The U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying slip-up needed to be blamed on something or someone. Some felt Bruce Arena was to blame. After all, he felt “nothing has to change” despite the team not qualifying. His second stint with the USMNT ended with 10 wins, six draws, two losses and a letter of resignation three days after the result. Some blame the president of U.S. Soccer, Sunil Gulati. After Michael Bradley coached the USMNT to disappointing Gold Cup loss against Mexico in 2011, Gulati gave Jurgen Klinsmann a chance to head the USMNT. Klinsmann helped the team to record its first ever win against Italy, a first win against Mexico at Estadio Azteca, and a Gold Cup in 2013. Klinsmann started the World Cup qualifiers with two losses to which left the team at the bottom of the table. Gulati called in Arena to clean the mess and another was made.
Taylor Twellman was very critical of the USMNT Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying slip-up and had arguably some of the best guidelines for the team to follow. He attributed some of the problem to the structure of MLS compared to other leagues. The MLS has no relegation which leads to “no accountability,” in other words no real consequence if you have a terrible season, you’ll still be in the top league in the country next season. Whereas in many other leagues around the globe, if a team finishes in the bottom three or four spots after a season, they get removed from their current league and placed in a lower-level league. To regain status in the higher league they must finish in the top three or four spots the next season. If you are in the top flight, you fight to keep your spot in the country’s top league and win the league title. Make no mistake that implementing relegation will not instantly save U.S. soccer. It is merely a proposition that is likely to have more fruitful outcomes because teams will have serious consequences to deal with after losing.
Twellman also links the USMNT Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying slip-up to finances. “That should’ve never happened with the billion dollars plus that is going into major league soccer and youth development.” Money is a huge issue in cultivating talent for soccer. In my days as a player for Mequon United, one of the top clubs in Wisconsin we had of the most diverse teams the league had seen before. I remember payment plans for league fees, and my mom giving me “the look” after asking how much it is going to cost. I remember my teammates telling me they weren’t able to pay on time. I remember my teammates and I getting picked up every week by one of the cool white kids on the team. I remember us making quesadillas with the iron at one of the hotels we stayed at for a tournament. I also remember us playing some truly beautiful football. Pinging the ball around for a few minutes before getting a goal or the coach making us play two-touch passing and one-touch finishing making us move the ball. I also remember only two of my teammates being able to play college ball even though all of us could have easily played D2 ball. I remember the shame it was that some of our best didn’t go on to play because schools were too expensive for us.
Twellman went on to talk about the arrogance of American soccer and that is where I really thought he was on to something. He said, “With the amount of money that is spent in Major League Soccer and this sport you can’t get a draw a tie against Trinidad?” Which I thought was arrogant. Then he went on to compare the size of Iceland to Anaheim and say that they qualified. Insinuating that population alone should be able to get the U.S. qualification for the World Cup. I’ve played soccer my whole life. I’ve watched it since I can remember. I have a good idea of the game, but I also know the golden rule: in football anything can happen. The USMNT was happy to coast to along to the World Cup because they expected “weaker” teams to mess up, what they wanted to happen didn’t and they realized their football philosophy needs adjustment This arrogance of U.S. soccer is perhaps the greatest chunk of the problem as to why they didn’t book a trip to Russia. Arrogance is thinking you have an easy group. In the World Cup there aren’t easy groups, qualification is no different. Where you come from doesn’t automatically make you a good or bad player, how much money you put into things doesn’t necessarily make you a good player. A good player is one who trains to be the best, to improve every time and knows his opponent is doing the same and maybe even more.