The United States Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) opened up group play in the World Cup on Monday with a 1-1 draw with Wales (a match they should have won).
The USMNT looked decent for the first 60ish minutes, but then ran out of gas as the game progressed and were eventually outsmarted and outworked. Bruce Arena, the most successful coach in U.S. men’s soccer history, did not hold back why he thought the current squad looks like they’re in for a short stay in Qatar.
“It’s also clear this team, in this cycle, didn’t have enough experiences against quality international teams to be fully ready for a World Cup,” Arena said. “That’s mainly because of the pandemic, so it’s hard to toss blame, but it’s also a fact we played a bunch of Concacaf games that were way too easy. You need those top-tier teams that really challenge you.”
While he may be right that the U.S. maybe should have scheduled harder opponents to prep themselves for the stiffer competition in this tournament, to blame their preparation on COVID is as pathetic as it gets.
Every team in the world had to navigate COVID and prepare a team fit to pursue World Cup glory. How the USMNT prepared might have been affected by the pandemic, but not enough to blame what was at times a lackluster showing by the team.
From the onset, men in the Stars and Stripes complained to referees like they were entitled to any call they wanted. They looked depleted of energy in the second half (highlighting their lack of tournament fitness) and were rather unimaginative and ineffective in their offensive approach outside of their transition game. COVID is not to blame for any of these things.
The USMNT has an uphill road to face should they want to make it out of group play thanks to dropping two points to Wales. If they hope to not get embarrassed by England in their Black Friday matchup, their attitudes and desire better change in a jiffy.
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