The USA's World Cup fiasco and the vain search for culprits

Two individuals long prominent in American soccer have been hit hard by the USA’s World Cup fiasco -- Coach Bruce Arena and USSF President Sunil Gulati. Arena looks like the big loser. While this is not something to shed tears over -- why do something that Arena himself will not do? -- it is certainly something to ponder, something to regret.

Arena has been a central figure in American soccer for decades now. More than a figure -- a trailblazer. I’m thinking of his move from UVa to MLS -- from the amateurism of college soccer to the pro MLS. A daunting challenge that he quickly turned into a huge personal triumph. Those who doubted that he would succeed -- myself among them -- were put to flight.

Success has followed success -- with the national team, with the Galaxy ... until now. Called in to clear up the eccentric mess left by Jurgen Klinsmann, Arena looked to be on his way to success until the sudden, unthinkable, loss to Trinidad & Tobago.

After that game, Arena faced the press, talked straightforwardly as he always has, made no excuses and a little later did the honorable thing and resigned. I do not -- cannot -- believe that we have seen the last of Arena. Surely he will not go quietly into the good night, not Arena. American soccer needs him.

Anyway, he deserves better. What, exactly, was it that did him in, and that now casts a shadow over Gulati? All the evidence points in one direction -- a direction I hesitate to follow. Klinsmann was unable to produce a reliable men’s national team, or even one that looked good when it was winning. Arena, using many of the same players, seemed to be on his way when Honduras was comprehensively taken apart 6-0. 

Then came Costa Rica to upset things -- not for the first time --  with a 2-0 win in New Jersey. The U.S. performance was bafflingly tame, with none of the fire and commitment that had sunk Honduras.

The tremendous dip in form was worrying. So we worried -- but not for long. Five months later came the crucial must-win game against Panama, and the USA looked better than it had looked for years in a thoroughly dominant 4-0 win, that erased all the doubts. The loss to Costa Rica had evidently been a momentary glitch. The USA was looking like Arena’s best teams have always looked -- playing with attacking skill, scoring goals, and exuding the easy confidence of people who enjoy what they are doing.

Next up Trinidad & Tobago, the worst team in the qualifying group. However much one laments the totally unexpected results of the other games in the group that night, results that ensured the USA’s doom (Honduras beating Mexico, Panama beating Costa Rica), the key truth is that the USA were just plain bad and must take the blame for their own destruction.

That earlier loss to Costa Rica had not been a one-off glitch. It had revealed a fault line in this team. One that Klinsmann never solved. He repeatedly blamed MLS for the problem, telling us the league was not strong enough to provide the challenge needed for international play. So he encouraged Americans to bypass the league and seek teams in Europe. And he brought in six German-Americans to make his point.

Klinsmann’s anti-MLS attitude was never convincing. Even so, Arena failed with many of the same players and suffered the same wild swings in form. Was it possible that Klinsmann was on to something?

Hardly. His theory is totally undermined by Costa Rica, the team that outplayed the USA twice. Costa Rica has been improving (its extraordinary showing in the 2014 World Cup attests to that), and perhaps the key element in that improvement has been an increase in the number of Costa Ricans playing in MLS. Approximately half the Costa Rican national team now consists of players with MLS clubs. Not just Costa Rica: During 2017, Mexico, Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica and T&T called up a total of 31 players from MLS clubs.

All this points an accusing finger in the direction I hesitate to follow: toward the U.S. players. But whatever malaise may be periodically affecting the American players on the national team, either it isn’t bred in MLS, or Costa Ricans are mysteriously immune to it. In fact, seem to thrive on it.

It is perfectly logical for USSF President Sunil Gulati to find himself accused of responsibility for the calamity - if that is what it is -- of not qualifying for next year’s world cup. That, and the failure to qualify for the last year’s Olympics, both happened under Gulati’s reign, so the buck stops at his desk.

Full disclosure: I am a friend of Gulati’s, have been for some 40 years. I strongly supported him when he began his pursuit of the USSF Presidency. During his 12 years in that job, he has done a number of things that I have strongly, and publicly, disagreed with. To wit: his long delay in firing the manifestly inadequate Klinsmann; and his failure to reach out strongly to the Hispanic community. Those are, to me, two serious faults.

