U.S. Men’s Soccer Terrible – En Dos Idiomas
It was a blessing that Tuesday’s USA-Costa Rica English broadcast vanished onto a channel not on my cable package.
At least that gave me a chance to brush up on my modest Spanish via NBC Universo, bless its heart.
The Yanks were visibly awful to the eye, 4-0 to Costa Rica, as Juergen Klinsmann’s regime began to teeter. But I did manage to process a few observations by the broadcasters, speaking quite clearly.
“Treinta dos minutos,” one said while the game was still scoreless after 32 minutes.
"Donde está Jermaine Jones? Donde está Michael Bradley? Y no aparecen.”
He was inquiring about the two veteran midfielders, allegedly the engine that coordinates defense into offense. “And they don’t appear.”
Minutes later, one of them noted that the American team “no tiene alma” – does not have soul. The English word might be “heart” or “grit” but the point was the same. The lads were dragging. No leadership. No vision. No will.
This team misses the fiery presence of Clint Dempsey, recovering from a heart ailment.
Then it got worse as the defense fell apart late in the first half. I’ll spare the details.
The Spanish broadcaster repeated the “no tiene alma” observation in the second half. This was not regional gloating, the kind of home-turf gamesmanship familiar during the quadrennial qualifying round. The broadcast was quite professional, including a nice pre-game package on the Latino roots of many fervent American fans.
The match was played in a modern national stadium, built in 2011 (with Chinese help). I covered the loss in 1997 in the nasty little Saprissa stadium, where fans easily lobbed nuts, bolts, baggies filled with urine and invective at the American keeper and defenders. No, the current setting is, if anything, too distant for good camera work. But nothing could hide the rot in the American program.
Michael Bradley, arguably the most consistent force in the South Africa World Cup in 2010, has deteriorated into a responsible captain who cannot track on defense or start anything on offense.
Bradley is paired with Jermaine Jones, a hard man out of Germany, now old and injured, whose intimidation does not work anymore.
Where have you gone, Claudio Reyna?
The back line is worse. John Brooks gets off message upon aggression. (Soccer America graded him a 1; don't know that I've ever seen that before.) Omar Gonzalez seems narcoleptic, should have been dropped after 2014. Timmy Chandler once looked like the right back of the future; nothing like that ever happened.
The offense, such as it is? Bobby Wood and Jozy Altidore, up front, with Christian Pulisic given license to roam – were collectively “neutralizados.” Neutralized.
Pulisic, just turned 18, may be a wunderkind for Dortmund, surrounded by 10 Bundesliga stalwarts, but on this squad he is not ready for the creative role Klinsmann has assigned him.
This venture into the challenging Hexagonal was always going to be rough, with Mexico at home and Costa Rica on the road to start. Klinsmann somehow made it worse with a bizarre three-player back line against Mexico and his players could not adjust.
I’ve ranted long enough. The non-sneering tone of the Spanish broadcasters confirmed this was a disaster in any language. The Hex will not resume for four months. The good news is that Jones and Chandler will be suspended for the next game because of two yellow cards.
I’m not sure there is anything to be done with Klinsmann at this point, but this team needs overhauling, by somebody.
* * *
PS: My friend Ridge Mahoney writes that it's time for Klinsmann to go. Your thoughts?
11/16/2016 04:23:19 pm
I felt that Klinsmann lost the USMNT when Donovan was passed over for the 2014 World Cup. It was an unpopular decision, even if he would not have been needed to replace the injured Altidore.
11/16/2016 04:37:37 pm
Alan, that makes a lot of historical sense. At the time, I thought Donovan had shown enough ambivalence about playing that Klinsmann could rule him out, but he was such a unique weapon -- comparable to Reyna and Dempsey, two unique players I mentioned -- that the dynamics started to go wrong.
11/16/2016 06:13:52 pm
11/16/2016 07:42:20 pm
That'll learn him.
11/16/2016 07:53:51 pm
11/16/2016 08:01:53 pm
Soccer is a hoax invented by the chinese to undermine America's position in the sports world. Everyone knows that. No reason to worry about the passport players when the whole game will be banned on January 21.
11/16/2016 08:13:18 pm
it was actually the English, who invented the game for that purpose, and when 'mericans finally realized it wasn't the chinese, the limeys had vanished in plain sight.
11/16/2016 09:42:24 pm
I am collecting these comments for a paper I am writing on PTSD.
11/17/2016 03:55:38 pm
In case anyone is unsure, I am among the PTSD, and Costa Rica is no longer on my list of escapes. Meanwhile I have made GV's Worl Cup book into a shrine and hold daily meditations.
11/17/2016 08:03:30 am
I agree, George.... it's time for Der Baker to move on. Speaking with friends, the consensus seems to be that we all love him as Technical Director, but we doubt his ability when it comes to match tactics and direction. Can the USSF transition him away from coaching and more towards the TD role? I don't know. But it seems that his proclivity for playing guys out of position and his constant tinkering may have finally cost him the locker room and the confidence of his squad.
11/17/2016 10:04:56 am
Rob, thanks. They certainly owe him salary through 2018. But I don't know the legalities of whether they could "reassign" him to another post or have to buy him out.
11/17/2016 09:57:45 am
I think Jürgen is finally done. It's clear he has to go. The logical option now is Bruce, through the 2018 WC. After that they should go with a young American coach like Kinnear, or someone experienced from Latin America, in any case someone who will really tap into and develop the Hispanic talent in this country which Klinsmann talked about but largely ignored.
11/17/2016 10:18:21 am
11/17/2016 10:06:44 am
The Klinsmann appointment made a certain amount of sense at the time. But I knew from a friend at Bayern Munich that one of the reasons his tenure there was brief was that he never managed to win over the dressing room, that some of his methods alienated and confused players, that senior players openly ridiculed him behind his back and support for him at the top level of the club, never total, quickly disappeared. In other words, he really didn't have a convincing coaching CV. But neither did Pep Guardiola, and look how that's turned out. It was worth a try, but it clearly hasn't worked, and his probably gone on longer than it should have. He should know that and he should offer to resign now. I'm sure he'll be well taken care of by US Soccer if he does.
11/17/2016 10:12:20 am
John: interesting suggestion. I am not close to it these days, but my guess is that Sunil can read the tea leaves. One extremely discreet call to Michael Bradley and/or Tim Howard would do, or maybe he does not need to do that. Juergen is his guy, but Sunil is pragmatic. It would cost more to fail to get to Russia in 2018.
11/17/2016 10:17:24 am
John, just saw your second part. Well, we heard in 2006 that Jogi did a lot of the coaching. Maybe he's available down the line?
11/17/2016 11:10:45 am
The comments about Klinsmann’s performance and abilities are valid as are the many possible solutions.
11/18/2016 11:25:51 am
George, my knowledge of these players is almost nil, but the beauty of your writing in describing them is delightful. Yours words, as they often have over the last 40 years, have made my day.
11/19/2016 09:05:25 am
Dear Hansen: Thanks for the nice words. I have to add that John McD and Alan R both know the sport from the inside -- John as a player and now photographer who has actually stood with his friend Roberto Baggio as he took free kicks in practice, and Alan was a keeper in college who now instructs young keepers as a hobby. They know stuff. I've been fortunate to observe the US men's team over three decades now, and the women nearly as long, and can refer to players who left lasting impressions. People like Tony Meola and Michelle Akers form my love for the sport, are backdrops to the way I view the US teams today. Best GV
11/30/2016 01:36:56 am
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12/1/2016 10:52:13 pm
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3/27/2017 12:28:31 am
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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.