Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tired of talking to a wall: Trecker Article

I think I know why the US soccer program is having its problems. It really has nothing to do with the soccer, it has everything to do with the tunnel vision that those who cover soccer have. The main tunnel vision is about things that are done by the USSF and MLS. One of those main people is Jaime Trecker, lead sports writer for Fox Soccer.

Trecker has posted an article that seems straight out of a Big Soccer posting. Go check it out, I half expected to see a Big Soccer handle instead of his name.

Trecker is basically asserts that in saying that the CONCACAF Gold Cup is their primary focus this summer, the USSF is focused on the wrong tournament. He feels that the Copa America should be where the USMNT sends its better players and that a group of MLS players should be used in the Gold Cup. He says this because he wants us to win the Copa America, a tournament that he himself says we cannot win.

Trecker is using a very, very short sighted view on these two tournaments, the same way most of the posters on Big Soccer have done. “We should go guns blazing into the Copa,” or “Who cares about the Gold Cup, we gotta win the Copa and get our respect back.” Those are two of the more popular types of posts on this topic in Big Soccer and pretty much fall in the same line with Trecker’s article. In my humble opinion, both are wrong.

The USSF and Bob Bradley are not simply focused on the next year, but they are looking towards 2010. The next World Cup is what the focus for the collective minds of those who will be choosing the players for both tournaments and with that in mind, I feel that they have a pretty good and clear plan that is in operation. Sure they should give Bradley the job full time and really begin to schedule more away matches, but those two issues aside, their decision to send a stronger side to the Gold Cup is a better choice.

Look at it from this point of view.

This year’s Gold Cup is the qualifiers for the Confederations Cup in 2009. Considering that the 2010 World Cup is set for South Africa, some place that the USA has never played in and should offer a chance to face teams like France, Italy, Brazil, Nigeria and so on, it is a very good tournament for the USA to get to take part in. So if all we need to do is win our regional tournament, our weak regional tournament, we get a chance to play in a tournament that will take place in the World Cup host stadiums and face some of the better nations in FIFA. Why wouldn’t we want to do everything imaginable to ensure that the USMNT gets the CONCACAF berth in the 2009 Confederations Cup?

The Copa America is an experience unlike many other. It is also a similar type of environment to the one that the USMNT faces when it travels to Central America and Mexico for World Cup Qualification matches. Doesn’t it seem that the 2007 Copa America would be the perfect chance to get guys like Bornstein, Boswell, Cannon, Clark, Rolfe, Mapp, DeMerit, Feilhaber, Wynne, Bradley and others who have never traveled for a national team match outside of the USA, a chance to cut their teeth on what that environment is like? This won’t even really cost the USSF anything because if they perform poorly, then we still get a chance to get new guys in for the World Cup qualifying. If they buckle under pressure in World Cup qualifying, where would we be then?

This is why the Copa America should be used this year, as a chance for the newer guys, those who haven’t had bags of urine or batteries thrown at them, to see how football in the rest of the world is, especially in conditions similar to CONCACAF World Cup qualification situations. How will the new guys, the young guys who should be getting ready to carry the torch, get any proper experience by playing in the Gold Cup? Further more, if you win the Gold Cup, we can send a similar type team to the Confederations Cup, which gives them even more of a crash course in the international game.

If the USSF is going to replace the guys who really carried the National team from the Wynalda’s the Meola’s and the Harkes’; we are going to have to start getting them to grow up faster. Replacing Reyna and Pope and McBride with Bradley, Feilhaber, Bornstein & Cooper will take some time. Sending them into the Gold Cup won’t give them the chance to experience the most unique of environments that the Copa America is. It really won’t give them the chance to “sink or swim.”

Until the soccer media in the USA begin to realize that the years between each World Cup and the start of the next Qualification process are best used to season the new players, the situation in our country with our national team will continue to be one of a lesser sport. We really shouldn’t be that worried with how we do in the Copa America, because just playing against Columbia in South America will be the type of thing that gets us closer to beating Mexico in Azteca during World Cup qualifying. Playing Cuba in Giants Stadium won’t. Playing against Italy in Cape Town in 2009 will give us a better chance at beating Spain in Pretoria in 2010.

Jaime, look at the big picture. See how not sending the USMNT players who are experienced to the Copa America will increase the chances that the performance of our national team in 2006 won’t happen again. How else are we going to truly get to a full pool of players without throwing some of our guys off the deep end? I would rather see the USMNT win the Gold Cup, get three quality matches (or more, I think that we can still take third in our group and advance to the knock out round) in the Copa America for seasoning the newer guys and continue our development.

Using the Copa America as a chance for player development is a perfect opportunity. It allows the USSF to get players excellent international experience and it gives the coaching staff the chance to really work under international conditions. Hopefully the USSF will maintain its stance on what type of team they send to each tournament. Sending a group of newer guys to the 2007 Copa America will be a huge step towards ensuring that we have players who do not crack under pressure in 2010 in some South African stadium.

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Blogger Christopher said...

I could just say 'I agree'...

I think what the BigSoccer folks and many media miss (whether they like US soccer or not) is that the entire goal is to grow the sport locally.

Going to South America and Europe is good exposure for our players, but winning tournaments for which there is no reward but pride will prove nothing, and winning a tournament that's so far abroad that it does not attract non-soccer people in the US to watch it will accomplish nothing.

The greater task is, when will the CONCACAF tournaments be as important to us as the UEFA and CONMEBOL tournaments? A concurrent goal for SUM and MLS should be to grow our neighbors' competition as well. How will we improve the level of play in Central America and the Carribean to ensure that our competition in these CONCACAF tournaments and qualifiers is more meaningful?

Best wishes

12:41 PM  
Blogger The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Yeah Brian, I agree also. CONCACAF has to be the priority, period. It doesn't help that often times CONCACAF doesn't take itself very seriously....but that should change. For starters they need to keep a regular schedule, similar to UEFA's. This year should be about CONCACAF qualifying for an 8 team "Finals" to be played next summer.

(They should also set up a stupid club level CONCACAF championship that the average fan can follow. The rules on the things seems to change EVERY year. Its a joke. Which is too bad because DC played great to win the thing back in 1998. With each passing year that win looks less and less impressive.)

11:17 PM  

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