Sunday, July 09, 2006

American Soccer: PUT UP OR SHUT UP

According to the FIFA world rankings, the United States ranks as the 5th best soccer nation in the world out of 200 countries. After watching the 2006 World Cup, I wonder how countries such as Portugal, France, Italy, and Germany; the countries who made up the final four teams in the tournament ended up behind the United States. After watching all of these teams play, it became quite obvious that the skill was there for the United States, but a team wasn’t. I am among the people who believe that the United States needs a new coach. No offense to Bruce Arena, he has done a fine job making the USA look like a contender, but that’s as far as he has gotten. The United States seems to enter and leave tournaments every four years with the same expectations. Unfortunately, they never reach them. After a horrible outing in 1998, America managed to reach the round of 8 in 2002 before losing to Germany. This year was supposed to be even better, but another early exit in group play ensued. I don’t want to place all the blame on Coach Arena. Talent doesn’t win games when talent doesn’t work hard… and honestly, the US looked pretty lazy in this year’s tournament. However, I don’t want to put all the blame on the players either. For right now I will call it 25% coach, and 35% players. That leaves 40%. And if you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m placing the remaining blame on the rest of America. It’s come to the point where I believe that the American team doesn’t under-perform, causing us not to care. Alas, I believe it is exactly the opposite. The American public does not care, therefore the American team under-performs. It is hard to find a soccer fan in American until the World Cup comes around. Suddenly everybody is a soccer fan and an expert. I don’t care for the MLS and I don’t have the proper channels to watch the English Premier League, but I at least care enough to watch qualifying and friendly matches when they come on television in years not hosting the tournament. I feel I am in a minority who at least care to do this. It also doesn’t help that America’s best athletes don’t care either. America’s best athletes become basketball, football, and baseball players. Many of them played soccer as youths, but didn’t care enough to continue on with the world’s most popular game. If the fans don’t care, and the athletes don’t care… well I guess we are just an apathetic nation. If the American public wants their soccer team to be as good as their world ranking, it’s time to start caring, it’s time to start paying attention, and yes it is time to put up or shut up.

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