Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Verdict


So, what to make of the US’s 2006 World Cup. For RAS, one thing was obviously lacking—reckless abandon. We know that the US has to move beyond just always winning in CONCACAF with sheer athleticism. And, we know it will take more cunning and subtle imagination from players if we want to move into a place of prominent competitiveness against the world’s top teams…blah, blah, blah.
Of course all of that is true, but against every opponent besides Italy we played flat, and we didn’t play with the reckless abandon that has been evident in every big US success.

RAS acknowledges how closely things could have changed if the ball had rolled the right way for us as it did in 2002. Still, why didn’t we come out with two forwards in the second half against Ghana and play like we had nothing to lose! I think it was obvious that we didn’t have much left to lose at that point! RAS held our judgment about Arena and the team until after this half because, in reality, we had just as much chance to advance as we did in 2002 the entire tournament until the second half of the Ghana game.


Unfortunately, from all accounts that we’ve read, Arena and the players led by Arena took an attitude of anger and complaining about the penalty kick into the locker room at halftime against Ghana. It seems that the whole team was just bitching about the call instead of trying to figure out how they were going to play the most heroic half in US Soccer history. There was no reckless abandon in that locker room. The second half was uninspired soccer. And, that is the reason it is time for Arena to go.

It is a moot point that the US has to develop players that can create chances against the world’s best. And, it is a moot point that our best players will have to go to Europe to do this. We would never expect our best American basketball players to reach their potential playing in Spain. That’s okay. And, the MLS is coming along fine. Brazil doesn’t insist that its best players develop in the Brazilian league.

Still, RAS firmly believes that it is the never-say-die American spirit that will eventually become a trademark of the American style of play when it is fully developed, however long that might take. We are a nation of pioneers who settled a vast frontier. We are not divers or floppers, and that is okay too. We don’t have to do everything they way our Latin superiors do. Yes, we need a player to emerge that can beguile a midfield with the world’s best. But, our distinct advantage as a nation will always be our attitude of reckless abandon. If we want to succeed on the international level, we will have to be the team that can not only match you with skill, but also fights so damn hard that we break your back. That mentality runs deep into the American psyche and that is a good thing. We should not lose sight of this.
All in all, this Cup will prove to be arguably the best thing that could have happened for US soccer at this point in its growth. As the pundits have been saying, 2006 proves just how special 2002 was. Most importantly, this will help us quietly go back and dig deep for new innovations that will help US soccer legitimately step up to the proverbial next level on the world stage. It reminds us of where we really are, and it enables us to get rid of the noise generated by exaggerated FIFA rankings and other nonsense. It’s time for us to stop thinking about 2002 and start looking to the future. And, RAS appreciates 2006 for doing that.

So, here are the marching orders from RAS:

Arena get out of there; head to the Red Bulls. You were great and we thank you for what you’ve done. Dempsey, Gooch, Donovan, and Johnson get your ass to Europe! Donovan, either man-up or shut up. Young-undiscovered-US-soccer-talent, please make yourself known. Adu, please grow up and be a badass. Reyna, we love you, but why’d you have to go out like that? Keller, get out of the way. Beasley, find your stride again. Gulati, we want Hiddink or Klinsman—do whatever it takes. MLS, stay strong and keep building honestly; and, keep building those stadiums. US College Soccer, continue making sure that our best talent doesn’t enter your ranks. US soccer fans, keep the faith! Reckless Abandon, you keep working towards becoming the first world-class US soccer media outfit.

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