The United States Men's National team is far from perfect. The USMNT may be able to battle for supremacy in CONCACAF with relatively little trouble, but the truth is, the team has a ways to go before they have any chance at reigning the football world.
Strong coaching and confidence are just a few of the necessary things currently absent from U.S. soccer and the USMNT. The remaining eight problematic puzzle pieces are scattered below for you to observe.
Roster Depth: Calling the USMNT roster deep is like calling Bob Bradley a fan favorite. Unlike top nations such as Spain, the Netherlands and Brazil, the USA does not have the luxury of a fully loaded roster; one where the last person on the bench has just as much capability of completing the task as the team captain.
At specific positions, forward especially, the difference from the top of the throng to the bottom of the barrel is dangerously wide. Remember folks, we started Nottingham Forest’s water boy, Robbie Findley, last year against England. Simply put, Bob Bradley is missing a consistent, deep roster.
Creative Attacking Midfielder: If you have ever watched a USMNT match, you know that something about the offense is missing. A piece of the puzzle that is ever-present on all European national and club teams, yet for some reason is agonizingly absent from the U.S.A. squad.
Nearly every successful soccer team in the world has a creative midfielder: a magician in the middle who can change the game with the heel of his foot or a flick of the toe. This role, so influential to many teams’ success, is unfortunately unfilled on the current USA roster.
The USMNT might be able to compete in CONCACAF without one, but until we grow a central midfield maestro, winning the World Cup will forever be out of reach.
Confidence: The USMNT is one of the top teams in the region, but you wouldn’t know it from their cautious and passive play against inferior CONCACAF teams. The USMNT has a plethora of talented players, but that talent is feeble if it is not used with confidence and the sort of swagger that screams superiority.
Rarely do U.S.A. players fancy a shot from distance or a daring through ball because they fear the worst instead of envisioning the best. The “Altidore-like" blasts are influential to any legitimate team, because they blatantly tell the opponent “I am good, and I can score from anywhere on the pitch.”
Let’s face it: it is far scarier to face a team that knows they are good than a team that thinks they are good.
Flair: Though often confused with confidence, flair is an entirely different desirable characteristic. Confidence is believing in your capabilities, while flair is believing in your capabilities and wanting to show them to the world.
Some may say that flair is a bad omen for a team, but I am here to preach a different potion.
Full doses of flair are in the DNA of some of the best players in the world, including Neymar, Arjen Robben, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo. It does not just make the games entertaining to watch (although we could use an extra spark to our sometimes tedious football), it also gives our game a brand and shows the world that we believe in our skills.
A great writer once said, “The game of football looks bare, without some influential flair.”
Attractiveness: I’m not saying that some of our players need to hit the beauty salon; I am talking about a different type of attractiveness.
Playing for the United States Men’s National Team has to be a more attractive option for dual citizenship players in the future. Too many times in the last couple years, the U.S. has lost phenomenal players to other nations because we have offered them a poorer package.
Giuseppi Rossi, Neven Subotic, and Michael Hoyos are just a few of the many that have ditched the USMNT for foreign countries because of our lack of quality, coaching or overall history. The USMNT will have to improve all three of the figures above if they expect to entice the best semi-Americans in the future.
Television Coverage: Sadly, I could watch cable television every day for a whole year and could count the amount of USMNT games I saw on only my left hand. Television coverage of the team has vastly improved in the last decade, but the amount of airtime the USMNT gets is still disappointing to the average fan.
Fox Soccer Channel may cover a number of USMNT matches, but only true soccer fans are going to make a dent in their wallet to order the costly service. If only true soccer fans order the channel every year, then the team’s popularity isn’t actually expanding, but is stuck at a standstill.
The only way that the USMNT’s popularity can dramatically increase is if cable stations (I’m looking at you, ESPN) start showing the squad on a more consistent basis. After seeing the remarkable popularity change due to the Algeria game, I am a true believer that one game can change team support dramatically.
Now, imagine the difference a few extra ESPN games might have.
Global Respect: Once upon a time, the U.S.A. nearly reigned over the football world, standing on a platform previously and since untouched. This was a time when the veins of the USMNT were filled with global respect, and the team had relevance when talking about the top squads in the world.
Yes, this time was during the 2009 Confederations Cup. And yes, the USMNT has lost nearly all of the world’s admiration they so deservingly gained in just two years. In the world of football, no fierce European critic will take your team seriously unless you beat the globe's best.
Sadly, after embarrassing losses to Spain and Panama, the USMNT is not only losing its self-esteem, but its global status. The U.S.A. is now the lowest it has been in the FIFA rankings since 2006, and only a Gold Cup trophy will somewhat stop the bleeding.
Great Coaching: Even if you follow the USMNT to the slightest degree, you have probably realized the strong animosity toward the current coaching staff. After multiple questionable starting 11, roster, and formation selections, Bob Bradley’s job is about as stable as a one-legged lawn chair.
However, it is not just Bradley who deserves a full load of criticism these days. Former U.S. U-20 head coach Thomas Rongen failed to produce a team worthy of a World Cup bid last month for the first time since 1995. I wouldn’t feel comfortable having these guys coach my toddler, much less my national team.
Consistent Fan Support: General attendance for the USMNT has greatly improved over the last couple of years, but it is still too inconsistent for a team of its status. The American Outlaws do a tremendous job at supplying support behind the nets, but the aura around the rest of the stadiums is often disappointing to say the least.
Home games against strong international opponents normally consist of a split attendance where the term “home field advantage” is completely irrelevant. However, if the opponent fails to bring a significant number of fans with it, games like Canada vs. U.S.A. are embarrassingly unattended and look bad for the team.
I agree that the USSF needs to spread out where the USMNT plays to some degree, but to be taken seriously in the world of football, the USMNT should only play in proven, stable markets.
Consistent Health: You don't have to be an avid follower of the United States Men's National Team to know that the squad's health has been unfortunate the last couple of years. No matter how hard the training staff may try, the USMNT just can't seem to stay off the stretcher these days.
In just this Gold Cup, Bob Bradley has been forced to fill the voids left by Charlie Davies, Stuart Holden, Oguchi Onyewu, and Benny Feilhaber. If the US could put together a squad at full strength, losses to Panama would be nearly impossible.