USMNT Conjures Up Worst Display Of Pride And Heart When It Matters Most

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Editorial (October 10, 2017)¬†– It took me at least 30 minutes to even think of what to write for the first sentence. That was it. In between collecting my rage and thoughts, and attempting to put them into a half-way conscious stream of words, I had to sit and take a deep breathe. This is what I’ve got.

USMNT Conjures Up Worst Display Of Pride And Heart When It Matters Most

The nightmare of many U.S. Soccer fans and followers came true tonight. In Couva, a small city south of the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, the United States Men’s National Team lost to the worst team in the Hexagonal Round of CONCACAF’S 2018 World Cup Qualifying tournament. An Omar Gonzalez own goal and a wonder-strike past a flapping Tim Howard did the USMNT in. Maybe if results had gone their way elsewhere, I’d be writing about how the U.S. didn’t deserve to be in the World Cup, and they got through by the skin of their teeth in spite of their flat performance. But I’m not. They missed out. And frankly, after that performance, they deserve it.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

This team, unfortunately has relied on excuses for far too long during this cycle. It started with the first two games. “Klinsmann in charge,” was the excuse for most of those. Rightly so. He was an issue, and I doubt they would’ve qualified even if he was still in charge. But then after they drew, rather un-inspiringly, in Panama, it was “Oh, the field, and the refs.”

Then they go and get all three against Trinidad, draw in Mexico. Both decent results. The one that hurts is the Costa Rica match. It became “the refs, and the crowd.” The draw in Honduras, “travel and weather.” On and on and on. This team has frankly been full of excuses from the start and never looked the main issue in the mirror, once. The issue? Themselves.

They were flat. Even for spells that included two wins at home where they just jogged around after early success. Even in the second half in Orlando, they just jogged around. They thought they had their job done after the Altidore penalty kick. Now looking at tonight, they couldn’t conjure up something they’d only shown for a collective 80 minute stretch during their entire Hexagonal Campaign, heart.

How Could You be So Heartless?

The USMNT came out with the least urgent, most¬†lackadaisical, uninspiring 45 minutes I’ve seen from a team whose backs were against the wall. They moseyed around the field, not even trying to put in a challenge, not even trying to win the ball. They just looked to react to everything instead of assert themselves. Thank God for young Chrisitian Pulisic, whose effort tonight was probably the only one that couldn’t be categorized as heartless. His goal gave US fans hope on the night. But ultimately, fate fell through.

If you don’t have any heart, don’t put in the effort, don’t put in the work rate, you won’t win games. The USMNT came out and played uninspired soccer for 93 minutes, and deserved every bit of the result and ensuing mess for it. The performance reeked of complacency and the feeling of being in control, despite the situation being the complete opposite.

An Ultimatum

Now we have a mess to clean up. And by we, I mean the USMNT, the federation, and U.S. Soccer supporting community. We need to react correctly here. No longer do we not put pressure on them to perform every time they step on the field. No longer do we accept excuses for poor performances in big games. Alexi Lalas was right.

The current generations involved in the USMNT have been coddled, and given slack and leeway by the U.S. Soccer Community as a whole for too long.¬† That ends now, and it has to if US Soccer is going to learn from what took place tonight. If it doesn’t, then before 2022 they’ll be in the same exact place. They’ll go and play complacent in matches that have so much weight to them. The first thing we as a community can do is to put pressure on USSF to get things right, and do something different. Make a big change.

That’s going to be the only way forward really. Clearly, whatever they were doing for the last four years wasn’t the right thing, so something different needs to be done. What exactly that is? Well, they’ve got at least 12-16 months to figure that out. The clock started ticking about two hours ago, by the way.

Photo Credit: John A. Babiak @Photog_JohnB