Tim Howard's comments about how some of the dual-nationals that have recently played for the USMNT had a "lack of passion" have spread like wildfire in the past few days, with the response forcing Howard to attempt to backtrack and say that some of the dual-nationals, like Jermaine Jones (who not so coincidentally called out Howard) did have passion.
USMNT fans by now are likely numb to hearing negative comments about dual-nationals, from Abby Wambach to Bruce Arena and now Howard. But these comments, while essentially the same, somehow come across as even more unnecessary, pointless and harmful than the same comments said by two other important US Soccer figures. Arena had to eat crow on his three year old comments when he took the US job again, and so did Wambach. It's time for Timmy to eat up too.
Throwing dirt on Jurgen Klinsmann's time as US boss is easy to do now that he's been fired, but most of the criticism at least from players hasn't centered on his silly tactics, refusal to play players in their best position or how the entire team (not just dual nationals) seemed to quit against Costa Rica. Instead, a lot of the focus is on Klinsmann's global trek to find players with US eligibility to play for the national team. That process has netted the US players such as John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, Mix Diskerud, Aron Johannson among many others who have positively contributed regardless of how some may view their commitment because of what strip of land they were born on.
And it wasn't just Klinsmann who recruited dual-nationals: Bob Bradley did it, Steve Sampson did it, and many managers of other national teams have done the same. Normally, the comments of similar ilk come from outside the national team's direct sphere, except here in the US, where for some reason they come from big names inside US Soccer every now and again.
Howard tried his very hardest to not sound xenophobic, but didn't do a great job of covering up those overtones.
"I'm an old man and I've seen a lot of things, and what it seemed like to me was there was a lack of passion and desire by certain players to run through a wall," he told ESPNFC. "The national team is my heart and soul. If you take that away from me, you take a piece of my heart.
"I'd do anything to be on the field. I'll play injured, I'll take an injection, I'll do anything. Anything. It's not just me; there are a bunch of players who would do that. But in order to be a great team, in order to be one of the best U.S. teams -- which we have been in the past -- you need everybody, everybody to have that drive, that desire."
It's quite possible that lack of desire came from Klinsmann's tactical ineptness, his insistence on fitness that always seemed to let the team down in critical moments (such as against Mexico), or maybe he wasn't as good of a motivator as he claimed to be. Klinsmann was motivated to succeed as a manager by the same innate desire that Tim Howard and all athletes are motivated by: they want to win. Certainly nationalism adds another layer, but strip that away and these are still athletes and former athletes who have been programmed from a young age to want to win at all costs, no matter the competition.
That holds for Timmy Chandler, Timmy Howard, and Timmy watching in the stands too. Terrence Boyd is a dual-national yet a quick glance at his twitter feed would show you his immense passion for the United States and how much he loves putting on that jersey every time he gets a chance to. And while some of the dual-nationals that Klinsmann recruited might not be up to snuff, there are plenty of them that are and aren't changing their tune now that the man who recruited them is gone from the setup.
But these comments are even more head-scratching considering the timing of them. Bruce Arena doesn't have much time to get his team ready for the two most important World Cup Qualifiers in recent USMNT history in late March, and the last thing he needs is another faux dual-nationals controversy to play out in the media in advance of not only those games, but the two January camp games as well. Putting aside the politics of the country at-large, this discussion isn't doing anything to help dressing room harmony at a time where it's needed. And with Klinsmann gone, hasn't the time also passed for stories like Brian Straus' from March of 2013? There's no need for another, or comments that might set off one like it. And plus, what do these comments say to naturalized citizens like Darlington Nagbe, Kekuta Manneh and others who are trying to make their own impression not only on their teammates but manager as well? I thought the US dressing room was more accepting than other international dressing rooms...
The philosophy of every soccer manager is to pick the best XI he has at his disposal, no matter their backgrounds or histories. Jurgen Klinsmann did that as he saw it, and so will Bruce Arena. That means he's going to include some of the German-American players including some Howard may or may not have been calling out, whatever Howard thinks of their commitment levels. And at this time when the US needs dressing room cohesion to right the qualifying ship, another dual-nationals controversy is exactly the last thing the team needs, no matter when the controversy comes about.
Logic dictates that with Klinsmann's departure, these silly and xenophobic comments about the dual-national cohort for the USMNT might not be said in public anymore, especially this is the third time US Soccer has had to deal with the same controversy falling out from similar comments, just from three different sources.
It's time to unite no matter anyone's background or birthplace, not only beyond the soccer pitch but on it too. These comments do nothing to help that, no matter anyone's thoughts on "commitment" or "passion".