Open Letter to the USMNT

Posted on December 2, 2009

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Dear United States Men’s National Team,

As you probably know, the draw for the World Cup groups is this Friday.  It’s probably pretty hard for you to forget about.  All the press are calling you-  “who do you hope will be in your group?”  “What will you do if you have to play Cristiano Ronaldo?”  “What’s a World Cup?”  It can be exhausting.  Right now, I’m glad it’s you and not me.

One of the most prominent questions will no doubt be this:  “In light of what happened at the 2008 tournament, what will you do if you are drawn into a group of death again?”  Naturally, you haven’t forgotten about Last Time, have you?  The unlucky draw, the hideous loss to the Czechs (Jan Koller WHY?) , the valiant effort against Italy, the killer loss to Ghana- is it all coming back to you now?  I hope not, because those are not the games to remember.

The games I want you to remember are the win against Spain and any loss to some CONCACAF scrub during qualifying.  Take your pick- it could be any embarrassing and half-hearted effort you turned in during the campaign.  I’ll let you choose.  Because both of those games hold the key to answering the question up above.  When you played Spain, they were the best team in the world, bar none.  And you went toe-to-toe with them and won.  It wasn’t exactly Douglas beating Tyson, but it was still a big upset, and a reminder of how good you can be when the stars align.  But when you played CONCACAF X (your choice) remember how badly you played?  How you couldn’t string together consecutive passes?  How you failed to close down players, failed to run hard, just failed to try in general?  You were a little sheepish to have played that game, as you should have been.

Carry this one thought with you into the World Cup:  you are good enough to beat the best, and bad enough to lose to the worst.  So when someone asks you “What will happen if you draw the Group of Death?”  I hope your answer will be the same-  it doesn’t matter who’s in the group, they can beat us badly, and they can be beaten.  The choice will be yours.  Will you play as hard against Ivory Coast as you will against Argentina?  Will you show up and bust your balls for 90 minutes, regardless of the opponent, or will you continue to look on some teams as being beneath you?  How you answer that question will dictate your success in South Africa.

Please let me know your answer.  I’d like to know whether to watch or not.

thanks, Andrew

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