So people are now screaming for the coach's head, just because we had an unimpressive win at home, and an unimpressive draw on the road.
Hey - that's what a national team is supposed to do. Survive, and advance. Accomplish the mission. Climb the ladder.
Okay, he's not the most likeable coach. Okay, he can be a bit abrasive and condescending. Okay, he really has trouble dealing with veterans on his team.
But his critics have to look at the larger picture. We don't, despite our population, have the player pool that other countries have. That's just a fact. So what we need from a coach is someone who can expand the player pool, while getting the most out of the players we have.
So we've looked to Germany for players. So we've looked to integrate young players. Some have succeeded - and some aren't going to. Don't confuse a snapshot for a process.
And I hate to be the one to say this, but those beloved veteran players? The ones who have been dropped, or had their playing time limited, or had their positions changed? That didn't happen out of the blue. I can go point by point, player by player, and show where performance and productivity have diminished in each case. Age and complacency is a deadly combination. You can blame the coach for that, but you should be blaming Father Time.
This is a coach who has brought new ideas, new approaches, new tactics, and a new, forward-thinking attitude. And oh by the way, it's difficult to win on the road in CONCACAF. We can't expect magical, Brazil 1970 results - that's just not going to happen.
So you can make as many message board posts as you like, you can write as many articles as you like, you can say and do whatever you want. But take it from me, a time traveler from the year 1997. We're not going to fire Steve Sampson.
Well, I have to get back to my time machine - wouldn't want to screw up the space-time continuum. Go Mutiny!
I know, it's unfair to compare Steve Sampson to Juergen Klinsmann. Klinsmann's salary is a lot higher. And Sampson's US team won at Trinidad.
We're going to qualify for the World Cup. Klinsmann is going to be our coach for that process, and up until (barring an extremely favorable draw) three games in summer 2018. Then we can rebuild.
But this week I read something from Sunil Gulati that...you know, it's probably nothing. It was in a hypothetical context, he immediately pointed out the downside of the implications of what he said, and his larger point was a defense of the status quo.
"I think it's safe to say, that if the federation imposed all the powers that it might have via the Ted Stevens Act, and its membership in FIFA, there would be very long discussions with many people with high LSAT scores," he said, referring obliquely to lawyers.
You will have noticed that the ESPN article in question was about whether the US Soccer Federation would force MLS, the NASL, and the various levels of the USL (plus the NPSL, and points below?) to join into one big league. Or at least into partnerships along the lines of the Football Association forcing the Premiership and the Football League to exchange teams annually, which is for our purposes the proverbial distinction without a difference.
This is not the time to point out, yet again, that promotion and relegation in the United States is an idea best kept to people who couldn't pass an EEG test, let alone an LSAT test. The story here is that the USSF claims the power to control independent soccer businesses.
A federation with the power to impose promotion and relegation would be a federation with the power to forbid it. It would also be a federation that could make and unmake owners, boards of directors, rosters - basically, it's asking for a Jack Warner to run the sport here.
Since Sunil Gulati is not insane, he realizes that attempting to exercise powers to that degree would land him in court for the rest of his term, if not his natural life. Only a madman would consider such a thing, so destructive it would be to the sport.
And, should such a lunatic be elected USSF president, Sunil Gulati has now gone on record saying his or her powers would be effectively unlimited.
The federation, as we have discussed, does draw up standards for leagues to follow. The practical effect of these standards are (1) to decide who sends teams to the CONCACAF Champions League and (2) what round pro teams enter the US Open Cup. If there is a tangible difference between, say, Division 2 and Division 3, apart from the amount of fees paid to USSF, it has escaped my understanding. These are not the carrots and sticks on which one can make a claim for unlimited power.
But there are matters where the USSF is anything but trivial. The USSF's main purpose, from the point of view of soccer leagues, a licensing agency to help manage America's role in international soccer. Thanks to the USSF, player contracts in MLS, NASL and USL are honored by other federations, instead of Premiership clubs simply rolling up and making offers. Failing to certify a league would, in effect, cancel those contracts.
I'm probably splitting hairs. I see a difference between "We will ask you to adhere to previously passed, explicit standards" and "We can put you out of business at any time for any reason, provided we have the stomach for a court battle." ut Sunil says he doesn't want the hassle. So maybe there's no reason to make sure American leagues still have the rights and independence they thought they had last week. And academies, and schools, and coaches, and players, and however far down you want to look.
Hey, remember all that noise about compensation and solidarity payments? That issue that was going to bring down Sunil Gulati back in September, that issue there was a big meeting between the federation and a bunch of youth academies back in October, and here it is November and we haven't heard a peep? Yeah, I agreed with the USSF and MLS position, but I'd feel better if the reasoning was "This rule wasn't meant for profit-based businesses" rather than "We're the federation and what we say goes."
But....yeah, I'm probably worried over nothing. Bureaucracies claim powers all the time, but even Sunil's statement recognized that making those powers stick would be troublesome. I don't think we have to worry about the USSF doing anything more destructive than, I don't know, trying to overhaul the sport by handing millions and millions of dollars to a clown and a fraud.
We're paying Juergen Klinsmann for worse results than Steve Sampson. That was what I was getting at back there. I know you figured it out, but, you know. Pays to make sure about these things.