Serious yes, but when measured alongside the many positives that Gulati has brought they loom less large. I have known and observed and conversed with eight USSF Presidents. All of them, of course, unpaid amateurs -- including Gulati. Without a second’s hesitation I would name Gulati as the most satisfactory of the lot. By a wide margin.

The post has, of course, changed drastically over the past 50 years, enlarging itself as the sport has spread rapidly across the entire country. From being a decidedly part-time low-key job for an enthusiast it has become one of this country’s top sports administrative jobs. And it now involves considerable activity at the international level.

Of course the job should be full-time and salaried. That will come, but Gulati seems determined that it will have to wait until his span is over. In the meantime, Gulati somehow manages to devote the necessary hours to his soccer work, while holding a job as a senior lecturer in economics at New York’s Columbia University.

Quite an achievement. I have no doubt that what helps Gulati sustain the work rate is his full-blooded devotion to the sport. He has come up through the ranks of American soccer, from youth soccer, through college, to administrative positions in state and national bodies. Along the way he played a key role in bringing the 1994 World Cup to the USA, and then in its organization. And he has been a deputy commissioner of Major League Soccer.

Gulati’s experience in the game -- in the contemporary game -- is immense. He now presides over a USSF that is more financially secure than it has ever been. And, the USSF’s national team program is larger and more organized than it has ever been. Despite the recent setbacks, one of the more important achievements of his presidency has been to give the men’s senior team the international credibility that it previously lacked.

Women’s soccer, too, has a lot to thank Gulati for, as he has championed it and has used Federation money to subsidize the women’s pro league

Gulati himself can claim considerable credit for raising the international level of respect for the American game. He is recognized as a highly intelligent, soccer-savvy presence on FIFA’s Executive Committee. His reputation as a plain speaker and an honest man meant that he never became embroiled in the recent scandals that have beset FIFA.

His background in economics no doubt helps him to think clearly about the now massively important financial aspects of the sport, while his duties as a university lecturer have given him a confident and impressive manner when addressing meetings.

Most recently, it is at Gulati’s initiative that the three-country bid (USA, Mexico and Canada) has been made to stage the 2026 World Cup -- a bid that seems certain to succeed.

This is a hugely impressive catalogue of talents and accomplishments. Gulati’s judicious use of his talents -- the quiet diplomacy -- has been outstanding. Those who now call for him to step aside need to give some serious thought to just how expertly Gulati -- at the head of an essentially amateur organization -- has been able to professionalize its operations without trampling all over its amateur roots.

Where is there to be found a challenger for Gulati’s job who can lay claim to a fraction of the knowledge, experience, achievements -- and, yes, wisdom -- that Gulati brings to the job?

Put to that test, the already-announced opponents -- plus any that one can even think of -- are simply not equipped to take on the demands of this highly complex, high-pressure job.

Next year’s election is a vital one for American soccer. The necessary modernization and globalization of the USSF is by no means complete. Sunil Gulati must be given a final four years to fully develop what he has so ably started.

The loss to Trinidad and Tobago spelled, for the USA, the end of the World Cup. But not the end of the world. Changes will follow, as they should. But this is not the time to for the sport to shed Bruce Arena and Sunil Gulati, two of its most distinguished talents.

30 comments about "The USA's World Cup fiasco and the vain search for culprits".
  1. Kent James, October 22, 2017 at 12:07 p.m.

    PG, I think you've characterized both Arena's and Gulati's careers very accurately.  While neither is perfect, both have done a lot for US soccer.  It was obviously appropriate for Arena to resign, since he was hired in order to qualify for the WC, and that quest is over.  As for Gulati, I thought it was probably appriate for him to resign as well, but you've convinced me that it's probably better for him to have another 4 years (and then transition to a full-time, paid position for someone else).  On the other hand, I think if there is a strong replacement candidate (I don't know who's running, so I don't know if there is), that would probably be fine, but there are no guarantees, so they'd need to be very strong to warrant replacing Gulati.

