Op-Ed: Hard To Change The Jet Engine In Midair

You know, this piece is just in good fun at this point. And quite honestly, it’s a thank you to Dan of the Free Beer Movement (the audacious and amazingly creative movement that it is) for his good work who emailed and said, “Can you just write an opposing piece to that Grantland piece. I would find it therapeutic.”

Hey Barnwell, why didn’t the US call in this guy?!

You got it Dan.

Grantland, the mostly-outstanding Bill Simmon’s gambit at making an intelligent and sardonic outlet that mashes up sports and American culture, took a foray into covering soccer this week.

That plane didn’t get off the ground.

One article, an interesting if cavalier one, contrasted the rise to fame of Chicharito versus the plight of Freddy Adu. TSG friend and World Cup vet Herculez Gomez will have some feedback here on TSG shortly on that one.

However, the piece that came under more scrutiny and flame-throwing was “Hard Lessons” by writer Bill Barnwell.

Barnwell takes US Soccer to the woodshed over it’s approach to the US Mens program and manager Bob Bradley’s player selection at this year’s Gold Cup.

The Boston native makes some good points about needing to focus on youth and Bradley attempting to find a central midfield combination at last year’s World Cup.

Fair points, none original though.

That said, Barnwell issues the edict that “Everything that US Soccer does should be with the goal of winning the World Cup.”

To that end, his conclusion somehow arrives at the US deploying an uncertain developmental squad at the 2011 Gold Cup and suggesting that the US might have been thrashed by Mexico in the Final–as they ultimately were–but it would have moved the program forward and team closer to a World Cup win.


Give me that literary wrench for a second and let me recalibrate that statement.

By authoring a  youth-invigorated squad that takes their lumps against Mexico in the Final–let’s presume they just automatically make that Final by the way–the US team is better off  because of a series of six matches three years before the World Cup will slingshot their development as one, and put them in a better position three years from now on.

Footnote: Pay no mind to securing the important Confederations Cup berth where a probably more cemented team will play against the best on location–the World Cup  location–a year before the tournament.

Sell Mortimer Sell!

Let’s address that statement in reverse order.

The Confederations Cup.

Confederations Cups can be both fun and educational…and most importantly the best preparation for World Cups.

Sparing the 2009 heroics of the United States whose victory over Spain at the time still ranks as one of the best international team victories of the past half decade…..

The Confederation’s Cup throws together players who may or may not have spent much time together into an isolated environment over the course of a few weeks. It gives the players and coaches more games against competition they might face the next year to measure their recruits.

2009 saw Charlie Davies hustle his way to earning a starting forward spot on the front line and witnessed an elder Jay DeMerit–by Barnwell’s criteria–to cement his spot a year before the vuvuzelas took over full time.

If the goal is to win a World Cup, no tournament–not the Gold Cup, not the Euros, not the Copa–prepares a side better than the Confederations Cup.

The Roster & Its Deployment

A deeper look than Barnwell’s curious eye at the United States Gold Cup roster shows a decidedly more youthful and ambitious team than turned off the lights in South Africa a year earlier.

Eric Lichaj–the only player that probably should have got a look in the 2010 run-up that didn’t–was firmly inserted in the backline.

Timmy Chandler would have been there, if not for the fact that he owes perhaps the next 10 years of his career to his discovery by Dieter Hecking at FC Nurnberg. Nurnberg has already kicked off their 2011-12 preparation.

In the midfield and up top, Bob Bradley attempted to bring in–and extended an invitation to–young American right winger Josh Gatt, all of 19 years of age and 24-year-old Eddie Gaven, a steady if unspectacular forward for the Columbus Crew.

Freddy Adu, 22-years-old, got a look and started in that Final. New York Red Bull player and recent high school mortarboard thrower Juan Agudelo started three games.

By this count, that’s at least six “players for the future” that either were extended invites or actually got meaningful playing time.

Fair point by Barnwell on this German engineering job.

Barnwell conveniently forgets and instead attempts to redirect the jury of Grantlanders to look at the folly in “blooding” two new players who will be past their prime by his count in World Cup 2014, Jermaine Jones and Clarence Goodson.

There is some merit to Barnwell exposing of Jones who was decidedly uneven in his game play throughout the tournament at the expense of Maurice Edu.

However, take a step back.

If you’re arguing about whether Maurice Edu–who has played nearly his entire career against competition collectively below his teams–should start or a Champion’s League vet Jones should start, that is like arguing that Nigel De Jong was the reason that the Netherlands got to the Finals. Bradley’s team’s always have players who fills roles, not roles fit for players.

The disparity of talent between your defensive minded holding midfielder–except in cases formally named Essien–is not going to make or break your team if you sport the US kit. That’s especially the case when looking at a triumvirate of Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones and Ricardo Clark–where Jones still decidedly has the biggest leg up.

Whether it’s Jones who possesses better overall passing, Edu who possesses a better ability to see-react-tackle or Clark who possesses better trackback speed, you’re subjectively-blind to Jones’s successes at best, splitting hairs at worst.)

(Digression: The bigger problem as could not be more clearer after the Gold Cup is the continued desire by Bradley to employ his son Michael in the creative midfielder role in traffic and task him with coverage defending at the same time. Shocking you might say.)

29-year-old Goodson’s callout is even more perplexing who Barnwell handles with a dismissive, “if he was really a player of international quality, he would have shown it before now.”

Much like Jay DeMerit didn’t merit selection for the United States in 2010. DeMerit, of course, got his first cap when he was 27, but only became a full fledged starter when he was–you guessed it–29.

Let’s get into the age thing, because Barnwell pulls off a sneaky little misdirection with his next completely erroneous claim.

Bradley’s decision to include Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo as regular starters was also questionable. Both Bocanegra and Cherundolo will be 35 by the time the next World Cup rolls around. Only one defender older than 35 started all of his team’s games at the World Cup in South Africa, and that was 2006 FIFA Player of the Year Fabio Cannavaro. Neither Bocanegra nor Cherundolo are anywhere near as talented as Cannavaro, and as we saw with Cherundolo on Saturday night, older players are at a higher risk of getting injured after a full season of club football in Europe.

Crafty, Barnwell, crafty. Yes Fabio Cannavaro was eldest defender at World Cup who started all his games.

I don’t know, I thought this guy was pretty good in South Africa…

Perhaps Barnwell doesn’t value the contributions of Dutchman Gio Van Bronckhorst…who played and started every game far his team….at fullback….including 105 minutes in the final. Van Bronchhorst, 35 at World Cup 2010.  (GVB is a few months younger than Cannavaro)

In fact quite a bit of elder statesmen manned critical defensive positions for their teams in the tournament. Joan Capdevilla, 32 and a starter for Spain. 31-year-old Joris Mathijsen started the Final as well for the Dutch.

The previous knockout round saw 32-year-old Arne Friedrich start for the Germans.

That’s not really the point though. No one wants to bring a 36-year-old anything to the World Cup unless they are much better than their age label.

Cherundolo is 32-years-old now, not 36. Will ‘Dolo be a starter at World Cup 2014?

No, absolutely not. In fact, a heavy rumor heading into Gold Cup play was the Cherundolo wanted to retire prior to the tournament.

The better question perhaps–and let’s leave Bradley making a meal of the defense tactically in Pasadena alone–is if you know that Cherundolo is going to retire and that Chandler is the heir apparent, why not bring Cherundolo in even as a stop gap? Spector wasn’t the answer, what’s your other option? Barnwell?

The Gold Cup is a hellacious three week-or-so tournament where teams have to come in and fly from one city to the next and then plan another game three or four days later.

It’s not the best time to begin building repetitions with players who might be there for a World Cup tournament three years later. Yet Bradley nearly had that cake and ate it too.

He started Tim Ream– in two matches and a third if you include the Boston Spanish massacre. He started Juan Agudelo in three of them and he started a new flanker, 24-year-old Ale Bedoya, in place of Landon Donovan even after Donovan’s wedding respite game against Jamaica.

Sounds like quite an initiative to develop youth by Bradley who also of course slotted in 22-year-old Freddy Adu in the final ahead of Chris Wondolowski.

It’s not even remotely crystal that any of  the young players Barnwell mentions will be outright starters three years from now.

Ream probably gets a checkmark in 2014…

Tim Ream has the best shot and may nail his nameplate on at centerback, but he’ll face mounting competition from U-20 standout John Anthony Brooks at left centerback and–go ahead rip me on this–MLSers George John and Matt Besler. But mostly it’s Brooks.

They don’t just give out four year contracts at door at Hertha, who will play in the top German division, Bundesliga 1 this season.

Ream still needs a ways to go on his aerial game and positioning before he’s worthy of being one of the first names on the team sheet.

The aforementioned Edu–depending on how you value Stu Holden–will face competition from Bolton’s Holden, maybe Will Packwood, the ever-present Sacha Kljestan and perhaps Jarred Jeffries and many others in that central midfield role.

