Expectations for the United States in Brazil will vary tremendously depending on which fan you ask. Some have their hearts set on the Cup. Others have a more realistic goal, hoping the U.S. is simply able to make it out of their treacherous group. While some nations have a “World Cup or Bust” philosophy, the situation is extremely different for the USA. However, it’s not entirely clear what would be defined as a good tournament for the U.S. men.
Let’s be blunt – the Cup isn’t a realistic goal. With that in mind, that means failing to win the Cup doesn’t mean the U.S. had a bad tournament. So, I asked the 32 Flags crew what they think would define the USA’s tournament as a success. The answers, as you might expect, varied. I’ll add my own thoughts at the bottom of this piece.
Since 1990, the U.S. has alternated not advancing out of the group stage and advancing the round 16 over the past 6 World Cups. If the pattern holds, this will be a year in which we fizzle out in group play.
Given the U.S.’s draw, I’d qualify a “good” showing for this team to just wiggle out of the “Group Of Death”. While I’d like to say that expectations should be higher, the U.S.’s draw and the fact that only 5 players on the roster have World Cup experience, playing in a 4th game would be something to feel positive about with whatever happens after kickoff and beyond being gravy.
After a great draw in 2010, the team is incredibly unlucky to have been placed in the “group of death.” And this time they’ll be without arguably the best player in USMNT history in Landon Donovan. Even advancing out of the group stage can be considered a success.
And for that to happen, midfielder Michael Bradley will need to utilize his creativity to distribute the ball to Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey. The two have 170 caps combined and must carry the load upfront, as the team lacks a designated “finisher.” Goalkeeper Tim Howard will keep the score close in games, so it will be up to the offense to uphold their share of the bargain.
The back line is young, and Jurgen Klinsmann is under contract through 2018. Advancing past the group stage can be considered a “win” for USMNT, as the team looks to develop its identity and build for the future.
Before the groups were revealed, I would have said that a “good” tournament for the USA would have been a quarterfinal berth at the very least. It’s funny how people drawing balls out of pots will change your expectations. Surviving the Group of Death against Ghana, Portugal, and Germany would mean defeating at least one European power and conquering the side who has a World Cup hex over the USMNT.
Especially with how young the roster is and how it almost seems like everyone involved with US Soccer started playing for 2018 when the draw was announced, getting through to the knockout rounds would surpass the expectations of most.
Prior to the draw, I would have said advancing beyond the group stage would be a huge success for the U.S. roster. Honestly, my expectations were fairly low and that was before the whole Group of Death and questionable roster decisions. Following the unlucky draw and the reveal of the final roster, I’d consider 3+ points in group play a big achievement.
The U.S. has one ugly group. Germany needs no introduction. Portugal may just be Ronaldo and 10, but that still leaves Ronaldo and his ability to transform a game with a single set piece. Then there’s Ghana, the nation which eliminated the U.S. in the last two World Cups. All of that is pretty intimidating as is. Add in the roster debate, the unproven youngsters and the shaky defense and you have a recipe where one lone victory may be enough to label this seemingly transitional time for the U.S. a success.