a WC during my lifetime, do the rest of you feel the same?

  43. Steven SIegel, June 27, 2010 at 8:28 p.m.

    How can anyone seriously put forth Buddle or Gomez as the answer to USA goal scoring woes?

  44. Steven SIegel, June 27, 2010 at 11:20 p.m.

    Gomez was mostly a Johnny-on-the-spot reserve for Puebla who scored ten goals late in games when he was left unmarked at the far post. I like him, I really do, but WC soccer is a lot different. He was unlikely to be a big difference maker and I could say the same for Buddle. Not that I am defending playing Findley. My solution at this point was to push Donovan or Dempsey forward. In any case, we still would have given up those goals. What I am amazed by is that the US played very well in coming back from those deficits in a way you rarely see anymore. We were aggressive, showed poise, and had a sophisticated attack the like of which I have never seen from the US. I saw the Beautiful Game, and I think that is what inspired people to follow the team. I also think that, when you are at the World Cup, you have to elevate your game while you are there. They needed to play better against Ghana then they showed in group play, and they didn't. But it was still a very proud and stirring display that caused them to win the group. Ghana was a tough opponent that I felt was a better team going into the game. The US did well to create dangerous scoring chances to win the game meanwhile shutting down Ghana in regulation after their goal.

  45. Chad Mcnichol, June 28, 2010 at 12:51 a.m.

    Steven Slegel: I appreciate the way you have made your points. I suspect we have different preferences on what we might consider to be attractive soccer. I agree with your points about the defensive breakdowns. And I agree that we looked dangerous at times when Altidore or Dempsey used their individual skills. I am really saying that I don't feel we consistently move the ball intelligently, with purpose, to give those front players more opportunities. It would be fun to watch a game with you and engage in back and forth about the good and the bad. Let's hope your optimism is well-founded.

  46. Steven SIegel, June 28, 2010 at 1:13 a.m.

    Thanks for your comments. Hey, I didn't say I was optimistic about the future! I have no idea exactly of what the future holds. The US talent pool will lag for many years to come compared to what you will find in many European countries. Even a tiny country like the Netherlands will have a greater stock of players to draw from. I hope that individual talent like Donovan and Dempsey can continue to be cultivated, but chance are that will ebb and flow over time. Overall, I see an arc toward continuing improvement, to be sure, but I would not be surprised at dips along the way.

  47. Raveen Rama, June 28, 2010 at 2:55 a.m.

    I totally agree with John Borja, and I say that we do have talent in the US but they are not given the chance to prove themselves.
    In our World Cup team I was surprised with the inclusion of Robby Findley but when he played I think he did very well, and I fully support his inclusion as a starter.
    I never liked the play of Josie Altidore and being chosen as the first choice striker. I think Buddle should have been the starter with Findley because they combined well together and Buddle has a nose for the goal - Altidore has yet to develop his ball skills.
    Also when Gomez came in for the extra time period the stategy should have been changed by the coach. We kept playing long balls that suited Altidore but we should have kept the ball on the ground for Gomez to be effective.
    Anyway, we do have talent, they need to be nurtured, given the opportunity, and proven!

  48. Mike Gaire, June 28, 2010 at 10:51 a.m.

    Of course hindsight is always 20-20 but I think Buddle and Gomez starting would have been better, and Buddle and Gomez were both in the squad because they have shown a recent ability to get a lot of goals and even an attacking
    4-3-3 system with Donovan up front and Edu and Bradley in midfield with Holden might have produced better results. I hope Bradley will think about trying that formation in the next USA international game. I don't think it would hurt young Altidore to ride the bench for a while.

  49. predrag borna, June 28, 2010 at 11:09 a.m.

    Great article great journalists on this site. And comments too.Small correction...Americans first appeared in "modern" World cup in Germany 1974 together with just one representative from Africa.Zaire.You see, those Africans were real bananas then.No hard feelings..I say that because you Americans started from same starting point with Africans.In those almost 40 years they make great step ahead and Americans...not that big.Ha?I understand that you in USA have great opportunities in almost anything and those in Africa they simply must be focused on football because this is really the only way that could provide them descent life.Those millions of children in USA that kick ball they don t have to be players neccesarly .They can be viewers..Maybe is that a reason why kids do not play so passionate.But it is just how I see problem.PS.Pay attention to one guy in MLS Brek SHEA.Definetly better than Altidore.

  50. Ian Campbell, June 28, 2010 at 12:56 p.m.

    Just because the US lost in the round of 16 in extra-time does not mean that all of these things you've mentioned need to change with American Soccer. You guys do this every time they lose. But if they win you are praising them. They played some spectacular soccer in the second half, but they could not finish their chances. A few inches here and there and they would be in the quarter final. US Soccer is doing better than ever.

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