When Jonathan Bornstein scored the most amazing header of his life in the fifth minute of stoppage time during the USA/Costa Rica game Oct. 14, I jumped, screamed, yelled and celebrated idiotically, like I’m sure every other U.S. soccer fan did at that moment. The goal led to the U.S. tying Costa Rica 2-2 and was a huge boost for the U.S. after being down nearly the whole game. Moments like these give me hope. They make me want to believe in the U.S. soccer program and have faith that we might actually be able to compete on a world stage next summer with the best teams in the world. They have these shining moments of glory and skill, but then my mind flashes back to the grisly, inexcusable disaster that was the Mexico/USA Gold Cup final and the USA’s more recent loss to Mexico in August.
The fact is that the U.S. soccer program has come a long way since its inception. We have world-class players like Tim Howard, the ubiquitous Landon Donovan, Frankie Hejduk and the young, yet dangerous, Jozy Altidore. They have made appearances in the last five World Cups, won CONCACAF numerous times, yet they are still lacking in a multitude of areas.
The most obvious issue concerning the U.S. soccer team is the individualism. It is the first lesson we’re taught when we join little league or FFPS (Fun-Fair-Positive-Soccer) as kids. You have to play as a team.
The U.S. consistently has issues with pulling it together as a team and working toward a win. In the horrific loss to Mexico last summer, they played as 11 individual guys on a field, not a well-oiled unit. Some players, like Brian Ching, will never offer anything as team players, yet still see playing time because of individual talent and popularity.
Another critical concern with the U.S. is its blatant inconsistency. Oftentimes, it is a total crapshoot with U.S. team. They’ll embarrass themselves in a loss against Mexico and then rock the world as they triumph over Spain, the number one team on the planet. Their playing style changes like David Beckham’s hair.
Many critics argue that the U.S. simply lacks the mental composure to compete on a world stage due to its relative youth. If the U.S. isn’t mentally prepared to play the best in the world, a perfect example would be the loss to Brazil in the recent Confederations Cup. The U.S. blew a comfortable 2-0 lead and crumbled in the second half to end up losing 3-2.
What teams like Brazil and Spain are known for creativity, which the U.S. hugely lacks. Landon Donovan will make some great runs and have the occasional flash of brilliance but the U.S. needs more than that. They have size, speed and heart, but they need to think on their feet. Being more creative with passes, runs and shots will not only up the level of their competition, but will also gain them some much-needed worldwide respect.
If they want to legitimately pose a threat to the best in the not-so-far-off World Cup, then they’re going to have to step up and make some major adjustments. The U.S. is the perennial underdog in soccer. To those of you who say the U.S. will never place in World Cup competition, I say, have a little faith. They’ve surprised us before and they can do it again.
Andrea Bolt is a junior news-editorial journalism major from the Woodlands.