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One year removed from Couva, USMNT still lacks direction


One year ago today, the unthinkable happened to the U.S. Men’s National Team – the USMNT failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, as it fell 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago.

The failure was years in the making as a failed generation of players and mismanaged teams set the course for the frustrating night in Couva.

One year after suffering the heartbreak of failing to make the World Cup, U.S. Soccer hasn’t done much to remedy the situation. Currently, there’s a band-aid that’s easy to rip off covering the problems of the men’s national team program.

Steps have been taken in the right direction by hiring a general manager in Earnie Stewart and playing young talent in friendlies, but neither of those are significant developments until a head coach is chosen.

In order to make a true push toward 2022, one that starts with next summer’s Gold Cup, the USMNT needs to have a proper direction.

Until Stewart hires a head coach, which hopefully is sooner rather than later, there’s not much to be excited about regarding the USMNT.

Sure, the new generation of players led by Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Timothy Weah are promising, but what good is it to their development to play under an interim head coach in Dave Sarachan.

Sarachan’s been put in an unfortunate situation from the start, but no one expected him to be the interim manager past the summer. To his credit, Sarachan’s put young players in difficult situations and produced some results – like September’s 1-0 win over Mexico – but he can only do so much to further the talent he has at his disposal.

The lack of direction doesn’t stop at the playing style instituted by whoever the new head coach is.

There’s a huge question as to which of the experienced players should be involved, if any, and if they aren’t brought back is it because of the failure in Couva?

Michael Bradley is back with the USMNT for the October friendlies as is Brad Guzan, but Sarachan’s been hesitant to bring in more veterans as he hands playing time to the youth.

All the questions surrounding the senior team just scratch the surface of the issues facing Stewart and his cohorts at U.S. Soccer.

On top of failing to name a senior team head coach in reasonable time, there’s no manager for an Olympic team that must qualify for 2020 after past disappointments.

The U-20 team is still under Tab Ramos’ direction, but what happens when this new coach comes in? Do things stay the same until after qualification or the 2019 U-20 World Cup?

And then there’s a boatload of off-the-field issues that need to be fixed as well, and if we listed them all, we’d be here all day.

Instead of taking the issues head-on since last October, U.S. Soccer has dragged its feet.

It’s understandable in a sense if the federation wanted to vet the best candidates for both the general manager and head coaching positions, but even that defense can’t be used since Stewart just recently started seriously interviewing the final candidates for the coaching job.

The USMNT is still the same mess it was a year ago. In many ways, the last 12 months have been wasted. The only thing the program has to hang its hat on since Couva is the integration of young players.

While other nations who missed out on the World Cup have moved forward with their programs, the USMNT is still stuck in neutral.

Any optimistic fans, if there are any left, have to hope the wait is worth it. But, given what’s occurred over the last year, success and progress aren’t worth waiting for. It needs to come now.


  1. After seeing the Columbia game it’s obvious we are no further along than we were the day after the loss to T+T. Columbia could have 2 more goals easily,our back line was a disaster. Same captain same result, an awful loss.

  2. It’s past time that an article like this was written. Most of us fans are tired of the lack of progress on the coaching front (both the Sr. Squad & the U-23). The media needs to put pressure on the federation, they need to be the voice of the fans….since we don’t have access to the decision makers.
    I for one am tired of listening to Dave S. sucking up to MLS & USSF. I’m tired of the BS of needing to re-integrate veterans like Bradley (fighting for their position) into the team. The Veterans may have a wealth of international experience….but they also bring a TON of baggage, including the sense of entitlement that plagued the last cycle.

    We’ll see if Dave S. has the guts to make right choices in tomorrows game. Namely keep Bradley & Guzan out of the starting XI. If you’re going to use Guzan make the change at the half. If you’re going to use Bradley make it for the last 5-10 minutes of the game.

  3. Hot take:

    As long as the USWNT is a money-maker, the USSF doesn’t really need to change anything on the men’s side. A blessing and a curse.

  4. I’m thru with this ish. I was going to write a long post about our federation’s problem’s but by now most of ya’ll here know what I’m going to say anyway so instead I’m just going to leave ya’ll with this:

    Enjoy watching the Bradley-Trapp midfield tandem this window and for the next 1-2 years as Bradley “gives experience” to the younger guys.

    Enjoy our new MLS coach who I predict will be announced shortly after his MLS season finishes because the MLS season takes priority over taking the NT job and missing valuable friendlies against good competition which would allow you to evaluate your players and tactics going forward.

    If the next coach is just a MLS coach and gets announced conveniently after that coach’s season finishes it reeks of MLS’ importance in the decision making process being valued higher than our NT as usual.

    Like I said I thru with this ish. Out with them all.

  5. I think Earnie Stewart needs to get his behind in gear. He has been given a pass with the , “well he didn’t take the job until August” line. It’s now October and what have we seen from him? Additionally, while he didn’t take the job officially until August, he was awarded the job months before. When he took the job officially he should have already decided on his top 3 or 4 choices and been prepared to start interviewing. In my own work experience, when I had a chance for a major promotion, I went into the interview with a written plan with goals, future improvements to be made and so on. I knew what I was going to do the day I started and, as a result, I was told that I was the first choice of all 3 members of the interview panel. This is not rocket science. A coach should already be chosen, the major issues of his contract already worked out and he and Stewart should already have been in close contact about how to proceed until the new coach takes the job, even if that coach is involved in MLS playoffs. If a coach isn’t willing to work harder to multitask, he shouldn’t b e hired. National team coach is probably less onerous that a club coach anyway, so if the new national team coach has to put in some extra hours for a couple of months, it shouldn’t be a big deal. My frustration grows with every day that passes with nothing to show for it and I have been calling for action since March.

    • Come on Gary you know there are these little things called contracts, that wouldn’t allow a manager to be working for an MLS club and also working the USMNT.

  6. How much you want to bet Pulisic is questioning USSFs commitment in like? WTF would he risk injury and losing a spot in Dortmund’s 11 for no real gain? Until there is a coach which players can buy into his system there will continue to be no shows you can bet in that. Commitment is and should be a two way street.

  7. “Sure, the new generation of players led by Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Timothy Weah are promising, but what good is it to their development to play under an interim head coach in Dave Sarachan.”

    This, for me, is the stand out quote of the article – it’s 100% correct. Sarachan should never have been at the helm for as long as he has been, and in some ways he’s not exactly doing the squad any favors (questioning Pulisic’s commitment, bringing in Guzan and Bradley to “compete for their places, not to mentor the young players”, playing a style in meaningless friendlies that bunkers down and defends vs. trying to open up and see what we have with some of these kids, etc.)

  8. “The USMNT is still the same mess it was a year ago. In many ways, the last 12 months have been wasted. The only thing the program has to hang its hat on since Couva is the integration of young players”……..Isn’t that the truth, especially when we can’t seem to completely move on from some of the very players responsible for our demise.

    I hope Ernie does his homework and selects a coach that can change the current perspective of the USMNT. We need a person at the helm can make current players / young prospects believe in our system, that the USMNT will reward their high performance and constant determination to excel in TOP leagues around the world or “above average effort” on the field here in MLS (regardless of who was there before). Players need to believe that they will receive a positive outcome or recognition for their hard work and dedication, especially if they are able to maintain a level of play, day in day out, at the highest level.

    The US soccer is still the same mess with absolutely no direction, as we still continue to fall back on what we know rather than explore other possibilities…..which is still evident with players like Bradley, Bedoya, Altidore, Guzan etc. still being in the conversation.


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