U.S. Soccer has a new chief scout.
Bruce Arena is a stopgap measure. Search popular opinion and the way the American soccer populace views Arena’s second tour of duty is largely how the Romans viewed dictators in the era of the Republic.
The formula is relatively simple to grasp. Peace –> Turmoil –> Breakdown –> Dictatorship –> Peace –> Status Quo. The peace was 2013-14, the turmoil was 2015 and 2016 and the breakdown was the Mexico-Costa Rica run in which the U.S. was out-scored 5-1 in ever-important World Cup qualifiers. Much in the same way the Roman Senate – when it was relevant – appointed one-off dictators to quell the uprising and then return to their farms afterward, Arena rode stridently onto the field of battle this year only to (hopefully) ride back off it when the job is done.
We’ve been hearing rumblings and rumors and half-confirmed truths and confirmed rumors and half-rumored truths about the new Training Death Star about to open in Kansas City. We know more than that now.
On Sunday, U.S. Soccer and Sporting KC (alongside Children’s Mercy, a hospital group that sponsors SKC’s stadium) jointly announced the groundbreaking of a palatial seven-field complex featuring an 80,000-square foot building to ultimately become ground zero for U.S. Soccer’s sporting operations in this country. It’ll open in 2017 and immediately become the training touchstone of American national team soccer.
The second U.S. Soccer officially announced a girls Development Academy earlier this year, you could almost see the soft battle lines forming.
When the boys version was started in 2007, it was dropped into a soccer landscape desperately pleading for a single, unified national league. The men’s game needed a quality underpinning it patently did not have, and the DA was an answer to a market that actively asked for its help.
The girls DA has basically gone about establishing itself in the same way, which is problematic for some clubs. The ECNL, the national league of record and the girls DA’s immediate competition, can claim it’s doing the hard work of producing quality national teamers already. Around 90 percent of almost every YNT camp over the last few years has been made up of ECNL players, including Mallory Pugh, who moonlighted for the full USWNT while still being a part of Real Colorado’s U18 side.
There’s an argument to be made that the girls DA will be better than the ECNL, but will the margin be large enough to justify an all-out split among the nation’s best clubs? And will all of them even join?
On June 30, U.S. Soccer unveiled the first 25 clubs who came forward to join the new league. Among the entrants, PDA and So Cal Blues led an impressive contingent fringed with the surprise inclusion of 60 percent of the NWSL. It was an impressive haul and confirmed that U.S. Soccer’s resources will simply not allow the league to fail or even falter. Whatever it looks like, it’ll succeed in some measure.
A day later, Cincinnati-based club Ohio Elite offered its response. It is not joining the new girls DA.
When the newfound girls Development Academy was officially set in stone earlier this year, there was a thin, barely concealed line scrawled in the sand.
U.S. Soccer entered into a club space with an already operational girls club league, the ECNL, and clubs suddenly had a decision to make. Some are big enough to have offerings in multiple leagues – PDA, for example, has 41 different girls teams, and obviously not all of them play in the ECNL – but some smaller clubs would have to choose between the two leagues outright.
The lines, it would appear, have begun to form.
By the time the American U20s had released the full measure of their pent up frustration on Aruba, it was already far too late.
The U.S. began its 2015 U20 World Cup qualifying odyssey with a clunk and a thud. A ripping 90th minute equalizer from Andy Ruiz, an FC Dallas academy player deep in the bowels of its youth system, doomed the U.S. to a 1-1 draw with a poor Guatemala side. The U.S. then lost to a superior Panama team and that was the group. The U.S. did not even have a chance to play in the final for the CONCACAF crown. It finished a distant second. Behind Panama.
It’s a unique tournament, that viewed through a cynic’s lens, could be seen as little more than a cash grab for federations in North and South America.
That aside, there is plenty that Jurgen Klinsmann could get out of the tournament.
I am about to offer you an opinion of indeterminate heat and without value determination. It is neither god nor devil, but the fact that we have been driven here – or more to the point that I have been driven here – says something. I’m not quite sure what yet.
Jurgen Klinsmann may well need to start 17-year-old Christian Pulisic on Tuesday against Guatemala.
One of the beautiful things about Sepp Blatter’s lengthy, controversial fiefdom over FIFA from a federation’s perspective is the lack of general culpability. You can’t be truly guilty of hitching your wagon to the wrong horse if everyone was guilty.
So in that sense, the fact that the USSF voted for Blatter in the past – before finally taking a stance against him at the contentious 2015 election Blatter “won” – tells us more about the direction of the prevailing wind than it does about the way U.S. Soccer was directing its gusts. For years, the U.S., like dozens of other federations, did not want to risk the ire of the Blatter-run FIFA that would accompany a turned vote. So vote it did.
The third part of this chat is probably the most prosaic. The Messi question found its way in (OH NO), in addition to concerns about Hispanic inclusion in U.S. Soccer, playing style, our reliance on English soccer coaches and more.