On Tuesday night in Houston, Texas, the United States Men’s National soccer team fell 4-0 to number one ranked Argentina in front of a 70,000 plus capacity crowd, thus ending the team’s Copa America Centenario run in the semifinals. Believe me, this loss stings. A much anticipated matchup that many thought could be the turning point in US soccer history didn’t materialize, as the team looked flat and overwhelmed against a much stronger talented Argentinian squad. They were dominated by talent in each third of the field, outclassed by an opponent that is among the true powers of international soccer.
The run comes to an end for the USMNT following what was a magical few games in the tournament hosted in our home nation. Sure, we wanted to win it all. That’s always the goal. But realistically, this was what the team came into Copa America aiming for. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann publicly stated the goal was to “reach the semifinals.” In that sense, mission accomplished. But getting there and then falling short, on the big stage, hurts. It has US soccer fans longing for more – of what could be.
There is no reason why the US cannot become a world power in international soccer. We have the talent pool, now wider than ever and continually growing, as more and more kids take to soccer instead of sports like baseball and football. We have the money. We have the resources and facilities. We have the support. So, what’s stopping us? Is it heart? Nope. Is it talent? No. Is it a lack of experience? Eh, not really. It is the underdog mindset of a nation that reigns supreme in almost everything else in the world. Our players, no, our team needs to believe. No amount of RTs and social media propaganda and hype videos can change that. It’s up to them to say, “hey, we can go toe to toe with the best of the best.” It’s 2016, and it’s about damn time that the United States became a global soccer powerhouse.
That’s not to say we aren’t on our way. With more players successfully domestically and abroad than ever before, this US roster is headed in the right direction. The old guard is almost removed (except Clint Dempsey, who is doing everything in his power to stay) and youth and athleticism is peaking through in USMNT camps. Players such as Fabian Johnson, Alejandro Bedoya, DeAndre Yedlin, and Bobby Wood are starting to make waves overseas. John Brooks has come into his own as the most dominant US defender, and an emerging world class player in the back at that. The youngster, Christian Pulisic, is only 17 and got his first taste of international soccer. Playing at Dortmund will only help him grow, perhaps putting him on track to becoming the next great American player. Darlington Nagbe, the Portland Timbers man, is already showing glimpses of his potential. Young players such as Julian Green and Emerson Hyndman will be coming in the next year or two. USMNT U-23 Defender Matt Miazga, formerly of the New York Red Bulls, has crossed the Atlantic to go play at Chelsea. Stanford University and now Seattle Sounders playmaker Jordan Morris is also emerging with the national team.
Pair this youth (with much more not mentioned on its way as well) with current US talent, and you have the makings of a very dangerous team. Jozy Altidore, if he ever overcomes his injuries, is still a young and devastating striker. Michael Bradley, though noticeably slower, can still be a key defensive midfielder spreading the ball on a faster team. Geoff Cameron looks to compliment Brooks well in the back. Gyasi Zardes is still young and becoming a more confident player. And don’t forget, the US has the ability to produce high level goalkeepers almost at will. A talent pool this deep has not existed in United States history. The options Coach Klinsmann will have for the next round of World Cup Qualifying and, hopefully, World Cup Russia 2018 are plentiful. While the loss to Argentina hurts, and it should, it should serve as a reminder of just how close the US was to the final, but also just how far they are to joining the like in the top tier of soccer nations.
The future is bright for United States soccer, as our players continue to thrive overseas in Germany and England, while Major League Soccer is as strong as ever. May we look back on this loss a few years from now and see just how far we’ve come. The ball is in your court, America. Forget basketball though, let’s play some soccer.