How do I feel about the final 23 footballers that Jurgen Klinsmann has announced for his 2014 World Cup squad? It’s hard to explain how I feel actually. It’s a mixture of being shocked, sad and confused.
What am I shocked about? The fact that Klinsmann is sending three players (Green, Johannsson and Yedlin) whose ages added together could barely get a beer in Amsterdam (that was an obvious exaggeration just to be clear) in place of experienced players who helped us win last year’s Gold Cup, as well as helped us qualify for this tournament. Klinsmann won’t be that involved with our Olympic squad in 2016 (if he is at all), but talk is that he hopes to get the youngsters experience for the upcoming Olympics and although Johannsson doesn’t fall into that age category, Green and Yedlin fit just perfect. I am all for giving the youth a chance to show their stuff and I would love for them to be better prepared for not only the Olympics, but also the next World Cup. However, with that said, THIS World Cup is a big deal just as every single one should be and I don’t care how big of an underdog we or any team is, the fact that anyone in camp is even talking about future tournaments before this one even starts is a huge red flag in my opinion.
Why am I sad? Brad Evans doesn’t make the squad? Really? Our hero in Jamaica? Call me a homer being from Seattle, I can take it, but allow me to clarify. I don’t believe Yedlin (who isn’t just a Sounder, but also a hometown boy here in Seattle) should have made the roster whether it was in place of Evans or not. I love Yedlin and I think that he is beyond gifted and a joy to watch going forward, but does he have what it takes to defend the world’s best? Good Gosh, no. Speed is one thing, but from what I have seen (since the early days of his career) is a player who still has a lot to learn about defensive positioning. I would love to see what he could do at midfield, but whether it has to do with both his club team and national team having (relatively) stacked midfields or the fact that the coaches see things completely different than me (I mean they do get paid….so yeah there’s that) that doesn’t look to be happening any time soon. So yes, although the part of me that loves Yedlin is very happy for his success, I am very sad for Brad Evans. Personally I find his snub to be the worst.
The fact that the majority of fans on the web are responding as if this announcement is only about Landon Donovan being left out confuses me. I am the first to hand out due respect to the most prolific goal scorer in USMNT history when anyone puts him down, but when it comes to making this squad, we had to all know this was a possibility. His recent lackadaisical attitude mixed with his questionable fitness level should have prepared all of us for his absence from the roster. Chris Wondolowski’s recent hot streak did nothing to help Donovan’s case either.
I have never been all in with Klinsmann. At times he has surprised me (I hope this becomes one of those times), but for the most part, I have never been able to get on board with a guy who has never once come close to saying he believed this team was capable of much more than a trip to the Round of 16. Although this team does feature 10 MLS players, his constant criticism of the league and his way of showing his disappointment publicly every time an American player made the move from Europe back to the MLS only proved to me what I feared from the start. A foreign coach will never take American soccer seriously. The fact that every German/American player called up to camp made the final 23 besides Terrence Boyd (American, born in Germany), to me feels like he’s rubbing it in more and more – whether subconscious or not – that he has never fully believed in the concept of soccer making it in the United States.
Trash the MLS all you want, but getting consistent play time in a league that at the very least can be considered significantly competitive is modestly on par with Julian Green’s third division German soccer experience, Jozy Altidore being benched for a good portion of Sunderland’s nearly nightmare season, Mikkel Diskerud playing for a Norwegian League, you get the idea.
When asked if he thought the USA had a shot at the World Cup this year, Klinsmann all, but said “not a fat chance”. Some may call him a realist for that, but with that sort of “realistic” approach, the Boston Red Sox would have never overcome a three game deficit to beat the New York Yankees in the 2004 AL Championship, the 1972 Miami Dolphins wouldn’t have gone undefeated and Herb Brooks definitely wouldn’t have coached his group of American kids to the Miracle on Ice. Soccer just like any sport, hangs out in that special place of reality where magic can happen. If we only went by what the realistic outcome should be, there would be no reason to play each game.
In summary, what I am trying to say is that this final roster doesn’t prove my initial worries wrong. In many different ways it feels like Klinsmann is tearing away the strides we’ve made with the sport in this country by showing little faith in the grit and heart that our players have to offer. I sincerely hope this was a giant waste of nearly a thousand words and I hope that I am terribly, TERRIBLY off base. We will find that out very soon. No matter how disappointed I am in Klinsmann though, I still can’t wait to cheer my Yanks on and for as long as I live, I believe that we will win.