400 Days Of Winter — What USMNT’s Long Stint Without A Coach Has Done To The Program
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In the rom-com/drama “500 Days Of Summer,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character is convinced he’s found The One in Summer, played by Zooey Deschanel. They date for nearly a year before she breaks up with him, sending him into a spiral of depression. It’s not until 500 days after they started dating that JGL’s character really gets over Summer when he meets a new gal, Autumn.
The U.S. men’s national team sure could use a Spring.
Friday marks 400 days of winter, 400 days without a coach, 400 days since Bruce Arena stepped down as manager of the USMNT.
Four hundred days. 13 months. 57 weeks. 9,600 hours. 576,000 minutes. 34,560,000 seconds.
I’m spiraling into depression.
The U.S. men’s soccer team needs a coach.
I know this, you know this and U.S. Soccer knows this. The people in charge are working on it and they’re trying to find the best person for the job. Gregg Berhalter has emerged as a frontrunner for the job, though other MLS coaches are still in consideration, with no decision likely until after the MLS playoffs.
But 400 days without a coach, without a plan, without an identity is way too long. Can you imagine any other position going this long without being filled (aside from the countless posts the current U.S. president has failed to fill)? What if the Los Angeles Lakers took 400 days to find a new coach or a school took 400 days to replace a teacher?
When the U.S. lost to Trinidad and Tobago on that fateful October night in 2017, the U.S. faced the prospect of more than 600 days before its next meaningful match. It made sense for U.S. Soccer to take its time to get the hire right, because you’re hiring someone for four years (well, three now), not just for one season.
But over a year later, the U.S. players are no closer to learning how they will be playing for the next World Cup cycle. And they’re starting to voice irritation.
Before the U.S. lost 3-0 to England, Christian Pulisic, the team’s best player right now, told ESPN he’s itching for a real, non-interim coach.
Christian Pulisic knows what he wants in the next U.S. men's national team manager. pic.twitter.com/FEHFEIIe56— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 14, 2018
“I just want to see a guy with a plan, a guy with a great plan moving forward, and having a real style," Pulisic told ESPN. “And planning going into how we’re gonna play — what style we're gonna be in — and how we’re gonna go about these games and how we’re gonna go about qualifying and just have a real identity as a team.”
While we respect what Dave Sarachan has done for the USMNT (both as interim coach and as an assistant with Bruce Arena), the fact is the U.S. hasn’t really improved under him. With one or two exceptions, the U.S. has really struggled in every match this year.
Some of this is down to player selection. Sarachan has done his best to introduce new, young players into the national team setup. But at the same time he’s also made some odd decisions, like bringing Michael Bradley back for the October friendlies or keeping Brad Guzan in goal instead of seeing how some other players perform.
The U.S. was beaten by a pedestrian Republic of Ireland team, run circles around by Brazil, shown to be naïve by Colombia and demolished by England, which was playing a squad just as young as the USMNT. A win over Mexico’s B Team (maybe C) was nice for bragging rights and a 3-0 win over Bolivia had us feeling good about the kids, but too often the U.S. looked way overmatched in 2018.
And much of this is down to the lack of a real commitment to a style moving forward. Sarachan can welcome young players to the fold all he wants, but if they don’t know how to play with the future USMNT, it doesn’t really mean much. Not having a playing style to work toward has severely stunted the USMNT’s potential growth.
“500 Days Of Summer” ended on a note of hope for the future. After 400 days of winter, U.S. soccer fans are still waiting for that glimmer of hope, something to proved the program has moved on to bigger and better things. Let's hope it doesn't take 500 days.