Friday, July 4, 2014

The Aftermath: Belgium 2 - USMNT 1 (Continued, Part 3/3)

photo by U.S. Department of Statevia PhotoRee
More analysis of the reasons behind the USMNT's 2-1 loss to Belgium:
Ed: I think the European leagues are better, but I don't think the MLS is a bad training ground.  The problem is not training -- that's coming around pretty well in the USA -- it's just that the players aren't that good.  Deondre Yedlin is all USA and all MLS, but he's clearly a talent.  Landon Donovan was the same.  Plus there are lots of guys who didn't make our roster who've been hoofing it in Europe for a while.  Eric Lichaj pops to mind....  And how much did Sunderland help Jozy Altidore's game?

Along these lines, please remind me which basketball academy produced LeBron James and Michael Jordan, and how going to college hurt Tim Duncan's game.  (My delusional 9 year old has already told me that he was going to go to college first rather than just trying to go pro even though the latter is probably  better -- I can only imagine he overheard a Coach Mark diatribe on that one).  The idea that we need a European-style academy system for soccer has always seemed a bit silly to me.  It's too much along the lines of those people that think they could make the PGA tour if they just trained more as a kid....  Or even the coaches at the Barcelona camps that will train your kid to be as good as Xavi and Iniesta.  Come on!

I agree with the line regarding Adrian Peterson, but think that day is already here with guys like Yedlin making the team.  When we get to a critical mass with these type of guys we will become dangerous.  I would love to see Sergio Ramos try to mark Adrian Peterson (or Yedlin for that matter), or any NFL-level running back or defensive back that decided to play soccer instead.  Football youth participation is already down due to concussions; soccer is up due to TV.  TV will eventually make the difference, though for some reason I think the journey will be more fun than the destination in this case.  There's a certain charm to being an underdog that you don't get when you're expected to win.  Plus I want my kids to get playing time before all the elite athletes jump in!

Mark: The target striker issue that B* mentioned is dead on. With as many quality defenders and even midfielders (albeit defensive ones) that we have produced, we can't seem to find one good target striker out of 25 million soccer players. That's kind of nuts. In our history there has only been one true US target player that has ever played in one of the four major leagues (Brian McBride). He wasn't sensational, but he did the job even at the Premier League level. Not being able to win a ball at the forward spot was as big as issue yesterday as not having the precision playmaker.
Altidore is probably the closest thing to a target player, but he's only a hair above six feet tall and is of average pace, when most countries have a 6'2 or 6'3 guy or a guy who's just really strong and fast. Altidore has not been able to crack the Premier League yet which tells you where our best stands.

A Terrance Boyd/Altidore progression might get us there, but there are not many target choices out there at any level of US soccer. Was really surprised Boyd or Eddie Johnson didn't come as they give us at least so backup combination of size and speed up front.
On another note, the MLS is creeping up the ranks. I believe it had 37 players in the world cup which was behind The Bundesliga, English, French League, Italian and Spanish but ahead of Holland which is considered a pretty good league. The new $90 million dollar TV contract will raise level of play another notch.

The problem is also the kind of players we have. We have six holding mids, six defenders, six goalies, two second forwards (one of whom we didn't bring), one target guy, zero attacking mids and no wings. That's a really imbalanced lineup.  
Another concern is how few field players we have in the four big leagues. Five years ago, we had Bradley, Dempsey, Gooch, Bocanegra, Cherundolo, Beasley, Donovan (part time), and McBride plus three goalies playing and having some success overseas.
In this cup we had Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson and two goalies that are playing big time soccer. That's not headed in the right direction. I think it's temporary as there are two dozen under 21 American's playing on various reserve teams, but we are in the middle of a bit of a talent lull between what was our "Silver Age" (can't quite call it Gold) of American soccer (the Dempsey, Donovan, Beasley, McBride, Cherundolo era) and the next generation.
Let's pray the next generation has a target man. (None really on the horizon right now)
Mark; I think we all agree that Reggie Bush, even if he started the game at age 12, would have been a handful. And if Dwyane Wade had picked up soccer at age 13 he'd still be our starting center back right now. And I think you could probably put LeBron James in the penalty area right now and he'd win more head balls than any player in US soccer. So sad, but they'll eventually see the light.
Scott: Altidore developed in Holland. And just because some Americans don't make it overseas doesn't mean that right now that's not the best way for our best players to improve.
We all agree that as our super athletes go to soccer more and more our team will improve. But until MLS is up to snuff, we won't be able to compete if those athletes aren't playing against the better competition. I'm not saying it's about training - I think we have good training. I'm saying that who you play against day in and day out makes a big difference when you get to a tournament. It is no different than your A team only playing against your B team all year and then going to a tournament and playing in the premier division.
MLS will catch up (look how far it has come already) but until it does, it won't produce the number of quality players we need, only those few who excel despite, not because of it.
This is farlieonfootie for July 4.

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