Barnwell extends the red carpet to Omar Gonzalez as the heir apparent in the central defense pairing for 2014. All I have to say to that is Chicharito is salivating.

If you accept that the international game is getting faster with the likes of younger forwards being trotted out and midfielders moving back to the defensive line to provide protection through offense, than that Gonzalez tab seems a tad hasty in light of his biggest deficiency right now, speed.

More so when you consider that Gonzalez plays on an MLS team that consistently possesses the ball against its opposition and is not challenged for large stretches of game.

Names like Clarence Goodson (rightfully) and Ike Opara–to name just two–will likely be going up against Gonzalez at the right central back role for the next years. He may win it, but to assume it’s his?

Heck even Oguchi Onyewu will be only 32 at the next World Cup–probably don’t want to rule out a two-time World Cup vet at a key quarterback position just yet.

Perhaps more egregious than Barnwell’s misplaced skewering of the 2011 Gold Cup roster is that he offers no solutions.

By his logic, Eddie Johnson and even Justin Mapp would have been undoing the competition at World Cup 2010 and Gold Cup 2011. Both the striker and forward of course were rostered players for Gold Cup 2007 and both were considered quite promising, yet I didn’t hear the Grantland columnist calling for their insertion in Bradley’s roster this time around.

Barnwell, you don’t change the jet engine when the airplane is in the air, especially if you’re not sure if you have the right parts.  That leads to engine failure and a deafening crashing sound.

No, you check the parts out–like Bradley did during the group stage–and see if they are an exact match.

I’ll agree with you US Soccer–and a follow-up is coming here at TSG–needs an adjustment. The Gold Cup with the financially and experientially lucrative Confederations Cup on the line is not the place for that big mechanic’s job.

The Grantland piece gets credit on one thing, you’ll always get a positive reaction and laugh–much like the hilarious outtakes at the end of a movie that wasn’t so funny–by invoking Ricardo Clark and Ghana.


More on TSG:

Snap Judgements: Mexico Roars Back, Vanquishes Yanks, 4-2

Op-Ed: Xavi Is Wrong & Why I Hate Barcelona

Interview: Alfonso Mondelo & The Technical State of MLS


95 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by mthwhite on 2011/06/30 at 11:11 AM

    Thanks for taking the time to address this article. When I saw it the first time my reaction was “Great! I like Barnwell’s writing (Mostly), I like soccer. Maybe this will be a good piece for a larger audience.” Very quickly though, I just got angry. I think my main annoyance with the article is that it seemed to ignore the fact that the US had a pretty large supply of players younger than 24 in the tournament. Anything much more would have required either replacing players that *are* expected to play in the next world cup, or simply replacing the players that will keep the US in games (Like churundolo, maybe he won’t play much longer. But while he does play now, he make the US much more likely to move on in a tournament).


  2. Grantland’s Copa America preview today was better, although written by another preson.


  3. This is an excellent piece. Barnwell started taking them to task throughout this Gold Cup but he rarely offered solutions. His football (American) stuff is excellent. He works well with baseball stats too. But soccer, no thanks. He shows little knowledge of formation, spacing and creative build-up. If dealing in convenient “facts” makes you “get” this sport then Americans will never appreciate it with him as one of our main voices. You’re better than this Barnwell.


  4. Posted by Luke Nelson on 2011/06/30 at 11:38 AM

    Good response TSG ,and some very good counterpoints made. I think what I took away from the Barnwell article was Bradley’s consistent use of guys like Specs, Bornstein, or in the past Clark. For whatever reason he “trusts” these guys, only to be burned by them in big game moments. Why put guys on the squad who aren’t international quality at the expense of developing some youth? I can’t remember his name, but one of Mexico’s backs was making his international debut (subbing in for Salcido or Marquez) in the GC final. Maybe we don’t have that quality, but that’s the problem, and in my opinion Bradley is not the solution. And one thing I definitely agree with Barnwell on is that the USSF’s goal should be winning the WC, not just advancing to the knock out stage. We’re better than that and should demand more than that.


    • Posted by Braden Lang on 2011/06/30 at 12:00 PM

      How are we better than that? We have zero players earning minutes for champions’s league teams in the top 5 leagues. If you assume that the top 5 leagues have an average of 3 slots in the CL, and each roster carries even just 15 world quality players, that’s 225 players, or 10 full world cup roster’s worth of talent. Even assuming say 20% of those players don’t make the cut because nations like Spain and Brazil occupy alot of that CL roster depth and they can’t all make their national team, that leaves 8 full rosters. Here are the nations that start 8+ CL players in top leagues for their national team: Spain, England, Italy, Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina, The Netherlands. Then you throw in a couple teams like Uruguay, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire that have a handful of players at that level and quickly the US doesn’t look so impressive.

      I LOVE the USMNT. I’ve traveled to both of the last two WCs. I live for big games. I believe we can and will win a world cup in my lifetime. But what metrics would indicate that we have the talent now to be a top 8 team? Without being a top 8 team, by what right do we assert that we should consistently be making the quarterfinals or better? The bottom line is: we need to develop more talent, we need to be deeper, we need to continue to get better. I think this will happen, but it takes time. What I hope most is that folks who know more than I do about turning our youth talent into proven professional talent that starts popping up on big teams and in big leagues will make sure that happens with the US program. Until then, I think our results are about what you’d expect for our talent pool, no more, no less. It would have been nice to beat Ghana, perhaps even get lucky against Uruguary, but that would have been overperformance, not our just desserts.


      • Posted by Luke Nelson on 2011/06/30 at 12:17 PM

        Braden, you’ve helped me make my point. We are not Top 8 team by any means, but no way should we be outside the top 20 either. My problem with the USSF and, in particular Bradley, IS the lack of youth develpment. My point being, that we should be proud of the progress we’ve made in the last 3 WCs, but not satisfied. And in my opinion, Bradley, and his team selection, is not the man to take us there.


        • Posted by Braden Lang on 2011/06/30 at 12:20 PM

          Fair enough. I guess my point is that the level at which a player is on the bubble for the senior team is later than where our point of focus should be. Bradley’s decisions will not make or break the careers of budding US stars. We need to be figuring out how to develop kids from 14-18. By 18-20 players club careers in big arenas should be taking over. Right now that’s not happening.


          • Posted by Tux on 2011/06/30 at 3:41 PM

            Forget 14-18, try 8-12. A lot of little kids play soccer at that age, but even those who are playing travel or club soccer don’t really understand the game at that age, and few people seem able or willing to teach them. Look at baseball, football, and basketball – kids play those sports, but they also understand nuances of those sports far more than they understand soccer. We have fathers coaching travel teams who have no idea how to actually coach players to read the game, how to position themselves well on the field. In all the years that I played, I never once had anyone ever tell me where I was supposed to be on the field, other than a generic position (right/left forward/midfield/defender). I think that’s why I loved playing goalie so much – because I could figure out how to play the position without actually being told.

            This may not be the case anymore (my last game of organized soccer came almost a decade ago, I quit in eighth grade to focus on baseball), and I wasn’t good enough to play on any sort of legitimate club team – but I’m 22 now, and I my generation is the one that’s coming up through the youth ranks. Eric Lichaj and I were born on the same day. I hope that he got better instructions as a youngster than I did.


            • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/06/30 at 7:07 PM

              I am glad someone else picked up on the age thing. Teaching kids tecnical aspects between 14 – 18 is far too late. Can you not remember how developed [or not] you were as a player by the time you were 14?

              Combine quality coaching and Gladwell’s 10,000 rule…

            • Posted by Jared on 2011/07/01 at 4:04 AM

              I think that’s what Claudio Reyna is there for in terms of development. From what I’ve heard he is completely revamping what it takes to get training badges in the US in an attempt to make it like UEFA. If we can develop coaches in a way that Spain does then we will progress rapidly (I believe Spain has about 4 times as many coaches as England and it shows in their respective technical skills).

        • Posted by Martin on 2011/07/02 at 12:45 PM


          “And in my opinion, Bradley, and his team selection, is not the man to take us there.”

          Bradely and his team slection have little if anything to do with youth development.

          Maybe it would help if If I put it this way:
          Your answer to the USMNT’s current situation is to fire Bradley and replace him (I’ll guess here) with some foreign maestro. One gets the impression you view Bradley as some sort of toxin that must be removed from the system regardless of the alternatives (or lack thereof).

          The USSF has proven it’s inability or unwillingness (pick one) to hire a big time foreign manager. So Bradley’s replacement, if that happens, is likely to be someone from inside the US circle. And that concerns me as this current batch of USMNT players could play a lot worse.

          I see the USMNT as one thing and the US soccer “system”, in a very general sense, as another. In other words two more or less separate entities.

