As US soccer fans, we know not to get excited over the results of friendlies. We have seen our national team built into a perennial World Cup competitor after several decades in the wilderness. So we are uniquely capable of taking the long view. Although as passionate and devoted as any other fan, US national team fans don't have the kind of Chicken Little panic attacks over losses, nor the Mardi Gras exuberance of.... ...oh, COLUMBUS Day. I thought it was Opposite Day.
(I had planned to celebrate Columbus Day in the traditional manner - going to the Bahamas and catching syphilis. Stop me if I've told you that one.)
This is such an early draft of a national team that it's almost unfair to make criticism. After all, if the US was a finished product efficiently winning games, well, Bob would still be coach. A lot of what got Bradley fired were cyclical - the back line getting old/hurt/craptifying all at once, for example - and if there were quick fixes to be made, Bradley would have made them.
And sure, Brektober got off to a bad start. The fanbase seems to have forgiven him, though, and he doesn't seem like the kind of player who dwells on the past. I'd like to see him play tomorrow, in fact, just to get him that much more experience...which is the kind of knee-jerk thinking fans like me should avoid, because there's utterly no reason any of these guys (including Howard) need to play 90 minutes of two friendlies in four days. We're trying to make the pool deeper, not ruin what's left of FC Dallas' season. All we'd really learn is that Shea can probably shoot better when ball and field aren't soaking wet.
On the other hand, we probably don't want to get too excited about Clint Dempsey scoring. Dempsey had roughly a million years alone in the Honduras penalty area to juke, set, and place his (fantastic) shot. He didn't get that kind of time playing for New England, let alone in original England. The conclusion that Dempsey is awesome isn't any more compelling than the conclusion that Honduras needs a lot of work on their defense.
Are there flaws in the team right now? Of course. Like all these naturalized players. After fifteen years of a professional league, our national team coach feels compelled to bring in a bunch of mercenaries? That's not just disrespect to MLS, it's disrespect to every fan who has ever cheered on the national team with the passion of - sorry, what?
ussoccer.com: Have you watched U.S. National Team games in the past? DW [Danny Williams]: “Not many because they don’t show that many games in Germany, but I always watch in the World Cup. I will never forget the game against Germany in the 2002 World Cup in the quarterfinal. This was the time that I started loving the USA. I watched the game, and normally I would support Germany. After the U.S. lost that match, I started crying. My dad asked what was going on. I didn’t know what to say, but I wanted the U.S. to win.”
....oh. Well, don't I feel like a s**theel.
But with Klinsmann expanding and changing the player pool at a dizzying rate, making value judgments on the team is ridiculously premature. This is why I don't worry about, say, Omar Gonzalez being ignored in favor of players I consider vastly inferior. World Cup cycles are long, arduous slogs. You can be a major part of the team for three years, and then a week before the tournament Robbie Findley has your spot while Hawaii weeps. There's so much time, and so much to do, that only a moron would look at Klinsmann's early rosters and say he was calling the best players available - sorry, what?
"It's my opinion the best that are right now available. If there are injuries, there are injuries. But in general, I want the best players always here, and that makes it difficult now for Benny or for George John and Omar Gonzalez for example, I understand that."
(via Franco Panizo of Ives' Soccer Blog Sweatshop.)
Wow, that's...Michael Orozco Fiscal, future Philadelphia Union non-Hall of Famer, one of the two or three best American defenders, huh?
Okay, here's how I'm choosing to interpret this. First, no coach is every going to say he's picked the wrong players, let alone before the game is even played.
And even if you are calling in guys because your first couple of choices are injured, the last thing you want to do is admit that they're short-term replacements. You're guaranteed to get a horses**t performance out of the new guys, and what if the injured guys stay injured longer than you expected, like Stuart Holden? You're then out your first choice, and your second choice thinks you're a complete snipe (anagram) and won't hustle for you.
Some of this might also be an accommodation with, or a middle finger to, various club coaches who pouted about callups to their important players. I realize these are FIFA dates, but these were also garbage friendlies, and unfortunately a lot of our player pool needs to keep in nice with those who sign their checks.
Anyway, Michael O'Fiscal is three years older than Omar Gonzalez, the latter of whom will be 25 in 2014. Orozco will be closer to his physical prime, and will theoretically have three more years of international experience. Defenders age much less quickly than forwards, and experience counts for more. So if Klinsmann is right about Orozco, then it will pay off big.
If he's wrong, then our back line will be demolished in Brazil, and Omar will still be around for the Russia tournament, so all we've done is wasted four crucial years.
How old is George John - well, he's not even eligible for the US, since he's a West Indian fast bowler who died in 1944 - you know, I may be looking at the wrong George John. Maybe the rule is, if you're not the default entry under your name in Wikipedia, you can't get a callup.
...or Klinsmann has picked a core of players that I disagree with, and I'm just going to have to tolerate it. I...I'll try. But it's a damn shame that the gutsiest performer on the field has no chance of being recalled: