This past week has been packed with soccer-related madness here in the USA. First, Juventus played Club America match in a freakin’ baseball stadium (yours truly attended). Then Manchester United kicked the crap out of the MLS All-Stars (yours truly attended). Finally, the US Soccer Federation fired national team coach Bob Bradley and replaced him with former German star and coach Juergen Klinsmann (yours truly had nothing to do with it, I swear). It got the wheels turning in this lifelong soccer fan’s head, mostly with these three thoughts.
1. Man U vs. the MLS All-Stars is really not a fair fight.
The obvious reason is that Man U is packed with international stars who make more money by halftime than most MLSers make in a year. But what really puts the All-Stars at a disadvantage is the fact that they are a bunch of far-flung players pulled together for this one match. Watching it, I opined to a buddy that perhaps a single MLS team, simply by virtue of having played together for a while, would fare better. Then I looked up the other MLS teams Man U has played on this barnstorming tour. Both the New England Revolution and Chicago Fire had more respectable scorelines than the All-Stars’ 4-nil rout. So there ya go.
2. Klinsmann could be a good hire.
I’m pretty much a Bradley fan but watching Juventus, Club America and Man U, I was once again struck by a glaring problem with the US Team: not enough of our guys just try shit. And by that I mean, they pass and pass and pass but rarely take a game by the balls, blow past somebody and draw other defenders, opening up their teammates to put the defense on its heels—a la Leo Messi, Diego Forlan or, to use a German, Mesut Ozil. Yes, we still lack a dominant striker, but simply bringing in a few guys who can freakin’ dribble could make a huge difference. If Klinsmann can find a few more Clint Dempseys, he’ll prove to be a wunderbar selection.
3. U.S. Soccer will never “arrive” … and that’s OK.
Every time our men’s or women’s team makes a run in a major tournament, commentators start wondering aloud whether our players are finally competing with the world’s best, our leagues are finally matching international quality and our program is finally reaching some mythical pinnacle. And it’s silly. The rest of the world has been prioritizing this sport for over a century, just as we’ve been doing with sports like basketball and baseball. Do you think the Italians and Spanish are sitting around wondering when their hoops leagues will be as good as the NBA? No. They’re just psyched when one of their own makes it here, and we should be equally psyched when our players—think Dempsey, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and more—make it over there. After all, Brazil’s pro league is basically shite, and that hasn’t stopped them from winning five World Cups.
OK, I’m done.