          Obviously the “system” provides most of the players but there is a lag period there where the players come from the system, turn pro, get to a club and develop, hopefully, into international class players.

          The national team then, relies on the “system” to produce good raw material for the clubs to polish into international class players. In theory, the better the raw material, the easier the job of the clubs. Occasionally clubs mishandle players but overall the system should work.

          In my view the USMNT manager has almost nothing to do with this “system”, because he comes into the picture after their work is done.

          Looking at the 2014 World Cup Bradley, or his successor, has a current pool of fifty eight players plus another twenty or so who may develop by 2014. Hopefully the majority of these players will get better before 2014 but that will depend largely on what happens with them at their clubs ( and therefore out of the USMNT’s control). Bradley, for example, encouraged Bedoya but it was Ale’s hard work with Orebro and their staff that got him where he is today. Similarly Bradley told Adu get his act together. Freddy then went as far as Turkey’s D2 and put in his time. In both cases, other than telling them what they needed to do to get into the USMNT picture, Bradley really did nothing.

          It was the players and their clubs.

          While there may be some surprises over the next two seasons, the player pool is already mostly set for 2014 barring some amazing wunderkind suddenly coming out of nowhere or a dual national star surprising everyone by coming out for the US.

          The US averages about 14 games per year so going forward you will have maybe 30 + games to form this bunch into a unit.

          Which brings up another basic point that most US fans don’t seem to care about. National teams are not club teams. They have far fewer options in terms of handling their player pool. I’ll bet the USMNT manager won’t have his preferred 14 for anywhere from a quarter to a half of those 20-30 games. But it’s the same for the other teams isn’t it?

          Well , yes and no. One way to make up for a lack of team cohesion is individual brilliance spread across the team. A solid keeper, a solid defender , one or two sharp midfielders and a deadly forward, can go a long way towards keeping the team intact, even without a lot of practice time together.

          I just saw Argentina struggle to a 1-1 draw, at home no less, with Bolivia in their Copa America opener.

          Bolivia, with no recognizable stars,are supposed to be one of the worst teams at this Cup ( FIFA ranking 93 and Electric Light Orchestra ranking 69). They were seriiously outmanned. However, they put up a very organized , spirited fight. Argentina had most of the possession but it wasn’t until Aguero came on that they had the sharpness to cut through the Bolivian defense.

          The point? Another couple of games together and, hopefully, Argentina eventually meshes and they tear Bolivia apart. But, on the night, Aguero provided the individual brilliance Argentina needed to salvage that draw.
          The US are more like Bolivia. If they stay disciplined and play well as a unit they can hang with any team, but they do not have the individual talent, to win a game on the back of a brilliant individual play or series of plays. Bolivia did not have an Aguero to bring off the bench. And again,barring some surprise, neither do we.
          Arjen Robben said it best last year when he described the US as a tough team to play against, a tough team to beat, but not very talented. What he meant was he wasn’t worried about losing to us. Robben is a very left footed right winger and an arrogant SOB but he has spent his entire career at the very highest level and isn’t concerned about being diplomatic.

          Obviously my description is something of an oversimplification but, for me, the biggest priority is fixing whatever is wrong with that second “system”, the one that produces the raw material for the clubs to polish. Get that right and inundate Bradley , or whoever is there, with more talent more options and there will be a better outcome. Do that and then the US manager will have a much wider margin of error to work with than the razor thin margin he has now.

          Otherwise, I really don’t care who you bring in , the current talent pool can only be tweaked to go so far. In fact, I would submit that bringing in the second coming of Bora Milutinovic runs the risk of papering over the cracks and making people complacent about the need to really fix that second “system” and that would be a long term disaster.

          Unless he has the power to affect the second “system”, something Klinsmann wanted and clearly was not going to be given, I view your well intentioned insistence on bringing in a foreign maestro as that sort of effort, papering over the cracks and eventually being bad long term for the game here in the US.

          I am a big fan of the USMNT but unlike you, I have no illusions about how talented the current US player pool is. It is not very good. Mexico has a young, productive star forward at Man U. and they have Champions league winner and regular at Barca, Rafa, even if he is no longer there and a bit past his best.

          The US has never had any players with those kind of credentials. I repeat, never had any players with those kind of credentials. It makes a difference.

          Fix the “system”. When the US has a larger number of better players, the manager, whoever he is, will look better to all of us.


      • Posted by Texas 1836 on 2011/06/30 at 12:22 PM

        Dead on, BL.


      • Posted by Alex on 2011/06/30 at 3:38 PM

        Wow, that was an incredible stat. Thanks for it, Braden. More than proves the point I have been trying to make to friends myself – doesn’t matter who the coach is now, we do not have the pool to “expect” anything from our national team right now, and getting out of group stages consistently, at this moment in time, is actually a testament to how we play as a team.

        That is NOT to say we should not be looking for ways to improve, but changing solely the senior national team manager will not help. We have for a couple of decades attempted the use Bradenton as our single national academy, and only recently have MLS teams stepped up with there own with NCAA picking up the ones that fell by the wayside. We need an overhaul of the entire US Soccer system, and Gulati is the one who needs to be held to account for our complacency in this regard, not Bob.

        Just watching our U17s today made me realize just how very long we have to go.


        • Posted by dth on 2011/06/30 at 3:43 PM

          Just as Bradley is limited by the player pool he’s handed, Gulati is limited by the system he’s been given.


          • Posted by Alex on 2011/06/30 at 4:02 PM

            dth, I don’t see how this is comparable. Do you mean the money available to implement changes by Sunil is comparable to the lack of players of quality in the pool for Bob? That’s the only analogy I could see. Sunil could try to make serious changes in our developmental model, but he sees it more fit to force Bob to play friendlies against Brazil and Spain and watch us get burned, rather than competitive friendlies to test players that may not make money.

            My basic concern is Sunil has turned US Soccer into a money-making operation a la Brazil’s international friendlies well before we are a competitive national soccer system. We need someone to re-focus our efforts on the task at hand, and in this respect I agree with Grantland, and that is winning a World Cup in the future.

            Klinsmann had the cojones to challenge the DfB in 2006 to revamp their system, and they are reaping the rewards now. Where is our Klinsmann – no I am not asking for Klinsmann himself, but who is going to shake things up?


            • Posted by dth on 2011/06/30 at 4:19 PM

              Klinsmann is a self-promoter–all of the changes for Germany were made years before. I know you’re not asking for Klinsmann, but I think your example exactly proves the point I was (not explicitly) making: turnaround cases a la a Steve Jobs are very rare; institutions succeed or fail generally for the reasons far beyond one man, even the most powerful one.

              Let’s take Gulati’s task as an example. He wants to change the developmental picture. He’s already done part of this, by creating the Developmental Academy–which I think isn’t good enough, but is certainly a start. The problem, of course, is primarily the coaching and the incentives. But to change the coaching and the incentives for these private clubs is difficult; they’ve got their own money, from parents who are apparently happy from the product they’ve been buying. So, how to rectify this problem?

              You might say the coaching, but again, you’re Gulati. You have a limited budget, even with the money-spinning friendlies. You can hire maybe, I don’t know, 20 skilled youth coaches from abroad? Are 20 skilled youth coaches really enough to change the direction of US Soccer? Doubtful, right? The coaching will only get better insofar as the domestic coaching pool gets better, which implies a massive cultural change…which are by definition highly difficult to do.

              So let’s focus on the parents. Ultimately, money talks. If parents demanded that Little Jimmy was coached by a phalanx of Ajax coaches, you could be damned sure the clubs would figure out a way to fulfill that desire or something like that. So you need to convince the parents, and especially convince them to impart the knowledge of the game and the associated skills. That’s also a massive cultural change. (And, to be honest, the coaching is something I wonder about: I know a local club that has a former Greek national team coaching it. And you hear about other clubs with coaches with nice pedigrees. Yes, pedigree isn’t everything, but still.)

              This is without getting into the politics of it all. Changing US Soccer into an institution that pumps out world-class players implies depriving certain people of power, and those people will obviously resist that happening. That’s also a problem.

              (Some people say it’s a matter of being more professional. This is surely part of it, but I’m not convinced of its universal applicability. For one, in Japan, players go to high school and college all the time–Shinji Kagawa, for example, was basically a college student, IIRC. For two, I’m not sure about the MLS clubs for a number of different reasons. The upside of the MLS clubs is that the system should be self-correcting–there’s no parity in MLS academies, and so if FC Dallas and DC United start crushing the rest of the league, other MLS teams will have to adapt or die.)

              I look at developing US Soccer as being similar to development economics in general. And the more you read about the development economics, the more you realize that the necessary changes are a complex mixture of choices, institutions and personnel. Given that, you have to realize the task is much more difficult than is generally believed. It would’ve been easier to make good decisions earlier, but path dependence means we’re locked into some bad things. That’s too bad. Gulati is, to a certain extent, a prisoner of this. I think he’s like a B-.

