JACK ROZIER - Tuesday, June 29, 2010
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

And that's about all we know.

For US fans on both sides of the analytical aisle, it's nigh impossible to define the significance of this team and this World Cup. But I'll give it a go…

The underlying truth is that after advancing from the group stage, the most important World Cup for US Soccer was always 2014. Although there is the permeable sense of what might have been, an equally successful run in 2014 will do more for soccer in the US, than a semifinal appearance through an "easy" quadrant would have.

Bob Bradley's men did wonders to rid US Soccer of some of its most suffocating bugaboos:

First time registering a point in the third game of group play.

First time finishing atop the group since the Cretaceous Period.

Scored a total of five goals (second only to the seven scored in 2002 and 1930).

These feats will satisfy US Soccer's perpetual need for a boost of confidence, but the most debilitating trend is yet to be dismantled.

Since 1990 the US has oscillated back and forth between captivating the nation and capitulating support. While the mainstream media continues to proclaim the "arrival" of American soccer, the fickle public is far from won.

In order to cement soccer in the minds of the casual sports fans that prop-up America's most successful professional leagues, consistency must be the primary objective. Soccer doesn't need to be the number one sport in America or even number three, but it must find a place in the collective conscience of America and become a permanent resident.

Many of the issues facing the future of the US Soccer team are intertwined with the continued development of Major League Soccer as a viable and relevant venue for American soccer interest. The mechanics of this growth are far beyond the scope of one article, but to the annoyance of many YA readers, the relationship is undoubtedly symbiotic.

The benefit of a thriving domestic league that caters to home grown talent is evident in the success of Argentina, Brazil, Germany, and the Netherlands as regular contenders in the World Cup. However, these institutions were not built overnight.

For the time being, the US should continue to export top talent to an increasingly accessible European game that directly challenges American soccer's inferiorities: mental and physical speed of play – game management – confidence against the world's best – and so on ad nauseam…

Fans that are fretting over the possibility of another four years with Bradley or perhaps a Capello-esque fiasco - fear not. The decisions that will truly shape the success of Brazil 2014 and US Soccer as a whole will be subtle and infinitely more frustrating.

Four years ago, Jozy Altidore was a manchild shedding his training wheels with New York Red Bulls. Today, Altidore has displayed an ability to muscle and turn world class defenders in arguably the most competitive league in the world, as well as international tournaments.

The hack-job Algeria employed against Altidore is a prime example of the fear he elicits and how far he has come. Surely others have noticed.

US Soccer needs Altidore to seek a situation where he plays regularly for a club with a sound reputation. It isn't good enough anymore for an American to make it to Europe, now they need to feature regularly and grow.

Altidore is just one example, the development of Freddy Adu (he's only just turned twenty-one!), Gale Agbossoumande, Michael Bradley, Charlie Davies, Luis Gil, Eric Lichaj, and Jose Torres will set the table for Brazil 2014.

If these and other young Americans can establish themselves and make regular appearances for their club's first team, we'll know a lot more about US prospects in 2014 than we will when Sunil Gulati announces the status of our national team coach.

Don't get me wrong, it matters, but Gulati won't be after Bielsa or Maradona. The new coach, assuming Bradley decides not to renew his contract or Gulati doesn't offer one, will be someone much like Bradley - cerebral, practical, and seemingly detached.

There is a dark truth that most US Soccer followers can't accept. The US is not ready to play a carefree attacking brand of soccer and won't be until 2018 at the earliest.

But even during Bradley's tenure we saw progress, through the abolition of the 4-5-1 formation and the instillation of an unassailable team ethic. Many will focus on South Africa 2010 and the three goals that were conceded early.

Few will acknowledge Bradley's willingness to apply the versatility at his disposal. Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Robbie Findley, Herculez Gomez, and Jose Torres all had their chance to contribute beyond the method that saw the US finish as runner-up in the 2009 Confederations Cup and first in CONCACAF qualification.

