Monday, November 2, 2015

We Were Us Long Before You, And Will Be After

The U.S. Men's U-23 National Team only needed to beat Honduras in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament to assure qualification, at least somewhat erasing the humiliation of failing to qualify in 2012. Instead, it lost 2-0 and now must beat Columbia in a home-and-away two-game match next year.

The U.S. Men's National Team only needed to beat Mexico, on home soil, to secure a place in the Confederations Cup, a pre-World Cup tournament held in Russia, participation in which coach Jurgen Klinsmann described repeatedly as important to the team's development and status. It lost 3-2 in extra time but, truth be told, was flattered by the score line as Mexico dominated possession and made the Americans look slow, unimaginative, and poorly coached.
Bobby Wood provided one of the few bright spots in the loss
to Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup. (photo from
The U.S. Men's U-17 Team only needed to defeat Chile, a team that had already been thumped 5-1 by Nigeria in Group play, to advance to the Round of 16 and the U-17 World Cup. Instead, it was thumped 4-1 and crashed out of yet another international competition.

All of which has led, understandably, to consternation among U.S. Soccer fans, many calling for Klinsmann's head while at the same time acknowledging that he's not going anywhere soon, given the financial and institutional investment that U.S. Soccer has made in him.

It's possible that this is just a hiccup, a blip that happens to almost every national team (except, it seems, Germany's) at some point during the World Cup cycle. More worrying are two other things: first, Klinsmann's seeming inability to either accept responsibility for or even acknowledge the repeated failures of the teams that are under his command as both National Team coach and Technical Director of U.S. Soccer; and, second, that clearly no one at U.S. Soccer is inclined to either require Klinsmann to be held accountable, or to have a Plan B should things continue to go downhill with Klinsmann in command.

Klinsmann was brought in to change American soccer culture. He was going to bring attacking, possession football to our second-class soccer nation.
It hasn't happened.
But I'm okay with that. Maybe that's not who we are as a soccer playing nation. Maybe we are and always will be second best when it comes to possession. Maybe we'll always be the scrappy, counterattacking team. Second-best in possession, first when the whistle blows. Some very successful teams have won trophies that way.

And that's where I really have a problem with Klinsmann: telling us that he's going to make us one kind of team, and then taking credit for us being quite another. He went on an on after the Mexico loss talking about our American grit and fight and determination, as if he had bestowed it on us from above when he arrived four years ago.

Take all the credit you want, Jurgen for trying to get us to play prettier, for bringing us some decent players with German pedigrees, and, perhaps most importantly, for raising the hopes and expectations of U.S. Soccer supporters.
But don't, for one minute, presume that you taught us how to fight and dig and expend every ounce of energy and never quit and never say die.

That's ours.

That's us.

And we didn't need your help for us to be that way.

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