        • Posted by Joe Hamilton on 2011/06/30 at 11:20 PM

          To all the posters who excuse the incompetent fool Bob Bradley, the fact is the US has never had as much talent . Let’s start with Dempsey, and Holden both named the MVPs of the Premiership teams which is the top league in the world. Steven Cherundolo is captain of Hanover which just missed out on a Champions League spot playing in the 2nd best league in the world.Jermaine Jones is a starter in the best league in the world the Prem.as is Tim Howard ,and even Spector was a part time starter . Michael Bradley was starter for Gladbach before the loan which didn’t work out. I would also say had Donovan been able to allowed out of his contract with the Galaxy would definitely a starter for Everton. If you add Chandler, and Zack Whitbread whose team was promoted to the Prem , and Maurice Edu whose team is definitely good enough to be in the Prem or the Bundesliga, you have 6 American full time starters in the Prem and 3 full time starters in the Bundesliga . Add Americans who started some games in those 2 leagues, Lichaj, Danny Williams, Ricardo Clark and Spector . The US has enough talent . They just have a total fool as a coach . Someone who picked Tim Ream ranked 42th in the MLS by Castrol as a starter and brings in Bornstein who hadn’t played since May. Juan Argudelo doesn’t start for Red Bull as he wasn’t beaten out by Luke Rodgers who play in what is the 3rd division in England before coming to the MLS.


          • Posted by Martin on 2011/07/02 at 1:39 PM

            “the fact is the US has never had as much talent .”

            Joe, highly debateable but even if that is true, our opponents have also gotten better, so it becomes something of a wash.

            Mexico has a full on star forward for Man U., and the have Champions league medal winner and former Barca regular Marquez, even if he is a little past his best.

            The US has no one comparable and it makes a difference.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/06/30 at 1:26 PM

      There will be a time when the US are genuine contenders for the World Cup. But just because you say that’s you’re objective, doesn’t mean it’s realistic. Making statements such as that is not helpful at this point in time. Where’s the value if nobody actually believes it? In terms of youth development, you’re light years behind the “traditional powerhouses”. And your current youth teams aren’t world beaters, so do you think this will change by 2014 or 2018?


      • Posted by Luke Nelson on 2011/06/30 at 1:48 PM

        I don’t think we will be contenders by 2014 and probably not even 2018. But if we don’t set our standards high, then what’s the point? Everyone, knows the US has the athletes to be contenders, it’s, as BL said, a matter of developing them. My point was and is that until we expect to contend, then mediocrity will reign.


        • Posted by Dave on 2011/06/30 at 7:34 PM

          In terms of youth development, in seems a bit strange to me that USSF is being called into question about that. As a Pumas fan, I was a bit proud that 5 of Mexico’s starting field players in the Gold Cup Final came up through Pumas’ youth system(Juárez, Moreno, Castro, Barrera and Torrado–though Torrado rightly identifies himself more with his current team Cruz Azul and also developed playing in Spain). Two more(Chicharito and Salcido) came up with Chivas, and Márquez and Guardado through Atlas.
          The point being that it’s the clubs that develop players, not the national federation. Especially important for clubs like Pumas that want to have some success without spending any money…
          If clubs want to win they develop their players. The national team then selects from the players already developed at their clubs.
          Certainly it helps to have some continuity within the national team setup, and if a core from the youth teams progresses that can be useful, but…
          The other important point being discussed is whether it’s best to trot out a bunch of young players and let them take their lumps early in a World Cup cycle. I admit I used to think that was a good idea. Then I realized that the great majority of National Team games, even friendlies, are too important for that. Given the limited time that a National Team spends practicing and playing together, it is important to work the core group of players for the next game that really counts, whether Gold Cup, qualifiers or World Cup. Sure try out a few new players who appear to be ready, bring them in at the half or at 60. If they beat out the incumbent, well they took their opportunity well. If not, continue playing the best player until another player shows better.
          By the way props to Bradley/USSF for coming up with the January camp(aka Camp Cupcake) idea to evaluate up and coming and fringe players.


          • Posted by dth on 2011/06/30 at 8:51 PM

            Unfortunately, I think there are a couple of problems with this:
            1) obviously MLS clubs will have to take a large role over this. But the problem here is that there’s a gap, and there’s a risk of just having each side finger-pointing at each other while the gap goes unfilled.

            2) The other problem is that the bandwidth just isn’t there for MLS clubs. Generally MLS clubs have 23 players or so for each age group in the Development Academy. Are there only 23 players per metro area worth taking a flyer on? Probably not. Then there’s the issue of geographical spread. If you’re a gifted kid in, say, Iowa, where do you go for top quality training? MLS clubs have tried opening satellite campuses, but that runs into a bandwidth issue again, plus a coaching issue. Bandwidth-wise: you can’t really successfully integrate too many youth players–at a certain point, there are too many people for too few spots. Then there’s coaching: how do you monitor and promote good coaching in an academy that may be hundreds of miles away from your main operations (the problem is particularly acute given the coaching deficiency gap in this country–I suspect many MLS clubs have a hard enough job promoting good coaches in their own main academies, let alone any extensions they might be planning…)


            • Posted by Jared on 2011/07/01 at 4:09 AM

              Dave, I wished it worked that way in the US but the whole system isn’t set up for the clubs to develop players. They have only recently restarted the reserve system and the academy system is only just beginning to make an impact (unfortunately, the big name from the academy system in MLS is Andy Najar who just picked Honduras).

              As it stands, US Soccer has far too much responsibility when it comes to developing the youth players. Lately it seems that the development of players has consisted of sending Thomas Rongen around the world to find young players who can play for the US due to having citizenship through a parent or from being born in the US prior to moving overseas for good.

  5. Posted by dth on 2011/06/30 at 11:48 AM

    Honestly, I’m not sure it needed this long a response. The reason why Bradley should take the best roster regardless of age is because we want to win the Gold Cup and beat Mexico. If Germany wins Euro 2012 because of Golden Boot winner Miroslav Klose, will there be a German Bill Barnwell arguing that it’s meaningless because Joachim Loew didn’t prepare the team for the World Cup? No, because that would be an idiotic thing to argue. Germany wants to win the Euros. We want to win the Gold Cup.

    (of course, the Euros are much more prestigious than the Gold Cup, but I’d rather be the big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a small pond.)


    • Posted by Steve Trittschuh on 2011/06/30 at 5:59 PM

      The fact that you’re comparing the Euros to the Gold Cup makes me discredit everything you just said.

      The Gold Cup and CONCACAF are not even a pond. Its more similar to two medium-sized fish in a bowl fighting over the same scraps. It simply not as prestigious as the Euros. Not even close.


      • Posted by dth on 2011/06/30 at 6:06 PM

        Of course not. I wasn’t attempting to claim the prestige was equivalent or even close. I was merely claiming that the Gold Cup–being the continental championships of our continent–is important to us and that we ought to make every effort to win.

        Whether we’re in a lake, a pond, or a bowl, I’d rather be the biggest fish than not.


    • Posted by Martin on 2011/07/02 at 1:43 PM

      There are quite a few people far more credible than me who will tell you the Euros are harder to win than the World Cup.

      Fewer minnows, higher overall talent level in the teams and perhaps more serious rivalries.

      Not a good idea to compare them to the Gold Cup.


      • Posted by Crotalus on 2011/07/02 at 3:30 PM

        And you believed them? No part of that statement holds up. Fewer minnows? Just as many, if not more “strong” teams. You can only beat up minnows for so long – by the quarters (at the latest) you have to play the big teams. Overall talent higher? Because there are only 13 UEFA teams instead of 16? (Assuming that a mediocre host or two didn’t auto-qualify for Euro when they wouldn’t have normally.) Do Brazil and Argentina count for nothing? Would you say the US, Mexico, Australia, Japan, Ghana, and so on and so on aren’t better than, say, a Croatia or Norway or other such UEFA side that may, be the 16th team at Euro’s? I’d say so, considering those teams have undone UEFA teams at World Cups past. More serious rivalries? Whether England play Germany in Euro or a WC, the rivalry doesn’t change. Do you remember when the US and Mexico collided in the ’02 WC?

        Whoever the creditable people are, tell them they’re wrong. The Euro is and always has been the second hardest international tournament to win.

        The Gold Cup is not The Euro, its true, but its our tournament and the guy above was just trying to say that we should take it seriously.


        • Posted by Martin on 2011/07/02 at 5:34 PM

          “The Gold Cup is not The Euro, its true, but its our tournament and the guy above was just trying to say that we should take it seriously.”

          That’s fine but maybe you should tell that to our CONCACAF opponents. It seems to me there is always an alternative agenda going for most participants. This year it was about being the entry to the Confed cup. In other words it seems to me the very few people are particularly interested in the Gold Cup for it’s own sake.

