Changes are certainly coming to U.S. Soccer and the U.S. Men’s National Team. After Tuesday’s loss, it’s going to be a long wait for a World Cup and, throughout that wait, there’s no doubt that plenty will be analyzed and addressed from top to bottom.
Just how and what changes, though, remains to be seen.
Speaking shortly after the USMNT’s defeat to Trinidad & Tobago, U.S. Soccer president said he doesn’t believe that wholesale changes will be necessary for the program going forward. Rather, Gulati sees Tuesday’s setback as a moment where the U.S. needs to continue plugging away at the positive developments made throughout past years.
“You don’t make wholesale changes based on the ball being two inches wide or two inches in,” Gulati said, referring to a potential Clint Dempsey equalizer that hit the post late in Tuesday’s match. “We will look at everything, obviously, with all of our programs from the national team to development. We have a lot of pieces in place that we think are very good and have been coming along. Tonight wasn’t what we hoped for.”
Head coach Bruce Arena had a similar opinion to the U.S. Soccer president. In his view, everything was there for the U.S. to seal a World Cup berth, but the program as a whole did not take that chance despite the obvious talent on the team.
However, he did admit that the USMNT roster is certainly due for a generational shift.
“What we’re doing, there’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing,” Arena said. “As our league continues to grow, it benefits the national team. We have some good young players coming up. Nothing has to change. To make an kind of crazy changes, I think, would be foolish. We’re building a good system with our professional league. We have players playing abroad of some quality. There’s enough there. There are no excuses for us not qualifying for the World Cup.
“I’d say that if we had qualified for the World Cup, there need to be a number of changes for a World Cup roster,” he added. “We have some young promising players that would perhaps have made a bid to be part of a World Cup in 2018. Is this the most talented? I don’t know how you come up with that. The only way you evaluate your program and the quality is in the World Cup.”
The U.S. won’t get that chance, and Gulati admitted that the program is “in shock” following Tuesday’s result. He added that, in some ways, Wednesday starts the process of preparing for 2022, the next World Cup that the U.S. can hope to play in.
The road to 2022 will be a long one and there will be turnover from top to bottom following a dark day for the USMNT and U.S. Soccer as a whole.
“We certainly expected to qualify throughout the process and especially after Friday night,” Gulati said, “so it’s a huge disappointment for everybody, for the players, the staff, the coaches, the federation. It’s not good enough.”