A couple of days ago, I wrote a pretty angry rant about the state of US Soccer in the wake of our humiliating elimination from contention for a spot in the 2018 World Cup. In it, I called for the resignation of head coach Bruce Arena and USSF President Sunil Gulati, as just retribution for their role in our worst moment as a soccer nation to date.
Well, I got part of what I wanted…Bruce Arena stepped down as USMNT manager (a good first step, for sure). Then, I was even more pleased to see that Gulati was scheduled to take a conference call with the media around lunchtime. Could I be lucky enough to see them both out within the first week?
Sadly, the answer turned out to be a big fat “No,” but our dear leader did give me some interesting soundbites to chew over in his presser, so at least there’s that. Without further ado, the words of our intrepid presidente and my reactions:
“The end of the qualifying campaign was a disappointment to all of us. It’s a shock to the system.”
Good ol’ Sunny opened with this one, and while it may have been functionally necessary on the occasion of his first public “appearance” since Tuesday’s debacle, it rings extremely hollow. He’s attempted to put himself on the same level of the average fan—except that the average fan could do absolutely nothing to avoid the travesty that was our qualification campaign. He, however, had the power to do so and should have done quite a bit differently. So, trying to put us all on the same sad and disappointed “team” here is just Gulati playing the victim instead of getting straight to the meaningful stuff—how we’re going to change moving forward?
“We’re going to look into everything we do on the men’s side and women’s side.”
This one’s really strange for me. Our women’s team seems to do quite well for themselves. I don’t understand why he’s bringing them into this. Oh, wait, yes I do…because it’s another way for him to act as though there is some great malevolent force in US Soccer preventing us from winning that must be “discovered” somewhere. Who knows? It could be hiding in the USWNT locker room. We better turn over everything just to make sure we’re thorough.
There’s nothing wrong with the women’s game (in terms of national team talent) that is anywhere near the degree of dysfunction that the men’s situation has reached. You’re a fool to even suggest otherwise, Sunny.
“Not the right day to say…” (whether he’ll run for another term)
Oh, of course, it isn’t. Because if it was, only your immediate resignation would be an acceptable solution. This is a classic “push-off the issue until everyone forgets” play and I’m not prepared to have any of it right now.
Can’t judge him on this one point… (not qualifying)
Why not? Arena was judged on it, and he paid with his job. Klinsmann was judged on it before even finishing the qualification campaign—and paid with his job. Several USMNT players may have played their last game for their country on the basis of their failure to qualify. Why is every single individual tied to our defeats, besides our federation head, going to suffer consequences? That’s not leadership, that’s cowardice.
You’ve been the leader of USSF for over a decade. The buck for failure stops not just with the managers and players, but with you, as well. You play a major role in positioning all of those pieces together. It was your decision to hire Bradley, Klinsmann, and then Arena. Because of the program’s failures, every one of them is gone. Yet, you remain. How is that fair? How will that help us progress?
“All of the things that we all talk about, the pay-to-play model, inner-city soccer, we’re going to look at all of that.”
This is maybe the first thing Sunny said that actually made a modicum of sense. Sadly, I can’t believe a word of it because these problems have existed for the whole of his tenure and he hasn’t got near solving even one of them. If anything, several core issues have gotten markedly worse, particularly pay-to-play. I was a youth player when Gulati was appointed in 2006, and I coach now in 2017. The price for a kid to play with an “elite” club in this country has risen exponentially in that time-frame—all under Gulati’s watch. I put “elite” in quotation marks because I know for a fact that many of the clubs positively gouging players and their families in fees each year are hardly offering anything worth that kind of money.
Fact is, you’re talking absolute nonsense here and you know it, Sunny. The difference now is that the fan base is actually large and angry enough to start holding you accountable for it.
The U.S. Soccer mechanism is the best out there.
Not a direct quote, but reported as part of Yahoo’s live coverage of the presser. Anyhow, in what fantasy world is this statement even close to true? The US is the best at absolutely nothing when it comes to soccer. Our domestic league is inferior to other developed nations and makes less money than those in England, Spain, or Germany. Our national team has been sliding down the FIFA rankings since our surprisingly decent 2014 World Cup performance in Brazil. Our best player, who’s 19 by the way, has been developed almost entirely by a German club because his family knew it’d be better for him than staying in the states. It is preposterous to claim our “mechanism” (whatever the hell that means) is the best when there is overwhelming and easily verifiable evidence that this is not the case.
“Because of where the sport is now, and the role I played in it, plus where it can go if I choose to run” (on why he’s still right for the job).
There you have it, folks, Sunny has indicted himself with his own words. Let’s pack this apart one-by-one, shall we?
“Where the sport is now,” you ask? I’ll give you that interest in soccer has skyrocketed in this nation over the last several decades, but (A) you don’t own that enthusiasm, and (B) even with a huge uptake in interest, you have still overseen more failures than successes. We’ve not won a single tournament outside the Gold Cup since you took the reigns, and in that time we’ve never progressed further than the second round of the World Cup. Now, you’ve even got the unenviable distinction of overseeing our first qualification failure of the modern era.
“The role I played in it…” Does that include hiring multiple failed managers and running our domestic league like one of your economics classes instead of focusing on talent development? I’m curious which of your roles you’d like credit for? And no, the number of MLS expansion teams since your arrival doesn’t count.
“Where it can go if I choose to run…” Well, definitely not to Russia, for starters. But in all seriousness, why should anyone believe that a magical up-turn in fortunes is just around the corner for us if we stick with the same leadership that has gotten us to our lowest point? This is the quintessential “just give me one more chance” refrain after you’ve already used up all the goodwill an increasingly large and impatient soccer-inclined community is prepared to afford you. These are the words of a man with no specific plan of action who is merely biding his time until the next election. Then, once he’s secured his throne for another cycle, he’ll promise us all the things he gave lip-service to in this presser, while delivering nothing but a couple more washed-up European designated players and international embarrassments.
You had a chance to man up and do the right thing today, Sunny. You could have called time on your career with the USSF and left it to a new generation to try to solve our considerable growing pains. But instead, like the practiced politician you are, you deflected and shirked the mantle of responsibility you were elected to assume. Bob, Jurgen, and Bruce have all fallen on the proverbial sword for you. At what point do you look in the mirror and say, “maybe I’m the problem?”
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