  2. Jogo Bonito, October 22, 2017 at 12:43 p.m.

    I’ve read many analysis on our WC performance, but this is the most thoughtful and knowledgeable viewpoint I’ve read since the T&T disappointment. I also wanted Gulati out, but my fear is who might replace him. One of the responsibilities not mentioned by PG is the coaching schools. I feel that US Soccer places far too much importance on coaching education and the elitism that seems to permeate within the National soccer community. With a youth system that, while improved greatly, still does not do a good enough job seeing value in technical players over size, speed and strength. I guess my fear is that no matter who gets in they will continue to trust the current philosophy of coaching and youth development. And clearly we are both not selecting the right types of players and producing enough of a certain type of player for a country and federation of this size.  

  3. Frank Cardone, October 22, 2017 at 1:05 p.m.

    An excellent analysis, as usual, by Paul Garner. However, I feel that Sunil Gulati should not seek relection. He renewed JK's contract BEFORE the World Cup. Then he waited far too long to dismiss him, leaving Bruce Arena with a fractured team. Let us not forget that the US failed to qualify for not one but two Olympic Games. The loss T&T was the final straw. I appreciate Sunil Gulati the man and his honesty in dealing with the lowlifes in FIFA. I thank him for his devotion to soccer and now respectively ask that he not seek relection. Change is needed. Is should begin at the top.

  4. Rusty Welch, October 22, 2017 at 1:17 p.m.

    Appreciating both Arena and Gulati's impact on U.S. Soccer, it is time for change. Our youth programs are in need of serious re-working and more opportunities with less pay-to-play. We need to realize that no matter how much you may think MLS is fine, not one of our young MLS players have the skills of those currently playing in Europe. You mention Costa Rica as the sign that it's not a matter of MLS quality - ignoring the simple fact that without the world-class Navas, they would struggle to even qualify. The US had many teams that were similar - relying on Keller, Friedel, and Howard to have a chance.  
    We need someone who doesn't have any rosy tint to their glasses when viewing MLS and our development academies, but has good ideas on how to improve both. That's why I hope Wynalda is successful in his bid. Gulati has done a lot - but I think it's time for him to step aside so we can move US Soccer forward from here.

  5. Anthony Calabrese replied, October 23, 2017 at 3:45 p.m.

    For years, Paul Gardner has been calling for massive changes in US soccer.  And now, when it gets to the point that we might actually have some he is . . . calling for the status quo.

    I supported firing Klinsmann and hiring  Arena as coach last year.  We were in panic mode, Klinsmann had obviously failed and Arena is the closest thing we have to a coaching legend in the US.  He had one job and he failed.  Yes, he paid the price.  But even had we qualfiied and make a quarterfinal appearance I would have wanted him to step aside after Russia anyway.  I agree I hope we have not heard the last of him, but I cannot see him as national team coach again.  

    Which gets us to Gulati.  He is a very smart man and has devoted his life to the sport.  But president of US Soccer now needs to be a full time paid position, so it is time for Gulati to step down.  He deserves to be given a dignified exit and frankly he has one.  He annoucnes he is not running for reelection in order to focus on the 2016 bid (make him President and Chairman of the bid committee) and, if possible let him keep and focus on his FIFA role (I believe his FIFA position is independent of his US Soccer presidency).  

    This is a once in a generation chance to resturcture US Soccer.  Let's not let it go to waste,  

  6. Kevin Leahy, October 22, 2017 at 2:10 p.m.

    The article is appreciated for giving balance to the discussion. I'm not opposed to change but, not just for the sake of change. The players between the ages of 23 to 27 aren't there. I loved Klinsmann the player but, not the coach and was probably Gulati's biggest mistake. Arena's career speaks for itself. The USSF is big business but, it's number one product should be the men's & women's full national teams. It hurts not to be in the World Cup but, I am optimistic for the future.

  7. Bob Ashpole, October 22, 2017 at 2:23 p.m.

    Mr. Gardner, I agree with you completely. 

    USSF and MLS are both business successes. Mr. Gardner has been an able president for business matters. What we need, however, is, in effect, a board of directors of former NT players to make decisions about coaches and technical staff and other decisions about the game of soccer. Will this board know everything they need to know? Of course not. That is what advisors are for.

