Well, we have just completed the most successful run of qualifying games that I can remember and we did so in rather exhilarating fashion. Nine points in three games? I'll take that and walk each and every day. However, being a USMNT supporter obviously means that there is a certain amount of weariness that comes with any success. What could I possibly be concerned about you may ask. Well, no longer is it a concern about Klinsmann's tactical acumen or if the team can band together in the face of adversity. What really concerns me is whether or not the individual parts can continue to develop in the way that is needed before we go marching into Brazil next summer.
Being an American soccer fan has always meant having to cope with a bit of an inferiority complex. Sure, our boys have gotten some wonderful results in the past and we have had players make their mark in many of the world's top leagues. However, I have personally always wanted to see our players move on to bigger and better leagues and teams so the world can see that we really aren't just some little brother when it comes to soccer. But with our most recent run in qualifying I am wondering if this is for the best. Many of our best players this past month have either been from MLS (Besler, Omar, Zusi, E. Johnson) or from a lesser European league (Jozy). In the long run these player's careers would probably be bettered by moving to a higher level of competition but I am unsure if it would benefit the sum of the parts.
The standard practice in recent years has been for our best products to get some seasoning in MLS and then go seek the perceived tougher competition abroad. However, has this really been beneficial to our national team depth? Look at Eddie Johnson or Jozy, who were both very exciting MLS prospects that made early moves to Europe. Jozy struggled mightily early in Spain and England before finding his footing in Holland while Eddie flamed out completely at Fulham before resurrecting his career back in MLS. More recently, prospects like Tim Ream and Brek Shea have followed a similar path and have all but fallen out of the national team picture, both being passed for MLS players. Even Landon Donovan suffered somewhat of a career speed-bump during his time in Germany.
None of this is to say that these players need to take one for the team and stay put. A move could certainly benefit the national team prospects and Klinsmann would certainly like to see his boys play against stronger competition. However, the key is for the right move to be made. Jozy, as we have seen, needs a place that plays an open and flowing brand of soccer so he can get his service and confidence. Would a move to a stronger Dutch side be a good move? Probably. Eddie, probably, wont go anywhere so we don't really need to worry about him. However, it wont be long before people come calling for Zusi, Besler, and Omar. The key here is, as always, for them to find the right team not simply a team. They will need a manager that will allow them to play where and how they should be playing, not a manager that will force them into a system.
Recently, Klinsmann has done a great job of recognizing that the MLS talent pool can be one that will greatly help the team. This will probably continue but I do worry about his rhetoric stressing the need for Champions League minutes or the like infecting some of the younger players. Overall, our team has made great strides in the past six months, now we just need that to continue. That will depend not just on our boys playing but playing in the right environment that will let them continue to develop their game in a way that will fit in Klinsmann's system.