Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Jurgen and the US need to do next



First of all, congratulations. The US have qualified for the World Cup in Brazil next summer.

They deserve to be there, but frankly, they should qualify every time if the CONCACAF regions continues to get 3 automatic spots and the chance of a 4th. The US have now qualified 7 times in a row, but it's tough to think they'll ever be the 5th worst team in the region - especially when FIFA ranks Haiti as the 6th best team in CONCACAF. Yes, Mexico have been awful this qualifying campaign, but they still have a very good chance to finish 4th and reach a playoff against New Zealand (ranked 57th in the World).

The region isn't necessarily too easy, they just get too many qualifying spots - make it a hard 3 and the games would be even more competitive, and ultimately improve the standard.

The thing the US need to do now is play difficult games against top European, African and South American opposition. I hope Jurgen Klinsmann and the US Federation arrange friendly games with teams that will challenge them, and highlight the weaknesses.

Currently, the full-backs and outside midfielders are the weak links - with the exception of Landon Donovan. DaMarcus Beasley and Fabian Johnson aren't good enough, Alejandro Bedoya isn't ready yet. Klinsmann needs to get Brek Shea back in form, look to the MLS for new full backs and develop a system to utilize the strengths of Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey - by far their best players.

Now is a time to celebrate, but finishing second in the group in Brazil and not progressing in the knockout stages isn't progress for soccer in the US. Now is the time to build and improve - simply qualifying isn't a measure of success for the US anymore, competing at the highest level should be the goal.

Also available here on WSJ - http://blogs.wsj.com/dailyfix/2013/09/11/u-s-soccer-congrats-and-criticism/