    The establishment of a board of directors will ensure continuity on the sporting side. Let Gulati start by picking some former NT players for the board, but after that let the board control who is on the board. Giving utlimate authority to a board, even for soccer matters presently controlled by the president and the National Coach, will prevent upheavals everytime a new individual takes over. I am tired of USSF reinventing the wheel every 4 years. I am not saying that we don't need change. I am saying that we need to have coordinated and guided change over processes that are improved, not abandoned to start over because one individual took over and didn't like them. 

    An example of a problem that I have seen in the past is why is USSF taking youth clubs and players away from USYSA instead of working with USYSA? Here is another--Why did USSF stop giving credit as meeting prerequistes for NSCAA diplomas on the same subject? I can understand the move regarding licenses above the C level, but not giving credit for entry to the E license course? 

    The biggest license problem I see is that we should have lots of licensed coaches. A C license should be easy to earn in terms of time and expense for the average experienced and knowledgeable coach to earn. It is not. Getting a C license is a major effort taking years of time and lots of money. Higher licenses even more so. This is part of the pay-to-play mess. Do we want coaches to have licenses appropriate to their knowledge and experience or not? Right now there is a big disconnect.       

  8. R2 Dad replied, October 22, 2017 at 3:38 p.m.

    Good points. I'd add that more experienced heads on the soccer side wouldn't, for example, schedule a qualifier or gold cup match against El Tri at the Rose Bowl--that's just brainlessness. Regardless of the extra income it would generate, I don't want a home match with half the stands populated with foreign team supporters but Sunil/USSF has just looked at the $. That kind of nonsense has to stop.

  9. Kent James replied, October 22, 2017 at 7:24 p.m.

    Good comment, but spot on with regards to coaching licenses.  The USSF has to decide if it wants to spread soccer knowledge, or credential experts.  If it's the former, you make classes ubiquitious and cheap (or as much as you can and maintain quality), so that people can attend and learn.  The latter, you make it expensive and difficult to attend, and you fail lots of people (then the license has more value, because it's rare).  Most of the licenses should be of the former (if you want to keep the A license in the latter category, I'm okay with that).  The US national teams will benefit more from having coaches that know enough to develop talent in as many places as possible.  

  10. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, October 23, 2017 at 10:44 a.m.

    When did Gulati schedule a qualifier against Mexico at the Rose Bowl?  Those have been at Coumbus the last five cycles.  The Gold Cup final in 2011 was at the Rose Bowl as was the Concacaf Cup game in 2015 but those were scheduled by Concacaf, not US Soccer.  

  11. Allan Lindh, October 22, 2017 at 3:15 p.m.

    Good article, and good balanced comments.  Still I see no mention of the inexplicable decision of Arena's to not start Geoff Cameron.  He starts regularly in the EPL for a mid-level team with a hard-nosed coach.  And to my eye, their W/L record is better when he is on pitch.  Thus he is by the only objective criterian I can think of, the best US defender.  Yet he sat on the bench while our denter-backs failed utterly to cover two T&T runs, and we lost.  If Cameron had an injury I am unaware of, please enlighten me.

  12. Bob Ashpole replied, October 22, 2017 at 4:04 p.m.

    It was in the press. Cameron was coming back from a hamstring injury.

  13. Allan Lindh replied, October 23, 2017 at 7:07 p.m.

    Yes, but he played the week before, and the week after, near as I can tell.

  14. Bob Ashpole replied, October 23, 2017 at 7:50 p.m.

    That doesn't mean Cameron was at 100%. He was likely still in a recovery phase. Given the type of injury he had, keeping Cameron on the bench as a sub, rather than starting him expecting 90 minutes from him in a must-win qualifier, is understandable and prudent. 

  15. frank schoon, October 22, 2017 at 3:49 p.m.

