Although the USMNT suffered defeat at the hands of Belgium in the second round of the World Cup, there should be nothing but positive vibes surrounding the team and the direction the Americans are currently heading in. Everybody wants to win of course, but that will come, and sometimes you have to take a loss and admit you’re not quite ready for that next step just yet.
Firstly, taking a loss in the knockout stages to a talented team like Belgium is not a loss in terms of the big picture. The U.S. were arguably the fourth favorite to emerge from Group G, and if they had come home with only a couple of points and an exit at the group stage, it wouldn’t have been the most shocking sight in the world. As it is, though, the team overachieved in reaching the stage that they did.
It’s important now that the expectations don’t go too high, and that the team is allowed to grow naturally without a pressure to win immediately. Jurgen Klinsmann‘s men were never going to win this World Cup, and it’s an unnecessary pressure for the team to carry in the short term, especially with what could be a young team moving forward.
Overall, the team performed very well within the restrictions they currently have; whether you like it or not, they just don’t have the talent pool of a Germany, a Belgium or even a Portugal right now.
It takes time to build to that level, and as soccer in America is only growing right now, similarly, the team is growing and developing too. The sport has certainly grown over the last 10 years or so in particular, and the USMNT will bear the fruits of that both now and more so in the future as the younger generations play the game more and more.
Ultimately, this tournament provided a great platform for a new breed of fans to enjoy the game and see some younger talent break through at the same time. Even some of the more experienced players will be better for the experience they have just been through. One of the biggest positives from this World Cup is that the group of young players currently emerging from the USMNT clearly have good potential and could all grow together over the next few years.
In defense, Fabian Johnson showed what he is capable of, DeAndre Yedlin announced himself to the world and John Brooks created a first impression that dreams are made of. In midfield, Michael Bradley will be better for the experience of dealing with so much expectation, and 19-year-old winger Julian Green will progress from the experience and confidence of scoring his first goal for the team.
Striker Jozy Altidore was unlucky to miss the majority of the tournament due to injury, but at 24 years of age, he’ll come again for sure. As will Aron Johannsson who, at the same age, has many years ahead of him before even reaching his prime. Tim Howard was a hero as goalkeeper in the Belgium game, but Brad Guzan will be an able replacement when the time comes.
The Americans do not have the talent to compete with some of the better teams at the World Cup right now, but with a younger generation of players coming through, and the progression of the game in the U.S., things will only improve as time goes along.
Of course, the problem with time is that it speeds up for nobody, but that’s why U.S. soccer fans need be patient right now. The World Cup provided a great platform for U.S. soccer as a whole to build on, and the future looks bright as the team grows, develops and progresses from here on out.