I was in Trinidad 28 years ago when Paul Caliguiri’s volley sent a bunch of College and Semi Pro kids to the Italia ’90 World Cup. There were about 50 USA fans there that day. Frankly, you could not compare the fight and mental strength of that team with what we all witnessed Tuesday night, Sadly it was a devastatingly poor and depressing display: with the impact on USA’ s soccer reputation, crushing.
In the USA the knives are out , the critics circling, and the US Soccer Team and Program under vitriolic scrutiny. Of course Bruce had to go , no manager withstands such a loss (he had the dignity to do it quickly and with frank honesty. He knows he failed, he knows his players let him down on the night) As for Sunil , he should suffer neither the praise for South Africa and Brazil , nor the full responsibility for our failure on Russia. Players win and lose games and should have beat a Trinidad 2nd Team.
The fact is the USA is not a particularly talented team and hasn’t been for a decade. It would take a brave man to say any team in that period was better than the 1994 or 2002 Teams. Qualifying out of the Hex has always been an easy formality and in fairness they have traditionally battled hard and punched above their weight in the Group stage, until the real pressure of the last 16 devours them. This time it came early!
Blame who you want , but I don’t remember Pulisic waiting around to be discovered , bemoaning poor coaching or complaining about not making a travel team. The best make it happen themselves , or die trying. The one’s that win you World Cups certainly do.
I still believe the future is bright , but big changes are needed. We have some great talent on playing fields and streets throughout the country. We have some of our brightest prospects playing all over Europe. We have a vibrant MLS and an increasingly impressive slate of 2nd Division teams. We have a soccer infrastructure in place that should allow us to have a brutally tough self examination period but come out the better for it. We all want the same thing: the USA to develop 16 super talented mentally tough soccer players that can help us win a World Cup. Frankly, I don’t care if that happens under the tutelage of FC Dallas , NYCFC, FC Shalke or Borussia Dortmund nor do the fans and neither should USA Soccer. (One things seems clear handing out 4m participation medals isn’t working ) A returning World Cup in 26 will go a long way to focusing on this.
Equally, lets make sure we appreciate how far soccer in the US has come in the past 30 years , lick our wounds and use it to “kick on” to the next level from a base infinitely stronger than we were in 1990 and let’s make sure the soccer voting world hears this.
Today , only securing the ’26 World Cup matters.