Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Still Believing? (A Sports Post)

 Hey, remember when I enthusiastically heralded the Klinsmann era, and revealed my not-so-secret crush on the U.S. Men's National Team coach?  It seems so very long ago.  Two losses later, I guess I'm still Krushing on Klinsmann, but with a firm dose of reality.  See, two losses and zero goals later, I'm realizing that no matter what kind of magic Jurgen can conjure he can't make up for the fact that our crop of players just isn't that good.

He was hired for this reason, and for that, I say give him time.  The naysayers will bark about formation, style, personnel, but let's face it, some of the Belgian subs looked more active and threatening than the U.S. starters.  Yes, we have our Donovan (whose impressive goal tally is largely PK's and who probably wouldn't start for a top-tier premiership team), Dempsey (won't dog him because he went to Furman and I like him), Boca and Cherundolo, and big supply of world class goalkeepers.  But the supporting cast just aren't good enough. 

Take the Belgian case.  While the Flemish and Walloons squabble about language and frites, immigrant kids are busy playing pick-up in Brussels parking lots and parks.  And they're the new national team.  Still a young group, and by no means a European powerhouse, but that Belgian team showed players with individual skill that far outmatched most of what I saw from the Americans.  And their team play wasn't too shabby either.  Was it a "dominant" performance, as one writer called it, by the winners?  No.  Was it only a friendly, meaning result is less important that experience? Yes.  

But it's a loss.  And in watching the last two losses, I'm seeing why and how past teams have featured the defend-big and boot it forward method. Because we're just not there yet with the possession, slick passing game.  Trying it with players that make poor first touches or innacurate passes can expose the team much more than the bunker-down, boot it forward method.

At the end of the day, I'm less annoyed with Jurgen, than with America.  Maybe there's a someday when our immigrant kids who grew up kicking the ball around tennis courts and dirt patches will become the next hope.   I think Klinsmann is looking to that day (hence his insistence on playing an outmatched Edgar Castillo), but it does not seem quite here.  With the possible exception of Texas-born Jose Torres.  I've always been a fan, and am excited that Klinsmann sees what he can add. The potential of a Da Silva like playmaker with good skill, hustle, and poofy hair.

But for now, we may have to be patient with the good German, hopeful for a future with better players, kids who are hungry for success.  Who eat, breathe and live the game.   Maybe the recent results are unimportant if Coach he has been just weeding out the no-go's to find the top tier.  And maybe, when that top group all comes together for games that actually mean something, they'll figure out how to score goals.  How to hold a lead.  How to look dominant.  Time will tell.  But in the meantime, perhaps that open International Friendly date in November should be with some small island nation that we can easily trounce.  Just a thought.

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