USMNT - Ami of Darkness (with updates, even)

Danny Williams will now be demoted to his level of competence, accompanied by a chorus of boos.  His performance against Costa Rica was the only memorable one from the US national team.  I was much more sad than annoyed by that, because I remembered this interview from when he was first called up:

ussoccer.com: Have you watched U.S. National Team games in the past?
DW: “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.”

He was my favorite import from that moment, nearly my favorite on the whole team.  Not only was he a fan, he was a fan who felt exactly as we did, at the moment we did.

Well, none of us grew up to be good enough for the US national team, either.  I hope he doesn't regret his choice, I hope he has a sterling club career, and heck, I hope he gives MLS a try if it pops into his head.  Good luck, Danny.

_______________________

Hey, speaking of German-Americans.  For those of you who sometime in the past 36 hours decided to become US national team fans, and for some wacko reason decided to make this particular blog your very first introduction to US soccer - you know what, I think I can assume that you guys have been following the Klinsmann/Fabian Johnson controversy.

So I might as well admit it - I'm going to recap it to try to keep the whole story straight in my head.  This is the weirdest, most vitriolic story in US soccer since Hope Solo dropped Landon Donovan.  Mike Woitalla and Grant Wahl recap the situation, along with their opinions that Klinsmann was an idiot monster.  This will, as we see, turn out not to be a unanimous opinion.

Saturday night.  Fabian Johnson and Juergen Klinsmann, in their own ways, stink up Southern California.  Fabian asked to be, and was, substituted, to Klinsmann's lack of delight:

“I had a very severe word with Fabian Johnson, and I sent him home today,” said Klinsmann ahead of Tuesday’s less-than-tantalizing friendly against Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena. “He said he couldn’t go anymore and I reacted to it and obviously made the substitution. But he just feared to get possibly an injury, but he was not injured in that moment. He got all stiffened up. It’s a muscle issue. That’s normal. In a situation like that, little things often make a difference.”

“You have to move on,” Klinsmann continued later. “So [Johnson] is going home after we had a talk. And he can rethink his approach toward his team.”

If you don't think someone should be fired over this...well, Klinsmann pretty much suspended, if not outright fired, Fabian over this.  Fabian Johnson, German-American Champions League winger and defender, without whom our prospects are even dimmer. 

Problem is, Fabian's Champions League club said he wasn't faking the injury.

Woitalla, Wahl, Will Parchman, and heaven knows who else pounced on this, excoriating Klinsmann for pigheadedness at best, lying at worst.

Now, it was perfectly reasonable to conclude that it was Klinsmann who made the diagnosis on Fabian, since it was, after all, Klinsmann who described the non-injury in informed detail to the shocked media.  However, according to Doug McIntyre, Klinsmann had backup.  "The tightness Johnson felt was not related to the right hamstring injury that sidelined Johnson for five weeks in August and September, a U.S. Soccer spokesman confirmed."  McIntyre added more detail via the Twitter box, partly in response to some scrubby fat rando trying to tell people how to do their jobs:

I would have liked some names attached to these reports, but I would also like a beer and money sandwich, hold the bread. (Old D.R. & Quinch reference.)  Worse would be done, within this very story, with anonymous sources. 

But let's pause for a moment.  Assuming that McIntyre's source wasn't lying through his, her, or their teeth, Klinsmann is in the clear.  If Klinsmann was relying on his medical staff, it was the medicos, and not Klinsmann, that Gladbach was contradicting and humiliating.  Klinsmann still should answer for making the issue public, but he had an understandable right to go ballistic if the professionals said Fabian was faking.

Now, it's pretty clear that Klinsmann had decided that Johnson had been malingering before he was examined, based on the reactions at the time.  But the idea that medical professionals would lie about their patient's health in order to please their boss is not to be entertained.  Barring the revelation of truly scandalous facts, Klinsmann honestly thought Fabian was faking.

At this point Taylor Twellman enters the picture.  And...well, maybe I had something to do with this, too - I'll never know for sure.  Back to the birdbox:

In retrospect, telling Lee Harvey Oswald "You don't have the GUTS to pull that trigger!" is something I regret and apologize for.  However...c'mon, that did look like one weak, weak opinion.  How was I supposed to know that Twellman was gonna go crazy?   Besides, he might have been planning to torch American soccer even if I hadn't said anything.  I'm not the one on trial here.  Fabian Johnson is.

Well, goaded by irresponsible gutter soccer comedy blogger or not, Taylor Twellman decided it was a fine idea to go on national television and say that not only was Johnson lollygagging, but that he has a history of wimping out.

Twellman's sources for this, were, naturally, ghosts.

Maybe it's just because of Twellman's connections with New England, but this reminds me of the late sportswriting scumbag Will McDonough.  McDonough's MO was to print any anonymous smear that the Patriots or Red Sox would care to leak about a player they were having difficulty with - Howard Bryant's "Shut Out" described this in detail.  Let's face it, it's a tiny bit weird that now, rather than, oh, forty caps ago.

That doesn't mean it's not true.  Or, more precisely, it is difficult to prove that it's untrue.  Maybe this was the final straw. 

Of course, because it's both convenient and anonymous, and released in exactly the same way a monstrous lie would be disseminated, we have no way of knowing.

Equally of course, unless the staff Twellman spoke with boast certifications and degrees, their insights on Johnson's leg issues are as speculative as yours or mine.  So there's another issue with reporting something that might be true, but also wrong.

And, finally (well, of course not finally, but as of this moment, more shots are bound to be fired), Klinsmann has been buoyed enough by ESPN's reporting to call and raise on Gladbach and their medical staff:

“If you want to test it out, then see if he’s playing on the weekend,” said Klinsmann when asked after the game. “And you have the answer.”

