So much will be written and said over the coming days of the U.S. under-23 crash. Hyperbole will flow while over-generalizations, over-reaction and wild over-reach will be in high season, all in search of deeper meaning for it all.
But as you digest the disapproving comeuppance ahead, deciding whether to heed the antagonistic or lean toward the more temperate set, it would surely help to keep this inescapable truth close by:
This thing really is a colossal failure.
I don’t know what it means in the bigger picture as we all stew about developmental academies, youth soccer curriculums, best coaching practices and such; that’s to be sorted out. But the shorter-term reality cannot be avoided, that such a thing should never have happened.
The Americans had a huge leg up to begin with, as the whole tournament was (once again) hand-delivered to U.S. soil. Home teams do well in international tournaments, of course. For the United States to go 1-1-1 at home, against three teams the Americans were favored against – that’s hard to even fathom. I mean, maybe you get one mulligan. But a lone win in three games at home? Not. Good. Enough.
The 1994 U.S. World Cup squad managed, despite a relative dearth in talent, to fight its way into the second round. In 1998, France won a World Cup on home soil. Japan and South Korea out-kicked their coverage (to borrow an American football analogy) in the 2002 World Cup. Germany, under Jurgen Klinsmann, rode the wave of impassioned home support into the World Cup 2006 semifinals.
It might have been one thing if the United States, playing on home soil, at a venue more or less of its choosing, flamed out in the semifinals against a good, Olympic-bound side. But to not even get that far?
Not. Good. Enough.
Again, home teams tend to rise in these things. It’s an enormous advantage, one that shouldn’t be under-valued in evaluations to come. I’m not sure what went wrong in this one, but it’s safe to say that plenty did.
The bottom line for the principals to remember upon failure to qualify for the Olympics in two of the last three tries: it’s not good enough. It has to get better.