Earlier, I talked about the Ireland/USA game and debated on whether or not they would suffer a late game collapse like so many recent games. We found out that it was even worse. The USMNT couldn’t even get ahead to suffer a late game collapse. Ireland, well an arguably “C” squad Ireland team handedly defeated an arguably “B+” squad from the USMNT 4-1. It’s no doubt that the USMNT haven’t been the same since the World Cup and there are two main reasons because of this.
This is a very inexperienced squad playing these games. After Jozy Altidore, with 76 caps, the highest capped player who was on the squad for the Ireland game was Kyle Beckerman, who earned his 42nd cap. Shockingly, 9 of the 20 players who were on the squad had fewer than 10 caps. Players like Chris Wondolowski, Matt Besler and Mix Diskerud were some of the more experienced players on the squad.
Quite simply, this is a squad who will make mistakes when facing opponents who are used to playing on an international level. This is a squad where the average player has 17 caps and is 23 years old. I can’t be shocked if a team like that makes mistakes from time to time. Honestly, I would rather have these players make those mistakes now, in these friendlies instead of in a World Cup Qualifier or in a tournament. Still have a little less than four years until the World Cup. That’s plenty of time for this group to get it together.
I am not saying that the USMNT is not fit. They are one of the most fit teams in the world. Jurgen Klinsmann values fitness and getting his players to be able to outlast their opponents. The only problem is that it doesn’t matter how fit someone is, everyone has a breaking point and just about everyone from the World Cup team has played worse after the World Cup than before.
For this, the blame must surely be placed on Jurgen Klinsmann. Going back to Matt Besler’s comments about having three-a-days for a month before the World Cup. Klinsmann was right to stress the importance of fitness and making sure these players have the endurance to compete, but that also comes with a price. Klinsmann doesn’t understand that sometimes, just taking a day off or having a week of light training can go a long way than constant hard training.
When it comes to Besler, he hasn’t been the same since the World Cup. Except for a couple weeks last winter where he got married and went on his honeymoon right after the MLS Cup Final, he’s been training and playing soccer without a break (other than injuries) since before he went to the USA camp in January 2013. 22 months of soccer and only 2 weeks off in between, of course he hasn’t played well since the World Cup. And he’s not alone in that aspect. The World Cup players are tired and aren’t the players they used to be a few months ago. Particularly those MLS players who went through an entire season, a World Cup and a camp. It’s a wonder they’re still standing. Give those players the rest of the season to rest and just maintain their fitness and then come back fresh and strong in January.
Now that the calendar year is over for the USMNT, the end of the year was something everyone was looking forward to. This is a team that is sputtering and needed some rest. All we can hope for is that we see some old and new faces in the January camp and everyone who is there is refreshed and strong. That’s what the team needs right now.