Which brings us back to Borussia Moenchengladbach.  (Spelled it right the first try.  I rule.)  If Klinsmann and the anonymous growlers at US Soccer are telling the truth, then Gladbach needs to clean house, pronto.  Let's look at the options from the club's point of view.

1.  JOHNSON'S LEG WAS ACTING UP LAST WEEK, BUT BY THIS WEEKEND IT WILL BE BETTER.

Klinsmann would be a royal ass indeed to have put Johnson in the situation where he's damned if he plays an important game on Saturday, even if he has healed.  We would never know who was right, and the relationship between Fabian and the national team would be poisoned forever.

There are two problems with this premise.  First, it vindicates, to an extent, Klinsmann and the anonymous locker room's complaints that he was saving himself for Gladbach.  Second, McIntyre's US Soccer sources said that Johnson was not injured, while Gladbach publicly said that he was. 

2.  JOHNSON IS LYING, AND BORUSSIA IS NOT IN ON IT.

So perhaps Klinsmann isn't being an unrealistic ass by making Johnson's play on Saturday a litmus test.  Let's say Fabian didn't fool the US doctors, but did fool the Borussia medical staff.  I said someone needed to be fired, but I never said it had to be someone from US Soccer.  Maybe Johnson needs never play for the US again, and it's Borussia that needs the new doctors.

Except Twellman informed us that Johnson has a history of this kind of thing.  "Hey, good news, I'm better now" should be a red flag or six, and Gladbach would be looking into cutting ties with him if that were so.  Fabian's only been with Gladbach for a year, so this possibility might play out down the road.  Johnson playing on Saturday wouldn't settle the issue in favor of Klinsmann decisively, but it would be significantly in his favor.  A guy isn't injured Saturday, is doubtful on Monday, and plays for big minutes the next Saturday?  Gladbach would have to worry.  And clubs don't usually put in unreliable players in Champions League games if they can help it.

We're also back to why we've been calling up this goldbricker for years now.  But yes, if Fabian tears it up - er, I mean, if Fabian plays amazingly, then, ironically, he and the Gladbach medical staff should explain their curative powers.

It's a Catch-22 - play well, and have your reputation trashed; play badly or skip the game, and you're vindicated.  Which is why if US Soccer and their staff put him in this position, heads should roll...and if Fabian did it to himself, then he must reap what he sowed.

Of course, there are other possibilities.

3. JOHNSON IS LYING, AND BORUSSIA IS IN ON IT.

Insanity.  Wanting to embarrass Klinsmann is one thing.  Risking the Champions League to keep up the façade is unthinkable.

"Hey, I'm good to go, but I need you to tell people I'm hurt so I can get over on my national team coach."  Or whatever it would be, in German.  I don't buy it.

And of course, now it's "Hey, I'm good to go, but I need to take a week off because my coach issued a challenge."  The answer would probably not be, "That's great, there will be other Champions Leagues."

I think Gladbach is a disinterested party, except that they want a reliable Fabian playing well for them.  It's possible they told Johnson to tank for the US and save himself for the club - in which case, again, Klinsmann had every right to lose his mind over it. 

By the way, the whole hamstring v. thigh thing is weird, too.  Is it that amazing that Gladbach's social media person didn't come up with the English word "quadricep"?

4. JOHNSON IS TELLING THE TRUTH.

So if Johnson does skip Saturday, or plays like garbage and has to come out, it would be time to aim the flamethrower domestically, and liberally.  Klinsmann would need to fire the medical staff who misled him, and apologize extremely publicly to Johnson and Borussia.  The anonymous yappers who lied to McIntyre and Twellman (again, to be clear, we're talking about this particular scenario) should be burnt like Joan of Arc. 

I've never understood, by the way, why this doesn't happen more often.  A source that makes a reporter look like a fool is no source worth protecting.

Now, if you don't agree with me that this sort of thing isn't an automatic fire for someone - well, man, I don't know where you work.  But someone is responsible for torpedoing Fabian's international career and reputation.  And someone is going to pay the price.  It could, obviously, be Johnson himself - but if it isn't, Klinsmann (or those above him) need to act.  We don't have that many players we can just toss aside.

_________________

FRIDAY UPDATE - if you still care

First of all, I'm an idiot.  Borussia plays Juve next Wednesday, because, Dan, you dumbass, Champs Leagues games are played midweek.  It's Bundesliga on weekends.  I'm leaving it unedited as a monument to my silliness.  My only crime is that I care too much.

Also, Borussia pushed all its damn chips in yesterday.

"Fabian has a thigh problem, but I’m assuming that he will be available in Frankfurt," [Gladbach coach Andre] Schubert said Thursday. "We won’t know that until tomorrow either though. I can vehemently deny everything that has been written and said about him recently. I know Fabian to be a top professional who has a great mindset when it comes to the team, his job and his health. When a player feels a tightening of their thigh in added time in a game and could then be on the verge of a more serious injury, I only think it’s the responsibility of the team and himself to have him subbed off in that situation."

Not the words of someone who is merely trying to placate a player (who, after all, has only been on the team for a year).

I'd like to think that tossing a starter off the national team while dragging his reputation wrongly through the mud would be a fireable offense. 

And I'd also like to think ESPN's reporters would begin to explain themselves.  Schubert strongly implies that this is, in fact, the same thigh problem that flared up Saturday.  Which makes ESPN's reporting about separate injuries nonsense.  Their enthusiasm to repeat anonymous gossip has hurt their reputation.  They too owe Fabian, and national team fans, an apology. (I've tweeted Doug McIntyre and Taylor Twellman about this - as if I haven't done enough damage - I'll update on their response.)

Well, unless you think Gladbach is now covering up one injury, but exaggerating another?  You don't need Dollar Shave Club to get Occam's Razor, people.