Why The US Won't Be At The 2018 World Cup







The 2014 World Cup was a time of hope for fans of the US Men’s National Team. The boys in red, white, and blue went into the group stages with the odds already stacked against them. Slated to compete against Germany, Portugal, and Ghana, US fans were already reserved to the fact that they were just happy to be there.
Germany was– and is– a soccer superpower who would go on to win the whole thing that year. Portugal was a talented team with arguably the best player in the world on their squad in the form of Christiano Ronaldo. And Ghana historically had the US Men’s number, eliminating them in the last two World Cup tournaments.
But the US Men shocked everyone and made it through to the knockout stages. The men would take on Belgium in the round of 16. Thanks to a stellar performance by Tim Howard and a near miss by Chris Wondolowski, the Men performed well enough that everyone thought they may actually pull it off. Fans left encouraged about the future and what this squad could do.
Fast forward to October 2017, after a poor showing the USMNT is in their final qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago. All they needed was a draw on the Carribean side. The team was stacked with stalwart veterans like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, and Michael Bradley and had new wonder kid Christian Pulisic. It should have been a match they could win, let alone draw. Turns out this was too tall an order. The USMNT and manager Bruce Arena left empty-handed and USMNT fans were left with a litany of questions, but one burned brightest in their collective mind.
How did they fall so hard from grace? The talent was there, the manager had done well before, and they had young talent. But instead of chanting “I Believe” for a second straight World Cup, American fans are getting DNA tests just to find out their heritage so they can still have a team to root for. How did we get here?
The USMNT were already running hot and cold with then Manager Jurgen Klinsmann. Though getting out of the “group of death” in the 2014 World Cup bought him some extra time to keep his experiment going. The men turned their sights to the 2015 Gold Cup. It wouldn’t turn out as well as many would have hoped with the US making an exit in the semi-finals at the hands of Jamaica. The men made a surprise splash at the 2016 Copa America by making it to the Semis before falling 4-0 to Argentina and finishing 4th.
After losing their first two qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup the US Soccer Federation decided that the Klinsmann experiment had taken the team as far as it could go. So was the solution to look forward and build a bright shining future? Nope. Time to go back to the well and rehire Bruce Arena. In order to fix the fact that Klinsmann had plateaued, the Federation went back to a manager… who had plateaued.
The Bruce Arena signing was one of the biggest reason that would lead to the team’s failure. Bruce Arena raised everyone’s hopes by winning with 2017 Gold Cup with a roster of young stars. Then immediately went back to the old veterans who had consistently been underperforming.
Arena was a literal representation of the USMNT’s inability to adapt and evolve. He was the living embodiment of the Federation wanting to succeed just enough that they would achieve the minimum of what they would need to deem the campaign a success. All the while too scared to make bold steps to move the team and soccer in this country forward. They were so tied up in the fact that they may fall on their face that they strived for status quo.
Ironically in their desperation to do just enough to look good, they fell right on their face. Blowing the qualifiers and disappointing fans right up until the last day. The team’s timid managing hiring wasn’t the only downfall…
For the last couple of years, the USMNT team have touted wonder kid Christian Pulisic as the future of US Soccer. Giving fans the deceptive belief that the future is in good hands while the present was in the hands of players who have proved they could take the US team only so far. Not to take away from their achievements of course. Players like Dempsey and Bradley have carried the load that is the USMNT for a long time. But when will it be time to start trusting the next generation. There’s Pulisc and to a certain extent Jordan Morris who can find their way onto the team on a fairly consistent basis. But look no further than that 2017 Gold Cup Roster as a microcosm of how the last few years ran.
A young group of players who weren’t mainstays of the team get the US through the group stages and what does Arena do before the knock out stage? He switched out a bunch of the new players for the old guard. Now they performed well, Bradley even won the best player award, but it showed how the Federation planned on running things going forward. They would be looking back.
After that disappointing loss to Trinidad and Tobago, everyone started blaming each other and Arena would resign. The USMNT has tried to take time to regroup. The team recently made a statement, beating Bolivia 3-0 under interim manager Dave Sarachan. Sarachan, who served as an assistant under Arena, has stated that vets like Altidore and Bradley should be included in the plans for the next World Cup cycle. Personally, I don’t think that’s a bad idea. Having leadership and guaranteed skill is important on a powerful squad–but maybe consider them a more of an off the bench option as the next four years pass. The USMNT will never move forward if they continue to repeat tactics that didn’t work. The old guard can help the young guns build a future, rather than live in the past.

Potential Prospects To Replace Zinedine Zidane
Potential Prospects To Replace Zinedine Zidane
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