BRIGHT FUTURE for US football
US FOOTBALL LOOKS FORWARD A YEAR AFTER WORLD CUP QUALIFYING FAILURE
ONE YEAR after a humbling failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the United States are hoping a string of upcoming friendlies will show they’re on the path to redemption.
This week marked the anniversary of the USA’s shock loss to Trinidad & Tobago that ended their bid to reach this year’s World Cup.
Midfielder Michael Bradley, back in the squad for the first time since then, said players are looking forward, not back.
“It doesn’t linger,” said Bradley, who has been recalled to the US squad by interim coach Dave Sarachan for yesterday’s friendly against Colombia and next week’s against Peru.
The profile of the sport will also be greatly enhanced by the recent admission of former England captain David Beckham’s new Major League Soccer franchise, Inter Miami, which is expected to start in 2020.
It has also attracted an impressive list of A-list players from the world in recent years, most recently Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who plays for LA Galaxy, but international success has been fleeting.
Sarachan, meanwhile, says it has always been his plan to reintroduce a veteran element to complement the young players who have stepped forward in the past year, but Bradley admitted he was never 100 percent certain he would be back.
Time for the younger guys
“I don’t think anybody ever knows that, so you enjoy every opportunity you have with the national team and you don’t ever take it for granted,” Bradley said.
“For me, the opportunity to be back now and start to get to know some of the younger guys that have been around the last nine or 10 months is great,” he said. “I’m very excited.”
US Soccer, aware that the wound from that night in Trinidad & Tobago is still raw for fans, marked the anniversary with a statement on their website.
“Today we look forward,” the statement said. “With the march towards 2022 underway and the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America as our guidepost, the US Men’s National Team has embarked on a new journey.
“The hallmarks of the culture remain, with perseverance, grit and dogged determination fueled by the pride to represent the United States and each and every one of you.”
The federation played a key role in landing the 2026 World Cup for North America, along with Mexico and Canada.
There has been change at the top with the departure of Sunil Gulati and the election of former vice president Carlos Cordeiro as the new US Soccer president and the arrival of Earnie Stewart as general manager of the national team.
But the Americans are still searching for a permanent replacement for Bruce Arena, who stepped down as coach three days after the Trinidad debacle.
With Sarachan at the helm they split friendlies against Brazil and Mexico in September, and he said he’d seen a “progression” in the rebuilding team in the eight matches played to date under his guidance.
“It’s by no means a finished progression, but it’s moving along in a good direction,” he said.
James key to Colombia win
The Americans’ busy run of games had a losing start as a Colombian team led by James Rodriguez roared past a enthusiastic but inexperienced US team 4-2 in a friendly in Florida.
James put the Cafeteros in the lead with a spectacular effort from the edge of the penalty area in the 36th minute, thrilling a largely pro-Colombia crowd in Tampa.
The US responded with two goals in the space of three minutes by Kellyn Acosta and Bobby Wood early in the second half that gave the hosts a 2-1 lead. But Colombia rose to the challenge with goals from Carlos Bacca, Radamel Falcao and Miguel Borja to secure the victory.
Colombia drew on the world-class talent of Falcao and Bayern midfielder James, who made his presence felt on his return to international duty.
Colombia’s North American tour continues on Tuesday against Costa in New Jersey, when the United States will face Peru in Connecticut.
David Beckham is a key element in the optimism of a new era for football in the US.
Kellyn Acosta gave the US brief hope during their game against Colombia yesterday.