Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How Quickly We Forget

THIS is what's on Correspondent Ed's playlist -- You can't make this stuff up....
photo by Lunchbox LPvia PhotoRee

His brain addled by the steady stream of music from boy-band Big Time Rush that he's been grooving to on Pandora, Columnist Ed closes the book on farlieonfootie's recent musings on the US Mens National team:

I’ve heard some grumblings lately about this 2010 version of the US Mens National Team, and how we miss players like Tab Ramos or Claudia Reyna, or even John Harkes.  I find this position silly at best.  This current US team is our best in the modern era, and despite the fact that progress is still slower than any of us want, our progress since the 1990’s has been substantial. 

Let’s first tackle what this 1994 team did to earn it’s reputation.  In the World Cup in the United States, this team upset Columbia 2 to 1, tied Switzerland, 1 to 1, lost to Romania 1 to 0 and lost to Brazil 1 to 0.  You may remember that record to be better; but that was it.  Now it’s tough to beat these guys up, as playing Brazil to a 1 to 0 game is an accomplishment, and this was by far a new high water mark for a US team in the World Cup in the modern era.  I will also grant this about the 1994 team:  they played with heart, they put US Soccer on the map, and they had a good run.  Of note from this World Cup was the vicious elbow Tab Ramos received against Brazil – literally breaking his skull and putting him in the hospital for 3 months – as well as the murder of the Columbian goaltender at a nightclub for an own goal against the US when he returned.  
But as much as I admire this 1994 team, they weren’t in the same league as the 2011 Gold Cup Squad.   Few of them had meaningful experience in the top leagues, and few would even go on to such experience.  Take John Harkes.  He had a successful career with one of my favorite named English clubs, Sheffield Wednesday, though a good part of his time there was in the second division of English football.  Harkes’s career total goals in English football in six seasons?  12, but only half in the top flight.  Total career goals in MLS?  16.  Granted, he was a midfielder, but so are Donovan (8 in basically one full season of games in Europe / 127 in MLS) and Dempsey (37 in EPL, 26 in MLS). 

Not a fair comparison?  Well, even holding midfielder Michael Bradley has 10 goals in just 3 seasons in the Bundesliga.

Tab Ramos, for all his heroics, never really made it over the second division in the Spanish Leagues.  Claudio Reyna, another great US soccer player from the 1994 team, scored 22 goals in his long career, and scored exactly zero for the US national team.  I liked Reyna and thought he was a good player.  But he’s not as good as Holden, and from a defensive perspective at least, Bradley and Jones are both better. 

The current number of players on top tier international teams also far exceeds the number in the 1994 team.  Howard (Everton EPL), Bradley (formerly Villa), Dempsey (Fulham), Licaj (formerly Villa), Cherundelo (captain of Hannover 96, Bundesliga, 7 goals if you’re wondering, dangerously close to Harkes, and as a defender), Bocanegra (4 yrs at Fulham, followed by several seasons with Renne and St Etienne in the French top division), Edu (Rangers), and of course Donovan, who proved he was a force for Everton, but instead dominates the MLS.

I would list more players on the 1994 team and review their histories, but you’re frankly going to have to take my word for it that they weren’t big stars and wouldn’t end up being big stars.  One notable exception is backup goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who is still in the EPL.  Of course, on the 1994 team he backed up Tony Meola, the soccer goalie who I believe tried unsuccessfully to become an NFL kicker, and who played for both the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and the Long Island Rough Riders.  Also of note is Alexi Lalas, was arguably our best defender, but he too had very little career outside of this World Cup.

It should also be noted, that once we left the US shores in 1998, we were a miserable 32nd out of 32 in the World Cup.  This was the team that didn’t have Harkes because of what we later learned was his affair with Eric Wynalda’s wife (this came out only a decade later, when Wynalda and former coach Sampson each discussed it following the John Terry affair).  Regardless, we just weren’t that good.

Granted, for a country of 300 million people the USA is still not as good as it needs to be in soccer.  And as I said before, we’re not exactly improving in leaps and bounds, but hey, let’s give up on the glory days stuff because as tough as it sounds, they never really existed.

This is farlieonfootie for July 2.


  1. Okay, so I have no explanation of how "Big Time Rush" got on my playlist. I suspect either inter-office foul play or that Hangover 3 evening in Bora Bora. That said, I admit to doing all I can to bring back the popularity of the Glam Rock Power Ballad, which was both under-appreciated and sadly may never be seen or heard again. But thanks, FOF, for both invading my privacy and publishing it on this website. I guess Poison was right, Every Rose Has It's Thorn . . . [cue music] . . . .

    -- Corresp. Ed

  2. Damnit, I meant "Its"!!!

    Corresp. Ed