THE SANTA CLARA
February 9, 2017
If the 2018 World Cup in Russia started tomorrow, the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) would be watching the tournament from home for the first time since 1990.
The team currently sits in last place of “The Hexagonal”—comprised of the final six CONCACAF teams competing for three eligible spots in the 2018 World Cup. The United States lost their first two games in qualifying to Mexico and Costa Rica, which ultimately cost former coach Jürgen Klinsmann his job.
The hiring of Bruce Arena, who was the USMNT coach from 1998-2006, as Klinsmann’s replacement was not the flashy hire that many fans were looking for. However, Arena is the most decorated coach in US history, as he led the United States to a shocking quarterfinals appearance in the 2002 World Cup.
Perhaps, a second stint for Arena will prove successful, but unfortunately for Arena, he has very little time to get settled with a must-win qualifying match around the corner in March. The good news is that the first impressions of Arena early into his second stint as coach are positive.
“Bruce was great. He was very successful during his first time with the national team and with the Galaxy so it was awesome playing for him,” said United States forward Jordan Morris. “He did a really good job of coming in and getting the team on the same page, looking to move the team forward.”
To continue to move the team forward, there must be a commitment to giving opportunities to young and creative players, with the quality and pace that American players of years past have lacked.
To Arena’s credit, he appears to be providing those opportunities to new players.
There is a lot of buzz surrounding the new faces at USMNT camp, and for good reason. This new group of players can help the US transition to a style of play that will make them contenders. It may not happen overnight, but the talent pool for the United States has grown drastically over the last five years.
In addition to the reigning MLS Rookie of the Year Morris, Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood are two young, exciting players who have excelled in Europe and look primed to be the new faces of the USMNT.
Many of the players that have been mainstays in the United States squad for years—Alejandro Bedoya, Graham Zusi and Michael Bradley, to name a few—need to be let go. They’re part of the dull past fans have grown weary of, yet their jobs appear to be safe.
If the USMNT wants to advance to the World Cup and progress towards the type of marquee wins they have missed out on, they must rely on the new wave of players that bring a rejuvenated style of soccer. It has worked out in the past.
In 2014, Klinsmann drew criticism for leaving American legend Landon Donovan off the World Cup roster and including 18-year-old phenom Julian Green. Green rode the bench until the dying minutes of their knockout stage game in overtime down 2-0 to Belgium. Green scored immediately and gave the United States a glimpse of what younger squad could accomplish in the future.
Ben Epstein is a senior finance major.