Oldham Soccer Club

World Cup 2014 & the USMNT

August 2014

World Cup 2014 and the USMNT

This summer I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks in Brazil watching the World Cup, an ambition of mine for a very long time. Despite the country’s laid back approach to organizing the event, the occasion didn’t disappoint. From a ‘soccer’ standpoint it was by far the best World Cup in recent years with some exceptional individual and team play. It was also incredible to see so many Americans following the events, something that was unimaginable as close as 10 years ago.

It was also incredible to see so many Americans following the events, something that was unimaginable as close as 10 years ago

My pre-World Cup predictions were that the South American teams and Germany would be very successful. I had Brazil to win it all, although I changed my mind after watching the opening game vs Croatia. I had watched Chile destroy England in a friendly a few months back and fancied them, along with Uruguay and Colombia to all advance far. Unfortunately for Chile they drew Brazil in the second round, and despite more than matching them, they fell in penalty kicks. As the luck of the draw had it, Colombia and Uruguay would also face each other in the Second round, with Colombia going through.  Spain, who has had so much success over the past 6 years, endured a miserable World Cup. Their ageing squad was humiliated by Holland and was knocked out only a few days later. As we know, Germany went on to lift the trophy - and deservedly so. German soccer has invested heavily into youth soccer over the past 15 years and are seeing the rewards, both at club level and internationally. I only wish that the England Soccer Association would take a leaf out of their book…

German soccer has invested heavily into youth soccer over the past 15 years and are seeing the rewards, both at club level and internationally

When the group stages were drawn and USA were given the task of facing Germany, Ghana and Portugal there was a lot of pessimism and overwhelming sense of ‘oh no, not again’ (USA had been knocked out of the past three World Cups with defeats to Germany and Ghana twice). With some hard work, some magnificent goalkeeping, and a little bit of luck, USA advanced and took Belgium to the wire in the Second Round game.

If we can now continue to develop and invest in our youth structure and improve the level of coaching even further, then there is no limit to what the USMNT can achieve.

I am torn as to whether I think USA had a successful World Cup. Looking at it from a ‘popularity of the sport’ perspective I think that the USMNT made incredible strides.  18.2 million people tuned in to watch the USA vs Portugal game, while the final between Germany and Argentina drew 26.5m viewers. Tim Howard’s heroics in goal helped catch the imagination of the US sports fans. Unfortunately, there was a reason Tim Howard was so busy! While it was impossible not to admire the sheer grit and determination of the USMNT, it also hid some hard truths. The team finished 32nd out of 32 in average shots for/against, and 27th out of 32 in terms of passes completed against the opposition. Simply put, the quality of play was not good enough. What is clear is that there is no country in the world that can match the hard work, the perseverance and the ‘never say die’ attitude of the US – if we can now continue to develop and invest in our youth structure and improve the level of coaching even further, then there is no limit to what the USMNT can achieve.

Simon Bird
Director of Coaching, Oldham Soccer Club
thoroughbredsdoc@yahoo.com