Many of you may know I recently moved from Florida to Seattle; just like in the UK, the North West is a real hotbed of soccer.
Despite their problems, and I’ve gone on record many times to say what I think they are, England qualified for the World Cup next year. The United States, however, did not.
There is no doubting that the US have had a generation of very good players; the likes of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard made household names of themselves.
However, just like in the UK, I have long aired my thoughts and concerns about the future of US soccer and it brings me no pleasure to see the national team fail to qualify for Russia. Make no mistake about it – the ‘team’, if you could call it that, was comprised of individuals who were overly reliant on senior players and that is not a strategy that is sustainable.
It’s a huge shame, but the US has to take a thorough approach in its rebuilding and it needs to take a long and hard look at the things it needs to overhaul. Working as I do with young footballers of differing ages, I’m noticing more and more that these are good athletes – that’s all well and good, but I don’t want athletes, I want to see footballers.
I’ve said it for many years, the US have suffered by trying to fabricate this illusion of a culture of excellence. They have learned the hard way that you can’t just pretend. There is no quick and easy route to the top and you cannot afford to rest on your laurels. Perhaps the powers that be saw the US as constant qualifiers for the World Cup and hoped that one day they would put in a performance to get to the semi-finals or further; but you cannot plan on hope alone.
I keep going back to the same things but the organisation at youth level leaves a lot to be desired. It is a game for the elite and it should be a game for everybody. They have all the facilities in place but their attitude to youth development has been behind the times for a number of years. It was only a matter of time before it caught up with them.
I only hope that moving forward, these problems are addressed, instead of doing what they do in England, where they try and jump on the latest fad instead of returning to the core strengths of what is traditionally good about England teams. Then again, with the number of English players available to choose from in the top flight continuing to hit record lows, I don’t see that improving any time soon. But that’s a different kettle of fish.
England used to be the home of great wingers. It’s a dying art; but all things in football go and come around again, and the next time a team comes through with proper right and left wingers, they will surprise everyone. Hopefully that will inspire a generation to follow suit, because there is no better sight in football than a winger taking on a defender and whipping a ball in.
At Manchester United Frank Blunstone, a former winger himself, would relentlessly tell us about the importance of crossing and would have us going at it for ages. “We only need one on Saturday, Gordy,” he would say. Nowadays you have specialised coaching for every area of the team but wingers, and it’s no surprise to see that the standard of crossing is so poor.
All you need is a blank page to start working on these sort of ideas. And the United States have it. Whether or not they will address what needs to be addressed, well, I suppose we’ll only find out in four years.