By Jose M. Romero / @RomeroJoseM
For Fox Deportes
A lot of people who follow the sport of soccer in this country spent considerable time dissecting the U.S. men’s national team performance in a 4-1 loss to Brazil Wednesday night in suburban Washington D.C.
They applauded the Americans’ improved play in the second half. Praised the work of Fabian Johnson and Michael Bradley. Ripped the play of the defense, most notably center back Oguchi Onyewu, whose handball – indeed it was the right call – led to Brazil’s first goal on a PK. Wondered aloud what to do about shoring up the center back and a couple of midfield positions.
They talked of moral victories, of the Americans not having to face a world soccer powerhouse like Brazil until the World Cup there in 2014.
All that kind of talk is just excuses for a team that still has a long ways to go to captivate American sports fans on a more consistent basis, let alone be considered a major contender for a World Cup title.
And maybe that’s OK with Americans. Maybe we’re happy with making it to World Cups and advancing from pool play and then getting robbed of victory by officiating, as some fans like to point out, or simply just getting beat by a better team and going home after another Round of 16 exit.
It’s time to either demand more out of our men’s soccer team, or settle in for an eternity of mediocrity and being better know for our dominance in other world sports. Oh wait, the rest of the world has caught up to the U.S. in baseball and basketball. But surely the next Dream Team won’t lose in London.
I’m a soccer fan and supporter. I wanted the U.S. to get the World Cup in 2018 or 2022 badly, so much so that I “backed the bid” and contributed money to the cause. I love our domestic league, Major League Soccer, and will always be a proponent of it, no matter how much the “haters’ like to ridicule the sport and its place in Americans’ sports preferences.
MLS is fun, with a lot of great personalities and entertaining players in the league. People from other countries want to play here. Yet our own best American players are still a ways from turning into the kind of unit that can consistently hang with a Brazil or an Argentina or Spain, and now are even behind our biggest rival, Mexico, in terms of being the best team in the North American region.
You can’t be considered the best team in North America if you lose by three goals to Brazil. And saying that with a bounce here or there, the score could have been closer, is a cop out. The Brazilians, for whatever chemistry issues they have, showed us how it’s done convincingly, in our nation’s capital. And what’s more, thousands of fans came out to see the legendary Selecao and not so much our boys.
The way I see it, the U.S. has a handful of players that truly belong on the world stage with the best. Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, goalkeeper Tim Howard and maybe Bradley, who is getting better, are top-caliber. The rest of the team is hit-or-miss. You don’t know what you’re going to get on a given night from Herculez Gomez – who scored on Wednesday – or Jose Torres or Carlos Bocanegra or Maurice Edu or Jermaine Jones.
Other national teams have depth and talent across the roster, from one to 11 and even the bench. Or least more than three or four stars.
Somehow, coach Juergen Klinsmann has to make this team more competitive and proactive. He’s still fairly new into his role as head coach, and yet he’s still tinkering with combinations and calling up a lot of players to the national team to give them a look. At some point, he has to settle on a core group and put his fate in their hands.
America likes soccer. Americans, at least the ones with open minds, want to embrace this game and party like the rest of the world. So its men’s national team can’t afford to be up and down from one match to the next. And it can’t look for positives in a 4-1 score line, no matter who the opponent is or whether the match is just a friendly.
Stop being dazzled by the brilliance of Neymar and Hulk and Thiago Silva and Alexandre Pato, and start taking the fight to Brazil and other teams and finishing chances, regardless of the caliber of the opponent.