Soccer is slowly becoming more and more popular here in the U.S. I just hope that what we all witnessed in the Copa America Centenario Semi-Final doesn’t turn too many new fans of the USMNT off from the game. Us Americans are pretty accustomed to the U.S. Men’s National Team underperforming on the big stages of international soccer, but the team has been much more interesting in recent years, and as a result more people have gotten into the sport.
In fact 8.1 million people here in the United States tuned in to watch our boys play against the #1 ranked team in the world, Argentina. You know, the team that also has the world’s best player, Lionel Messi. I knew before the game that we would have our hands full, but I had a sliver of hope that we could make the game interesting.
That hope began to fade quickly and substantially when Argentina’s Ezequiel Lavezzi scored in the 4th minute of play. When Messi scored on a free kick in the 32nd minute, I began to get very discouraged. I knew that there was very little chance of Argentina giving up that lead. But I still watched, hoping that we could put together something resembling competent and controlled soccer and at least lose in a respectable manner. Before the game, a 3-1 loss was something I told myself I wouldn’t be too upset about. That didn’t happen either. When it was all said and done, we lost 4-0. Brutal.
The USMNT advanced to the Copa America Semi-Final for only the second time ever, and that’s something to be proud of. But one thing is very clear after watching our team play against one of the best teams in the world, the USMNT still has far to go before they are to be considered legit world contenders.
It was painfully obvious that Argentina was in a league far above the Americans. Argentina plays a beautiful passing game that kept the U.S. chasing the ball for almost the entire 90 minutes. And when the U.S. did get possession, more often than not they made errant passes that quickly turned the ball over. With no shots on goal and very few chances overall, it was at times painful to watch. This is something that I’ve seen for a while now, and if it weren’t for the grit and determination of some of the U.S. players, I’m afraid we would lose like we did on Tuesday much more often.
We just don’t pass the ball well and miss people in space constantly. When compared to the best teams in the world, we look like amateurs. I appreciate everything that guys like Michael Bradley have done to help U.S. Soccer progress, but I am also looking forward to the next generation of players and hoping that they can pass the ball better than most of these guys.
That’s not to say that I wish to see everyone on the team get replaced right now. Clint Dempsey is still a very important member of the team, as evidenced by his four goals in the Copa America. And I wish we could clone John Brooks and have four of him on our back line, because he was a big reason that we made it as far as we did in this tournament. There’s other bright young stars like Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin and the baby face 17 year old, Christian Pulisic, who should all give U.S. soccer fans a ton of hope for the future. But until these young guns fully take over the team, there will be more heartache when we face the great squads.
I don’t like every move that Jurgen Klinsmann has made since taking over the national team, but unlike some, I do believe he has progressed soccer in the United States of America. He will be the one who leads the team in to the World Cup in Russia in two years, and we have to get behind him for at least that long. We need to hope that over the next two years, he continues to develop the young, rising stars of the USMNT so that we can show the world, and some of the newer fans stateside, that we are a team worth taking seriously.
We’ve made progress, but we still have a long way to go before we can play with the big boys.