Opinion (October 13, 2017) – Every website out there is talking about the USMNT and their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. This is understandable, as it is the first time they’ve missed out on soccer’s biggest tournament since 1986. But the suggestions that everyone needs to be fired is not what the country needs.
What’s not being looked at yet is the silver lining of this all. With the initial embarrassment starting to subside somewhat, this could bring a new dawn in U.S. Soccer.
The USMNT Missing the World Cup Could Be A Good Thing
This is an opinion that not many can see. With the societal beliefs in America being “win at all costs,” accepting a failure as a silver lining just isn’t in the country’s make up. But missing out on the world’s biggest tournament could be the push in the right direction that the USMNT needs.
As to how this could be a good thing, let’s take a look at every level and examine what changes, if any, can/should be brought on by this.
Youth Identification and Development
This is an area that has seen a serious upturn since Jurgen Klinsmann was in charge. And it seems that the USSF and Sunil Gulati took the message to heart and are investing in this mission.
It was announced recently that the USSF has signed a three-year deal with Opta to analyze player performances for both the Men’s and Women’s National Teams. Along with this, Opta will be aiding in player identification outside of the United States as well as aiding in development and scouting of the National Development Programs and youth national teams.
This is going to be a huge step in the right direction. With much of the squad needing to take a step away in the next World Cup cycle, this should help usher in a new era of players and, hopefully, help the USMNT to not make it two straight unsuccessful qualifying campaigns.
Changes to the Squad
This has been the hottest topic of debate since the match against Trinidad & Tobago. Everyone has weighed in on the players and how they failed, and some have even suggested pushing some senior members out of the squad.
While the latter suggestion is rather cold, it might be a necessity to expedite the future of the squad. Players like Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Chris Wondolowski and even the likes of Michael Bradley will be approaching ages where their usefulness to the squad will diminish significantly.
To put it into perspective, Howard will be 43 by the next time the USMNT have a shot at the World Cup, Dempsey would be 38, Wondolowski would be 38, and Bradley would be 34. It is fine to keep them in the plans for the immediate future, but the transition needs to start within the next year to find viable replacements for these, and others, currently in the squad.
It is time to start pushing players like Ethan Horvath, Jordan Morris, Bobby Wood, Jeremy Ebobisse, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Danny Acosta, Matt Miazga and the other young names into the spotlight. Start with international friendlies, and transition those who have shown composure at the level, like Morris and Wood, into more competitive fixtures during the Gold Cup.
This next Gold Cup and World Cup cycle needs to see a serious transition towards the future. The USMNT can no longer rely on names of the past to get the job done efficiently.
Sunil Gulati and Co.
This is likely going to come as the most unpopular decision in this article, but Gulati shouldn’t be fired for this singular failure of the USMNT missing the World Cup. Head Coach Bruce Arena has already stepped down as a result of this failure. The youth development has taken strides in the right direction, and Gulati has been a big part of that.
While it may be hard to sing his praises, he surely shouldn’t be shouldering the failure that falls on the coaching staff and playing squad. Unfortunately for him, most people believe that one major failure outweighs work being done for development. The contract with Opta being signed shows the commitment of the federation, and Gulati should be allowed a shot at redeeming the failure of the national team.
A Silver Lining in the Nation’s Failure
While it truly is a very hard pill to swallow for the USMNT missing the World Cup, this failure to qualify could usher in a new era of U.S. Soccer. And with the way the U.S. played in the recent ‘Hex’ of qualifying, it’s hard to argue that this silver lining isn’t enough to give optimism to even the most cynical supporter.