Getting run out of the gym by Belgium shows true USA soccer colors

July 02, 2014 | Drew Forrester

In the end, and rightfully so, the luck of the 2014 World Cup ran out on the United States.

When it came down to skill, creativity and soccer savoir fare, the U.S. had little of any of it on Tuesday afternoon and Belgium had so much of it they should have been penalized for over-doing it.

Ultimately, when folks look back on the USA-Belgium “Round of 16” game from Brazil, it might be more remembered for the day we “saw the light” rather than the day Tim Howard stood on his head to keep the game close.

We got the cleat of reality on Tuesday.

The U.S. soccer program is good.

But we’re nowhere near good enough.

A month ago when Jurgen Klinsmann’s December 2013 interview was published — the one where he said, “Truth is, we’re not good enough to win the World Cup” — lots of people, including me, took umbrage with those comments.

Klinsmann was right.

They weren’t good enough.

Not even close, actually.

He might not have been good enough either, by the way.  After all, it was Klinsmann who chose the team of 23 who represented the United States in Brazil.  He’s the one who was supposed to get the program up to “championship level” as the head coach.

That said, Klinsmann is far from the scapegoat for the Americans’ failure in WC 2014.  He didn’t have a perfect three weeks by any means.  He made mistakes, as did the team he coached.  In the end, though, JK’s coaching effort in Brazil was better than it was bad.  The U.S. could do much, much worse than retaining him for Russia 2018.

Still, the topic at hand, namely the lack of world class offensive players, continues to be the sticking point for anyone — like me — who follows U.S. soccer with a discerning eye.

In the normal run of a 90-minute soccer game, the U.S. side is as efficient as nearly every other nation when it comes to the practical matter of getting the ball from point A to B to C.  We can pass it.  We can defend.  We have decent “shape” and know how to make timely runs that get our opponents to react.  Finishing (despite what happened on Tuesday with Wondolowski, Jones and Dempsey) has always been something the U.S. can do.  In those areas, we’ve made progress as a soccer playing nation over the last 25 years.

But — and this is a huge “but” — we remain light years behind the rest of the world in the critical area of playing with the soccer ball at our feet.

When Belgium got the ball on Tuesday, their creative offensive players held onto it until THEY decided to get rid of it.  And, when they did distribute the ball, it was on their terms.  There was no forcing it.  They certainly didn’t lose it.  They didn’t panic and give it away quickly, before the play was set-up.

On the off-occasion when a U.S. player found himself with the ball at his feet, there was little creativity, an obvious lack of patience and, mainly, a general lack of flair or individual style that forced Belgium to react.

The game on Tuesday will always be remembered for Tim Howard’s epic, heroic performance.  If not for him, it would have been 3-0 at the half, as he made three legitimate goal-saving stops in the opening 45 minutes.

Ultimately, someday, it might be remembered as the day we got b-slapped by the Belgians and saw ourselves for what we are: A good team with grit and hard work but not at all dangerous going forward.

At this stage, we’re not a threat — as a nation — to move up the international soccer ladder.

Someday, maybe.

But, in reality, there’s a long, long way to go.


7 Comments For This Post

  1. Eddie Says:

    Making The World Cup more excitng ,

    In order to add more drama , suspense and anticipation for this big event that has captivated the Country I think the World Cup should be held every -6- Six years, instead of Four . This would give the TV networks more time to build more interest for this great sporting event , The added time would also give the USA more time to put together a better team . GO USA , Beat Bulgaria ! Beat Hundurus !
    Yeah ,, Beat Ghana !
    We can do it !

  2. Dan Says:

    I think Eddie has a good idea on that 6 year thing ,
    WE should also tap some local talent for the team in ‘2020 .
    Plenty of good players in local soccer hotbeds around town like Dundalk , Locust Point , and Cherry Hill .
    Lets kick some butt next time !

  3. Hixxey Says:

    Yilmaz….Although I’d love to debate the state of USMNT, I can’t…at least not yet. Still too raw. Even though the US was completely outplayed by a better side; the GoodGuys should have pulled off the improbable victory. It “should” be the Belgian players and their fans dealing with the coulda-shoulda’s today…not us. When a match is SO one sided….yet the outcome is still undecided into added-time…and the overmatched side has a Golden Opportunity to “steal” the win; it is supposed to happen…but it didn’t. I just hope Wondo can somehow move past the ONLY opportunity he will ever have to be a World Cup hero. Fair or not…his miss will be the one that is remembered. I hope Belgium doesn’t go on to win the Cup. Not that I have anything against them (I don’t) but if they do, Wondo’s miss will get a lot more replay as example of just how close Belgium came to not making it past the Round of 16….and I REALLY don’t want to see that…over and over again. Let’s Go Caps….Let’s Go Caps….Let’s Go Caps ! !

  4. Hixxey Says:

    Didn’t mean to imply that Wondo’s miss happened in added time….obviously, it was still regular time…but it was a given that there would be added time.

  5. John In Westminster Says:

    To put it in US perspective, our showing was like when a college football player steps on the field for his first season in the NFL. The speed of the game, athleticism and ball skill, is much higher and makes the new player from college look much less talented. Klinsmann is correct when he calls for the best US players to be playing in the best leagues in Europe. Tim Howard, the US’s best player, plays in England professionally and it shows. Further proof are guys like Bradley and Dempsey who spent several years in Europe and have recently come back to play in the MLS, and it showed in their performances against the big boys when they couldn’t retain possessions.

    To shine on the world stage, you need to be playing in the world’s best leagues. Kudos to the MLS for improving by bringing in some of the older stars from Europe and attracting more talent from Central and South America. But until the MLS can draw more talent from around the world, it will still be the minor leagues when compared to the English Premier League, La Liga and the like. And Jurgen will continue to seek out European professionals who have some part of their family tree from the US.

  6. lakerboy Says:

    I think when we lament the inability of Team USA to advance in the tournament, it’s important to remember that the really great athletes in the U.S. do not play soccer. The really great male athletes play football or basketball, and to a lesser degree baseball and hockey. I do not see the participation in those sports as changing in the near term. It’s really all about economics. Professional athletes in the U.S. can make significant coin playing the “major” sports. Unless soccer greatly rises in popularity, the U.S. will continue to field a second tier team.

  7. Dan Says:

    Our kids who excell at soccer from from soccer oriented neighborhoods ( Dundalk , Locust Point and Cheery Hill ) to name a few would go into pro soccer if the money was better . That’s the problem , you give our kids $10 million dollars and you’ll see some big time soccer players .

Leave a Reply