The USMNT Will Make the World Cup Finals in 2018
So you can do one of two things here. One, you can read the title and know what this article’s about and be done with it. Or two, you can read the article and see why I would make such a bold prediction. Hey, you already clicked the thing. Might as well read it.
We’re all still reeling and a bit shell-shocked from the tremendous achievement of our women last Sunday with the utter dismantlement of Japan in the finals of their World Cup. But we have to remember what the men’s team has done recently:
- They came back from 3-1 down IN Amsterdam to beat Holland.
- They came back from 1-0 down IN Germany for revenge.
- They utterly decimated Guatemala, yet Klinsmann was entirely unimpressed with their performance. So he had them all stay late and continue to practice. A la Coach Herb Brooks from the Miracle 1980 Olympic team.
Now let’s make a few notes using this data.
We start by going back a year to the World Cup. We learned many things in Brazil.
- The US broke the cycle (both with Ghana and with Group Stages)
- The US have clearly surpassed Portugal, a world strength, as a team
- The US still will never say die
- Tim Howard is a god
Overall we can say that the US had gotten marginally better. But the major question leaving the Cup was…how ‘big’ is this margin? And to follow that up, is Klinsmann making good and significant progress with the US? After all, there were many concerns about his approach to the competition in Rio. Landon Donavon being left off, the choice to move Bradley up to attacking midfield, the seeming regression to passive style of play compared to the dominant offensive-oriented style we used to obliterate CONCACAF.
Klinsmann had some job security and overall we American Outlaws were pleased. But this is America. We will not be satiated with simply ‘good’.
So now we get to what the data tells us in the now. The USMNT seems to be steadily climbing up the world of soccer. They beat two of the best teams in the world on their home turf. Yes, granted the Netherlands is playing far weaker than the team that finished third in the world a year ago. And yes, Germany was not at full strength.
But let’s look at a few other facts. The Americans were also not at full strength, missing many SIGNIFICANT names, including but not limited to Dempsey and Howard. And even if it was a weaker Netherlands team, that is still Netherlands. ‘Weak’ for Netherlands is still quite strong. And they had a 3-1 lead on home turf. That is a significant wall to leap over.
Let us add this interesting trend to the pot: there are many powerhouses in soccer starting the process of talent-turnover. Meaning, the old men who dominated soccer are retiring and there are new kids taking over the game. Yes, there is no lack of talent in Germany or Holland or Spain or Argentina or Brazil or…you get the point. However, there are many new countries making a lot of noise in Europe and South America. Costa Rica, Wales, Romania, Northern Ireland, Chile–these are names that many people would laugh if you said they were technically topping the world at the moment. I will account for the fact many countries’ club players are still in club and not dedicated to the national teams and allot some bonus points to them for that.
All it takes is a breath of confidence to instill unwavering determination and resolve in a team. Motivation can turn a game on its head. We’re used to that, watching the US play.
Finally we get to where things look to be shaping up to be in 2018. The talent in the US is unquestionably great: the likes of Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, Brek Shea, Brad Guzan, John Brooks, Timmy Chandler, Gyasi Zardes, DeAndre Yedlin. There are young players who are stepping onto the international field and leaving with their boots imprinted permanently somewhere on the grass. Many of these players are clearly still developing. It’s a little scary seeing things shape up the way they are for them; reminds me some of “The Generation of Miracles” (uber props to whoever correctly gets that reference).
And many of these players were cut from the Gold Cup squadron.
Klinsmann obviously has a plan, and there is no reason to doubt his judgment of where the national team stands, and what the best possible combination at the moment for a major tournament is. So these guys are gonna be giants when the World Cup comes ’round.
3 years is a long time. In that time the US could crash and burn, and all this hype around Klinsmann and his plan will have dissolved into nothing but an afterthought. But also in that time, the US could continue to blaze their way up the mountain of world soccer. My money’s on the latter.