US soccer's issues go way beyond finding the right coach


US soccer's issues go way beyond finding the right coach

Jurgen Klinsmann’s long national nightmare is finally over. The United States Men’s National Soccer Team’s, on the other hand, remains.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, feels better to a soccer fan than to have his or her team win a championship, but firing the coach is always a photo-finish second. Since the USMNT has never really won enough to be an arm-waving factor on the international stage, firing the coach is really the optimal outcome any fan can envision.
And Klinsmann, the German who was going to revolutionize the development and cultivation of the sport in America (a job that frankly has already been done by all the ready access to the best soccer in the world on a daily basis) won too infrequently to be as dismissive of the established order as he was. So, he served the soccer establishment by becoming the new severed head.
Yay decapitation!
But here’s where the firing (for which we have no opinion one way or another, since it is like arguing against evolution to an anthropologist, or opposing yeast to a baker) misses the point: The name most often linked to the job is Bruce Arena, a guy who already had it and was fired for the same reason that Klinsmann got whacked – because he couldn’t jump the United States ahead of the line in the established national order of football powers, that’s why.
The U.S. isn’t in the place it’s in internationally because the players aren’t sufficiently “coached up,” but because the structural issues with U.S. soccer (as well as U.S. Soccer, the suit-and-snoot component of the sport) are well beyond anyone’s ability to fix comprehensively, and especially not quickly. The game is more profitable than ever, but butts in seats doesn’t mean the same as goals in nets.
There is this ongoing and very fanciful notion that the United States should be far higher on the list of global soccer powers, which is fine except for the fact that nobody can ever explain where they should be ranked. First? Fourth? Sixth? Thirteenth? Ahead of Germany? Ahead of France? Ahead of Scotland? Ahead of Narnia?
Nobody knows, which is why the answer that is most often expressed by the most passionate U.S. soccer fans when asked “Where should they be?” is “better than they are,” a properly amorphous standard for always firing whoever the coach is at any given time.
If there is a problem with the product on the field, it is largely that the available American talent is in a fallow period right now, a phenomenon that happens to all but the most elite soccer-playing countries. The U.S. is not deep with impact players right now (though Christian Pulisic might be the realest deal in recent history), and it has never been deep with inventive ones.
But Klinsmann allowed people to think he could fix that while he got up to speed with in-game tactical developments – in layman’s terms, the X’s and O’s. He did neither, in the one case because the U.S. still hasn’t figured out how to identify, harness, grow and inspire its supply of potential players (it is still too heavily dependent on children of affluent parents and a coaching structure that has not found, taught or nurtured genius), and in the other because he has never been a tactical wizard – or even a tactical pixie, as far as that goes.
In any event, Klinsmann’s firing changes little of real substance, but as a temporary feel-good measure, it works wonders, as all firings do. Unless the U.S. is suddenly going to hire Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti or Diego Simeone at the height of their transformative powers, it is hard to see how Klinsmann’s absence will make the product look any different than his presence did. This is just new coasters on old deck chairs.
Now if they want to find a way to clone Pulisic and send the formula down the food chain to find more like him, now that would be worth your enthusiastic response. But we don’t want to ruin your fun, so go with “Jurgen Klinsmann is out, so drink up everyone” if you must.  
The hangover will come later, like it always does.

USWNT star Megan Rapinoe will be obvious choice for Sportsperson of Year


USWNT star Megan Rapinoe will be obvious choice for Sportsperson of Year

Ten days into the second half of 2019, we already have a leader for Sportsperson of the Year, an award presented by a variety of media outlets, the most visible being the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award given by Sports Illustrated.

It is a rare sports honor insofar as it is designed to reward impact beyond mere athletic feats. The Golden State Warriors, back-to-back NBA champs willing to exercise social conscience, earned the distinction in 2018. The year before, Houston Astros star Jose Altuve and Houston Texans star J.J. Watt were honored excelling on the field and also their contributions to disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Here in 2019, Megan Rapinoe is blowing away the field.

After invading foreign soil and dominating the best of international competition, the United States Women’s National Team returned home to the classic America experience of adoration and derision. The most passionate reaction, both ways, is reserved for Rapinoe, the co-captain and team leader who has been subjected to the centuries-old tradition reserved for women who see injustice and inequality and dare to push back.

She’s the lesbian agitator that, you know, keeps getting political, bringing up such matters as social inequality based on race, sex and ethnicity, as well as pay inequality for women.

