The United States Men’s National Soccer Team is not competing in Russia this summer. After suffering a heart-breaking 2-1 loss to Trinidad & Tobago last October, they failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. The lack of passion and excitement within the team has caused USA soccer to become very poor.
After losing to T&T, the biggest question on everyone’s puzzled mind was: “What happened?” The United States had just won the 2017 Gold Cup, so the world was convinced that they would perform effectively and win out their remaining qualifying games. Well, it didn’t happen. For Team USA to go from winning the Gold Cup to failing to qualify for the World Cup is embarrassing for the United States Football Federation.
It’s unclear what happened to the team. Some say they weren’t focused or team chemistry and mentality was very poor, they folded under the heavy pressure, or the team just simply did not play well. Claudio Reyna, former captain of Team USA, in an interview with Goal.com said the team was arrogant as well as obnoxious and even egotistical. He strongly insisted the team needs humility and modesty going forward.
The U.S. MNT needs a manager with a strong desire to build a team and it seems they’ve got one in Dave Sarachan. Last November, they took on third-ranked Portugal in a friendly exhibition and Sarachan’s lineup consisted of a very young and inexperienced squad. They battled to a 1-1 draw and though Cristiano Ronaldo was not part of the squad for that game it’s still a positive result for Team USA, especially because Portugal’s squad is far more experienced.
Christian Pulisic was not present for Team USA, but Weston McKennie made his debut and he managed to score his first international goal. Tyler Adams played effectively as well as DeAndre Yedlin and Kellyn Acosta. This year, the U.S. has played exhibitions against Paraguay and Bosnia and Herzegovina, beating Paraguay and drawing against Bosnia indicating that a little bit of progress has been made as the team showed some resilience.
Play on offense and defense was surely effective, but there’s a lot of improvement needed. The attack scheme is set up well and it’s capable of penetrating opposing defenses and score some goals, but several scoring shots were missed. The defense is able to escape scoring threats and it does a good job of clearing the ball away however it needs to cover an opposing attack better. It seems that due to the inexperience the team is having a hard time dealing with pressure. Mistakes are being made and opportunities are not being taken on both sides. Age and experience will help mold this young group.
Team USA has several upcoming friendly exhibitions and, at the moment, there are no players on the squad older than 29 years of age, which is ideal for a team under construction. Their next friendly is this Saturday against Ireland and following this match, they’ll have five exhibitions remaining this year. They’re coming off a well-performed 3-0 win against Bolivia, thus raising hopes and increasing momentum.
For Sarachan to utilize young and inexperienced players for these friendlies is a brilliant strategy to rebuilding the team. Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Timothy Weah, McKennie, Acosta, and Cameron Carter-Vickers can strongly benefit from playing time as their further honing their craft as well as improving their playing mentality. Furthermore, they’re earning more knowledge in Sarachan’s scheme. Acosta is still working on getting 100 percent as he recently had been sidelined with an injured hernia. Next summer, the U.S. MNT will be defending the Gold Cup and by then Sarachan will have a young team that is not only experienced but motivated and confident. This will help them perform well in next year’s Gold Cup as well as the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. The fact that Sarchan is taking his time with these players is ideal. It’s a step-by-step learning process for both he and the players.
Going forward, the United States Football Federation needs to take a very cautious approach to monitoring and preparing the talents in the youth systems. They want to make sure talents are prepared mentally and physically before receiving a call-up to the senior squad. Talents must take their time on the youth teams and the federation must monitor its talents and keep track of their progress. One thing to avoid is rushing the players. It’s all about taking things one step at a time. Reyna’s advice to the U.S. Soccer Federation is to have the best environment to develop the talent.