Tuesday, June 9, 2009

USA: Stuck On The Tracks?

Last night as I was going to sleep the call of the internet got the best of me, and my Blackberry meant I didn’t even have to get out of bed. I thumbed to Soccernet.com and skipped right to the USA section to read the latest soccer news. There I read an interesting, disturbing, and brave article by Steve Davis.

The article, “Current U.S. team no better than the 2006 version”, caught my attention and held it. Steve sets forth a vision of American soccer that calls out the American National team as complacent and having lost its way.

Where Are We In This Dense Fog?
Monks in Fog
Davis’ main contention is that we are too hopeful. While the American soccer public is ever hopeful that the National Team is on an upward trend he sees the team sitting in the middle or a long straight barren highway. Yes there are occasional oasis but in the end we are right back in the desert.

Has the National Team really stalled out? Are all of our players too old with no replacements in sight? And why do we keep seeing Beasly and Eddie Johnson after they have failed to gain any significant playing time at their current clubs?

The answers to these questions are hard to find the in dense fog of the present. How do the politics of a football team work? Who is really in control and what is Bob Bradley’s vision? When does a former star and the trust that was placed in him expire?

I don’t have the answers to these questions.

Where Are We In This Thick Forest?
Dense Forest
The problem with trying to say exactly what the state of the US National team is that the present is hard to judge. The past is easy. Everything has played out. We can judge with almost full knowledge of what has happened.

Do the back and forth qualifying results mean we are back where we were years ago? Is Landon Donovan a better player than he used to be? Are all our experienced players too old and our young stars too young? We don’t know until the games have played out.

Despite all the problems, the to and fro, the ties and losses, we won’t know exactly where the US stands until after the World Cup is played. The US will qualify for the World Cup. Our win over Honduras solidifies our position. At the World Cup we will be tested and our true strengths and weakness will shine.

There is Passion

Hejduk Scores!
Davis contends that the US National team has lost its drive and passion. I don’t believe that for one second. In all of the US National team players I see drive and passion. After the winning goal against Honduras we saw the joy. We saw fight and bite after beating Mexico in Columbus. No one can tell me that Franky Hejduk doesn’t have passion and drive.

You can’t go to Costa Rica, lose, and then say that the US is not an underdog. We may be the medium sized fish in a small pond but every single game against quality European opponents brings out that underdog fight.

Do You Still Feel It?
In the end, I will continue to believe. If there is to be a time when I throw aside my love for the team and say, “That’s it, we are done and everything is lost” that time is not now.

When the coaches and players are simply going through the motions, when the press and media make me hate the sport, when I no longer leap from the couch at every goal, then I will turn my back on the National team and walk away.

Hope and passion is the heart of soccer. Hold onto it.

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