Radical Style Changes Needed Before Germany
By Marc Serber
The oft repeated phrase when it comes to losses against team’s like Belgium is that it doesn’t matter as long as the U.S. qualifies for the World Cup.
True, I would take a win over Jamaica if it meant a trade off for the humiliation suffered against Belgium on Wednesday.
The bottom line, however, is that this isn’t the late 80’s. In this day and age we have a squad of Premier League, Bundesliga, MLS and Liga MX players with Jurgen Klinsmann as our coach. Qualifying for the World Cup (albeit in an increasingly tougher CONCACAF region) is supposed to be a given.
Two years ago I wanted Bob Bradley to go because I thought the style we played was not only ineffective, but boring. Two years later and I actually drifted off in the second half.
If we ever want to truly be among the greats, then we will need to beat teams like Belgium (even with their “golden generation”) in the World Cup if we are ever to reach the pantheon of the World’s most popular sport.
That is why a friendly defeat at the end of a long grueling season for many players was still so disappointing to me.
It’s not that we went down to a first class Belgium squad, but it is the manner in which we rolled over and were completely dominated from start to finish against a European outfit that looked just as tired and disinterested, and yet, still dismantled us.
When Klinsmann first took over, reverses such as the 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica or the 4-1 drubbing suffered at the hands of Brazil didn’t bother me because you could see glimpses of the modern style he was trying to implement.
Even if it was only for 20-30 minutes at a time, the U.S. played at a high tempo, interchanged positions and combined with purpose.
Those stretches showed that we possibly had the players to handle this system from both a physical and technical perspective. If our boys could do it for 15 minutes here and 20 minutes there, then surely down the line, putting together 90 minutes at that tempo would eventually be a conquerable task.
Two years on and that promising, modern, style has seemed to disappear. Against the Diables Rouges, the pace was slow, the lines were extended and there seemed to be no coherent combination play. The ball often went out wide before being thumped into the middle with an early cross. Predictable play, and not surprisingly, both goals came from set pieces.
Meanwhile, Sacha Kljestan, perhaps the one player out there with the biggest point to prove hardly got on the ball. Yet I don’t think he can be blamed for his absence in the center of the park.
I have heard a lot of talk about the US getting back to “what has gotten us there.” Our grit, determination, and fighting spirit.
The problem is, “what has gotten us there,” has not gotten us past the second round of the World Cup since 2002. Getting out of the group has often come in an ugly, come from behind, my heart can no longer take it fashion.
“What got us there” has got us there, but it hasn’t moved us forward. With so many positions still undecided and so many question marks remaining over our lack of depth becoming such a worrying issue, can we really rely on the past?
I don’t care if the U.S. looses 5-2 to Germany's B squad as long as the team is sent out to try to play -- to pressure, to combine and to get more players involved. A more modern style which Klinsmann has preached since day one.
It makes sense that we didn’t see it in the snowpocalypse versus Costa Rica, or in the cauldron that is the Azteca, but there was no excuse for its absence in Cleveland.
People question whether this generation of players can handle it. Some can and some can’t, but its time to start setting that example for the future and setting up the template of the correct philosophy for our next generations of national team players.
It’s time to stop worrying about “what got us there” and time to begin thinking about “what will get us beyond there.”
The Germany game needs to be another start, and it's up to Klinnsmann and his players to prove that they are capable of garnering success in soccer’s rapidly changing modern era. If they don't, we're not getting anywhere. We're just, here.