Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

U.S.Team Needs to Show Progress

How much is too much patience for the U.S. men’s national team? Following a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Ecuador, the hope of Jurgen Klinsmann stepping in as the leader and de facto savior of soccer in America seems very bleak. Even calling this bleak is intensely optimistic at such a rocky time.

For starters, Ecuador is currently No. 69 in the world, according to FIFA. We didn’t just lose an international friendly, we lost a friendly to a team that wouldn’t even make the World Cup based on ranking. Actually, Ecuador wouldn’t even make the World Cup if FIFA held two at the same time. How are fans supposed to pretend that things for American soccer are on the upswing if the team can’t even beat a squad that wouldn’t be invited to sit at the grown-ups’ table for a FIFA family reunion?

I use the word “we” because there was an undeniable shift in the perception of U.S. soccer during the 2010 World Cup. When Landon Donovan scored against Algeria, an entire nation embraced the scrappy, never-say-die national team. That team, with all of its flaws, became our team and accordingly entered a world of spotlight and scrutiny. Seemingly true to form, the instant it became our team, the disappointments began.

When we lost to Ghana, we made excuses about poor officiating and an unlucky break. We left the 2010 World Cup with the optimism that we were ready to break into the elite ranks on the back of Donovan and company after a stunningly disappointing 2006 disaster. With Bradley’s dismissal and Klinsmann’s hiring, it seemed as if the inevitable was occurring: The U.S. men’s national team had reached the upper echelon.

In hindsight, this moment could be the day the team jumped the shark. Since taking the helm, Klinsmann has one win to show for his efforts. He preaches a doctrine of patience, that turning the team into world-conquerors will take time. It’s the story Americans love; an underdog team rising through the ranks. But this isn’t the case.

How can this team be on the upswing? Stars Clint Dempsey and Donovan are both nearing the end of their careers, as are several other key components of the team. “Rising” stars, like midfielder Stu Holden, are too often injured to make any significant progress, and the question marks only seem to grow as time passes. This is not to say that the current roster does not include several very talented players, but rather that the team is incomplete.

With only three years until the next World Cup, there are far too many question marks about Klinsmann’s squad. For starters, the defensive group currently wearing the Stars and Stripes is as porous as they come. Since taking the reigns, Klinsmann’s defense has given up a goal in every single game against seemingly overmatched opponents. America’s defense has long been a question mark, but part of becoming an elite program entails being able to win the 1-0 games — something the U.S. squad appears incapable of.

Thanks to a disappointing second half against Mexico in the Gold Cup, this American team will not have to present a squad to an international audience again until World Cup qualification begins next October. With the momentum gained during the 2010 World Cup (over 90,000 fans attended the Gold Cup final in Pasadena, Calif. this summer), Klinsmann faces a very tall task.

Unfortunately, granting him the patience he desires will not work for soccer in America. A sport already in danger of losing all relevance until 2014 cannot afford to lose a team Americans have come to embrace. The truth is that most Americans still care about the national team, something unprecedented in a non-World Cup year, which is why the news of Klinsmann’s hiring excited so many.

The sad state of things is that many of us don’t have room in our lives for more heartbreak caused by sports. As much as we would love to rally behind this team, Klinsmann has to win us over first. Standing in the way of that is an aging lineup, chronic underperformance and many doubts as to his effectiveness as a coach. Unfortunately now isn’t the time for patience, it’s the time for winning, something that Klinsmann must do to continue the growth of American soccer.

Corey Blaine is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. THE BLEACHER SEATS appears every Friday.

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