The conversations about the USMNT haven’t stopped even though it’s been nearly a week since the 2014 World Cup ended. For those of us who love seeing the progression of the sport here in the USA, this is a good thing. It’s nice to see people show genuine interest in what Klinsmann and the boys should do to prepare for their 2018 Russia Campaign.
Although the World Cup ended with mostly the favorites in the mix for the title, it doesn’t take away from the fact that teams like Costa Rica, Mexico and of course, The USA left their mark on the 2014 tournament and provided a much better than expected outing for CONCACAF.
Although I am a huge soccer fan, I don’t have all the answers to why CONCACAF had a breakout year in relative terms. However, the few things I did notice – at least to my eye – had to do with a more straight forward, blue collar take on the game. It wasn’t always about flash (although there were some spectacular moments from each team) or about star players, but more about teams who gritted out each match. And I don’t mean “gritted out” in the sense of “hung on by their fingertips”, I mean they came out to play hard working soccer and it seemed to work quite alright for them.
It’s understandable for most people to come to the conclusion that adding some flash to that blue collar style might be the answer to an even more successful outing in 2018. That said, I can’t help, but wonder what would happen if instead, we added more blue collar style players? You know the type? Mike Magee, Jack Jewsbury, Conor Casey (who has had some success in a USA kit), Lamar Neagle, you get the picture. Now I do understand that those players I just mentioned – with the exception of Lamar Neagle – will all be in their mid-30’s by the time 2018 rolls around and they are unlikely to ever see an appearance with the USMNT for the remainder of their careers, but I do feel players with their style could have a place in future World Cup tournaments.
Of course when you think Seattle Sounders, you think, Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, but take a look at a good portion of goals scored by either of those two and more than likely you will see Lamar Neagle played some part in the buildup and it is worth mentioning that he has also come through with his own clutch goals on a number of occasions. Mike Magee’s record speaks for itself and I think it’s safe to say that he might be one of the more missed guys in Los Angeles and now one of the more beloved guys in Chicago. Both Jack Jewsbury and Conor Casey will forever impress me with their work ethic and how they continue to contribute to their squads even when they are all, but forgotten about by analysts and experts.
We’ve seen Brazil abandon their “Samba Style” and we’ve seen a unit like Germany dominate. Although Germany does possess some flash, the secret to their success – in my opinion – rests in the fact that they are 100% a hard working team. Every part of Die Mannschaft is running on all cylinders throughout each match and although not all their goals may be highlight reel worthy, they score a bunch of them. I understand that each player on the team is at a higher skill level than the MLS players I mentioned above, but I feel like the blue print is similar. I know it’s called “The Beautiful Game” for a reason, but I feel like I am starting to see a grittier beauty become much more effective over time.
The MLS still has a ways to go before it gains worldly respect, but it played one of its bigger parts in this year’s World Cup and I imagine it is likely that this trend will continue. Personally I think it would be exciting to see a guy like Lamar Neagle get a chance to at least show his stuff in a tournament like The CONCACAF Gold Cup and see what happens from there. I am doubtful guys like him are even a tiny blip on the radar right now, but I am optimistic the result would be a satisfying one if we gave hard working players a chance to prove themselves a little more often.Which lesser known players would you like to see get a shot?