Even fewer will remember that at times in this World Cup, the US played with three defenders, the US played with three defenders, the US played with three defenders. No, that is not a typo.

Whoever is at the helm between the end of Bradley's contract and Brazil 2014, will continue to play to our strengths of athleticism, determination, and organization. With these attributes as the foundation of the American game, improvisation, cunning, and finesse will continue to emerge and take root.

It would be easier to write an article decrying the ineptitude of US Soccer, proclaiming a lack of vision or direction.

It would be easier to scream that our great nation, with all its resources and influence, is wasting away in the plebian bowels [take a deep breath] of a simple and profound game, with only the disdainful chatter driveling from the haughty mouths of soccer's aristocracy to keep us motivated!

But it isn't so.

We are in the ascendancy of an American Soccer Age. Sure to have its hiccups and bumps along the way, pessimism is only a waste of time and energy, with so much left to accomplish.

If anything, pity Brazil, Germany, and Italy as they are in constant contradiction with themselves. Their joy in the beautiful game is conditional and fleeting, while ours is accumulative and cathartic.

If you think I'm getting carried away in highfalutin prose. If you think I'm unwilling to accept that US Soccer is second-rate at best, but more than likely a lost cause - you've never met someone from Scotland.
Tuesday July 27, 2010 3:49 pm
Wait...explain how we only played with 3 defenders? Is it because Dolo went forward so much, or because Bornstein doesn't actually count as a player?
Wednesday July 14, 2010 9:52 am
Say what you will, I owned season tickets to the Rev's for the first 5 years of MLS and my sister still has those seats. The MLS has come so far. As some one who lives overseas I will tell you that in the last few years I have seen MLS shirts in more than one country including Nepal. That is due to Beckham, but it raises the profile of the league. You actually hear people talk about MLS and the English papers now mention MLS players in the transfer gossip. That is a big sign of how far we have come. I was in the UK durring the world cup and desipte the bravado, there were more than a few people that were worried about playing the US.

I am not saying we are at that level, but we not have competition for selection to the national team and that is progress.
Friday July 9, 2010 5:34 pm
MLS is only 16 years old. Give it some time! Those European leagues are easily over 100 years old or more. There is a youtube video of the first MLS draft pick. We have an MLS draft out of college? And you're whining that we're not home-growing our own talent? Sure we get washed up Europeans coming to America to play out the last of their years (Beckham, Henry two of the latest), but all they do is bring in some "star" quality that gets some more youngsters in, and gets some people watching as well. MLS has regular attendance the likes of which NASL could only have dreamed of.

By the way, even though MLS is still in its infancy, players who grew up in MLS and still play in MLS had a very strong showing in the 2010 World Cup anyway. Landon Donovan is still an MLS player despite his loans and temporary stints overseas. Bornstein did alright the short time he had on the pitch (not great, but he didn't embaress us). Edson Buddle did alright as well, even though he didn't find the back of the net, he was able to tire and work defenders a bit.
Sunday July 4, 2010 11:26 pm
Freddy Adu hopefully will never play a World Cup minute. The last thing we need is another slow, short, ball hog.

MLS is that last barometer for measuring soccer support in USA. It is going down the NASL road, that being a home for washed up Euros, and no-name Latinos. Meanwhile we will continue to follow the international game, the UEFA Champions League, EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga.....

I saw a kid in Wal-Mart this week wearing a Shaktar Donetsk jersey.
Sunday July 4, 2010 11:01 pm
Well done!

