By Adam Gibson | Copy Editor
It’s no secret that the U.S. is not known for its soccer league or for most players that come out of the U.S. Unlike many countries, we don’t have a majority of kids playing soccer for all of their childhood and in no way is that a problem –– until it comes to losing to the worst team you play.
Most countries have kids that play their whole lives and are given resources to be the best in soccer. In a country that has as many resources as ours, it makes you think about why we don’t give the same opportunities for a sport as popular as soccer. In no way is that a bad thing, but if there is going to be a change in U.S. soccer, it has to begin at the lower levels where most talent is developed.
After qualifying for the World Cup for over 30 straight years, the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) was stunned on Oct. 10, after losing to Trinidad and Tobago to eliminate them from 2018 World Cup qualification.
In what seemed to be a sure win for the USMNT, Trinidad and Tobago were able to pull off a 2-1 victory after a goal by Omar Gonzalez, when he tried to clear the ball away from the goal. Trinidad and Tobago was in last place in the group and had already been eliminated from contention for the World Cup. Qualifying was set up perfectly for the team since all they had to was win their last scheduled game against the worst team in their group. There seemed to be little fight and passion given by the team, especially in the first half.
The only reason they were even in the game at all was because of the young star, Christian Pulisic. He scored the U.S.’s lone goal early in the second half. It began to seem as though the team had woken up and finally realized that this was not going to be the easy win they were hoping for. The USMNT had a total of 15 shots with only five on target, while Trinidad and Tobago finished with 11 shots, with five on target as well. Even with having more shots, the U.S. was unable to capitalize.
The USMNT was coming off of a 4-0 victory over Panama, where all they needed to do was win against Trinidad and Tobago in order to qualify. It could have been the fact that Trinidad and Tobago have never been a team worth worrying about. The past two years that they have played in World Cup Qualifying matches, the USMNT has won by an aggregate score of 6-0, according to ESPN.
We can also see how much more we focus on football or baseball than Major League Soccer (MLS). In the MLS, stadiums are rarely packed unlike the usual football stadium or basketball arena. No one comes to the MLS from Europe hoping to get better and play with the best. Instead, many players go to Europe to play with great players and a challenging league. There is no reason that the MLS should not be a challenging league. The U.S. has a population of over 300 million and offers so much, yet when it comes to soccer, so little. When it comes to the most popular sport in the world, we should at least be competing at a higher level. While it does seem to be growing in popularity, the USMNT could have just stunted that growth.
With one of the most embarrassing losses in history for this country, it is evident that change needs to happen at all levels of the squad. Former Head Coach Bruce Arena resigned just a few days after the humiliating loss. Even after firing Jurgen Kilnsmann almost exactly a year ago, the team was still unable to find the answers it needed to succeed. Pulisic provides hope for any U.S. fan. Watching him play is unbelievable and when he is not with the international team, he is over in Germany playing with some of the best in the world. That is what the USMNT needs more of, younger players who want to go play in those European leagues and are being challenged by great players from all around the world.
The USMNT needs to take a hard look in the mirror and make some drastic changes within its organization, whether that’s by changing players or changing the coaching staff. This most recent loss has made it abundantly clear and hopefully it was woken up to this harsh reality.