Who is to blame for what happened? And what happens now?
These are the questions that everyone in the cloud of noise is trying to answer. Anyone who says he or she knows the answer and points to one thing or another is lying to you.
The answers are many.
Who is to blame for what happened? Of course, the answer starts with Jurgen Klinsmann. He promised a sexy style of football that he could never deliver. He picked fights with Don Garber of MLS; even though he was right, it looked bad. He pissed off his players, who didn’t know where to play or why he held a grudge against them for joining an MLS club or any other such reason that Jurgen had.
We had good results (see: the 2014 World Cup Group of Death and the 2016 Copa America Centenario), but we had terrible results, too (see: the 2015 Gold Cup, the 2016 Confederations Cup playoff, the 4-0 loss to Argentina in the Copa semifinals, and the first two matches in the Hex earlier this month).
Mostly, though, Jurgen sucked at tactics. It wasn’t just 3-5-2, the formation that Jurgen started against Mexico in the opening match of the Hex two weeks ago. While any soccer fan with a little bit of tactical understanding could see that it would be – and was – a disaster, it was not the only problem. But it summed it up so well in the end, didn’t it?
The players have to share the blame as well. Just a little bit. This is one of the most talented U.S. squads ever on paper. But not on the pitch. You can never look like you have given up. That is not the American spirit that we love to see. We might not be great, but we never give up.
Guys, you looked like you gave up against Costa Rica. Maybe you gave up on Jurgen and not us, but it didn’t feel that way. Losing 4-0 hurt. This is your fault a little, too.
The stodgy, wealthy old men are at fault, too. I’m looking at you, Sunil Gulati. You too, Don Garber. And anyone involved at all levels of the broken U.S. soccer system. I get that soccer isn’t the most popular sport in this country, but who cares? We can still succeed. What we lack in passion among all of our sports fans, we make up for among those of us who care SOOOO much.
Plus, our resources are still significant. If Iceland can succeed in Europe, we should be able to succeed. No excuses.
So let’s all get on the same page, shall we? We all have TV’s that can watch soccer matches in England, Germany, Italy, and Spain. We know what the best soccer should look like. We know what the best leagues in the world do to be the best.
So why in the hell aren’t we doing the same? Why does college soccer look so different from MLS? Why does MLS look so different than the Premier League?
We are trying to reinvent the wheel to move the car down the road when we can just follow the manual already written to build a great-looking car instead.
It’s your fault, administrators and decision-makers, that Jurgen was fired.
Last but not least, it’s our fault. Yes, us. United States soccer fans. We are also to blame. Every team in the world loses sometimes. We are going to lose matches. It’s okay, as a fan, not to like that. It’s not okay to overreact every time it happens.
When will every match’s result stop being the defining result for U.S. soccer? Can we just let these guys play? Sure, we lost the first two matches in the Hex, but guess what? We will still make it to the World Cup. Because that is how qualifying works.
Yes, of course it would be great to always finish first. On some level, we should get to the point where we dominate CONCACAF opponents more than we do. But let’s keep our eyes on the bigger picture. Losing to Mexico and Costa Rica is not a disaster. They are the best two teams in the group. Finishing third will still get us into the World Cup.
So shut up, soccer fans. Maintain your passion, but shut the hell up. Stop treating every match like it’s the last match we’ll ever see. There’s always another match.
So what happens now? Two words: Bruce Arena.
The next natural question is which Bruce Arena did we hire? Was it the 2002 Bruce who led us to a surprising quarterfinal run in the World Cup (and yes, it should have been the semifinals if the damn referee had seen Torsten Frings’ handball in the box, but I digress)?
Or is it the 2006 Bruce who led us to a last-place disaster of a finish in that year’s World Cup?
Bruce does tactics better than Jurgen (read: no 3-5-2’s in the near future). He has a better squad of players than he did in either of his previous World Cups as U.S manager. No one is really excited about his hiring (us included), but all signs point to possible success.
This return to Bruce might work. Of course, it might not. Either way, two things are certain.
The system will still be broken unless everyone who is to blame for Jurgen’s failure does something to fix it.
After the 2018 World Cup, there will be a 2022 World Cup. There’s always another match.