Man, talk about disheartening. The USA failing to qualify for a World Cup from the imperious CONCACAF region. I don’t know if there’s been a more disappointing and unnerving result in US sporting history. The conquerors of the majority of sporting competition through the injection of cash money were lackadaisically blown off their perch by the wondrous Trini's.
I by no means take any joy out of this result. Remarkably, I think the World Cup is better with the Stars and Stripes there. However, the simple face is that they don’t deserve to be. Jurgen Klinsmann took the Americans to the quarter finals of Brazil 2014. While there they beat Ghana, drew with Portugal and lost 1-0 to the eventual Champions, Germany. Agreeably, they were destroyed in the Round of 16 by a youthful and talented Belgium squad but nonetheless, their accomplishment was noted and gave them a platform to progress moving forward. They then get a fifth of the way through World Cup qualifying for Russia 2018 losing two games and decide to sack the manager. A manager who had done more for American soccer than most and hailed from a nation known for their astuteness in the game and success on the World’s biggest stage. They decided to replace him with …. Bruce Arena. A 65 year old manager that’s best managerial moments came with the National team between 1998 – 2006. It was the most uninspiring of appointments to replace the enthusiastic Klinsmann.
My foundation for this verdict isn’t personal. I think Arena, from what I’ve seen, is a stand up manager who has made a decent career for himself. Was he the man to take the USMNT to the World Cup finals – hell no. The US brought Arena in to steady the ship but the players needed a fire lit up their asses. They needed and ignition of urgency. The boss put at the helm wasn't the right man for that job. I watched a documentary on the USMNT's march to the 2006 World Cup in Germany and Arena was the coach then. At the time, he was a 54 year old who had everything to prove and the passion and innovation required to get the job done. This time around was the opposite, he had nothing more to prove and conservatism had taken over his passion. Look at the managers dominating World football right now. They're all relatively young, former players and in touch with technology and innovation. This is no slight against older managers but the truth of the matter is that you usually revert to your tried and tested methodology even though the environment around you has evolved and the technique to drive players requires dramatically different strategy.
I lived in the US for a while in the early-2000's and the passion for the beautiful game is real. They're mad for it in many areas and most people are willing to invest their retirement fund to give their kids a chance to make it. The difference between football and other sports is that it's truly Global - the majority of countries in the world don't classify football as a sport, it's religion. If anything, football isn't built on money but on passion, love and history. This is where American's are far behind and why a foreign coach is still the direction they need to take to elevate themselves. Success isn't and entitlement because they've put so much into the game and built a league which is relatively well followed.
Rumour has it that Tab Ramos will be the next manager of US Soccer. While Ramos brings familiarity with the player pool and a young, innovative mind to the table, he has no experience coaching in the men's game. He's been the manager of the U-20 team since 2011 - that's it. So US Soccer might give the keys to the Ford to a manager who had an average playing career, has no proper coaching experience and expect him to guide the country to Qatar 2022 while re-building the global image of US Soccer?
Let's not underestimate the catastrophic set-back this is for US Soccer. It's a truly monumental mess-up and will set the country back massively in their pursuit for football respect globally. Their approach to re-building has to be meticulously crafted and you need a balance of energy and experience to do that. Remember, international football means you are playing outside your comfort zone each and every game. Different nations have different cultures thereby have drastically different football philosophies. Being so detached from the rest of the world due to geography and mentality, the only way they'll really understand the foundation for success on the world stage is to have someone at the top that's been there and done it.
The next few months will hurt for American Soccer fans and they'll understandably be in denial that they couldn't finish above Costa Rica, Panama or Honduras in the CONCACAF region - they might even think that the Russians rigged it because the Donald doesn't enjoy riding horses with Vlad as much as they originally expected. They'll just have to do their best to qualify for the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East in 2022 - The USA going to play in the Middle East a year and a half after Trump has left office and the country is trying to rekindle the local and global carnage he'll inevitably leave behind - that should be interesting.