Many of us in the U.S. Soccer fandom have reached the point where the sting of missing the 2018 World Cup is more of a dull ache: yes it hurts, but possibly not as viscerally as it did just a month ago. There will be more games, there will be a new coach, there will be a new president, and therefore there is some reason to believe that some meaningful change will occur as a result of this failure, and hopefully improvement.
Another consequence reared its head this week, in the form of Danny Williams and an accusation that USSF was trying to market MLS players in its selection process for the National Team.
Now, there’s a lot to unpack to that story, and other people have already done it, so I’ll give you the Cliff Notes for the sake of brevity: Danny Williams exclusion from the full national team set-up, which began under Jurgen Klinsmann’s watch and extended into Bruce Arena’s brief tenure, was the result of a few factors. Williams himself had consistency issues in the red, white, and blue. His minutes in the Championship were solid, but rarely do people start raising their torches and pitchforks for a Championship starter above the age of 22. On the other hand, Williams became one of the best holding midfielders in the Championship at Reading, and turned that form into a move to the Premier League with Huddersfield. And while his Championship tenure might not have impressed U.S. coaches all that much, it certainly did not seem to apply in the same way for someone like Tim “Cream of Wheat” Ream. So, yeah, his exclusion looked more and more fishy the longer it went on.
Bruce Arena denied that there was any sort of intentional selection of MLS players for marketing reasons, and that’s probably more or less true. But regardless of whether it is true or not, we are now faced with the reality that the U.S. men’s set-up has a very public perception of elevating players from its domestic league, a league it shares revenue with. And that sucks for the U.S., because it hampers their recruitment efforts.
Probably the most unassailable positive quality of Jurgen Klinsmann was his efforts to expand the talent pool available to the U.S., and one of the biggest ways he did it was by aggressively pursuing dual-national players. This is not to say he was the first to do this; Bob Bradley handed Jermaine Jones his debut. He just seemed to have a knack for getting interesting dual-national prospects to commit to the U.S. Ultimately, the team was better for it. Players like John Brooks and Julian Green went on to play key roles in games at the 2014 World Cup, regardless of the two players’ divergent paths after the tournament.
So now, be it via conspiracy or the sheer stupidity of selecting players who were clearly past it by the end of World Cup qualifying in the name of Arena’s comfort, the U.S. has to also work to gain trust back in their recruitment effort of dual nationals. Jonathan Gonzalez was just named to Liga MX’s season Best XI. The Tillman brothers are lighting up Bayern’s youth academy. There will always be talent with American connections scattered to the winds simply by virtue of the country’s immigrant population. If the U.S. wants to tap into any of it, they’ve got a lot of explaining to do.
Thought you were over missing the World Cup? Now you’re not. Let the hate flow through you.
- Antoine Griezmann transitions from “Fave” to “Problematic Fave” -
I'm already stressed out about Griezmann's inevitable apology saying "a lot of my best friends are black." pic.twitter.com/0UtS3Yb7Yv— Miriti Murungi (@NutmegRadio) December 17, 2017
Because obviously if you dress up as a Harlem Globetrotter in Harlem Globetrotters colors with the candy-striped basketball shorts that literally only the Globetrotters wear, you need to also paint yourself black to really hammer the meaning of the costume home.
If you’re one of those people who don’t get why blackface is a bad thing, here. For the “his best friend is black” crew, don’t. Doesn’t change the fact that this is offensive and ignorant.
- Pulisic Back -
PULISIC WINS IT!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 16, 2017
A magical touch and finish from the USMNT Player of the Year gives Dortmund the winner in the 89th minute! https://t.co/4tNrjPTTMZ
I could watch that all day. And hey, after being in free fall for a couple months, Dortmund have won their first two games under Peter Stoger and sit in third place in the Bundesliga. Note: the Bundesliga is wild.
- Nagbe United -
Darlington Nagbe is officially an Atlanta United FC player. And to all the people who have sent us cards: we’re still giving Rob oxygen and muscle relaxers but we’ve moved them to a bi-hourly basis as his excitement has begun to wane.
- Are we going to talk about the fact that Wayne Rooney has scored as many goals as Alvaro Morata? -
Just a question.
- Clint Doesn’t Do Easy Games -
STOP IT!!! @clint_dempsey with the bicycle kick! #KickInForHouston— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 18, 2017
Everyone should donate for that. Do it now at https://t.co/cMGM93sBJ2!
Sponsored by @leesasleep pic.twitter.com/uA8SPsQLNZ
Stuart Holden and Steve Nash organized a charity match towards continued Hurrican relief efforts in Houston, featuring many U.S. Soccer stars both past and present, as well as players from other sports, and that Internet guy with the most punchable face in the world.
So naturally Clint risked life and tendons throwing up a bike for the culture.
- Kaka Calls Time -
Kaká has announced his retirement.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 17, 2017
He won the 2007 Ballon d'Or as the world's best player, and he's still the most recent winner other than Messi and Ronaldo. pic.twitter.com/6DGgGqYjxO
This is still the craziest stat to me. It’s been a decade since Kaka was on top of the world, but what a player he was.
- Let’s Check In On South America -
Oh. My. Lord. 38-year-old Juan just did this for Flamengo in the Copa Sudamericana final. Unreal. pic.twitter.com/ohZuoxGYUB— Zack Goldman (@ThatDamnYank) December 14, 2017
- I Love English Fans -
'Champions of England, you'll never sing that', sing the Chelsea fans to Huddersfield who won their first league title 31 years before Chelsea— Sam Wallace (@SamWallaceTel) December 12, 2017