Has it really been fifteen years since John Harkes was captain for life? Wow. Anyway, younglings, trust me that whenever the national team is de-captainated, there is, shall we say, a period of adjustment. Trust me even more that compared to the Harkes affair - er, sorry - the current saga is a parade of respect and professionalism. And that's just in American soccer history. Some day we'll gather around and talk about Eric Cantona, or Roy Keane, or any Holland team picked at random. If you think this week is some sort of international soccer outlier - well, not to pile on the smarm too terribly, but - I see the bruise you got from falling off the turnip truck yesterday is healing nicely. So how are you enjoying your very first rodeo?
The definition of national team manager is bruising egos. Star players are shunted to roles, brought off the bench, kept on the bench, dropped in camp, or ignored entirely. You literally cannot do the job without pissing off, or on, popular people.
Seriously, what were you expecting? "Klinsi saw through my BS like Superman through Saran Wrap, and I'll always love him for it"?
But the actual news isn't news. What makes this news is the stakes. Are the stakes. Whatever. If Klinsmann bungles qualification...well, let's not find out what it's possible for American soccer to survive.*
However, there's not yet any reason to believe qualification is in peril. If literally everything we've read about Klinsmann and Vasquez is hideously accurate - well, we're at home, and the other team has called up Roy Miller. Less than three points would be disastrous, but unlikely.
I know, I know, what if our inexperienced back line decides to, I don't know, deliberately encroach during penalty kicks or something. How can such a young, green team cope with the pressure in playing in front of a friendly crowd in Denver against a team that has never won in the United States? (EDIT - er, oops. Corrected by readers below. I apologize for the error, seriously. Can't imagine what I was thinking.)
Okay, not to be flip, but Bryan Ruiz and Alvaro Saborio would be troublesome for almost any US backline. They're very good, as Panama found out to their considerable cost.
If only we could field defenders who were familiar with Saborio. If only we had a player who was familiar with how Ruiz plays at Fulham. If only we had a ball-winner like Michael Bradley. If only we had a Premiership-level goalkeeper to step in for Tim Howard. Whatever shall we do.
For the Azteca game - gang, we should have been mentally prepared for an ass-kicking in this fixture since the second half of the 2011 Gold Cup final. It's not like we have a coach who has ever won in Mexico City, either. What?
Of course we're right to worry. The most likely outcomes for this weekend, pointswise, are, in order: 3, 1, 0, 2, 4, 6. So horrible options are, in total, more likely than acceptable ones. That's understandable to be concerned about.
And it would be easy to say US fans have the attention span of schizoid goldfish for turning on Klinsmann a year and change after turning on Bradley. But the fan base has grown considerably - it may not be the same people who yelled about Bob now yelling about Juergen. And Klinsmann, unlike his predecessors, came into office promising hope and change, and oh by the way cost something like four times as much in salary as his immediate predecessors. Someone getting paid two million fish per annum ought to be scrutinized very carefully.
As long as we're fair about it. Brian Straus was shooting fish in a barrel. Which is much more difficult than it sounds. First you have to find a barrel, then get ahold of several cubic feet of fish, and THEN you have to find a way to get the fish in the barrel. They weren't born in that barrel, you know. Even dead fish are bulky and slippery, and presumably these are live fish, because otherwise why bother shooting them?
But still - a bunch of different lineups? Stupid Klinsmann, choosing to coach a team where players get injured when he has perfectly good Cylons available. Starting inexperienced players? Good point, I guess...except well, now Cameron and Gonzalez do have CONCACAF experience. And will get even more this coming week. Including, frankly, the best option to get said experience - a terrible, intimidating Azteca where, nonetheless, a loss is far from the end of the world.
Yes, new players should have been broken in during friendlies. Stupid Omar, getting hurt last year - that sure was stupid of him. I don't think it's unreasonable that the focus is getting experience now for Brazil, rather than squeezing the last bit of juice out of Carlos Bocanegra.
Again, I hate to dismiss people's worries, but complaining now is like telling me Klinsmann is a worse coach, and his control of the team is more tenuous, than Steve Sampson. I can't get there. But I can accept difficult games mixed in with taunting from our green friends to the south.
What, you wanted a sport where the US makes everything look easy? Basketball's ready when you are.
*That said, American soccer would certainly survive qualifying through the backdoor fourth place playoff upset over New Zealand. My theory, which is mine, is that the US does not need to play beautifully to win fans. Wearing a flag while celebrating will be enough. Quick quiz - were the 1980 US victories over the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia pretty, ugly, or a mixture of the two?
Right - who cares. Who remembers. MLS needs to talk pretty one day, but the US Mint just needs to get to the final tournament, and get acceptable results once there.
Another quick quiz - how impressive, out of context, is beating Algeria 1-0 on a neutral field? That was an awe-inspiring, glorious finish...and it was a rebound off a muffed shot after ninety-plus minutes of pure frustration. Admit it - after regulation was up, you would have greeted Bradley, Donovan and company at the airport with an armload of tomatoes and your best fastball.