          The Euros in contrast stand on their own. The winner of the Euros is going to be favored over the winner of the Gold Cup in a neutral setting. If it isn’t a tougher tournament to win that the World Cup it’s not far behind. Two of the last three Euro champs were also World Cup winners ( France and Spain)

          “Do Brazil and Argentina count for nothing?”

          No but neither side have been their legendary dominant selves lately.

          “Would you say the US, Mexico, Australia, Japan, Ghana, and so on and so on aren’t better than, say, a Croatia or Norway or other such UEFA side that may, be the 16th team at Euro’s?”

          Playing Crotia in Europe? I would bet on Croatia.

          I guess the way I would look at it is that there is always some sort of regional bias with the World Cup in that South American teams rarely win when its in Europe and vice versa. What the Euros do is eliminate that since the travel is so much less than it would be even in the US for example.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/07/03 at 7:51 AM

          This is a tough one to answer definitively as talent is not static over time. But the World Cup is obviously more prestigous. There are many minnows in UEFA but how many times do they qualify for the tournament proper? Look at the strength of UEFA teams that did not qualify, then look at the likes of NZ (although they were the only team not to lose a game). As for Croatia, if they were in CONCACAF they’d probably win the GC “on paper” with their talent.

          But on the otherhand, Brazil and Argentina are usually too powerful to ignore.

          We all have a pretty good idea that it is going to be a US v Mexico final in the GC (even the brackets are rigged so they don’t face each other before, unless a catostrophe occurs), the other participants are merely making up the numbers. And re. The ConFed Cup comment, it is true. It means more to the US / CONCACAF than it does to the UEFA teams. I have never seen so much coverage about it until I moved Stateside.


          • Posted by Martin on 2011/07/03 at 11:20 AM

            Mr ThreeLions,

            I had heard a little bit about the Confederations Cup before the US got into it but not a lot.

            A best as I cn tell, the US beating Spain and getting into to the final against Brazil of all people put that tournament on the map, especially as far as the US is concerned.


            • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/07/04 at 3:19 PM

              I had obviously heard about this tournament, but it’s only been the last few WC cycles that it has been held in the WC host country the year before.

              My point is that in all of the years I have been watching the Euro’s**, never have I heard one comment regarding the winner also qualifying for the ConFed Cup. With the Euro’s it’s more of a by-product, whereas, with the GC, it seems to be just as important [or more?] as winning the Continental Championship.

              **Listen out nextsumer to see if one commentator / pundit mentions it.

            • Posted by dth on 2011/07/04 at 7:46 PM

              Well, there are varying standards for these things all the time. I can tell you many Brazilian fans are obsessed (kind of strong word, maybe…) with winning the Olympics because Uruguay and Argentina have won it and they haven’t.

              In basketball Americans consider the Olympics the premier international tournament whereas the rest of the world is more interested in the World Championships.

              These things are going to happen because of local idiosyncrasies all the time. It’s only really sad when only one team takes it seriously and holds it up as a huge accomplishment.

        • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/07/03 at 9:25 AM

          Hard to believe that anyone could seriously argue that the Euro is harder to win than the World Cup. Denmark and Greece have each won a Euro. Neither of those countries will ever come anywhere near winning a World Cup.


          • Posted by Martin on 2011/07/03 at 12:25 PM

            Greece was a one off when they won it.

            But that Danish team, well, ask Klinsmann how good they were since they beat his Germany 2-0

            GK, 1, Peter Schmeichel
            RB, 2, John Sivebæk,
            CB, 4, Lars Olsen (c), ,
            CB, 12, Torben Piechnik,
            LB, 3, Kent Nielsen, ,
            RM, 6, Kim Christofte, ,
            CM, 7, John Jensen, ,
            CM, 18, Kim Vilfort, ,
            LM, 13, Henrik Larsen, ,
            SS, 11, Brian Laudrup, ,
            CF, 9, Flemming Povlsen, ,
            Substitutes:, ,
            DF, 17, Claus Christiansen, ,
            Manager:, ,
            Richard Møller Nielsen, ,


            • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/07/04 at 3:11 PM

              As a note, Denmark did not even qualify for Euro92. They got in through the back door due to Yugoslavia** being kicked out due to the Civil War.

              **Could you imagine how good they’d be if they were still a country, and not Croatia, Serbia etc.?

        • Posted by dth on 2011/07/03 at 11:02 AM

          If every team took it 100% seriously, I bet the Confederations Cup would be the hardest tournament to win. Let’s say the 2013 teams are these: Brazil, Spain, Japan, Mexico, Argentina, Germany, Ghana, New Zealand. Only one true minnow in there, and New Zealand has a nice bite for a minnow. Your group stages would be something like:

          Brazil, Germany, Japan, New Zealand; Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Ghana.

          There’s not a gimme win in any (hypothetical) matchup there.


          • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/07/04 at 3:33 PM

            I have never lived in South America, so I don’t know how seriously they view this competition.

            6 of the world top 8 teams are from UEFA and generally make the QFs of the Euro’s [Brazil and Argentina being the other two]. Are you saying your hypothetical tournament line up is stronger?


            • Posted by dth on 2011/07/04 at 7:42 PM

              Assuming everyone takes it seriously, I do think so. Not so much from the perspective of the number of top teams clashing, but because every game would be a competitive one. Whereas in Euros there are often a few minnowish teams that sneak through and provide a group stage respite, there’s nothing of the sort in this hypothetical lineup: Poland beating Germany would be a pretty big upset; Japan doing the same would not be surprising at all.

        • Posted by Martin on 2011/07/03 at 2:11 PM


          “Do Brazil and Argentina count for nothing?”

          As I said, only a fool would ignore those two but they haven’t been really great recently

          Latest Copa America scores:

          ARG 1 Bolivia 1

          Brazil 0 Venezuela 0

          I dare you to name me a player on either Bolivia or Venezuela without looking them up. I sure can’t.


  6. Posted by Travis on 2011/06/30 at 11:52 AM

    I think the main point Barnwell was getting at was that we need to get a young group together and play them so they can get experience. Bradley has brought in so many new players in his 4+ years and discovered a lot of talent in that time. However, most of the best national teams have a much smaller pool and a much better idea of what their starting lineup will look like. Bradley has always been indecisive on a lineup and has moved too may players around. We need someone to come in with control and a better idea of how to move forward with a smaller group young players. Choosing older players to prosper in the Gold Cup is understandable, but what Bradley does moving forward is very important. We need to find a pool of 20-25 young players and play the cycle out with them so they can gain experience together!


    • Posted by Martin on 2011/07/03 at 12:32 PM

      “Bradley has always been indecisive on a lineup and has moved too may players around.”

      That’s a new one. Usually people complain that Bradley sticks too much to his favorites.

      I’m pretty sure he holds the record for handing out most first time caps. When you have that many people in for casting calls it usually tells you most of the people you bring in for auditions are not very convincing.

      And in case you think he’s not decisive when a quality player comes along, he settled pretty quick on Chandler after about what seemed like 10 minutes of practice.


  7. Posted by duder on 2011/06/30 at 12:05 PM

    If Opara can stay healthy he should overtake Gonzalez. SJ consistently has less possession than its opponents, Opara generally has more work to do than Gonzalez. He is gifted in the air (see all his headers) but also has very good speed (unlike Ream/Gonzalez/Goodson).


    • Posted by dth on 2011/06/30 at 12:13 PM

      I don’t think this is a guarantee at all…Opara is very athletic, but seems to be injured a lot and his passing isn’t very good. Also, in general, he seems to bounce in and out of the Earthquakes lineup. Gonzalez has been first-choice, always. The other really impressive thing about Gonzalez is his learning curve–of all the centerback people we’ve been talking about, Gonzalez seems to have learned the quickest and improved the most. Last season we were talking about his distribution–which was a big weakness that he’s turned into average and occasionally above average.

      MLS is producing many centerbacks; the problem is that all of them have a fatal flaw of one sort or another.


  8. Posted by Matthew on 2011/06/30 at 12:19 PM

    Another reason you have guys like Cherundolo and Bocanegra playing now even if you think they will not be around in ’14 is the Bull Durham effect. You need the veterans to teach and help bring up the younger players. You look at a guy like Cherundolo . . . complete professional: consistent and focused.

    We simply do not have the depth right now in our player pool. Bradley has tried out a lot of players, it is just not there. You can argue about some guys on the margin but needing an offensive spark after it was 3-2 in the Gold Gup Final, we were out of Schlitz.


  9. Posted by Texas 1836 on 2011/06/30 at 12:20 PM

    “That said, Barnwell issues the edict that “Everything that US Soccer does should be with the goal of winning the World Cup.””

    I agree with him. But I agree with you that winning this Gold Cup would’ve been more important with an eye toward winning a World Cup. We needed to win this Gold Cup, period.

    “2009 saw Charlie Davies hustle his way to earning a starting forward spot on the front line and witnessed an elder Jay DeMerit–by Barnwell’s criteria–to cement his spot a year before the vuvuzelas took over full time.”

    But how old was Demerit in the ’10 Cup? Not 35. And even then, he still looked awfully old against that Ghanaian D-Bag flying past him and Bocanegra.

    “In the midfield and up top, Bob Bradley attempted to bring in–and extended an invitation–to young American right winger Josh Gatt, all of 19 years of age and 24-year-old Eddie Gaven, a steady if unspectacular forward for the Columbus Crew.”

    Tell me more about this. What prevented Gatt or Gaven from coming in? And why would he even try to bring Gaven in?

    “Barnwell conveniently forgets and instead attempts to redirect the jury of Grantlanders to look at the folly in “blooding” two new players who will be past their prime by his count in Gold Cup 2014, Jermaine Jones and Clarence Goodson.”

    I do share his concern about Jones. I find myself wondering where this whole Jones thing is really going. He did show something in the Gold Cup, more than he has before. But again, he’s a repetitive player in our pool who will be past his age prime in ’14 and who has a serious injury history.

    I can understand the argument that he may have represented our best chance for victory in this year’s Gold Cup, but moving forward I’m not sure I want him taking someone else’s minutes.

    “I don’t know, I thought this guy was pretty good in South Africa…

    Perhaps Barnwell doesn’t value the contributions of Dutchman Gio Van Bronckhorst…who played and started every game far his team….at fullback….including 105 minutes in the final. Van Bronchhorst, 35 at World Cup 2010. (GVB is a few months younger than Cannavaro)”

    So because there was one world-class 35-year old defender at last year’s World Cup, surrounded by support on one of the 2 best teams in the world, we should have no concerns about running out 35-year-old defenders? You’re better than that.

    “In fact quite a bit of elder statesmen manned critical defensive positions for their teams in the tournament. Joan Capdevilla, 32 and a starter for Spain. 31-year-old Joris Mathijsen started the Final as well for the Dutch.

    The previous round saw 32-year-old Arne Friedrich start for the Germans.”

    (Shaq voice) 35 is not 32, bro. (/end Shaq voice) Seriously, I think there’s a big, big difference between 32 and 35 in soccer years.

    “Heck even Oguchi Onyewu will be only 32 at the next World Cup–probably don’t want to rule out a two-time World Cup vet at a key quarterback position just yet.”

    I will gladly take any bet of any amount you want to wager that Gooch is not going to be an effective starter for us in 2014.

    “I’ll agree with you US Soccer–and a follow-up is coming here at TSG–needs an overhaul. The Gold Cup with the financially and experientially lucrative Confederations Cup on the line is not the place for that big mechanic’s job.”

    On the first part, I agree with you and Bill. On the second part, I agree with you.

    In summary, enjoyed your article and am really happy to have found this site. Thanks for all you’re doing for the US Soccer-discussing community.

    I didn’t have the visceral anti-Barnwell reaction that some did. I think some of his points are dead-on, and I think some of your points are dead-on.

    I think I’m more glad to see a potentially-influencial sporting site like Grantland taking up the cause for American soccer at all than I’m offended by any differing opinions its writers may have.

    More Americans arguing about soccer online is a good thing, in my opinion, and I’m thankful to both Barnwell and you for your efforts in making that happen.


    • Posted by dth on 2011/06/30 at 2:14 PM

      He tried to bring Gatt in, but Ole Gunnar Skoljaer pulled a Timmy-Chandler-at-Nurnberg on Bradley (with perhaps more effectiveness since Gatt was actually in season.) Honestly, I’m not exactly sure why Bradley wanted to bring Gatt in–he’s certainly not now one of the best 23 American-eligible players, and seems to be doing well *for a young guy* in Norway.

      Chances are he wanted Gatt because Gatt is soccer fast, can play on either side as a winger, and has a very aggressive soccer personality. (Ideally, Gatt will provide the answer to the hypothetical I’ve posed for a while: what if Robbie Rogers were naturally aggressive a la Clint Dempsey) On the other hand, Gatt is raw, and in a perfect demonstration of the cluelessness of many American soccer coaches, claims he was never taught how to shoot.


      • Posted by Tux on 2011/06/30 at 3:44 PM

        See my comment above (http://theshinguardian.com/2011/06/30/op-ed-stick-to-snark-not-soccer-grantland/#comment-37045), but sadly that doesn’t surprise me at all.


      • Posted by Steve Trittschuh on 2011/06/30 at 6:04 PM

        I would have liked to see Gatt, I don’t care how raw he is. He’s starting for the top team in Norway at a new position. He obviously has some good qualities.

        And lets be honest here, Mexico is a faster team overall than us. We needed speed in the final game and we couldn’t find it. Donovan has lost a step and our forwards do not make good off-the-ball runs. Width was also lacking. Gatt could have definitely contributed. And I’d bet $100 he’s going to be in (at least) the 23 man pool for the next World Cup.


        • Posted by Ufficio on 2011/06/30 at 9:36 PM

          He gained that starting spot during the Gold Cup. I wouldn’t really have a problem with him getting a call, especially over some of the guys that were called in, but not at the expense of club experience at this stage in his career.


  10. Posted by chazcar2 on 2011/06/30 at 12:21 PM

    I actually think Barnwell completely missed the boat on “developing youth” disappointment. There is a tournment this year for youth development that the US isn’t at, U-23 World cup. To me that is the real disappointment.

    Oh that and Jermaine Jones. Seriously I get that if he was in South Africa we would have been a better team. But why bring him in now? He hadn’t looked great in any of the friendlies. He was loaned out by his champions league team. He has a history of iffy effort and poor yellow cards. He had minimal “international” experience. He hadn’t really played with any of our team before. Those are the reasons to complain about Jones. That, and the fact he will be 32 at the next world cup and we already will have Landon and Dempsey to be our older vets.


  11. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/06/30 at 1:35 PM

    I agree. Bradley was tasked to win the GC, so you use the best players available regardless of age. Now that’s over, you look to WCQ and 2014. It really is a tough balancing act to give youth its chance whilst maintaining results and picking up points. For example, can the back four cope with Bocanegra and Cherundolo? All good saying that they’re going to be X in 2014, but you need to qualify first.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/06/30 at 2:12 PM

        2014? Remember “Vision 2010” or whatever it was called set back in ’98?

        What’s the point of setting objectives if they’re very unrealistic? One thing if you wre consistently getting to the QFs or SFs…


        • Posted by dth on 2011/06/30 at 2:40 PM

          Project 2010.

          The argument for setting unrealistic goals is that they focus the mind. The canonical example is Kennedy setting a goal of man landing on the moon. Setting a goal like winning the World Cup–or something like eradicating poverty–is a problematic goal to set because it involves not just mobilizing unprecedented resources but an active cultural shift (whereas the structure to make it to the moon can just be built out of nothing). At any rate, while Project 2010 didn’t actually succeed at its goals (creating a consistent, realistic contender for the World Cup by 2010), US Soccer is in much better shape in every sense than it was in 1998. Not as good as it should be,* with some worrying stuff for the future–but those are different concerns.

          * (when compared to peer nations Japan and Australia. Japan is doing much better than we are. We’re better than Australia, but that just could be because our “golden” generation is aging but not yet aged while their “golden” generation is basically expired.)


          • Posted by Alex on 2011/06/30 at 3:53 PM

            Japan is also decades ahead of us in their domestic league development and have had serious academy programs from the start, despite only starting in 1992. As well, there are nationalistic links between Japan and Brazil that bring a lot of young Brazilians to the country today, and indeed, many Brazilian players, including Zico, played in the J-League when it started up and later coached there. Soccer is also a national passion in Japan, which undoubtedly makes it more likely to grow than in countries like ours and Australia, where soccer is not top dog.

            Basically, Australia and the US are peers, with Japan just a class above, in terms of being soccer nations. However, we haven’t really even had players in the class of Australia’s golden generation in our own.


            • Posted by dth on 2011/06/30 at 3:58 PM

              Japan decades ahead of us? Not really. The J-League started around the same time as the MLS, and had growing pains like the MLS; I find it hard to believe that some magic application of time will allow the MLS to catch up to the J-League from a talent development basis.

              The J-League made better choices than the MLS early on, and later on, and only now are the MLS teams beginning to make something resembling good choices, and only some teams are.

            • Posted by dth on 2011/06/30 at 4:00 PM

              To be clear: the league before the J-League in Japan was a strictly amateur one, and Japan’s national team was a doormat–in fact, their first World Cup was 1998. Again, the difference between Japan and us is that Japan made better choices.