Rapinoe was crusading again Wednesday, addressing a crowd of tens of thousands in New York City after she and her teammates were celebrated with a parade down Broadway. She said things people need to hear, the kind of comments that have resulted in her being described as a “polarizing” personality.

“We have to be better,” Rapinoe implored. “We have to love more, hate less. We’ve got to listen more and talk less. We’ve got to know that this is everybody’s responsibility. Every single person here. Every single person who is not here. Every single person who doesn’t want to be here. Every single person who agrees and doesn’t agree. It’s our responsibility to make the world a better place.”

Yet there are Americans who claimed not to root for the American soccer team because of Rapinoe, who spares no one in her expressed pursuits. She is another in an expanding list of high-profile athletes making it abundantly clear that she would not accept an invitation to the White House from President Donald Trump.

Rapinoe has made clear that she can’t accept the man’s agenda, both implicit as well as explicit, and reiterated as much Tuesday in an interview CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

“Your message is excluding people,” she said. “You're excluding me, you're excluding people that look like me, you're excluding people of color, you're excluding Americans that maybe support you.”

She pointed out that the Trump agenda -- identified by the MAGA acronym -- is a call to return to a time in America when racial, ethnic and sexual and discrimination was legislated.

“It might have been great for a few people, and maybe America is great for a few people right now,” she said. “But it's not great for enough Americans in this world," she said.

"You have an incredible responsibility as the chief of this country to take care of every single person, and you need to do better for everyone.”

Women who so brazenly challenge men of power tend to receive the figurative backhand. Go away. The president’s response last week to Rapinoe’s vow to not visit the Trump White House amounted to “Shut up and win.”

They did win, posting a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final on Sunday for their second consecutive World Cup victory. They received a standing ovation from the crowd in Lyon, France. Rapinoe, who led the way, received the Golden Ball award (best player) and the Golden Boot award (top scorer).

But Rapinoe will not shut up. Neither will her teammates; Alex Morgan, the Silver Boot award winner who, like Rapinoe, donates a portion of her earnings to soccer-related charities, said in May that she wouldn’t accept an invitation from the Trump White House.

Upon returning home, the national team should be held up as role models for humanity as well as ambassadors for a sport and a country. They shouldn’t have to tolerate disdain from the far-right, often the first to chant “U-S-A, U-S-A,” after American success on a global stage.

[RELATED: Steph Curry congratulates USWNT on World Cup victory]

Rapinoe is here to win soccer games while reminding us of how much work we have to do.

“This country was founded on a lot of good ideals,” she said recently. “But it was also founded on slavery. We just need to be really honest about that and be really open about talking about that.”

If Ali were alive, he’d be honored to present any award, much less one named for his commitment to social activism, to Rapinoe.

Women's World Cup parade: Watch top moments from USWNT's celebration


Women's World Cup parade: Watch top moments from USWNT's celebration

They broke records and made history. And topped it off with bottles of bubbly, dancing and celebratory speeches at the Women's World Cup victory parade Wednesday morning in Manhattan.

The ladies of the United States Women's National team, led by captains Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, began their journey to victory with an unheard of, and record-setting, 13-0 victory over Thailand. Perhaps "unheard of" is not the correct term -- they were heard loud and clear. This resulted in controversy over some of the team's celebrations after each, well-deserved goal.

Then came other matches, including the tests of Spain, France and England -- in which they passed, with flying colors.

And when it was time for the finale against the Netherlands ... well, you know what happened.

The parade was led by Rapinoe, who made one hell of an entrance to start things off after an introduction from Robin Roberts:

The Golden Ball Award winner, of course, had to begin it all with her signature pose -- you know what I'm talking about. 

Morgan showered the crowd in champagne:

And did the tea pose ... 

Breakthrough star Rose Lavelle enjoyed the festivities as well:

So lit ...

On Ashlyn Harris' Instagram story (someone was gracious enough to put the collection together in a YouTube video), Rapinoe, without hesitation said, "I deserve this." 

Warning: This video is pretty NSFW, but worth it:

A day and a journey to remember.

Just as FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in the closing press conference, "There will be a before and after the Women's World Cup 2019."

[RELATED: Rapinoe slams FIFA over gender pay gap, scheduling]

To cap things off, Rapinoe gave an epic speech.

"This is my charge to everyone. We have to be better. We have to love more, hate less. We've got to listen more and talk less. We've got to know that this is everybody's responsibility."