Over the last week and a half, we were left with two final friendlies for the US Men’s National Team for 2014 and the results were clearly less than ideal. Less than US fans expect from the team at this point with the bar being set so high.
If you go to any number of soccer sites that cover the US team, you will see stories breaking down tactics, what’s going wrong with the team and exploring the problems that seem to be affecting the group as a whole. Examples :: The ability or inability of US players. The system. Giving up late goals. Players being played out of position. Etc, etc, etc…. And if you start reading the comments, things start to get real opinionated and kind of wacky real quick. That’s a rabbit hole you want to be careful of going down.
There are certainly a lot of good points being brought up about what is going on with the US team. Their record over the last 11 games or so is pretty paltry. Late goals have been conceded in the majority of them and the team hasn’t looked great. But I don’t want to get into all of that. That is already being talked about, and then some. I’ll leave that to the folks who really do the analyst thing.
Instead I’ll bring up what I’m feeling as a fan and I think much of what US fans in general are feeling right now. And I think it boiled own to two words:
Confusion and frustration.
Here are things I think we as fans have questions about ::
- I think we have all been confused for quite some time about ‘the system’ and ‘style of play’ we were promised when Klinsmann took over. He said he was going to play an attractive, energetic and attacking style of play. The team was going to press. Make things difficult for their opponent. We were going to have possession and try to keep the ball and play. Instead we get tactics that require the team defends for the majority of the game.
- The lack of possession and defending inevitably leads to the team having to chase the ball and defend for long stretches. This is incredibly tiring for players and is very likely a major part of the reason so many late goals are being conceded. And these late goals are extremely frustrating for everyone involved. The issue of giving up late goals is really hard to take. And this hasn’t been happening in just these friendlies. This happened throughout the World Cup as well, even with how hard we try to forget.
- Players playing out of position. Jermaine Jones at center back? Michael Bradley as an attacking midfielder? Clint Dempsey as the lone striker? Experimenting is fine, but playing players out of position is confusing and frustrating. Especially in the World Cup when Klinsmann was given 23 spots and had no like for like ‘replacement’ for an injured Jozy Altidore.
- Players look tired. I get it. We all get it. They have had a long year. But so have countless players from countless countries that also participated in the World Cup. Frankly, I don’t really get it. I’m confused by it. Reports are that USMNT training camps are pretty grueling with multiple training sessions taking place daily. Is the approach of ‘getting players to that next level’ placing added fatigue on the players with such a short time of training together ahead of games?
- JK continues to say players need to play at the highest levels in Europe. Over and over and over again since taking over the USMNT. But then he brings in a player like Miguel Ibarra (who’s playing in a level BELOW MLS) and Jordan Morris (who is just a Sophomore at Stanford). Yet a guy like Sacha Kljestan is the only outfield American player who is starting Champions League matches and isn’t even being invited to camp. Listen, this certainly isn’t a knock on Miguel or Jordan. I actually like the fact we’re turning over rocks to find the hidden gems and it’s great to give them a look. But what is being preached is obviously not always what is being practiced.
- Landon Donovan being left off the World Cup roster. This is old news now and in the past, but I still think this decision pisses fans off with the ‘what could have been’. It certainly confused many fans, especially when there is a seemingly growing levels of questions surrounding the tactical approach and decision making behind the scenes.
- Tactics. I get that coaches want to tinker with tactics and formations. They need to see what works best and what the individual group gives them. And maybe they have a couple of different styles in mind based on the upcoming opponent. But when tactics constantly change and not necessarily for the better, fans start to get frustrated and confused. Maybe there is a bigger picture and plan in place, which coaches often times say, but a lack of consistency always creates questions.
- I’ve read some things about the players just not being good enough to compete with other countries. That’s an argument for another day, but we have some very good players. Technically gifted players who read the game well. But they need to be put in positions that allow them the greatest chance to succeed. And when that doesn’t happen, we as fans naturally lash out. But I think there is certainly talent in the pool and that we’ve come to the point where we can and should expect more from them. Aren’t great coaches ‘supposed’ to get that out of players?
I think it’s probably a very good thing that there aren’t anymore games left in 2014 for the USMNT, because I think they need a break. MLS guys have been going at it for almost 12 months. European based players can focus on their clubs and individual form. The new year isn’t all that far away and sometimes we all just need that so we can start fresh again.
I’m sure the January camp will be filled with lots of new, young faces and it’s pretty exciting to think about the next round of up and coming kids that can hopefully make that next step.