    The point is so often made how can Costa Rica , beat us and play better when so many play in the MLS along with so many of our boys who are on the USMNT. 
    This is to assume, naively that the Costa Rican players learned their game in the MLS. Obviously, Costa Rica does not have the financial resources ,training resources , fancy facilities, that our rich country has to offer to our players.NO, the question should be asked what and how do the Costa Rican kids learn, play and develop before reaching the MLS.  SOMEBODY SHOULD TAKE A LOOK AT THAT ANGLE.  Likewise why is it that the 3rd world kids from countries that also lack financial resources emigrate to America are technically better than our kids.  What are we doing wrong when you consider we have a Coaching School that produce licensed coaches up the ying yang.
    Now you can talk all you want about who is going to be president, blah, blah, but first we need to find why we produce such stiffs in soccer considering all the financial resources, facilities and backing as compared to players/kifs of the 3rd world or poorer countries..No matter who is president what counts is the product we place out on the soccer field, that needs to be straightened out first....

  16. Bob Ashpole replied, October 22, 2017 at 4:16 p.m.

    Frank, you make great points and I agree with you. I will take your points one step further, winning or losing to T&T, qualifying or not, none of it matters to what ought to be our long term plan. This is not 1997. Until the USA MNT wins a world cup, they are not good enough yet. So our long term plan has to be to grow soccer and improve our level of play until we do win the cup.

    Not qualifying is a bad thing, but our long term goal should never be to merely qualify. Not qualifying has woken up the casual fans, but the people who are US Soccer (and SoccerAmerica subscribers generally fit that description) always understood that the MNT and player development are both a long way from where we want to be.  

  17. frank schoon replied, October 22, 2017 at 7:15 p.m.

    BOB, I can't agree with you more. I don't blame Arena, neither Gelati, neither Klinsman, it goes much deeper. And don't think a selection of a new president will solve the problem. We have to go to the nitty gritty, the bottom and find out EXACTLY why our players, our kids, lack what these kids from poored countries have as far as technical growth goes. WHAT ARE WE DOING WRONG. Yes, we have a Pulisic but we'll always have players like  that who are talented from the beginning for Pulisic was star even at 9years old; but the problem is our system doesn't produce them. I  believe like Hugo stated that we need to choose a direction a style of play, like attacking ,dominating soccer. This would give us a basis to work from. For example, 4-3-3 style with wingers. Like you say, Bob, a core, a direction to follow which we currently don't have. Next , how do we play defense, in an offensive or defensive manner, what do we do when we win the ball in transistion, what we do when we lose the ball in transistion. Do we choose to build up an attack from the back or do we punt the ball up field and begin to play from there.  
    Establish a school for wingers. How 'bout' a summer soccer camp specializing in Wing play, a position where most famous players in the world today play or have played. We have great athletes who can be trained to be creative wings on the flanks. Wings open up and spread the opponents defenders to allow attacking soccer. We bring in foreign retired wingers that could teach at a school of wingers.  The most important step is to make a decision at the top  as to direction of how we will play our style of soccer, for without it to talk of winning a world cup is just silly, meaningless bantering. Currently,  all we have right now is bunch of licensed coaches who lack direction as to how to further our soccer, other than just go out there coach and train and try to win the next game. This is where we are at in soccer

  18. M S replied, October 25, 2017 at 12:06 p.m.

    Frank, agreed. I see a big effort on SA part as well as other media to somehow argue that Mls is doing great development wise because Panama and Costa Rica are doing better. Nonsense.
    Those players developed mostly in their own countrys development structure which is Pro/Rel and Pay Training Compensation.
    Of course it matterd who we have as president and tecnical directors. How can you say it doesnt?
    Germany turned it around because of Who they had in charge and the vision they were abke to enforce.
    As smart as you are Frank it puzzles me hoq you believe that our pkayers will magically start playing street soccer and coaxhes will magically start coaching to develop instead of to win. 
    All this takes incentive and mandates.
    I feel like im tsking crazy pills here.

  19. frank schoon replied, October 25, 2017 at 3:59 p.m.

    MS, obviously what I stated is not going to come overnight. This is a long range plans. I took Germany about 10 years  to straighten their soccer out in beginning in the eary years of 2000. As far as a the new president's influence, hopefully he will recognize it and all he can really do is use thebully pulpit of his position, but other than that USSF will have introduce those concepts at the Coaching school or whatever form,like mandates, is employed, in sum developing takes time. 

