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Kolakowski: Missing the World Cup should shake up US Soccer

| Thursday, October 12, 2017

Chants of “We believe that we will win!” rang throughout the United States during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Three years later, the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) is simply an embarrassment.

The USMNT was nearly guaranteed a spot in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. All they had to do was defeat a lowly Trinidad and Tobago club, and the Americans would be moving on after a tumultuous final round of qualifying.

Trinidad and Tobago had one victory, zero draws and nine losses prior to the final match against the American team. Their goal differential was -11, easily the worst in the group. The island nation has an estimated population under 1.4 million, a total less than that of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It would take a nightmare scenario for the Americans to lose to the Trinidadians.

The nightmare came to life for the USMNT on Tuesday night.

Trinidad and Tobago took the lead early with an American own goal in the 17th minute of play, and the USMNT would not be able to recover for the remainder of the match. The American side fell by a final score of 2-1. American wunderkind Christian Pulisic netted the lone goal for the United States. The loss knocked the Americans out of World Cup consideration.

Upon the conclusion of the match, the U.S. Soccer official twitter page tweeted the final score of the match with a photograph of Pulisic. The photograph was accompanied by a one-word caption: “Heartbreak.”

U.S. Soccer is wrong. This is not heartbreak. This is frustration, disgust and incompetence. This is failure and collapse. This is unacceptable.

Yet, this could be exactly what American soccer needed. A loss of this magnitude should call the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) out of comfort and into action.

Nearly one year ago, Bruce Arena returned as the head coach of the USMNT, a position that he previously held from 1998 to 2006. The Americans underperformed in the 2006 World Cup, and Arena did not have his contract renewed as the coach of the USMNT. The USSF knew in 2006 that Arena was not fit to lead the national soccer team, but they were foolish enough to invite him back in 2016.

Arena was the comfortable choice for head coach. He had experience, and he had coached at the international level before. Now, he needs to go.

It is time for major changes within the USSF. Not simply coaching tweaks or minor decisions, but a full overhaul of American soccer. We can no longer make comfortable decisions like bringing in former coaches and starting old veteran players. We need to be bold and change the direction of U.S. soccer

Enter Tata Martino.

Martino, an Argentine soccer manager, would bring a fresh face and a fresh system to the USMNT. While not American, Martino has experience coaching in the States. Currently, he is serving the manager of Atlanta United FC, an expansion Major League Soccer franchise that has found tremendous success in its first year of play.

Martino has a history of success with his aggressive style of soccer. He has international experience as the manager for the Argentina national team and the Paraguay national team.

The USSF already displayed willingness to bring in a foreign coach when they hired Jürgen Klinsmann in 2011. We should take the risk and bring in another foreign coach in Martino. He is a fiery personality that brings an attacking style of play to the table.

We want to believe that we will win. Unfortunately, that is just not likely under Bruce Arena. If we want to chant again during the 2022 World Cup, America should be bold and hire Tata Martino as our next USMNT manager.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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