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Toxic Talk: Meditations in an Emergency Edition

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Welcome to Toxic Talk, where our resident hater tells you what sucks about soccer this week.

Soccer: 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup -USA  at Jamaica Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

I love you. I love you,

but I’m turning to my verses

and my heart is closing

like a fist.

-from “Mayakovsky” by Frank O’Hara

This week has let large swathes of the U.S. Soccer fandom collectively drain their reservoirs of pent-up anger. That’s expected and that’s fine. It’s no fun to pour yourself into a team and then have that team lose to a clearly, professionally inferior team to miss out on the World Cup. It’s not fun to watch players you know are better wander around a field looking lost. You care, so you want them to care. When it looks like they don’t, you’re upset. That’s how these things work. Here, I’ll join in on that.

I’m mad at the USMNT players. The game against Costa Rica was mediocre at best. The game against Honduras was ugly. But the loss to Trinidad & Tobago was utterly disgraceful. Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey might have left that field with some of their dignity still intact, but what can be said for the rest of that team? Trinidad & Tobago played USL players against a team full of people playing in Liga MX, MLS, the Premier League, the Bundesliga. I don’t care how you feel about MLS, I think we can all agree that at the very least it draws a better standard of competition than USL does. And we looked hopeless, naive, immature, and lost. So I’m mad at the players.

I’m mad at Bruce Arena, just like I was mad at Jurgen Klinsmann, for the incompetence to motivate players, and the inability to play the best players available to him, in formations and with instructions that made sense. I thought Bruce Arena would qualify for the World Cup, and at bare minimum be able to consistently communicate sensible plans to his players. I was clearly wrong. Like it or not, being able to consistently motivate the players and get the best out of them falls on the coach. When it came down to it, Arena didn’t get the best out of his players and sent them out in a formation where not playing your best is suicidal. It was a loss in an inexcusable situation. So I’m mad at Arena.

And I’m mad at Sunil Gulati and enablers within USSF that got us to this point. Sunil has done a lot of good for U.S. Soccer. He’s successfully overseen a Women’s World Cup championship and looks set to deliver North America the 2026 World Cup. But he also still holds some truly deplorable opinions about the youth development structure in this country, actively supporting a system that shuts out kids from low-income families. He’s made some very bad manager hires, and despite money and resources, the United States lags embarrassingly behind a large portion of the world in quality coaches from the bottom up. So yeah, I’m mad at Gulati, and think it’s probably time for him to go.

Love easily turns into anger which easily turns into hate. That happens. But here’s one more thing I’m mad about:

Sunil Gulati’s contact information was leaked and subsequently spread around the internet for people to do with what they please. And guess what? That’s not ok. And if you do think it’s ok, please feel free to post your personal email, phone number, and address in the comments. Somebody probably will, which is cool for them because they don’t have thousands of angry people on their necks, but the vast majority of you won’t, because you would like to keep your privacy and your home life out of all of this.

Sunil Gulati is doing a job. Maybe he’s doing a bad job at that job, and if so, he should not be re-elected. People have a right to participate in that process and make their opinions known. But if you think for a second it’s ok to threaten someone because you don’t like the job they did for a soccer team, then please leave. I don’t want to see or hear from you. I do not care about your opinions because I do not concern myself with the opinions of people who lack the basic common empathy to not try to actively ruin the life of another person and possibly endanger them.

The love fuels the anger. But that last part is not fueled by love.

Boiling Points

  • When I thought Tobin Heath got injured again and about lost it -

She turned out to be ok. Congratulations to the Portland Thorns, winners of the NWSL Championship. And another big congratulations to the city of Portland, who continue to support their women’s team in a big way.

I need a shower.

  • Tyler Deric going full Honey Badger -

The save ended up not being the most difficult in the world, but the fight to reach around Benny Feilhaber and claw the ball away from the open net is appreciated. A hearty congrats to the Houston Dynamo for reaching the playoffs, and especially ex-Chivas USA coach Wilmer Cabrera for turning the ship around.

  • Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco scorching the Earth -

Valeri becomes the second MLS player to ever notch more than 20 goals and 10 assists in a season. The other one? Sebastian Giovinco in 2015.

  • Mark Geiger scorching Steve Birnbaum -

Also from this Portland Timbers - D.C. United matchup, how the hell does play not stop for definitely unconscious Steve Birnbaum being...you know, unconscious? Maybe that’s not fair to the Timbers counterattack, but they’re already up 3-0 at this point. You have a player with a history of head injuries face down on the turf, not moving. That is truly awful protection of the players.

  • Young Love - One U.S. team still currently in World Cup contention is the Men’s U-17 team. They kick off the knockout stages of the tournament against Paraguay approximately 30 minutes after this article is published. You can catch them on Fox Sports 2, 10:30 AM EST.