When I first started walking, my parents put a soccer ball at my feet. I’m now 37 and have played soccer almost ever since then. You can say I’m pretty pumped up about the USMNT heading into the World Cup even if they’re not supposed to advance out of the group stage.
Let’s talk about the men’s team. For years I’ve wanted for this country to send our best players overseas and they have to some extent. The MLS since the 1994 World Cup has not just survived, it’s thrived. Granted, they’ve put a lot of money into players at the end of their careers but that seems to work.
So who are the players who need to come up big? Four names and they can be legit, game-changing players when they are on their game. Those four are: Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.
Let’s start with the goalie, Tim Howard. In any International competition that involves a goalie, the USA has a legit chance because of that (think hockey, Jon Quick, Ryan Miller). The great thing about goalies is that they don’t age quite as much as field players. Howard (35) has the ability to come up big here and don’t be surprised if that happens even with a suspect defense in front of him.
Michael Bradley. He’s a genius and my new favorite player on this team. He knows when to get into the attack and will get back and defend also. I struggle to think what he and Stu Holden could do, provided Holden had stayed healthy these last few years. His father Bob Bradley, the former USMNT coach, is doing a fantastic coaching job in Norway.
Clint Dempsey, Deuce. His story is great. Not sure why they are leaving out the part about his sister and totally not trying to open any wounds here on my part. But the story is fascinating if you Google it. I’ve played a lot of striker during my years and the great thing about the position is you can screw up the whole game (you can’t as a defender) and if you have that perfect strike to score, you’re the hero. Don’t be surprised if/when Deuce does this and more than once. And this move was pretty sick:
Jozy Altidore, the most athletic player on the roster. He was beast in the Netherlands (a lesser league) yet has failed to produce in the EPL on multiple occasions. The upside here is that he’s scored against legit teams for club and country like Ajax and vs. Spain in the Confederations Cup. Show up Jozy. PLEASE. He scored two goals in the last warm-up game so hopefully his confidence is back.
Some Random Points:
– My concern here is the back line. They’ve given up easy goals and dumb fouls that have led to penalty kicks. If in three games they give up less than 3.5 goals, they’ve done their jobs (and probably owe Timmy). One of the best defenders in the world, Neven Subotic, could be playing for the USMNT but chose to play for Serbia (rumored) because of his dealings with Thomas Rongen, a youth coach in the US. I wrote a blog post back in 2011 seeing the future now.
– Landon Donovan should have been on this roster. When he scored against Algeria four years ago, I yelled up and down Sister’s Hospital in Buffalo while the lactation nurse was working with my wife the day after my daughter was born. Everyone in the room/hall looked at me like I was mad. My reaction (I hope) was on par with these:
– Julian Green is your new Landon Donovan. Much like Jermaine Jones, he could have chosen to play for Germany but decided to play for the US with a clearer path to playing time. He hasn’t played for the senior club team (Bayern Munich), but at age 18 has a ton of upside. If the US needs a spark and is down a goal, here’s your guy.
– Remember the Pepsi commercials with Freddy Adu and Pele? What coulda, shoulda been with Freddy. It isn’t going to happen for whatever reason. He just turned 25 and can’t find a team to sign him. I get the idea some day we’ll see a documentary on how and why this went wrong.
– The Rotowire Vegas trip is always a lot of fun. I love future bets and last July before it was trendy to bet Belgium to win the World Cup, I did at 16:1. The US hadn’t even qualified and I bought a ticket for them to win the World Cup at 40:1. Thought this was pretty good until they qualified, got placed with Germany, Portugal and Ghana and became 100:1. The good news here (I think) is that they’re dead even to win or tie against Ghana. Let Germany and Portugal beat each other up and hopefully Cristiano Ronaldo exhausts himself in that game. Trust me, the Germans and Portuguese aren’t happy they’re in the same group as the US just as much as the US isn’t happy to have them.
– Notable (well some) wins for the USMNT since the last World Cup (I won’t list Mexico; they’ve been our whipping boy for quite some time): South Africa, Slovenia, Venezuela, Italy, Scotland, Germany, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, South Korea, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Nigeria. Granted, not all were full squads but there are some nice wins in there. There are some ties along the way as well that have been impressive.
– The Jeremy Schaap piece on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is a must-see.
Keep in mind there has been an alleged $5 million in bribes to FIFA; that World Cup could be here in the United States.
Finally, enjoy the games. This World Cup has been amazing so far and even if my head tells me something different, I’d like to believe the USMNT has a good chance of advancing out of the group stage. This was one of the better commercials I could find if you need to get pumped up before the Ghana game.