With a recent drubbing of both Belize and Guatemala, coupled with the triumphant return of Landon Donovan and the emergence of Chris Wondolowski as a viable attacking option, the fans of the USMNT seem to be glowing in their praise for the players and for the team as we prepare to turn our attention back to European league play. However, as I always prefer to take the most negative approach with the bleakest viewpoint, I must say that 95% of everything that has happened means absolutely nothing…zero…zilch…na-da. Sadly, the USMNT and the fan-base have acted in such a manner that their future has been painted into a bit of a corner.
That corner, if we all start being honest with each other, can only be exited with a deep run in the only meaningful tournament that the U.S. takes part in: the World Cup. Let me spout some knowledge…
The Gold Cup might as well the longest set-up to an eventual U.S.A. versus Mexico situation that exists. Even with Mexico struggling, there is little doubt that they will right the ship in order to compete within the CONCACAAF tournament. However, if they don’t, then the only purpose for the Gold Cup will be to see if the U.S.A. will choke against a much weaker opponent. Sure, it would be nice for us to get into the Confederations Cup the next time it swings around, but even entry and victory within that type of tournament would only be a short victory for the USMNT.
The Hex has the same issue as the whole Gold Cup set-up. Ask yourself if Spain or Italy would have completed the snow-filled match against our boys in Colorado (and, if you said “yes,” then you are kidding yourself) and also ask yourself how badly we would be faring if we were having to qualify against South American opposition instead of North and Central American foes. Replace a game against Jamaica with Brazil and switch Panama with Uruguay and our qualification is a completely different story.
This type of competition acting as our team’s preparation for the World Cup would be like a European club gearing up for their Champions League play by going up against a large grouping of MLS-esque teams. Once we finally start stepping out onto the pitch against the heavyweights of the international stage, we are going to get a rude awakening.
With the hiring of Klinsmann and the fact that some of our best players are finally succeeding on the world stage, the only thing that will truly be a success for this squad would be a semi-final or, heaven forbid, perhaps a deeper trip into the World Cup. Until that becomes our accepted measuring stick and until people start to realize that games against Belize should be seen as nothing more than a practice match, then perhaps we can successfully move forward. Until then, I will be given the opportunity to always be the devil’s advocate on the USMNT.