An exceptional strike from Trinidad striker Alvin Jones, a poor call in the Panama match which resulted in an undeserved goal, a USA team that has grown soft and unmotivated. Whatever you think is responsible for the USMNT’s early departure from the 2018 World Cup, we are out. With the Gold Cup being in 2019 with no immediate qualifiers/playoffs, USA is looking at quite the long weekend before their next competitive national game. Although the US soccer nation will take this time to recuperate, the USMNT has work to do in its’ long intermission.
Goodbye Bruce, Again
Bruce Arena is the winningest head coach in American soccer history. From his days developing and finding hidden talents in young players at UVA, to his dynasties with D.C and LA in the MLS, and of course the USA’s 2002 World Cup run in which they reached the quarterfinals, he has had a significant role in every facet of American soccer. However his newest legacy is one of disappointment, as after just 11 months in his second term coaching the USMNT, Bruce Arena has retired in disgrace. A replacement has not yet been named, though there are several promising candidates. The forerunner would be Tab Ramos, current U-20 men’s coach since 2011, and also an assistant coach to the national team under Jurgen Klinsmann. Another promising candidate is Brad Friedel, current U-19 coach and former USA goalkeeper. Both of these men have considerable experience managing and have previous relationships with many of the younger players, which could be beneficial if the USMNT goes through an expected roster shuffle.
Out With The Old, In With The Young
While this years’ performance on the national stage left US soccer fans disappointed and heart broken, the door is now open for some new talent to take the stage. Most likely to be on their way out will be long-time stars Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard. While this departure may not be immediate, and personally I would love to see Dempsey go out as the all-time top scorer, one would think that the next USA World Cup squad will not contain these two, at least not as players. What USA needs to do is to start rebuilding. There are many young talents out there in the ever-growing world of American soccer that have yet to be explored.
Not everyone will have to go, youngster Christian Pulisic has remained one of the teams’ brighter spots in these
trying times. Michael Bradley is another player who, is definitely coming to the end of their career, but I feel the USMNT could use Bradley for one more world cup. Although Jozy Altidore has been a long time favorite of mine, with spotty performances at best and zero consistency as a striker throughout his national team career, the USMNT would do well to find itself a new forward. They could find it in Josh Sargent, a 17-year old from St. Louis. The youngster has already proven himself, being the youngest player in US history to score in the U-20 World Cup at 17 years and 91 days. He also is in agreement with German team Werder Bremen to sign on his 18th birthday in February.
Kellyn Acosta, another young star, could be the answer to USA’s midfield struggles. Only 21, Acosta is already regarded as one of the best midfielders in the MLS, with vision that tends to come with years of professional experience and a cool collected head in crunch time. Acosta is expected to play a pivotal role in USA’s 2019 Gold Cup run, and could very well catapult himself into national stardom if he continues to perform. Jorge Villafana is another name you could be hearing more often, however he is no spring chicken. Although he is new to the national team, this 27-year old has seemed right at home defending our left side. Defense has been a particularly weak point for USA teams as of late, so if Villafana can prove himself consistent in the coming months, he may be our new left back, one that the US could feel very good about.
All in all, it will be strange having a World Cup without the USA. And although certain circumstances surrounding our exit were questionable, this was not going to be USA’s tournament. Our defense has been sloppy, nobody stepping out to pressure players as they enter their attacking third. Our midfield and our strikers have never seemed on the same page, and although we didn’t play terribly every game, there is no way we would of made it past the round of 16 this year. So yes, it’s unfortunate, but there is a bright future ahead for US soccer, let’s not miss it complaining about what could have been.