US Men’s National Team knocked out of the World Cup qualifiers
STFU, Grant Wahl.
If the commentator Grant Wahl is to be believed, October 10th, 2017 is “a day that will live in infamy.” Not because of a massacre by violence or pollution or freak accident, but because the US Men’s National Team lost a match against Trinidad and Tobago, and with it the slot in the World Cup that I guess, in some people’s opinion, the American team somehow deserved. Wahl, who looks like a smarmy-ass worm, also termed the match “the most embarrassing failure in U.S. Soccer history.” The USMNT seems to agree: as of Friday, head coach Bruce Arena has resigned; defender Omar Gonzalez, who admittedly did something pretty embarrassing by scoring an own goal (the football glanced off his shin and spiraled up over Tim Howard’s outstretched hands), said of that match: “It’s one that will haunt me forever.”
I don’t know how to understand this overblown reaction any way but as the arrogance of the advanced beginner—that of the teenaged striker who accidentally bounces the ball between someone’s legs and thinks he owned them, bro, and that he’s Thierry Henry. This annoying teen belongs to the team representing a country where “soccer” only took off in the 70's, has now qualified for a few World Cups in a row, and suddenly thinks it’s a fixture on the world football scene.
American commentators’ belief that their country’s squad is entitled to a place in the World Cup evinces such ignorance of the game that America’s elimination feels a bit karmic. Only Brazil has gone to every single FIFA World Cup, and (only) eight teams have ever won, meaning that far better teams than the US, teams that have actually won the tournament, have been knocked out. France, for example, didn’t qualify for 1994 World Cup and then won the 1998 World Cup outright. Football, given the low scoring, long gameplay, complex rules (offsides) and material, physical difficulty involved—not to mention the way fouls are settled and ties are resolved—can very easily produce unexpected or outright random results and cut the rug out from even a brilliant team, which the US men’s team is not.
I also detected a sense of entitlement from commentators like former USMNT player Taylor Twellman, who had some good insights into the level of the US program but also suggested that the US obviously should have won against Trinidad and Tobago for, well, pretty obnoxious reasons: “It is a complete embarrassment when you look at CONCACAF, for the amount of resources and the amount of money that is put into our sport…you can’t get a draw? a tie? against Trinidad?”
Twellman’s not-so-subtle dig at Trinidad makes the results of the game feel all the more deserved. As Trinidadian commentator Alvin Corneal told the New York Times, “They [the USMNT] got the shock of their lives. I am happy that the U.S.A. should realize that there are other people in the world who exist.”
Secondly, devoting resources to athletic programs is important, but you can’t just buy your way to success in the World Cup the way you can with…admittedly almost everything else. You need players who were born with a football at their feet (it’s impossible to keep up technically otherwise), who have a vision of the game, and the team has to have chemistry and solidarity. One of my friends, the rare American who’s both a diehard communist and a football fan, has a theory that football never really caught on in America because it’s the most socialist, collectivist sport. Maybe seize the means of production and then give it another go, guys.
Well, it’s not really true that football never caught on in America; it just didn’t catch on among American men. That commentators are in such a tizzy over the USMNT’s recent loss is idiotic because the US has already won the World Cup three times—that is to say, the women’s team has done so, without fanfare or acclaim and without being paid as much when they win as their male counterparts do when they lose. The US already has a superlative football squad, you fucking chauvinist pigs; maybe support them, and the brilliant players in the WNBA while you’re at it.