Another international tournament has come and gone. The United States men’s national team won some matches, lost some matches, and eventually were bested by a couple of much better teams. It happens. So, what did we learn from another hectic summer of USMNT action? Is it doom and gloom for the future or is sunshine and rainbows?
Unfortunately, the ups and downs of the Copa America didn’t really bring us many conclusions. A few younger players (John Brooks and Bobby Wood) emerged as star players ready to step up, while some struggled throughout the tournament (Michael Bradley).
As a whole, the U.S. performed a lot better than most thought they would. But does meeting lowered expectations really qualify as a success? On paper getting to the semifinals of the Copa America looks great. If you broke it down individually and said the U.S. beat Paraguay at home. You’d say...Okay, cool. And the same goes for Costa Rica or Ecuador. All three are fine teams, but teams that the U.S. should be beating at home at least 9 times out of 10.
Just because expectations were low doesn’t mean beating them is cause for a huge party. Simple fact is, the USMNT got the job done. It shouldn’t be wiped under the rug as if it doesn’t matter, but it surely shouldn’t be blown out of proportion like they conquered the world either. Worse U.S. teams have accomplished much more in far more difficult circumstances.
After every international tournament fans and pundits want to make grandiose exclamations about the state of the national team. What is our big conclusion after how the Copa America played out?
Aside from learning a few different tidbits about which players played well and which ones didn’t, when it’s all put out on the table, we didn’t come away from this tournament any wiser about the grand state of the USMNT.
Jurgen Klinsmann made some adjustments to his personal philosophy in that he stopped tinkering with the lineup. That’s great. He should be applauded for that. But when it mattered most against Argentina and he had to make difficult lineup decisions, he mucked it up as bad as he possibly could. Even when he makes good decisions, he tops them with horrific ones that lead us back to square one.
It’s a microcosm for this Copa America and the program under Klinsmann as a whole. When you think progress has been made, a setback comes and hits you in the teeth. You found a consistent lineup? Here’s Chris Wondolowski and Kyle Beckerman in the most important match of the tournament to bring you back to earth.
This tournament was a mixed bag. There’s cause for optimism in some areas and pessimism in others. Anyone saying that the program is in shambles or that this was a miraculous tournament is being delusional. It was a fun run at times, it was embarrassing at others. When all is said and done we’re right back where we started with no real substance to lean on to make conclusions. And maybe that’s where the frustrations come from as a USMNT supporter.
For all the matches played and excuses made, we still don’t know what we have. We could go into the next tough World Cup qualifier and get blown out or put on a masterful performance. Is that inconsistency within the team that makes it so infuriating.
The Copa America did nothing to alleviate those frustrations. It was part exciting, part frustrating, and on average with the last five years under Jurgen Klinsmann. We’re no better or no worse and that’s the problem.