The United States’ loss to Argentina was one of the most disheartening, demoralizing losses I’ve ever seen.
In 90 minutes, Argentina took our lunch money, made us say uncle, and undid all the progress we’ve made as a country since Jürgen Klinsmann took over in 2011.
It was a chance for the United States to announce to the world that we’ve arrived as a footballing nation. We didn’t even need to deliver a victory to do that. A hard-fought loss would have been sufficient.
Instead, we fell flat on our faces with everyone watching.
But that was just one bad performance in a tournament where we played decently.
If you think about where the U.S. men’s national team is now, and where it was in 2011, we’re a lot better off than we were.
Under Bob Bradley, there was no hope that we would ever achieve anything. We were never on the cusp of greatness. A favorable World Cup draw and we might make it out of group play.
Outside of Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, we were devoid of any real talent.
Look at the roster now – there’s a half dozen players with the capacity to become great:
— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) June 21, 2016
John Brooks, DeAnde Yedlin, Fabian Johnson, Darlington Nagbe, Christian Pulisic, Gyasi Zardes, and Bobby Wood all look like they’ll be major factors in this World Cup cycle and beyond.
Jürgen Klinsmann doesn’t own all the credit for their development, but he’s certainly owed some; especially for John Brooks and Fabian Johnson.
Those two weren’t even under the U.S. Soccer umbrella – they were playing in Germany as Germans.
Klinsmann, using his network of spies, went out and nationalized these two young stars. And they’ve since become an indispensable part of the back line.
With DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, and Fabian Johnson, the U.S. defense is better than it’s ever been. All four of those players are technically and tactically sound.
It’s 2016, you need your outside backs to want to get forward, a la Dani Alves or Philip Lahm.
Yedlin and Johnson both fancy themselves as attackers and continually cause problems opposing defenses with the deep runs they make into enemy territory and the crosses they provide.
In the midfield, Darlington Nagbe has inherited Landon Donovan’s number 10 jersey. While he’s not a regular starter yet, it’s clear that Nagbe is part of the solution going forward. He’s a dynamic player; dangerous on the ball and off.
As 34-year-old Jermaine Jones’ career wanes, Nagbe will slide into his spot to complement Michael Bradley in the middle.
Bobby Wood has earned himself a starting spot up top next to Clint Dempsey. Even if Jozy Altidore was healthy – which is rare these days, Bobby Wood is getting the start.
Jozy is a good option to have coming off the bench, but Wood has proved to be more consistent over the last 12 months than Jozy has in a decade.
Christian Pulisic, 17-year-old phenom, is the best thing going for the United States right now. He’s broken into Borussia Dortmund’s first side at a precocious age. He’s the youngest player – of any nationality – to ever score 2 goals in the Bundesliga.
Though he didn’t get a start in the Copa América, he did get some valuable experience as a sub and is trending towards a starting spot. He’ll be starting come 2018 in Russia.
While there have been growing pains, Klinsmann’s tenure has moved America in the right direction. We’ve never been closer to being a legitimate soccer power than we are right now.
Granted, we’re still a ways off. 4-nil isn’t exactly standing on the precipice.
But hey, we’re making progress. And mighty Argentina, who humbled us like the wrathful Old Testament God, doesn’t even have a national team at the time of this writing.
So I think we’re doing OK.
Klinsmann, it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses, but you’ve pushed America in the right direction. Keep doin’ what you’re doing. But for the love of God, no more Brad Guzan.