Is Third Place Enough for the United States?
With the Copa America coming to a close, I felt it was time to evaluate the United States overall performance in this illustrious international competition. In my last blog, I, like many others, have questioned whether or not the Copa America will be Klinsmann’s impending doom as head manager and coach for the United States Men’s National Soccer team. While I believe Jurgen can breathe easy from the stress of losing his job, I do not think he has delivered his promise to the fans since he was appointed head coach back in 2011. In the grand scheme of things, the USMNT is far from where they need to be at the international level. This is not a way to belittle or diminish the work and sacrifice Jurgen has put into the group for the past five years, but it is simply the truth. So that leaves us with one simple question: Is third-place enough for the United States?
When looking at the metrics, the USMNST are 31st in the latest FIFA rankings. While they still sit 23rd in ESPN’s Soccer Power Index, they are still behind some of the heaviest international contenders from South America and Europe. Now, the fans and the American Outlaws can debate how the US has been one of seven countries to qualify for the World Cup since 1990. But, because of the relative ease of the CONCACAF qualifying, there should be no reason why the USMNT should not be in the running each and every World Cup. To put it simply, the US has an easy ticket to the to the greatest stage of international football. But to perform and execute beyond the group stages will always be our Achilles heel.
For many countries, the US sees wins as a sense of pride and passion. We saw this in the 2016 Euros when Iceland drew with Portugal. We saw this again just a few days ago when Ireland made history assuming their spot for the sweet sixteen. While there will always be a sense of pride, passion, and respect after every goal and every win, the expectation and standard for actually winning the tournament is simply not in the USMNT’s mind. That constant underdog‘American’ mentality has become now a deep cut in pushing the team both mentally and physically to the next level. Take a look at Argentina. They do not simply see the Copa America as another notch to add to their belt. Instead, they see it as a must win. Anything less than first place will and will always be seen as a failure. This is the mentality that has been ingrained and engineered in the minds of some of the great international football teams like Germany, Spain, and France. In order to be like the greats, the USMNT need to move beyond the underdog achievements and see the title as a true possibility.
While Jurgen and the boys have a long journey for the World Cup, it looks like they will just have to settle for what is set for them in the Copa America. Yes, Saturday will not be an easy match, seeing as how Colombia had already flexed its strength with us during the group stages of the tournament. But who knows. Maybe Jurgen has some tricks up his sleeve to pull the wool over Colombia’s eyes and clinch us third-place. Yes, third-place is not the number one, but it is a sign of growth. We just have to keep pushing.
One Nation. One Team