I second Mike's suggestions of a meaningful invitational tournament--I've often thought a comenbol/concacaf "invitational"--one where we offer participation to teams like uruguay, chile, paraguay, mexico honduras and costa rica and perhaps even farther ranging to include FAs like turkey, serbia, russia, egypt, ghana, nigeria, cite d'ivoire, japan, australia, england and number of other top 50 but not quite top 10 teams would be very useful for the USA. these kinds of clubs would make great competition for the USA and for the participating clubs and would give the USA an opportunity to play equally matched teams outside of their region without feeling like they have to slay a giant. the big boys like brazil argentina holland germany and spain can wait for friendlies.
Saturday July 3, 2010 3:51 pm
Today... July 3rd and all I can think of is what might have been. The reality is the difference between the top teams and those on the outside looking in isn't as great as I originally thought. We showed the ability to compete with anyone and socres goals !!! yes bad refereeing played a role or we would have scored more and maybe have been in a better position going into the Ghana match.

Looking at this 2010 team the only thing lacking imho was a healthy Davies and stronger defensive back 4. And looking a head we appear to have a few young defensders in the system. Gale, Opara, Ream, Williams to name a few
Mike Klein
Saturday July 3, 2010 8:51 am
One thing very much missing in the US set-up is a regular, meaningful international tournament with comparably matched teams, some time between World Cups. Such a tournament would re-invigorate fan attention during the four years, and there are no shortage of potential rivals.

Indeed, look at a "Pacific Cup"--US, Russia, Japan, Korea, Chile, Australia, Mexico and one other from NZ, Central America, or South America. For the most part, these countries are dead-on the same talent and development levels as the US.

The event could take place in the same year as the Euro tournament (if Russia doesn't participate), or in the year that neither Euro, Confederations, nor Copa America occurs. US could host the inaugural, or it could rotate.
Thursday July 1, 2010 5:52 pm
Good article. Couple of things--our youth system has to be restructured. To much politics and money involved in the ODP system. It is extremely expensive to play high level soccer at the club level, leaving many of our most talented out of the loop and heading to the other sports. We have to create youth development that is available to the the poor as well as middle class.

Secondly, we need a coach that will put our best players on the field. How does Findley start and Holden never get off the bench? How does Findley play at all? How does Clark? Much of our personnel issues were due to Bob's refusal to move Jr anywhere but cm-his refusal to recognize the glut of talent at midfield and not use some of that talent up top. i think Bob has done a better job than Arena did, but we need to become more attack oriented. We are a much better team when we are behind and having to attack.
Aggelos C
Thursday July 1, 2010 11:35 am
Your analysis is incomplete, your solutions are the same old english style staff.
USSF is making tons of $$$ with the current youth system, which charging kids parents lots of $$$ to play.
Solution: Find way to get pool children playing the sport just like basketball, which is where individual skill are developed, stop this little childrens organized leagues or devote most of the time letting children play with not much interference from parents and coachs. give them the ball and let them play.

identify those who are born with certain natural gifts and encourage them. At some point say 12-14 yrs old bring the gifted ones to local competitions where they can be coached in skills of ball control and tactics. I prefer the Spain and South America style mainly Brasilian.

Problem :NCAA , USSF should tell them how to play the game, no unlimited subing, this is socialist style where everybody plays. it denies the talented time on the field.

By age 17-18 the most its to late to learn much.
Wednesday June 30, 2010 11:14 pm
After watching the replay of the Spain-Portugal match, I was struck by how far the US will need to go to be a Top Five country in the world rankings. Spain's speed of play, their technical skills, their ability to maintain and dominate possession against another Top Five team were impressive. We need to start sending our best U-14's to Spain, Brazil and Argentina to train with their youth academies (just remember how much Cobi Jones improves after a few months with Santos). Until we can match the technical skills of teams like Spain, Brazil and Argentina, all the teamwork and tactical changes will not be enough to carry us past a quarterfinals at best. I agree that it will be 2018 at least before we can achieve that type of growth, but we need to start now. We also need to lose our northern European mentality toward the game. How futile and boring is it to watch England bring the ball down the wing and cross it into the box where it is little more than a 50-50 ball for the striker? Compare that to the 40 yard passes ON THE GROUND that Spain and Portugal were completing to get the ball forward. Brazil 2014 will not give us enough time to develop the technical skills, but having the best US players playing regularly in European leagues will definitely help in the short term.
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