2010 FIFA World Cup: Why Can't the USA Produce a Soccer Superstar?

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2010 FIFA World Cup: Why Can't the USA Produce a Soccer Superstar?
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

When I look at the final 23 for the US squad, I think to myself, "That's a very serviceable team."

In other words, it's a pretty good team, but certainly not a great team.

They've got some very good players in Landon Donovan and Oguchi Onyewu—players that can certainly play on some of the best teams, in the best leagues, in the world.

They have perhaps one of the top goalkeepers in the world in Tim Howard.

They have other solid players, such as Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, and Carlos Bocanegra, who are solid, hardworking, if unspectacular, additions to the squad.

There is one question that begs an answer.

Where are the superstars?

This is the fifth straight World Cup for the United States. They've had 20 years to develop some world-class talent.

Undoubtedly, they've fallen short.

There have been a myriad of pretenders.

Landon Donovan was the Golden Boy and looked like the future of US soccer at the 2002 World Cup. Sadly, he has immaturity issues that have seemingly only been solved in the past 12 months. He's turned into a very good player, but honestly, he's nobody that anyone would build a team around in the Premiership, La Liga, or any other top-flight leagues.

Freddy Adu was the "second coming of Pele" according to just about every soccer columnist back in 2004. I suppose he's a cautionary tale now of bestowing that sort of title on a 14-year-old in a country that has never produced an international soccer star.

Eddie Johnson was being mentioned a few years back as someone that could make a splash on the international scene. He's a big, fast forward with good skill. He couldn't even make this year's squad at a time when he should be dominating. 

Then there's DaMarcus Beasley, who five years ago was being lauded as a potential superstar. He went to Rangers and promptly learned that it takes more than speed to make it on the big stage. Beasley just looks like he can't take the contact and physicality at the higher levels.

Finally, that brings us to Jozy Altidore, the latest Yank who is bombing out. Although he was the highest paid player at Hull City, he managed just two goals on their way to relegation. At just 20, there's still hope for him, but it seems his lackadaisical attitude is what has turned off Hull City's coaching staff and fans.

Why?

Why have these Americans flunked out at almost every occasion?

In a word—intensity.

I think none of them are prepared for the intense nature and demands of world competition. They're not prepared for the physical and violent nature of the game.

Too often they seem like coddled country club boys getting beat up by an inner city bully.

Given the right attitude, Donovan could be another Arjen Robben or Franck Ribery—a fast, north and south player making long runs and beating guys off the dribble.

Altidore or Johnson could have been a Ruud Van Nistelrooy type—a big, physical forward attacking goals and making defenders pay for their mistakes.

Adu, well, I don't know about Pele, but how about someone similar to Robinho—a fast, slight player with devastating ball skills?

Can you imagine Beasley with Steven Gerrard's attitude? A bigger midfielder with blinding speed who goes in with cleats up at the slightest inclination to an opposing player?

It's very easy to understand why none of these players can take it to the next level.

They think it should be easy, and it's not.

It's really hard.

Adu and Altidore are the two players that stick out in my mind because they have world-class skills yet don't seem to have the mindset to go with playing at the highest level.

It takes being intense and focused for 50 or 60 games a year. Never taking a game off. Never coasting.

Soccer has been big in the US for 20 years. Our teams have been playing at the international level for two decades. We have the coaching that should bring our players to the top level.

European teams no longer turn their noses up at us; they're actively looking at the US for talent.

Onyewu has that attitude, but he's a defender, and I'm not sure about his physical tools.

I'm waiting for the first US player to come along with the mentality of a strong safety and the ability of a gazelle—a guy who is never, ever satisfied with his performance and is thirsty for the biggest trophies in the biggest games in the biggest leagues.

Michael Jordan with cleats and shin guards.

I don't know if we'll ever develop that player. Maybe we're just too soft.

Or maybe we need to get some of these inner city kids off the blacktop and onto the grass field.

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