USMNT 2018 World Cup woes is a direct representation of MLS’ joke


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Christian Pulisic cries after USMNT 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago

Vandy Manyeh, News Editor

This happened in 2010.

The sounds of the vuvuzelas through my television speakers still ring a bell in my ears. Landon Donovan’s posture as he took a penalty to square things up won’t be forgotten. The jaw-dropping display from Bob Bradley’s men was fantastic even after Asamoah Gyan’s early goal in extra time. Unfortunately, U.S.A. did not progress to the next round; their opponent, Ghana, went on to the quarterfinals after a 2-1 win.

I yelled after the referee blew his whistle to end the match. My uncle was asleep. The yell pounced through the walls of the house; he ran down and asked: “What happened?” That is what soccer fans do.

Four years later, I waited for another memorable moment. This time, it was veteran-goalkeeper Tim Howard’s 16 saves against Belgium that had me kicking the cushions off the couch in my living room.

I get it. In my lifetime, this is the single best individual performance from a goalkeeper. The guy was on point. He was literally the defense against Eden Hazard, Divock Origi and Kevin De Bruyne. Soccer statisticians have this on record as the most saves by a goalkeeper since record-keeping started in 1966. Again, team U.S.A went out after a 2-1 loss to Belgium.

That performance was so good that six months later, my essay on bravery when I took the SAT was about “Uncle Tim.”

Sadly, three years later, I won’t be able to relive two outstanding performances that I remember to this day. This time, I will remember “Uncle Tim” for a bad game. I will remember Jozy Altidore for his easy miss early in the first half. Too bad, USMNT was defeated by Trinidad and Tobago 2-1 in a crucial qualifying match. No World Cup for one of the best national teams in recent years.

What went wrong? Like I have said in previous sports columns, Major League Soccer is a joke, and this is the level of shock you expect. No league is fit to groom players for the national team other than the MLS. MLS has failed to produce quality players. The MLS has failed to bring players to international standards. The style of play is distasteful surrounded by players who don’t have the stamina and finesse to compete.

Instead, the marketing strategy of MLS is to recruit fading players in an attempt to have us glued to Fox Sports or ESPN during games. Our own Chicago Fire touted the signing of a ready-to-retire Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Cristiano Ronaldo came from Sporting Clube de Portugal in his native Portugal before his stints with Manchester United and Real Madrid. Neymar Jr. played for Santos in his native Brazil. Domestic leagues have always been the catalyst for growth for great soccer players.

Over 90 percent of players on the national team are from this retirement league. As crazy as it sounds, they don’t have the psyche to compete. They are used to playing with less energy since their 35-year-old stars are slow-paced.

With all the well-funded athletic programs in high schools and universities, MLS cannot boast of any stand-out recruited athlete who is on par with the athleticism of Christian Pulisic. He is the lone soldier among his peers; and with retirement around the corner for most players on the national team, I can safely predict more absurd losses from USMNT.

Leaving a little room for hope, few questions are so hard to answer: Can USMNT rely on the pampered stars in the MLS? Should international players from more athletic leagues start for the national team ahead of MLS players?

Brazil’s 7-1 loss to Germany in 2014 was a wake-up call; now they are a formidable force headed to the World Cup. Like Brazil, I hope U.S.A Soccer will put this loss into perspective and make a quick u-turn before 2022.