USMNT and the Disappointment that Comes With It
James is back for a little soccer talk this week and if you missed the epic Alexi Lalas rant a few weeks back about the U.S. Men's National Team check it out right here. Check out his take on if he believes Lalas' comments were right or wrong below!
I can’t believe I am about to write this, but here it goes, Alexi Lalas is almost correct with regards to his comments about the U.S. Men’s National Team. A couple of weeks ago, Lalas tore into the national team after a very disappointing string of performances. Lalas named names and called out the leaders of the team in his rant. I find that I agree with him and even though I disagree with the “Wonder Boy” comment, which was pointed at Christian Pulisic, it was nice to finally hear someone in his position call out the squad.
I have always been a fan of the USMNT even though they break my heart and underperform every year. For years we have been told that each team is better than the last and this is the team that will make the US relevant on the international stage. There have been success stories and wins that have generated excitement; notably under coach Jurgen Klinnsman by making it out of the "group of death" and into the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup.
There will be more opportunities for me to rant on the USMNT, but for this post lets focus on Lalas' comments. He called out Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley and Pulisic. I exclude Pulisic from this issue and I will tell you why later. (Maybe not in this post, but later…. I promise.) However, I agree completely with him in regards to Tim Howard. I truly enjoyed watching Howard play for Everton when he was at the top of his game. He single handedly kept the US in games they otherwise would have been blown out in. However, his time as an effective goal keeper at the national team level is over. It’s not his fault that we have failed to develop any young talent to replace him, but if you are on the field you need to be able to make the routine stops. Dempsey is more of the same. At the age of 34, he lacks the burst and stamina that made him effective. I don’t question his drive, but it simply looks like age has caught up to him. He is not particularly dominant on the ball and is not an orchestrater of the attack. If used as a substitute, I believe he can still be effective in late game situations.The person I take the most issue with is Michael Bradley, and most of it is not his fault. We are always trying to sensationalize players in hopes to draw attention to soccer in the states. We did it with Landon Donovan, who was an average player on the world stage and for the most part was unproductive during his time playing club soccer in Europe. Bradley falls into the same boat. He is not a bad midfielder, but he isn’t a good one. He doesn’t command the team and put his players in positions to be successful. The US is routinely dominated in the midfield and that can be due to scheme and positioning, but at some point the leader in the middle of the field must take control. I have no issue with him being zen and trying to keep things calm, cool, and collected. But, if you are going to do that then you need to be able to back it up on the field with efficiency. Aside from skill, the US men’s team lacks drive and passion in the midfield. We frequently get dominated in time of possession and our lack of positional awareness leaves the defense, an already struggling unit, in bad situations.
Players claiming they don’t pay attention to the comments made by a former USMNT player and analyst is fine. It’s important to note he isn’t calling them out for plays they are making, it’s the plays they fail to make and what looks to be a lack of effort or care for their own performance that is the problem. It will be interesting to see if these comments make any sort of difference or if they fall on deaf ears. Hopefully it will jump start the team and the program as a whole.