The United States in World Cup 2014

The United States Men's National Team enter the 2014 World Cup ranked as the 13th team in the world. When the World Cup is finished they should be ranked in the same general area.

I Believe That We Can Win!

The US Naval Academy cheer taken as it's own by the American Outlaws has become a rallying cry if not the soccer anthem for US Soccer.  Reports were the American fans in Brazil far outnumbered those from every other country save Brazil itself.  ESPN and overnight Nielson ratings indicate the US matches were among the most watched sporting events ever with more viewers than the recent NBA playoffs, the Rose bowl and other noteworthy events.

In many ways, it appears the United States has finally arrived as a power on the world soccer scene.  This is well illustrated by the commentary on an English Soccer podcast that has gone viral on social media.


From the loom of the team and the attitude they brought with them, I think they believe they belong as members of the world soccer scene and that is as important as anything else to take from this World Cup. 

Many years ago the notion that America could not only compete with but win the World Cup was conceived.  The belief that we can do so has blossomed before our eyes.  The next step is to achieve that goal.

I do not wish to put a damper on all the great work done by US Soccer and specifically it's players and coaches, but in my opinion the USMNT still has a ways to go before it can realistically threaten to win a World Cup.  We are much improved, good even, but not yet great.

The USMNT entered this World Cup needing great performances from its two best players - Tim Howard and Michael Bradley.  You can make a case for other players importance, but these two gentlemen had to have not good, but great performances if the USMNT were to seriously challenge.  Howard came through with flying colors.  Bradley struggled throughout but played progressively better over the course of the US's 4 matches.

US coach Jurgen Klinsmann made Bradley the center piece of his team.  I Believe Landon Donovan was left off because Klinsmann wanted this to be Bradley's team.  New coach, new culture. I understand that.  However, while I am okay with Donovan being left of the team, I also believe Bradley struggled in part due to Donovan's absence on the pitch.  Simply put, Bradley was not up to the task of carry this team on his shoulders by himself. He needed help, but understand what Klinsmann's intentions were - the USMNT needs a world class star in the worst way.  Bradley was given the opportunity to ascend to that status. Given Donovan's age, it was a clear choice to make.

I think the same reasoning went into the single forward formations employed by the USMNT.  This was to be Jozy Altidore's showcase.  Klinsmann did not even roster a similar player. They were going to ride Altidore until he dropped. Unfortunately, Altidore dropped in the first match and Clint Dempsey was thrust into a role he just isn't suited to fill.

This highlights another area that needs shored up before the US can truly be considered established in the world soccer scene - quality depth.  The USMNT put a quality 11 on the pitch but to say they were 23 men deep would be a stretch of the imagination.  Consider that 5 members of the USMNT were dual nationals - United States and Germany.  Klinsmann quite literally scoured the world to find players to his liking.  Much of the talent we saw on the pitch was not home grown, per se.

And that is the challenge to be answered before qualifying for the 2018 World Cup begins - developing better home grown talent and uncovering the first world class American soccer star. DeAndre Yedlin or Julian Green anyone?

When I watched the USMNT this World Cup I saw a team that had learned to work far more intelligently and effectively than past US teams had. I saw a team that competed to an extent it probably overachieved in most matches. Klinsmann the tactician was brilliant for the most part - formations utilized, personnel deployed and the general systems of play.  The USMNT played to its strengths while hiding its weaknesses fairly well.   Possession play really suffered due to these strategies, but the USMNT was at its best defending and counter attacking. Possession soccer or slow builds to attacking play just is not something the USMNT does well namely because it lacks a world class star gal scorer... unless it's Altidore and we may have to wait another 4 years for that answer.

I don't believe the USMNT can afford to be satisfied with its performance although they played well and perhaps above realistic expectations.  I understand their being disappointed in being knocked out.  I can even appreciate being encouraged by making it through to the knockout round for two consecutive World Cups.  There is still much to do before we can declare ourselves to have arrived though.

I am hopeful Klinsmann remains as coach for the next 4 years.  I believe we will continue to see an infusion of youth into the USMNT as it prepares for 2018 World Cup qualifying.  I think the future is bright.  The next steps are to develop or uncover a world class American player the likes of a Messi or Ronaldo or Suarez while also deepening the overall pool of world class talent here in the states.

 Time to take another step.

I Believe That We Will take that step and finally move from knocking on the door to kicking the door open as only Americans can to grabbed our spot in the world's soccer spotlight... in 2018!

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