Longtime Dallas-based soccer journalist and broadcaster, Steve Davis, told us before the 2022 World Cup kickoff that he was concerned that key U.S. players weren't "in good places," but that an "OK" performance would be suffice to advance the USA out of Group B. We followed up for his post-tournament views.
SOCCER AMERICA: With a winter World Cup, it's been an MLS offseason like no other. What are you up to?
STEVE DAVIS: December, January — I always pick a couple different projects. I do some extra writing. If you pick a Panini card today, I might have written one of those cards.
It's a different kind of writing — takes a lot of real research and then they want 180 characters of something pretty clever or wise or whatever.
I run a small non-profit [Pleasant Grove Soccer & Sports] for a part of Dallas that no one gives a shit about. It's all Latino, soccer is their sport so I'm just doing some clinics and camps over there.
The pay-for-play thing — what happens is that the recreational or competitive element just disappears from areas. We all think that when your parents don't have enough money you can't get in the system. But it's more than that, man, literally whole areas of town have no sports. Not a basketball league, peewee baseball, soccer. There's no money so no one creates the infrastructure. So that's what I'm working on.
SA: What's your World Cup routine been like?
STEVE DAVIS: First there were those 4 a.m. [CT] games and I was still trying to have my normal life. I watched most of those and I'd be lying if I said I didn't fall asleep to a couple of them.
But it's been weird in a way because I didn't develop that rhythm like you do for those summer tournaments. Maybe because it's around the Thanksgiving, Christmas holidays.
SA: Has this World Cup felt sped up to you?
STEVE DAVIS: Yeah, and I don't know why that is. It feels like it started two weeks ago and it's over.
SA: How's the World Cup fever in Dallas?
STEVE DAVIS: Dallas was one of the early leading markets in TV viewership. But even at that — I think sometimes in sports we lose sight of the fact that even some of the most popular properties, there's still a lot portion of the population that just didn't give a crap.
It's important to remember that for anyone in media. You have to retain that perspective so you don't think too highly of yourself or your profession. There's real world out there.
It's amazing, Arlo, because when I was a kid I had to go out and look for World Cup news. And now on CBS Mornings, they're talking about France being in the World Cup final. I think it's really cool that there's that level of awareness now.
SA: Overall USA reaction?
STEVE DAVIS: It was always considered that if the U.S. didn't get out of the group it'd be a disappointment. We all knew if the U.S. got into a quarterfinal, it'd be a raging success. Everyone thought, if we get out of the group and fall out in the round of 16, that would be the debate point.
And, of course, that's right where we are.
We got out of our group with one of the youngest rosters — to me, that's progress. If it was a pass-fail grade, they passed, and I would give them a B.
SA: Thoughts on the Gio Reyna-Gregg Berhalter controversry, aka Gio-gate?
STEVE DAVIS: Here's the deal. You look at a team like Croatia or Morocco, and we marvel at their team unity. They're not the most talented but there they are in the semifinals. We take heart in that.
I don't see how you can square being upset with Gregg Berhalter for not allowing Gio Reyna to participate more. Man, so many managers have told me, "A good locker room will carry you a lot further than you think you can go."
If you play that one guy that's a problem, who everyone knows isn't pulling his weight — coach puts him on the field, everyone rolls their eyes.
People underestimate the discord it creates when you play guys who aren't invested in the team. Gio Reyna, 20 years old, I hope he learns from it. I don't want to be judged for the things I did when I was 20. I don't think this is fatal, but to blame Berhalter for this is silly to me.
This is on the player, man — you can certainly quibble about decisions on the roster and decisions he made in the matches. I don't see any other way he could've handled that situation any better.
SA: Thoughts on how the Dallas guys did?
STEVE DAVIS: Yeah, that's why we play the games right? No, they didn't have the impact they thought they would. But Jesus Ferreira is young (21), and [unselected] Ricardo Pepi [19, now with FC Groningen] is younger.
SA: Ferreira must go to Europe, right?
STEVE DAVIS: Man, I think Jesus has got a good head on his shoulders. He's always said that he wants to do something that his dad couldn't do: win an MLS championship. [David Ferreira was MLS MVP with FC Dallas is 2010 when it lost to Colorado in MLS Cup.] He's committed to that idea and I like that he's committed to it. But once he makes a good run at that, the plan was always to try Europe after that.