I’d Like to Preface this by saying: I am not a fan of the United States Men’s National Team. I root for Mexico in every sense. That being said, what happened to the states is ridiculous. To have a level of talent in the Christian Pulisic’s, the DeAndre Yedlin’s, the Bobby Wood’s and squander it. It is ridiculous. After losing against Belgium in the 2014 the question that United States fans asked was “Can we compete with Germany, Belgium, or Brazil?” How can U.S. fans ask that question if they cannot even go into Trinidad and get a result? For those who may be reading this and are not into soccer, there is going into Trinidad and needing to get a win (medium difficulty). Then there is needing to go into Trinidad to get a result the result they needed to get was a draw. Any kind of draw. They could have gone in and parked the bus (defend, defend, and defend). They could have done anything to get a draw. But they lost to a Trinidad team who had nothing to win but pride. At the end of the game, the Trinidad players were sitting on the sideline with their legs crossed just waiting for the game to be over and go home. There was no sense of urgency. If you knew nothing about soccer and turned on the game, you would think that the United States had nothing to play for either. There was absolutely no sense of urgency. I found myself, a devout Mexico soccer fan, frustrated at the lack of urgency and passion that was necessary to pull out this result. I had no dog in the fight and it felt that I cared more than the players on the pitch. I’m sure there are millions of fans around the country who definitely cared a lot more than the players did today.
Who is to blame? The fans are blaming a lot of people, “It’s Klinsmann’s fault”, “It’s Arena’s fault”, “It’s Sunil Gulati’s fault” but while they are all to blame I believe it is the culture that the United States has built around soccer. The fact that in the United States you have to pay in order to join an elite club team is ridiculous. Pele grew up playing with his socks wrapped up in a ball. The greatest players in the world grew up impoverished playing on dirt. Now I am not saying that there are undiscovered Pele’s in the world that can’t be on a team because of this pay to play culture but the matter of fact is that the United States are missing out on a lot of talent because in order to play for a team, the parents need to fork over 2,500 per season! Bruce Arena, coach of the USMNT said “There’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing… nothing has to change. To make any kind of crazy change I think would be foolish.” Let me just say that the only reason he says that is because he would be the first one to be fired WHEN “crazy change” comes. If the United States don’t make a change they are insane. Insane because the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. It is something that pains me with the Mexican Futbol Federation. It is something my dad and I argue about for hours after Mexico get eliminated from the World Cup every year and it is something that the United States need to fix if they want to improve. When Germany played horribly in the 2000 Euro Cup, a competition almost as big as the World Cup that involves only European countries, the Bundesliga (German soccer league), the Bundesliga 2 (second division German soccer league), and the DFB (German Football Federation) came together to make a ten-year plan of what needed to be fixed. Guess what happened 10 years later? Germany won the greatest trophy in the sports world: The World Cup.
Ian Darke, an English football analyst (football because he is from England), posted on Twitter, “No team has a divine right to go to the World Cup. It has to be earned. USA did not earn it.” The USA did not earn the trip to the World Cup! The USA thought that just because they were representing the United States of America that a ticket to the World Cup would be granted to them! Today the Argentinian national team was on the brink of elimination from the World Cup. That would have mean that one of the world’s best players, Lionel Messi, would have been stripped of the honor that is playing in the World Cup. If anybody deserves a “divine right to go to the World Cup” it’s Lionel Messi. A player as great as Messi, could easily say, “I’m Lionel Messi and I play for Argentina with great players like Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano, I don’t need to work hard to go to the World Cup, my team will do the work for me.” You know what Messi did today? After Argentina was down 1-0 after 40 seconds of play, Messi scored, not once, not twice, but three times to propel Argentina to the World Cup. The United States did not play with the fire that was necessary to earn a ticket to the World Cup plain and simple.
This affects so many more people than just the 23 players who would be on that World Cup roster. This affects that 13-year-old kid who is deciding between soccer and basketball. That kid would see Christian Pulisic in the World Cup and say, “Wow I wanna be like him!” Soccer was growing the United States, the World Cup was coming around at the perfect time, wonderboy Pulisic was going to intrigue fans to the point where they won’t just pay attention once every four years but maybe they’ll tune in early on a Saturday morning to see him play in Germany. The drama and excitement and inevitable heartbreak that leads to fans saying, there’s always the next one (speaking from experience) is lost because this was the year that the United States had a chance to go to the Quarter finals and maybe even further. Now instead of the World Cup arriving to peak interest, it pushes people away because the United States are no good. Of all those bandwagon fans that gather around once every four years there are always a few of those fans that stick around and say, “Hey this sport is pretty damn exciting” and they’ll keep watching.
What happened tonight is an embarrassment for U.S. soccer that will haunt those players for the rest of their lives.