We just couldn’t help ourselves. With just over 60 days to go until the release of the most anticipated book since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we had to celebrate Bruce Arena’s magnum opus, What’s Wrong with US?: A Coach’s Blunt Take on the State of American Soccer After a Lifetime on the Touchline (so blunt), by revisiting the former USMNT manager’s favorite dilemma — the MLS cohort versus their "hotshot" European counterparts.
Please slow down, all of you. Be patient. Lower your expectations for a bit. You will be happier in the long run, I promise.
Americans spend a lot of time talking about how we are going to unearth the next Messi and be rocketed to soccer-superpowerdom. The reality is, even if the next Messi existed and was eligible for the USMNT and was convinced to play for the USA, the team would probably not be a soccer superpower.
The vast majority of leagues around the world right now are on the home stretch for the end of the season. Relegation battles are heating up, the Champions League and Europa League are at the pointy end of things and some leagues (Premier League and La Liga, we’re looking at you) are pretty much wrapped up at the top of the table.
Despite some owners and managers settling for mid-table mediocrity or a respectable top-half finish, others will not. Here are some managers that you can bet your bottom dollar will be coming to an unemployment line near you.
Mario Melchiot knows more about football than you or I. He knows more about football than the both of us combined. A native of Amsterdam, Melchiot was a product of the legendary Ajax youth system, making his debut for the first team as a 20-year-old before transferring to Chelsea at just 22.
He played extensively in the Premier League for the Blues, Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic, as well as amassing 22 international caps for the Netherlands over an eight-year international spell.
When Barcelona drew Roma in the Champions League quarterfinals back on March 16, many penciled the LaLiga leaders straight through to the semis. This is, after all, Barcelona’s 11th consecutive appearance at the quarterfinal stage. For Roma, it’s their first in 10 years. If you want to place a bet on Roma winning the first leg at the Camp Nou, you’ll get 14-1 odds on that punt.
A few weeks ago, Lionel Messi reached the landmark of 100 goals in the UEFA Champions League, joining Cristiano Ronaldo as the only footballer to achieve the feat. The following comparisons between the two were inevitable, because for the last 10 years, it’s just been Ronaldo and Messi at the top of the world’s premier club competition.
In fact, you’d have to go back to the 2006-07 season and AC Milan’s Kaká to find the last Champions League top scorer by season not named Ronaldo or Messi.
At first there was the phenomenon of the Hollywood player, when the likes of David Beckham and Thierry Henry migrated to the world of American soccer. No need to mention Zlatan here, that’s just sad, isn’t it? These larger-than-life players spending their final playing days on MLS pitches was entertaining, but not alarming. They didn’t barricade entry to other players — namely young, talented American players. The clubs did.
Due to the dawning of the internet, increased globalization and the heavy concentration of players plying their trade in European club football, there are hardly any unknown quantities at the World Cup now. Years back, nations like Panama, Iceland and Peru would’ve left opposing managers scrambling for information, but in 2018, that’s hardly the case.