USMNT's Failure To Qualify For World Cup Could Result In Big Changes To Federation
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said that he would make "no decisions about the future" of the USMNT in the immediate aftermath of last night's 2-1 defeat to Trinidad & Tobago that resulted in the U.S. failing to qualify for the '18 FIFA World Cup, according to Andrew Das of the N.Y. TIMES. Gulati declined to say whether USMNT coach Bruce Arena would "coach the team through the end of his contract," which runs through the end of the World Cup. The USMNT entered the game "needing only a win or a tie to qualify," and "even a loss would have done the trick if the results in the other two games went the Americans' way" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/11). SI.com's Grant Wahl reports Gulati "shook his head" when he was asked "whether wholesale changes were necessary." Gulati: "Wholesale changes aren’t needed if the ball that hits off the post (from Clint Dempsey) goes in? You don’t make wholesale changes based on the ball being two inches wide or two inches in. We’ll look at everything. ... But we’ve got a lot of pieces in place that we think are very good and have been coming along." Arena also "wouldn't go so far" as to "say that major changes should take place." He said, "There’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing. ... Nothing has to change. To make any kind of crazy changes I think would be foolish." Wahl writes a "full reckoning will now have to take place by U.S. Soccer" (SI.com, 10/11).
STARTS AT THE TOP: YAHOO SPORTS' Leander Schaerlaeckens writes the failure to reach the World Cup "represents an existential crisis for U.S. Soccer," which now should "question absolutely everything it does." U.S. Soccer has to "assess an ossified leadership," from Gulati on down, that has been "lodged in its jobs for years and years, with very rare injections of fresh blood or ideas." U.S. Soccer "can’t seem to get out of a years-long rut in spite of benefiting from players of ever-increasing caliber" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/11). YAHOO SPORTS' Henry Bushnell notes Gulati’s presence in powerful positions in global soccer circles has "probably been a net positive for soccer in America." However, he has not "adequately invested in youth development" as well as the building blocks that "allow a national team to sustain consistent success." He and U.S. Soccer have "invested in them, but haven’t devote enough attention to actually solving real problems" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/11). USA TODAY's Martin Rogers writes Gulati "made the personnel decisions on management, and his organization ill-advisedly chose to play Costa Rica in New Jersey, where it felt like a home game for the visitors and defeat resulted" (USA TODAY, 10/11). SPORTING NEWS' Mike DeCourcy wrote many fans "have been agitating for change atop the U.S. Soccer Federation" for a while (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 10/10). FS1's Nick Wright said, "Maybe you needed this hard reset for the future of U.S. Soccer." FS1's Cris Carter: "No one plans a reset like this" ("First Things First," FS1, 10/11).
ONE MORE TERM? SOCCER AMERICA's Paul Kennedy notes Gulati will have to "decide whether he will run as president of U.S. Soccer for a fourth and last term." Boston-based attorney Steve Gans and Massachusetts-based soccer coach Paul Lapointe have "already announced their intentions on running." Gulati prior to last night was "still the heavy favorite to win re-election." Now, "not so much" (SOCCERAMERICA.com, 10/11). In L.A., Dylan Hernandez writes FS1's Eric Wynalda has "dropped hints he could run for president of U.S. Soccer next year." Hernandez: "Some think it’s a crazy idea. Only what’s crazy would be to maintain the status quo. Change is necessary" (L.A. TIMES, 10/11). But ESPN's Taylor Twellman said, "You hire a new coach and you hire a new U.S. Soccer president. Does that really change things? I don't know if it does" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/11). He added, "You don't want to make any drastic changes overnight because this is not an overnight fix" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/11).
RED CARDS ALL AROUND: The L.A. TIMES' Hernandez writes the "myth of progress was created and nurtured by the sport’s establishment in this country," which has a vested interest in "promoting soccer as America’s 'sport of the future.'" Only the reality "doesn’t match up to the story." Considering MLS has "existed in this country for more than two decades, the lack of progress is baffling" (L.A. TIMES, 10/11). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel writes "low standards, weak accountability and administrative cheerleading have allowed the U.S. to claim success when there really wasn’t any." That includes at the '14 World Cup, where "simply limping out of group play was deemed acceptable" by Gulati (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/11). USA TODAY's Rogers notes the USMNT has "missed the World Cup before but that was back before hardly anyone cared, before the USA figured to have the biggest travelling support of any nation." This new army of fans has to "wake up to a new reality" (USA TODAY, 10/11). In N.Y., Frank Isola writes it "took 90-plus minutes" for U.S. soccer to "regress 30 years" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 10/11).
JUST AN UGLY SITUATION: ESPN FC's Jeff Carlisle writes last night's loss is the "most embarrassing defeat in U.S. soccer history and one that will be impossible for this group of players and coaches to live down" (ESPNFC.com, 10/11). Carlisle added, "This was a debacle on a countless number of levels" (ESPNFC.com, 10/10). SI.com's Wahl writes the "most embarrassing failure in U.S. Soccer history was consummated" with last night's defeat (SI.com, 10/11). NBC's Matt Lauer called it an "embarrassing loss to the tiny nation of Trinidad & Tobago" ("Today," NBC, 10/11). ESPN's Twellman: "It's the most embarrassing moment in U.S. Soccer history because of the amount of resources U.S. Soccer has at its disposal" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/11). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith: "It's a national embarrassment. We're the greatest country on the planet Earth, we're the richest country in the world, we have all the requisite resources, etc., but we can't even make the World Cup. It's an absolute disgrace on an international and global level ("First Take," ESPN, 10/11). THE RINGER's Zach Kram notes the latest USMNT "fiasco is the most acute, and disastrous, in decades, maybe ever" (THERINGER.com, 10/10). USA TODAY's Andrew Joseph wrote the USMNT "gave a nation the lowest point in its sporting history, and it’s not really close." It is "really difficult to quantify how bad this loss was for U.S. Soccer" (USATODAY.com, 10/10). The AP's Ronald Blum writes the loss was "stunning, crushing, almost farcical" (AP, 10/11). ESPN's Bob Ley: "It's impossible to overstate the dimensions of this disaster" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/11). In N.Y., Mark Cannizzaro writes yesterday will go down as "one of the most sickening days in US soccer history." However, it also could "represent a day that sparks change that helps not only push the floundering national program into relevance, but possibly even international prominence" (N.Y. POST, 10/11).
THE ROAD AHEAD: Univ. of Miami professor Donna Shalala tweeted last night's result was "unacceptable." Shalala: "For us in USSoccer more than a wake up call. Time for a revolution. Need a long term plan that is smart." Fox Sports' Rob Stone: "We had a window where young talent wasn’t there to push others out. Need to learn why & make sure that never happens again. ... We’ve been spoiled by 7 straight World Cups. This failure needs to fuel constructive change." NBC Sports' Arlo White: "I love #MLS. Not their fault. But now so many #USMNT players have been brought back/kept from leaving, is it time to review the structure?" Golf Channel's Terry Gannon: "In large part, it’s the #1 sport in the world because all it takes is a ball and a goal. In the US, it takes money. That must change."