The parallels surrounding the United States Men’s National team are striking when you compare them to the same group in 2004.
As qualifying began, the US was ranked very highly in the FIFA World rankings, as high as fourth(!) in 2006, a few months before the World Cup. As qualifying begins this year, US Soccer will again be faced with having to dispatch the minnows of CONCACAF, something that has been extraordinarily easy for the US in the past. But I see a pattern setting up, one that if it continues will doom US Soccer again come 2010.
If The US is serious about moving up in the world of football/soccer, they need to do a few things. Important changes will need to be made, and tough decisions will have to be made as well.
First and foremost, the mistake of not scheduling tough friendlies can’t be made again. The US Soccer federation did an excellent job of scheduling games against England, Spain, and Argentina over the least few weeks, and the results told us a lot about US Soccer. Namely, this team needs Landon Donovan(Landon Donovan haters out there..enough. Stop with the nonsense about Donovan this, Donovan that. You look and sound ridiculous.)
Also, I think the argument can and should be made as to whether Bob Bradley is the right man to lead this team. For me, I’d say he is not. He is a good coach, but the United States lacks the technical capabilities to comepete with the world’s best. The fact is, Bradley hasn’t shown me anything that makes me think he can guide this team any further then Bruce Arena did in 2006. I’m sorry I just don’t see it.
If it were up to me, I would let Bradley go and make signing Guus Hiddink my number one goal. Hiddink may be the best manager in the world today. He guided South Korea on their amazing run at the 2002 World Cup, and is guiding Russia during their Euro 2008 run. I think Russia and the US are fairly similar on skill level, so imagine what Hiddink could do with us?
Finally, player development has to improve. Situations like Giuseppe Rossi are unavoidable when it comes to the players desire to play for another country, but we have to continue to develop our own players and getting them to the national team. We have good young players in Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, etc. Continue to blood them. They’re grown men, they can handle it. Give them opportunities. Don’t be afraid to lose.
Against England and Spain, we played like we were afraid, and we lost because of it. To me, that falls on the coach. There’s no way you can send your troops out to battle with fear in their hearts. We can’t continue to make the same mistakes again. Improvement is needed.
Can all of this be done by 2010? It’s possible. But it has to start now.