American Soccer: Why the USA Soccer Team Will Never Win the World Cup, Part 1
I've been quite bored over the past few days and weeks of summertime, and as such I've been spending an alarming amount of time lying on a comfortable sofa, eating Doritos and channel-hopping on a 60-inch plasma.
Boredom in Western society really is a bitch, isn’t it?
Anyway, a "highlight" of these week's sporting offerings is the Women's World Cup, held this time in the home of the two-time defending champion, Germany.
Now Germany, as you may know, are quite a good male soccer team, and as such one might expect the country's sizable soccer-loving population to be watching in droves; both to sate their thirst for the beautiful game during the summer break, and also to celebrate what would likely be another World Cup win.
After all, this is the 21st century, and we are not sexist; they should truly be no difference between the men's game and the women's game because we're all equal after all.
Or maybe not.
The standard of play is terrible. Just terrible. There's no other word for it. I'm going to be brutally honest here; the women's game has no pace, no technique, and no excitement.
At least with women’s tennis, some of the players are nice-looking, but with the exception of Hope Solo, all of these players are not nice to look at, to put it plainly.
The German No. 18 is hideous. She’s their best player, but she’s hideous.
The Lord giveth, and he taketh away.
All I could say as a positive is that the majority of the teams held their shape quite well, and a couple of goalkeepers (my favorite, Hope Solo from the US, for example) were quite good.
The teams had no rhythm or plan with their passing, defenses didn't hold their line or play with any kind of synchronicity, the long ball game was used far too often and to no effect. It was like watching a pickup at the park.
Or the MLS.
Ah, here it is, my major observation of the week! And as it's so important, it gets its very own line.
In my opinion, there was no difference in quality between the teams in the Women's World Cup and the MLS. They're both as bad as each other.
That's bad news for American soccer. Really, really bad news.
Let's contrast soccer with basketball, where we have the NBA and the WNBA. The NBA right now is as popular as it's ever been, with arguably the best athletes in America wowing the audience with spectacular moves in every game, setting attendance and TV ratings records.
Compare that to the WNBA, where it is about as likely as a player dunks as it is for a game to sell out. Or even fill 50 percent of the stadium. In basketball, the difference between the men's and women's game is like night and day; for American soccer, it's shades of gray.
I try not to watch the MLS because I grew up having a season ticket to Newcastle United in the English Premiership, being treated to quality soccer week in, week out. The MLS, and even the men's national team, can’t hold a candle to that quality of soccer.
I'll write an article in the coming weeks as to why that is, but for now just consider this: If the worst NBA team in the country played the WNBA All-Stars, it would be a blowout. I could honestly see the score being 150-10, or something that ridiculously lopsided.
If an average MLS team played the US women's soccer team, I honestly don't know what the score would be. From my view watching my 60-inch plasma, there's very little difference in the quality of the technique, coaching, systems, and savvy of the average MLS team and the women's national team.
That's a pretty damning critique of American soccer, and even though the men are undoubtedly better athletes, pure athleticism won’t win games against the best teams in world soccer.
This is a point I will revisit, but the majority of the men's national team plays have roots in the MLS. The two best players, Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey (Landon Donovan is horrifically overrated), are the only two active players on the team to have made a successful transition to European soccer, where the cream of the top talent in the world plays.
One could make a case for Stuart Holden of Bolton, but one good season does not a career make. Landon Donovan, worshipped by the "once every four years" American soccer fan, has failed three times to make the transition.
Jozy Altidore, "the future for American forwards" couldn't even make the starting eleven for a team destined for relegation from the Premiership.
And don't even ask about Freddy Adu, I thought he was dead before he showed up in the Gold Cup a few days ago.
I'm going to make a list now off the top of my head of American players in the past twenty years to have made a successful transition to European soccer. By that, I mean, they have made a significant contribution to a top-tier team in one of the big five leagues (English Premiership, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, French Ligue 1, German Bundesliga).
Here's the list: Alexei Lalas, Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel, Tim Howard, Brian McBride, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey
Just seven players—three goalkeepers, two defenders, a midfielder and a target man striker. That's in twenty years. Hardly going to strike fear into the hearts of Brazil and Spain, is it?
And judging by the way the team was manhandled by Mexico in the Gold Cup final, a team with one world-class player who didn't even play well that night, US soccer is about to suffer a downturn in fortunes in the coming years.
Fortunately, there is a way to solve this problem. It'll take time, and a complete overhaul of the way the MLS and American youth soccer development is done now. But I think I have the answer, and I'll give it in part two.
So for now, thanks for reading, feel free to comment, and part two should be done next time I'm bored, so definitely by next week.
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