What now for USMNT? A look at the road ahead

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A youthful U.S. national team drew 1-1 at Portugal on Tuesday in their final game of 2017.

[ MORE: Match recap | Player ratings ]

Now, it’s time to reflect, just as we’ve all been doing since the shock failure to reach the 2018 World Cup in early October.

Interim U.S. boss Dave Sarachan, a long-time assistant of former USMNT boss Bruce Arena, oversaw the draw at Portugal but, like the rest of Arena’s backroom staff who were also in place for the friendly, he won’t be around for much longer.

This is all about the future. The displays of Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Cameron Carter-Vickers against Portugal proved that.

In terms of the next game for the USA, fans will have to wait over two months for a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina at the StubHub Center in Carson, California on Jan. 28 which will end the USMNT’s annual January camp.

After that, we’re not quite sure what’s going to happen.

The U.S. is unlikely to have a head coach for some time due to the fact that current U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) president Sunil Gulati isn’t expected to run for re-election in the USSF presidential election on Feb. 10, 2018, so there’s a whole lot of uncertainty right now surrounding the men’s national team.

Talk of Sam Allardyce, Michael O’Neill or Laurent Blanc coming in is all academic at this point.

Even having former boss Arena, the man who oversaw the dismal defeat at Trinidad & Tobago last month which ended the USA’s World Cup dreams, on Fox Sports as an analyst for the Portugal game on Tuesday seemed to early. The period of grieving isn’t over yet. Many would say it’s going to get a lot worse for the U.S. national team before it gets better.

Perhaps the best decision is to put Tab Ramos, the current youth technical director of U.S. Soccer, in interim charge for the January camp as plenty of youngsters, who he knows well, will be given the chance to impress just as they did against Portugal.

Around all of this, the future of veterans like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Geoff Cameron and Brad Guzan need to be addressed. Will they be leaned on heavily to help turn this program around? Will some, or all of them, retire from international duty?

What we do know is that there will be at two friendly games in March and probably the same in June 2018, purely as opposition for teams heading to the World Cup. Plus, there is talk of a soccer “NIT” ahead of the World Cup in June but that seems like a long shot. By March or April, things should have settled down with a new USSF president and USMNT coach, and a distinct plan, in place. That’s the hope.

Right now all U.S. fans can do is sit back and watch the anticipation build for the 2018 World Cup draw in Moscow, Russia on Dec. 1.

There is a long, long period for contemplation as U.S. Soccer tries to sort itself out amid the backdrop of a presidential campaign which has seen plenty of candidates throw their hats into the ring to try and solve the problems exacerbated by the USMNT’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

The road ahead will be long, arduous and not at all pleasant for the U.S., especially as we all watch on at the 32 nations competing in the World Cup in Russia next summer. Sure, the sport in the U.S. will recover and interest in MLS and USL expansion continues and top European teams will make trips Stateside for preseason friendlies.

Sure, all of that is pretty healthy. But we’re focusing on the USMNT here. Arguably the one vehicle with the greatest pull, and level of influence, in how the American soccer pyramid performs.

With no competitive games until the summer of 2019 when the Gold Cup and Copa America roll around, the U.S. national team’s excessive period of reflection and rehabilitation begun as soon as the final whistle was sounded in Leiria, Portugal on Tuesday.

Now it’s about one thing: the future.