030813_isi_camerongeoff_usmntbb101612_66 Bill Barrett/isiphotos.com
World Cup Qualifiers

ASN Reader Rebuttal: The U.S. Defense Will Hold

Anthony DiCicco has had it with the negativity and hyperbole swirling around the U.S. national team. Here, he takes ASN editor in chief John Godfrey to task for his recent piece on the American back line.
BY Anthony DiCicco Posted
March 08, 2013
2:21 PM
IT HAS HAPPENED. The 24-hour news cycle has finally penetrated what I had previously expected to be the last bastion—soccer.

We were too far removed from the mainstream, I reasoned. The demographics of those who want to be riled up by the likes of O’Reilly or Maddow, Olbermann or Hannity, aren’t the same people who focus on the world’s game, right? OK, Joe Scarborough has Rog Bennett on each week and openly shares his football pride, but he’s a conservative on MSNBC and that’s more rare than an Obama Trillion Dollar Coin. He must be a loon.

There have been hints throughout the last cycle of qualifying that the negativity was creeping in. Expressions like: “travesty,” “embarrassing,” and “perpetual disappointment” found their way into headlines of U.S. men’s national team stories. But today, I’m sorry to share with you all, the fortress has been breached.

On Wednesday John Godfrey posted the article, “Defense in Disarray: It's a Troubling Time for the U.S.” on AmericanSoccerNow.com. Posing such provocative questions as, “Has the U.S. defense ever looked more woeful than it does right now?” and “Who is going to play defense for the United States?” it got me thinking: What’s David Regis doing these days?

Alexi Lalas seems to be hanging around the field before a lot of these games. Is that because there’s a super-secret plan where Jurgen throws a red flag like the NFL coaches do and Lalas goes to use the bathroom only for Big Red to emerge from the tunnel in the Stars and Stripes Denim kit? (Yeah, I know we don’t wear that any more, and that it was an adidas jersey, but it would be such an epic move that the refs, the opponents, CONCACAF officials, even Nike, wouldn’t question it. Everyone knows what team he’d be playing for).

At this point I should probably say that while I know it isn’t polite to openly question the editor in chief on his own site, I don’t have a site. And furthermore, he asked me to.

OK, back to this troublesome conundrum of QualifyingGate reaching apocalyptic proportions. Mr. Godfrey made us an alphabetical list complete with video and links and words combined to make sentences outlining the complexities of this problem. I thought about creating a list too. Only, I was going to go the other way, I was going to list every defender between the ages of 18 and 34 who has American citizenship (or will by midnight March 21st) and then eliminate them one by one in a complicated algorithm that works on the basis of a random number generator to narrow it down to the eight lucky winners who get to represent the United States later this month. (I had considered an American Idol-esque reality TV show, but in the words of Jessie Spano, “There just isn’t enough time”). So to the Eligible Eight, it’s up to you. Do us proud men.

Is it possible Mr. Godfrey is right and the situation is “scary?” Yes. I think other fans and members of the media would agree with him. And while I am not a card-carrying member of the media (they’ve let me tag along from time to time), I do not share the cynicism.

Did Timothy Chandler struggle in his first start in Honduras? Yes. He did. He knows he did, Jurgen knows he did, and we all know he did. So should we take into consideration the stories about San Pedro Sula from the day before the game?

So this 23 year old, having just flown in from Germany to Miami to San Pedro Sula, trying to learn the names of some of his new teammates on the plane and having the bus he’s riding in chased by pick-up trucks through what he has read on the AP wire is the most dangerous city in the world, starts his first game in front of a thunderous Honduran crowd. Do we think that his mind was entirely on the game? Did we get his very best? If it was, by all means, cut him. But that’s akin to being a TV executive who green lights a show, gives it one episode opposite The Voice, and then cancels it.

Is Chandler the silver bullet to solve all of the U.S.’s problems? No. Does he provide depth in a thin position? Yes. So does Omar Gonzalez, coming back from a horrific injury, and Matt Besler, coming off a stunning season for Sporting KC. The list of reasons to be optimistic is just as long as the list of reasons you can put an asterisk or a question mark next to players names.

What the players need is belief, and it feels like Jurgen is the only providing it to them.

The players also need experience and leadership. I don’t know the full details, but I disagreed with the decision to leave Carlos Bocanegra out of the center of defense in Honduras.

And they need time, which is a more difficult commodity to measure, but let’s just say more than 365 days. Time allows for chemistry to develop, for confidence to grow, and for successes to accumulate. Of those three, we can only have two in Commerce City, Colo., and Mexico City: belief and leadership.

Is the Costa Rica game a must win? No. Does the pressure mount without getting three points in Commerce City? Absolutely. But to steal the slogan from the USWNT: #PressureMakesUS. If the boys can’t handle the pressures of qualifying, how will they ever be able to handle the pressure of Brazil 2014?

Keep in mind that we don’t know the daily ins and outs of these player’s experiences with their clubs, their conversations with Klinsmann, what they’re recovering from, or how their mental game is progressing. (Anyone remember the Twitter freakout of 2013 when Clint wasn’t in the starting 18 for Spurs?)

Based on what I know today, our best back four for March 22nd is: Michael Parkhurst, Geoff Cameron, Bocanegra, and Fabian Johnson, with Matt Besler, Chandler, Omar Gonzalez, and Jonathan Spector in reserve. And if you ask me, the boys know they have a job to do and they will get it done.

Anthony DiCicco is a part-time writer, former and future coach, and a Director for SoccerPlus Camps. You can follow him on Twitter.

Post a comment