  20. aaron dutch, October 22, 2017 at 6:10 p.m.

    No one doubts the contribution that Arena & Gulati have made the last 25 years to US Soccer. But just like having a Senator for 30-50 years might not be a great idea.

    We have a structure that is not professional, its setup just like local youth soccer clubs. A bunch of non-fulltime paid pros (who can show their goodness because they are not getting paid) and hense there are not perfromance metrics or any modern measurement tools of benchmarking (which football/soccer is easy to do). If you look at our leadership structure, background, knowledge, reporting etc.. vs. the rest of the world by $$ spent, $$ in the bank, we are near the bottom with Chile, Neatherlands:) all the top quals countries who suffer from hubris & weird gaps in their approaches.

    Great article on the issues....,amp.html

  21. Dennis Mueller, October 22, 2017 at 8:57 p.m.

    Wow!  Gardiner is usually out for the heads of US Soccer.  This gives me pause regarding ending Gulati's tenure.  But I really do not think it will make much difference one way or another.  

    Way too many people seem to think that it just takes a little good coaching and players will be transformed into international stars.  Sorry, I think it just does not work that way.  What I think we are seeing now is the wave of players in the US whose parents actually played some soccer back in the 90s at the beginning of wave of players into US Youth Soccer.  It is parents who mostly determine what their kids do prior to their middle teens and todays parents have a bit more of a clue concerning soccer than their parents did.  As a result their children are better players than they were (at least on average). The children of today's players will be better than their parents.  Those kids will have enough skills, soccer brains (or instincts) that good coaching will have the possibility of molding the best of them into a very formiddible team.  

    Gulati along with Arena, Bradley, Manny Schellsheidt, Siggy Schmidt and and a host of other very good coaches have all played a role.  If you listen to them when they talk about youth soccer, they all see it as a process and will admit that the USA is still not at the pinnacle of that process. Their ideas seem to me to agree that young players need an environment both to be challenged and to have fun and that the younger the player the more joy should be in the game. The players should feel free to take risks and to express themselves creatively;  none of those coaches want little robots.  There is plenty of time when the players reach their late teens for them to be challenged in ways that teach them to balance risk and reward when they are too fully developed for some coach to thwart that creativity. 

  22. Bob Ashpole replied, October 23, 2017 at 12:56 a.m.

    That was the clearest explanation of the youth soccer problem that I have ever seen. Thank you.

  23. frank schoon replied, October 23, 2017 at 9:55 a.m.

    Dennis ,well done and summed up, good job. I agree that parents can have a major influence ,good and bad, on the development on their kid, and no doubt we currently have players who benefited from their parents backround in soccer. Than it would logically follow the assumption that the great majority of the successful NBA players had 2 parents ,college educated, middle to upper middle class ,and had a basketball backround. It is too bad that we don't know how many parents with a soccer backround who had kids that didn't pan out. The kids, like myself, who grew up in the 'street soccer" era in Europe became great technicians and soccer players ,all  ,of whom, had one thing in common they had ZERO parental involvement. In those days kids didn't want parental involvement. But what it really says about the parents of a Pulisic and others ,for example, should point to effectiveness and money spend on pay for play and the AD program. The parent support niche is nice but we need to look at the overal mass number of youth players who need to be developed into good players for the ones we just mentioned prior are really the exception the rule, for there will always youth who are talented.
    Boy, do I agree wholeheartedly that youth players later on in their teens can be challenged but before that let them experience and have fun. This is why Cruyff stated the youth should not be taught tactics until they're 14 ,but before that time let them enjoy the game with a little guidance.
    That is why I ask why do you even need a high level licensed coach coaching young players when  young players really need to experience playing not coaching, what a waste of overemployment of a coach. I can understand if the coach is a great technician of the game and who can demonstrate all the skills, appropriate to the age group. That is why I"m all for  creating a "Technician Adept" license, that bonifies a coach to able  to teach all the appropriate skills.