            • Posted by Alex on 2011/06/30 at 4:13 PM

              Yes, Japan is decades ahead of us – they started their domestic club developmental systems at outset in 92 (actually 1993, my mistake), we don’t have it until circa 2010.

              I don’t see how you don’t pick up on anything I said unless you stop reading back the first independent clause of my comment? Of course, the league faced the same growing pains as ours, and they did have to compete with other sports, but Japan did make better choices at the outset and their league and players developed exponentially better than ours, setting themselves up to be decades ahead of us in their soccer development. As I said.

              Australia and the US are comparable in many respects, and I stand by my statement that they are a class below Japan at this point. MLS completely hampered US development by not developing domestic talent, instead relying on foreign players at the outset. We are just now realizing our error, and thus, we are well behind Japan. I also stand by my point that the “golden generation” of Australia may have been better than ours, which reached maturity at the 2010 WC. Australia’s in 2006.

            • Posted by Alex on 2011/06/30 at 4:17 PM

              I suppose maybe you think I am literal in saying Japan is decades ahead in their domestic development set up – no, I mean they they had it right at the start, in 92-93, and we are only just figuring it out with the MLS DA setups (which still aren’t nearly where they need to be) and trying to push through domestic young talent rather than aged foreigners. Japan brought in their Brazilians, but they had academies at the outset. They got the jump on us, and have almost 2 decades worth of developmental club experience to our 2 or so years. That’s what I meant. And that’s really been the difference when it comes to why Japan are now producing players of a different quality than ours.

            • Posted by dth on 2011/06/30 at 4:20 PM

              “domestic club development” is a vague clause, and I misunderstood it. My apologies. I think we agree after all.

            • Posted by Jared on 2011/07/01 at 4:30 AM

              Japan has also been unafraid to bring in high profile foreign coaches and allow them freedom with the national team. US Soccer refuses to allow foreign coaches to do that and so continues to stick with mediocre American coaches.

              The way the Japanese have gone about developing players and their league is something that Don Garber should be over there for months figuring out. They did much more correctly than MLS/US Soccer and we should be trying to learn from them.

            • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/07/01 at 7:00 AM

              In group play in the U17s WC, the US could only draw against NZ. Japan just beat NZ 6-0 in the last 16. I know it is just one game, but…

            • Posted by dth on 2011/07/01 at 8:43 AM

              Weirdly enough, George, a MLS academy team absolutely destroyed New Zealand’s u-17 team (it was RSL’s Arizona academy)*

              * (the score was 3-2, but apparently the two goals were garbage time stuff.)

              The lesson here is either that youth tournament results are incredibly unpredictable, or that RSL-AZ is a far superior operation than Bradenton.

            • Posted by Jared on 2011/07/01 at 9:14 AM

              I’m going to go with RSL-AZ as a far superior organization than Bradenton and a touch of the youth games being unpredictable.

  12. Just wanted to say, that I am grateful for all the input I read on this site. I learn a great deal from most of the posts. I believe that I am addicted to TSG, and therefore the USMNT.

    Keep up the good articles/discussions.


  13. Posted by kaya on 2011/06/30 at 1:57 PM

    I’d never even heard of Grantland before this… Is it really that important of a publication to get a conniption over their take on the problems with the MNT? This is Bill Simmons (and friends) we’re talking about, so I’m hardly shocked to hear things soccer related coming from him that make little sense.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/06/30 at 2:32 PM

      I wrote the piece more because the author makes sweeping claims–sans facts–on a site that is probably likely to get the casual soccer fan interested.

      Now you’ve probably got a bunch of folks out there who will just reiterate what Barnwell said as truth because a) it’s easier and better ratings to complain in feature writing and b) because they won’t really look into anything else.

      To me, it’s a very irresponsible piece that is actually quite terribly written from leading with the stated goal of “Winning the World Cup” and somehow invoking the three-week Gold Cup as a critical and necessary developmental step for a number of players who may or may not be starters in 2014.

      A lot to harangue US soccer on and we’ll have follow up here that’s not quite as nice on USSF, but the Gold Cup isn’t one of them.

      I’m not apologizing for Bradley, but one could argue that he fielded a US B+ team for the bulk of the final as Holden, Feilhaber, Altidore, Cherundolo, and Chandler weren’t on the pitch–yes, I know same can be said of Mex losing players on its backline.


      • Posted by Crow on 2011/06/30 at 5:41 PM

        Exactly! Thank you. Bill Simmons has ALOT of fans and this will be their education to soccer. I usually like Bill Simmons, but he’s in charge of this new site, so he should keep a closer eye on some of these articles that go up on the site.

        The guy from HIPSTER RUNOFF (that was a huge WTF moment when I saw he had written it- I tried reading the article in my head in the most monotone voice I could) had a more intersting article.

        The article I really hated wasn’t on Grantland but was on ESPN.com itself- Scoop Jackson’s piece of trash ripping Tim Howard yet not once mentioning how 80,000+ fans chanted “puta” and worse (hateful mixed race insults, etc.) everytime he had a goalkick. Some of these ESPN writers need to go back to doing what they do best- writing about how LeBron is even greater than Jesus Christ.


    • Posted by Tux on 2011/06/30 at 3:49 PM

      In fairness, Simmons freely admits that he doesn’t know soccer well, but he’s not a complete idiot about the sport. However, he does have a tendency to rate soccer players in terms of athletic ability (see: Jozy and Gooch) rather than in terms of skills and tactics.


      • Posted by dth on 2011/06/30 at 3:56 PM

        Hmm…on the other hand, he called Blanco “magic” and moved like “South Park animators created him” and thought Miroslav Klose could fall off his wheelchair in an old age home and find the goal. I think the Altidore thing–back in 2009–was part naivete about the game.

        Barnwell’s piece is just dumb, and given his tossed-out idea of Marvell Wynne on Twitter, and this too (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=14385&mode=print&nocache=1309287241), I’m inclined to believe he’s just not very smart.


        • Posted by Steve Trittschuh on 2011/06/30 at 6:11 PM

          I think he some good points in the column referenced. Although they’re not new, they’re not stated nearly enough. I too think it was a little ridiculous that Bocanegra, Jones and Cherundolo were starting nearly every match although they’re almost certainly not going to be in the picture next World Cup.

          We could have replaced them with players who are almost as good at their respective positions and who would have developing and gained valuable international exposure from the whole tournament. Instead they got housed by a more passionate, young and energetic Mexico team.


          • Posted by Jared on 2011/07/01 at 4:35 AM

            Who could we have replaced them with that are nearly as good especially Bocanegra? Bradley tried to introduce Ream into Boca’s center back spot and it failed.

            The problem wasn’t the energy of Mexico it was that they have the ability to produce skill at speed. We could have fielded a younger group of players out there including an Omar Gonzalez and Maurice Edu but I don’t see that result being any different. The Mexican team is more skilled and at this point is better coached. They finally have a coach who has been able to harness their aggression into attacking rather than just kicking the crap out of the Americans.


        • Posted by Alex on 2011/07/01 at 6:57 AM

          “A few weeks ago, Grantland published Bill Barnwell’s guide to the new Moneyball, which was mostly a rehash of the old Moneyball alongside some factual errors.” I lolled.


  14. Posted by Brannon on 2011/06/30 at 2:39 PM

    Fantastic article and I will be sure to come back to this site. Far too often on other sites one gets lots of the extremes in the way of opinions on US Soccer. From the fluff (foxsports.com) and the overreactionary (espn.com). I could give names, but why bother. There was a time when foxsports had a writer who was brutal at times about US soccer, but was spot on in his critique/praises/criticisms of US Soccer. They no longer have him writing about US Soccer anymore. Which is really a shame.

    To me, the real question is this: Is the US better now than they were 5 years ago when Bradley took over? No, if not have potentially gotten worse. I could write something on this. But alas, that is an article for another day in which I look forward to reading on this site and commenting on.

    Well done and be well.


  15. Posted by TonyM on 2011/06/30 at 2:56 PM

    I still agree with his argument that everything prior to the World Cup is just the means to the end outcome you hope to achieve.

    The Confed Cup is great, but hardly a precursor to WC glory. Take the finalists in the Confed-Brazil and the US. Both had disappointing WC runs (losing to Ghana IS disappointing).

    Now back to the Gold Cup, are Bocanegra and Cherundolo our answers for 2014 in Brazil? If the answer is not a firm yes, then why not give someone else an opportunity-we already know what both of those can provide.

    Now we won’t have any real tests left until the Hex phase of qualifying to figure these kinds of things out.


    • Posted by Alex Song on 2011/06/30 at 4:00 PM

      Ghana has more talent than the US. Even without Essien, they’ve got Vorsah, Mensah, Gyan, Boateng, Muntari, and several other players making an impact at big clubs. They were much more athletic than us, which is part of the reason why our D got torched for a couple goals.

