Regular contributor Mark Dorsey looks at the USMNT performance and considers what it might mean. If you’d like to contribute a story contact Ole
Reflecting and looking forward:
The United States is out of the World Cup after losing in dramatic fashion to Belgium on Tuesday. Thanks to ESPN and social media, this team captured the attention of more fans than this sport has ever seen in America. Whether the growth of soccer in the U.S. will continue into the 2018 World Cup is yet to be determined, but one thing is for certain, there’s a lot to look forward about this team.
Many fans walked away from Tuesday’s match against Belgium bittersweet about the United States campaign in Brazil. Getting out of the group of death was an ambitious task that Jurgen’s group was able to miraculously achieve. At the same time the United States struggled to impress our nation with possession that was once promised by Jurgen when he took over as head coach in 2011. Overall, there’s a lot to be happy with Jurgen’s decisions but there remains some questions about some of Jurgen’s choices.
Despite the being in a group with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana the United States put themselves in a situation to advance on the final day. With a little luck from Portugal, the United States advanced to the knock out round for the third time in since 2002. Only 8 countries including the United States advanced to both the 2010 and 2014 knockout rounds (Brazil, Germany, Netherlands, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, & Chile). The Americans had their fair share of chances to advance to the quarterfinals but it would have been an injustice for Belgium not to advance as they were clearly the superior team.
Throughout the tournament fans were introduced to the future of U.S. soccer, with the likes of DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders), John Brooks (Hertha BSC), and Julian Green (Bayern Munich). Those three players are all currently under age of 22 and made a significant impact on this year’s World Cup. Both John Brooks and Julian Green are dual citizens of Germany and United States. The commitment from both players to forgo playing with Germany and opting to play with the United States is credit to the work of what Jurgen can do off the field. Jurgen’s ability to attract dual citizen players like the one’s who were important to this World Cup, is incalculable characteristic of his as a coach. With Jurgen signed through the 2018 World Cup, it would be a surprise if he didn’t carry these players over to Russia in 2018. The next wave of dual citizens such as: Gedion Zelalem (Germany/Ethiopia), Darlington Nagbe (Liberia), and Diego Fagundez (Uruguay) will be important players for Jurgen to win over.
Not only were the United States drawn in the group of death, they were also given the toughest schedules in regards to travel distances. The United States traveled more than 10,000 miles and 20 hours of flying during the World Cup (most of any nation). Ironically enough, Belgium only had to travel a little more than 1,000 miles throughout the group stages and their longest flight lasted a little over 30 minutes. After the schedule was released, Germany switched the location of their base site to cut their travel distance in half. Unlike the Germans, Jurgen kept the United States camp in São Paulo, thousands of miles away from their group stage games.
The Jozy Altidore injury against Ghana midway through the first half put serious questions into Jurgen’s game plan. Jozy had become an integral part in the system that Jurgen had put together. The injury to Jozy forced Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley into unfavorable positions which didn’t turn out well for either player. There seems to not have been any type of backup plan established if Jozy were to ever suffer any type of injury, which is surprising considering the expected conditions of Brazil. Many fans criticized Jurgen for not bringing Landon Donovan as part of his 23-man roster but leaving out Terrence Boyd was even a bigger mistake than Donovan. Boyd plays a similar style to Altidore and this would have allowed Bradley and Dempsey to stay in their usual roles instead of trying to shoehorn them into unfamiliar positions.
Throughout the tournament Jurgen had to make some crucial decisions in regards to substitutions. Jurgen hit a home run in the first game when Matt Besler had to come off with an injury as substitute John Brooks ended up scoring the game winning goal. Against Belgium, DeAndre Yedlin had the tall task of taking over for Fabian Johnson’s role of guarding Eden Hazard. During the match, Yedlin performed well shutting down Belgium’s most dangerous player. Jurgen’s biggest mistake came after Belgium scored their first goal in the 93rd minute of extra time. Jurgen should have pulled the trigger to put Julian Green into the game at the point. It wasn’t until after the Belgians scored their second goal in the 105th minute where Jurgen used his final substitution on Julian Green. In a post-game interview Jurgen mentioned that he was saving the last substitution in case there was another injury, but at that stage in the tournament Jurgen should have done better in this situation.
The first question many fans ask after every World Cup is if soccer in America is better off than it was four years ago. This answer is fairly obvious as the overall excitement surrounding this team’s future is unlike the feeling after the 2010 World Cup. Comparing World Cups from different years is always an interesting debate but there’s very little doubt that the outcomes and performances in 2014 are vastly superior to the outcomes in 2010. With the United States hosting the 2016 Copa America which will feature the likes of Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and other Central and South American teams, fans won’t have to wait 4 more years to start ‘believing’.
Born and raised in St Louis. Played for Scott Gallagher for 9 years. Currently coaching the future total footballers of the world at Scott Gallagher. Proud supporter of Arsenal, USMNT, and Holland soccer. You can follow him on Twitter at @dorseyMZ.
Recent contributions include a look at Michael Bradley – Back in the MLS, World Cup 2014 Draw Preview, USA vs Mexico, the USA vs Costa Rica, the odds of MLS in STL , the Gold Cup and Landon Donovan’s return and his look at the Where Goes Jozy Altidore transfer saga.
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