Coming off of their surprise Round of 16 performance in the 2014 World Cup, the USA Men’s National team isn’t exactly following it up with great results. And they hit rock-bottom yesterday after a 4-1 loss to Ireland’s reserve team (A-team benched after 5-0 loss to Scotland).
Now this wasn’t the United States’ A-team either. However, the squad they sent to Dublin shouldn’t have lost by three goals to a country with 4.6 million people either. USA did a poor job of clearing balls and maintaining possession. And their trend of terrible second-half performances continued as they were outscored 3-0 after halftime.
This now makes four straight matches where the Americans have failed to show up in the second half. Following a 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic to open international play, the Americans allowed late goals against Honduras and Ecuador (both ending in 1-1 ties), led Columbia 1-0 until giving up two late goals, then allowed the three aforementioned scores to Ireland.
Obviously this isn’t the same team that beat Ghana, tied Portugal, and played both Germany and Belgium tough during the World Cup. And head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has a good idea why his team is playing so poorly right now. Klinsmann said the following after the Ireland match:
“They have to learn emotionally how to digest a World Cup, and a lot of our players really had big problems digesting those extreme emotions. They dropped 20, 30 even 40 percent in performances in their club environment. Many of the Europeans lost their starting spot. Many other players in MLS or wherever went down 30, 40 percent in their performances and this is because they didn’t know how to deal with all these emotions and all that recognition and all the compliments in the world that came after the World Cup. In a certain way it’s human. I mean, it’s understandable. But the former World Cup champion player made clear this shows “we are not there yet. We have quite a way to go.”
Klinsmann also believes that his guys may still be out to vacation after the 2014 World Cup. After citing how stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi take vacations then pick up where they left off, the German-born coach said his players are still adjusting to a new season. “Our players, they went on vacation, they had a good time, they come back and they lost their spots in their clubs,” he said.
Aside from how players still have issues getting back into the feel of soccer, Team USA may have a toughness problem during their World Cup hangover. “We need to get an edge, more nastier. I’m telling you that again. We’ve got to get nastier,” Klinsmann emphasized. “It’s not a negative word. We have to become more physical. We have to hold our ground more, dominant, and send signals out all over the field.”
Sadly, some of the biggest names from the Americans’ Round of 16 run have been playing the worst. Chris Wondolowski and even Fabian Johnson are two names that come to mind right away, as they’ve failed to show the same glimpses of greatness that they occasionally had during the World Cup.
In the end, it sounds like Team USA isn’t used to dealing with the rigors of a tough World Cup run, then hitting the field hard again just weeks later. And without any rest in sight, with club seasons in full swing, the Americans may not get their swagger back until next year.