      That game was a coin flip at best. I don’t think we had any right to expect a win, but I agree that it was disappointing, if only because all the stars had aligned and the path to the semis seemed so easy.


      • Posted by dth on 2011/06/30 at 4:03 PM

        To be honest, the disappointment of the World Cup loss lessens every day with hindsight. U.S. players had nice club seasons but are stagnating in their national team due to poor coaching. On the other hand Ghanaian and Uruguayan players are kicking ass for both club and country. And to be honest they were always this good.


  16. Posted by Steve Trittschuh on 2011/06/30 at 5:55 PM

    Sounds like someone is a little jealous at all the attention Barnwell is getting.


  17. Posted by Crow on 2011/06/30 at 6:32 PM

    The loss to Mexico was devastating. I dislike that team even more than the Miami Heat, and I am not even going to get started again about what the atmosphere was like at the Rose Bowl. Marquez classy to the end, doing 6 rolls after getting tapped on the leg by Donovan, etc. etc.

    It was nauseating watching the game on TV (on my DVR). I love how everyone was gushing about dos Santos’ goal being the best of all time. Wasn’t Deuce’s chip vs. Juventus alot better? There was actually a goalie in the net for that one. Watching Bornstein WALK (a few yards from Dos Santos but never challenge the ball) the entire play, Bradley and Jones run everywhere but at Dos Santos, and Boca’s slow reaction (at least he tried) was embarrassing. Also, at the game I missed how easy Mexico’s 1st goal was. Bradley was caught so far up field, and Bornstein….. I’ll stop there. And of course Tim Howard had to have one of his “nervy” games. But Tim has done so much for this team that he is allowed to have a bad night. Just bad timing.

    A few things I noticed on other posts that I thought I’d offer some insight on- there was no way Cherundolo could have played. it’s amazing the work he did to earn the corner Bradley scored on. He was wrapped up very heavy at halftime and was limping badly, although he gave us a thumbs up. I’m afraid that might be ‘Dolo’s last game for the National Team.

    I said at the game that Michael Bradley (and I’m not a Michael Bradley hater) was the worst player on the field, other than Bornstein. And Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones having big games was more important than pretty much anyone else on the USA team. I know Bradley was probably fatigued, but he has lost something since the World Cup. I’m sorry but I truly believe that Stuart Holden will help this team immensely, along with guys like Chandler and Gatt hopefully soon.

    With everything being said, and even though I think that Bradley should go because this team is going nowhere with him since the World Cup- I still think things look bright for 2014. I see a talented young midfield and attacking corps developing. I am very worried about central defense still, but I think the 2014 team under the right tutelage can certainly get out of the Group stage and possibly even more. I don’t agree with people who believe that this is the beginning of the Dark Ages for the National Team.


  18. […] over at The Shin Guardian decided to do a rebuttal article to Grantland.com’s Bill Barnwell.  Barnwell wrote an article blasting US Soccer/Bob Bradley […]


  19. Posted by jb on 2011/07/01 at 6:56 AM

    I’d like to thank TSG for the great work in setting up such a great forum for soccer fans and the posters for great discussions. True change of the coaching culture in American soccer at the youth level is the biggest challenge for the USA. So all you guys get out and help coach your kid’s team or the local travel team. I’ve met few youth coaches with the knowledge of the writers/posters here. Have a great summer!


  20. Posted by John Henry on 2011/07/01 at 7:12 AM

    I’m with dth on this one. The most asinine part of his article is the notion that everything else is nothing but a means to eventually winning the World Cup. What nonsense! As if other trophies and tournaments are only valued in reference to how they prepare a team for the World Cup?

    I think the (seemingly) American (I am one) obsession with the World Cup is both misplaced and delusional. As pointed out above, the USA is decades away from winning it, and that’s based purely on the potential of our massive population and excellent athletes in other endeavors, not in soccer. Our best players play for Fulham and the LA Galaxy. Win the World Cup? Come on… when the team has players based at Inter, Milan, Barca, Madrid, Manchester, Bayern, then we can hope.

    The goal of the Stars and Stripes should be to win as many quality trophies as they can. And winning the Gold Cup is a perfectly good end in itself. In fact, it’s the biggest realistic trophy the team can win, and therefore, Bradley’s efforts should be focused on winning the Gold Cup most of all. It is his confederation’s most important trophy.

    Saying the USA’s goal is to win the WC is like saying the goal for Fulham is to win the premier league. Yeah right…
    and if they had won the Europa League (which everyone else scoffs at, like the Gold Cup), it would have been the most glorious day in their entire history.


    • Posted by Martin on 2011/07/02 at 1:24 PM

      I suppose that depends on who your audience is.

      The casual US soccer fan, who it seems to me the USSF is really concerned about courting, is ignorant about Copa America, The Gold Cup or the Confederations Cup. And the only two things we can win before the 2014 World Cup is the next Gold Cup, which will probably feature watered down teams from most of the participants or the Olympics where we are unlikely to be able to send our full squad.

      One of the US’ deficits is it’s on a four year cycle in terms of major trophies unlike, for example, Italy which is on a two year cycle having the Euros between the World Cups. It keeps teams like Italy sharp.

      If the US were to win the next Gold Cup and the Olympics that would be good but I have a hard time thinking that would win you a lot of credit with hard core fans. I can see the chant’s now

      ”We’re the Fulham of the international world.!”

      Hardly a stirring battle cry. But I suppose any publicity is good publicity.


  21. Posted by Crow on 2011/07/01 at 12:24 PM

    I just want one article describing the actions of some/large number of Mexican fans at the Rose Bowl and at Azteca. ESPN Magazine just had a large article about how great the Mexican fans are but didn’t mention anything about racist/vulgar chants and threatening/violent behavior that goes on at alot of games they attend. I have never seen the same issues when the USA has played other Central American countries or South American countries. And before people jump on me, I know many Mexican fans don’t act this way- BUT there is a large amount that are and that constitutes a problem.


  22. Posted by dth on 2011/07/01 at 6:52 PM

    Speaking of Bradley…interesting that Clint Dempsey would be the one to vocally support him: http://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/news?slug=ro-rogers_bradley_dempsey_support_070111

    I figured Bradley and Dempsey were on cautious terms, though maybe that’s just my memory of 2009 lingering too long.


    • Posted by Crow on 2011/07/01 at 9:24 PM

      In an interview not long ago I remember Deuce saying that he really appreciated Bob Bradley because he was the one coach that “really believed in him” and “had confidence in him to do his thing”. I think their relationship changed dramatically during the 2009 Confed Cup when Bradley had a private meeting with him asking Deuce what kind of freedom he needed to succeed for the National Team. Deuce has played at another level for the National Team since then consistently. I know Deuce made a comment saying it is tiring continually having to prove himself to new coaches at Fulham. I still want Bradley to go, but I guess one good thing about Bradley staying if he does is that Deuce will be happy.


    • Posted by Steve Trittschuh on 2011/07/01 at 9:33 PM

      It’s a definite vote of confidence when the undisputed best player on the team voices his support for the coach. Deuce may well have saved his job. I definitely feel like there are some people at USSF who want him gone.


  23. Posted by Tabare on 2011/07/02 at 6:37 PM


    “The bigger problem as could not be more clearer after the Gold Cup is the continued desire by Bradley to employ his son Michael in the creative midfielder role.”

    Yes. Quite.

    This insight touches one of the *biggest* stories in US soccer.

    (One of the biggest short term stories. Longer term stories center on how players develop, the state of youth and professional leagues, the governance of US soccer, whether we will escape the pernicious influence of Anglophilia in soccer, and so on.)

    Please follow up on this.

    Michael Bradley is a fine player. But Bradley simply does not possess the talents that are required for a creative midfield role. Touch, vision, composure on the ball — for a creative central midfielder he is deficient in all these areas.

    Again, a good player. Just not the player for that role…


  24. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/07/05 at 3:30 AM

    If Mexico just competed in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, how are they also included in the CONMEBOL Copa America?

    How / why are they in two confederations?


    • Posted by Jared on 2011/07/05 at 6:29 AM

      They aren’t in 2 confeds. Due to the fact that CONMEBOL only has 10 teams the invite 2 teams to play in Copa America. It was supposed to be Mexico and japan but Japan dropped out and were replaced by Costa Rica. Mexico sent a mostly U-23 team similar to the Olympic team to Copa America. If Mexico or Costa Rica were to win the Copa America then the runner up (assuming it wasn’t Mexico or Costa Rica) would go to the Confederations Cup as the CONMEBOL representative.


  25. […] required to get club pros harvested from all over the world to play as a cohesive unit? Will changing the jet engine midflight take us to new heights, or send us spiraling down to […]


  26. […]  http://theshinguardian.com/2011/06/30/op-ed-stick-to-snark-not-soccer-grantland/This one’s from about a week ago; The Shin Guardian’s reply to an article by Bill Barnwell. […]


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