All right, so the United States has one male soccer player with moves – Christian Pulisic – but it is not going to the World Cup next year.
If I may look at the big picture, this proves that the World Cup as constituted still has some credibility, when a huge nation can fall short (as has the Netherlands and other traditional soccer powers in other years.)
But stick around until 2026, when the new leaders of FIFA are committed to expand the final tournament from 32 to 48.
This democracy-in-action will be too late for this ragged lot from the U.S. which lost 2-1, at Trinidad & Tobago Tuesday night and was eliminated even from the last-chance-saloon of a November playoff.
The looming gimmick in 2026 was designed by FIFA to help the U.S., with all its TV money and affluent fans, to qualify.
I keep trying to tell these FIFA people that the agonizing regional tournaments are a vital part of the World Cup process. Glorious things happen for the occasional Panama; hideous embarrassments happen to the occasional France or Spain or Netherlands or, dare I say it, the U.S. of A. -- Goliath stumbles on a banana peel, or some such shame.
If Pulisic can survive the drubbings he receives in regional play – he’ll only be 28 during the 2026 World Cup, presumably in North America -- he could avoid the list of Best Players to Never Reach the World Cup final tournament: Alfredo di Stefano, George Weah, George Best, Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs. In its own morbid way, it’s an honor.
In the meantime, the U.S. is faced with a massive housecleaning. I really don’t blame Bruce Arena for the failure, except that’s what coaches are for -- to be blamed. He played whom he had.
I spent the first 15 minutes thinking, oh, geez, Omar Gonzalez is still a hapless lug in the middle – and then Gonzalez got burned on both goals, as did Tim Howard.
It seems clear that the admirable Howard, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey are past it for this level of competition. And after Pulisic, there is…?
So the U.S. starts all over again, with talk about programs and development and finding better athletes. I feel like I’m back in 1985, watching the U.S. team get whacked by Costa Rica in California, and falling short of the next World Cup.
As Rick Davis, 26 and the mainstay of the American team, said in 1985: ''Tell the young kids to keep it up. Unfortunately, for somebody like myself, we missed the boat.''
I was there in 1985. I could run five miles in those days. Donald Trump was some local popinjay who apparently built stuff. Those were the days. Now it’s 2017 and the U.S. cannot beat the weakest team in the Hexagonal tournament.
To paraphrase my old Brooklyn Dodger roots: Wait Til Next Year. Or 2026.
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My colleague Ridge Mahoney says Arena was wrong to use same starting 11 as Friday. Ridge has a good point. They looked lethargic. Read a real pro:
10/11/2017 05:25:51 pm
But we can still rejoin the party in 2022, that’s better than 2026. But the fact is that usmnt will not play a real game until 2019. Factoid- USA never won consecutive games in this Hex. At least we have the U17’s in India. Don’t miss the game tomorrow at 10:30 am vs Columbia.
10/11/2017 10:56:01 pm
Peter: thanks - and also for that video of the great "clear" by the Panamanian ball boy. G
10/11/2017 09:51:04 pm
Is it meaningful the Pulisic was the most visibly upset of the American players? I hesitate to read much into those things, but maybe looking at Americans abroad, Klinsman, Pulisic, USSF and MLS gives credence to the conspiracy theorists who believe that MLS comes first. After all, what other significant football league plays through international breaks and the World Cup?
10/11/2017 11:15:28 pm
Andy: I think it's more about being 19 - and having few big losses, as all pros have had.
10/13/2017 06:49:30 am
Like Joshua, I am looking forward to finding other rooting interests. I usually have little trouble match-by-match. Belgium is fun, because of the familiarity of so many who play on TV for Spurs and other English teams. I can always root against Italy, the source of half of my genes, and usually France, depending on how many Gooners they put out (and in spite of Lloris in goal)! The EPL and La Liga return tomorrow, and so I am not sorry to see this particular international break pass.
10/13/2017 09:58:26 am
Andy, I was there in 1985 and wrote this column:
10/14/2017 08:10:49 pm
Re: Your 1985 Column: Well, I'll be, and as the Beatles sang, I Should Have Known Better. My compliments. That column was way ahead of its time. However, two and a half pages in the Times this past week is some sign of progress.
10/12/2017 11:33:41 am
re: "U.S. cannot beat the weakest team in the Hexagonal tournament."
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From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.