It was an unfair and disappointing ending to the USMNT's 2014 this week against Ireland. The result wasn't unfair; Ireland's Goalkeeper, Shay Given put on a keeping clinic, especially during the second half and the so called Irish "B Team" looked like sharks at a feeding frenzy against an American side that was sloppy to say the very least. Consistent performers from the past few years like Geoff Cameron looked silly turning the ball over often and American keeper, Bill Hamid struggled after an amazing MLS Season with DC United. The 4-1 result wasn't unfair, but it's unfair that a season that made leaps and bound or so it felt, ended in such an ugly way.
I am still not sold on Klinsmann. There were times when I thought I was on board during the World Cup and other times where I feel like we are being scolded by him for being American. I know this isn't a popular opinion, but his constant bashing of the MLS really rubbed me the wrong way as someone who has been a supporter of domestic leagues since I was a kid. Given the fact that he would then turn around and do something like...gee I don't know....adding an NASL prodigy to the squad for a friendly almost made me wonder if his strong opinions against the MLS were just part of some maniacal plan even if I had no clue whatsoever what that plan might actually be.
I still believe the decision to leave Donovan off the World Cup squad was a bad one, we could have used his natural ability and ability to perform in clutch situations in matches like the one against Germany and of course Belgium. However, that said, I did love the team that Klinsmann put together for the reason that it felt like a brand new start for a country that is slowly starting to grow up in the world of soccer. I loved Klinsmann's cheeky attitude throughout the tournament and the fact that at times it seemed he started to turn a little more Red, White and Blue than he was before the tournament when he famously said "we can't win the World Cup".
The game against Ghana felt like a dark cloud had been lifted. I remember being in traffic headed down to Seattle for a viewing party when I heard Ian Darke blare over my iPhone that Dempsey had scored just seconds into the match. I then remember the crash back to reality when Ghana tied the match, but that only made Brooks' goal and his reaction of disbelief even more goosebump inducing. Remembering it right now is bringing the goosebumps back all over again.
Even though we didn't win another game in the tournament after that, I still felt like the matches against Portugal, Germany and Belgium still had so many positives. We hung in there with teams that made up the "Group of Death" and then we advanced. Nobody really believed we could and then we did. Crowds came out in the masses for each match and for those couple months in the summer, soccer was American.
After the World Cup, came the match against Slovenia during a somewhat tumultuous time for the opposing team. Klinsmann sent a bunch of youngsters and most everyone - including myself - felt like it was a disaster waiting to happen. To my surprise, it was actually one of the more exciting matches I had seen the USA play. Not because we particularly dominated, but because we beat a European team somewhat on the rise on European soil and our group of kids played a spirited match without most of the veterans. That match was a perfect companion to the World Cup in my opinion, because it started to solidify my belief in Klinsmann and that maybe there was a method to his madness.
Then came the match against Ecuador, the final game for the USA's all time leading goal scorer, Landon Donovan. Klinsmann and Donovan put disagreements aside so that arguably the best American soccer player that we have seen got to have his last dance in Red, White and Blue. It was one of the few times that we saw some emotion out of the often dry Donovan and although the game ended in a 1-1 draw, it was an exciting one all things considered and I continued to believe that the USA was headed in the right direction.
After that, I felt like a bit of the negativity that was going around pre-World Cup started to creep back in as Klinsmann once again belittled the MLS and evoked a strong reaction from MLS Commissioner, Don Garber. Again, I know this isn't a popular opinion, but I fully supported Garber's reaction and if you would like to know why, there are a few posts from me that I wrote earlier in the year that explain why I feel the USA needs to do soccer our way. The promotion/relegation reared it's terribly ugly head again, talk of doing away with the salary cap did as well and personally it grew tiring for me.
I am not saying that negativity was the reason that the final two games of the season turned out the way they did. A lot of that has to do with trying out new players and also respecting the MLS Playoffs that are currently happening as well, but I do feel like the results combined with Klinsmann constantly reminding us of his opinions on domestic soccer in the USA ended 2014 in an unfair and disappointing way.
Believe it or not, I am an optimist and I am just as excited as anyone about the Gold Cup this year. I guess what it all boils down to is that I feel like a large amount of steam that we had built up for the sport in this country did dwindle out as the year ended and in some ways we are back at square one or at least back to pre-World Cup. Maybe that was inevitable, I don't know, time will only tell.
On the bright side, we have a lot of fun young players to watch in 2015 including DeAndre Yedlin and Mix Diskerud and if we can have a good showing in the Gold Cup, I have faith that momentum will build once again. I just hope that we can keep it going next year.
No matter what, as always I Believe That We Will Win.
Here's to more memories in 2015.