  24. MA Soccer, October 23, 2017 at 7:57 a.m.

    Need a change at USSF president.  No doubt Sunil has done alot to move US Soccer forward, however the job/role has passed him.  Last 5 years the MNT and youth soccer development as a whole has underperformed vs our peers.  Time to move on with a new volunteer or a paid professional. 

  25. Paul Stierle, October 23, 2017 at 10:20 a.m.

    A great thoughtful Article. I believe that Concacaf is now stronger because of the MLS.I remember when England did not make the World Cup here in the US. But they made other countries because of their league. Look at Iceland. Sometimes the minnows can beat the sharks. Soccer is such a simple but complex game. And if I can quote one of my favorite coaches, Sigi, Sometimes that is just the way the ball bounces. Mexico almost did not make the World Cuplast time but then Zusi did the unthinkable. And Trinidad did the unthinkable and the other games mattered. Soccer has grown so much ihe US and other countries are benefitting.

  26. Anthony Calabrese, October 23, 2017 at 5:05 p.m.

    For years, Paul Gardner has been calling for massive changes in US soccer.  And now, when it gets to the point that we might actually have some he is . . . calling for the status quo.

    I supported firing Klinsmann and hiring  Arena as coach last year.  We were in panic mode, Klinsmann had obviously failed and Arena is the closest thing we have to a coaching legend in the US.  He had one job and he failed.  Yes, he paid the price.  But even had we qualfiied and make a quarterfinal appearance I would have wanted him to step aside after Russia anyway.  I agree I hope we have not heard the last of him, but I cannot see him as national team coach again.  

    Which gets us to Gulati.  He is a very smart man and has devoted his life to our sport.  But the president of US Soccer now needs to be a full time paid position, so it is time for Gulati to step down.  He deserves to be given a dignified exit and frankly he has one.  He announces he is not running for reelection in order to focus on the 2026 bid (make him President and Chairman of the bid committee) and, if possible let him keep and focus on his FIFA role (I believe his FIFA position is independent of his US Soccer presidency).  

    This is a once in a generation chance to resturcture US Soccer.  Let's not let it go to waste.

  27. Ric Fonseca, October 23, 2017 at 10:43 p.m.

    A balnced piece on the plight of US Soccer.  I' like PG has known Gulati for several decades, have also known Gardner since 1973. I won't bore you with my usual commentary, however, I do respect Gardner for finally saying that he - Gulati - for failing "to reach out strongly" to the Latino/Hispanic soccer playing community.  As for the "...vain search for culprits..." for the current state of affairs in US soccer, I most certaonly DO NOT feel that it in "vain," but very real.  I am a strong be;iever in term limits and thus I feel that we're due for change at the top.  

  28. Ric Fonseca replied, October 23, 2017 at 10:46 p.m.

    I meant to say above that one of Gulati's "failure's" (my emphasis) was/is his failure to "see the Latino/Hispanic trees for the forest..."

  29. Anthony Calabrese replied, October 24, 2017 at 10:24 a.m.

    Gardiner has been calling for massive changes to US Soccer for the past 40 years.  And now that we have a chance to get them, he is calling for the status quo.  

    Gulati is a smart man who has devoted his life to this sport we all love.  But changes need to be made and I am not sure he is the one to make them.  Give him a dignified exit -- he deserves it.  Let him not seek reelection and focus on the 2026 bid and his FIFA role.

  30. Ben Myers, October 30, 2017 at 2:43 p.m.

    Under Gulati's leadership, the USSF has done too little and too late to ameliorate the development of elite word-class players in our country.  The much maligned Klinsmann gave us a clue when he populated the USMNT with as many Americans as possible who played much of their soccer overseas.   The buck stops with Gulati.  So do the losses American businesses will suffer due to the non-presence of the USMNT at Russia 2018.  As a practicing and credentialed economist, Gulati should be well aware of the economic failure of USSF vis a vis the USMNT.  Ever since hosting the 1994 World Cup, the United States has had over 20 years to improve its soccer development program and we have so little progress in all the time that has passed.  All we have to show for it is the continued treacly play in MLS.  On these grounds, it is simply time for Sunil Gulati to step down as head of USSF and for USSF to employ a paid full-time professional in the role.

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