USMNT Vs England: The players are not to blame

USA interim manager Dave Sarachan before the International Friendly at Wembley Stadium, London. (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)
USA interim manager Dave Sarachan before the International Friendly at Wembley Stadium, London. (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images) /

The U.S. Men’s National Team fell 3-0 to England in a pitiful performance on Thursday. While they may receive criticism, though, the USMNT players are not to blame. Here’s why.

It was a rather stark and depressing warning when Calum Wilson did what he had been doing all match and darted to the front post, across the face of John Brooks, to divert a whipped cross past Brad Guzan and end England’s scoring.

If you were to cast your gaze across the remainder of the Wembley field, you would see several figures cutting rather dejected and disheartened shapes, such was the simplicity and predictability of the goal conceded.

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The U.S. Men’s National Team, I am sure, both collectively and individually, had hoped for a better showing than the lacklustre one that they put in.

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There were periods of promise in Thursday night’s 3-0 loss to England as Wayne Rooney bid farewell to international football. Especially in the second, the U.S. did exert at least a semblance of capability in possession and pressured their hosts into wayward distribution. But these glimpses of joy were fleeting and, by the final whistle came, were engulfed by the familiar feeling of disappointment that this U.S. team seems so brilliant and inducing.

On an individual basis, there were some very poor performances. Both centre-halves struggled greatly with the movement of the England attack. Bobby Wood was extremely wasteful in attacking areas, routinely making the wrong decision before wasting several, good chances — I say ‘good’, what I really mean is ‘good for the night’ good, not objectively good, such was the barren nature of the opportunities the USMNT created. And the less said about DeAndre Yedlin the better.

In fact, the only bright spark was Christian Pulisic, who clearly showed why he is the brightest U.S. talent and has been playing for Borussia Dortmund at the highest level in the world for a U.S. player.

But despite the abject nature of many of the performances, I will say that the players themselves are not to play. Could they have done better for individual moments in the game? Yes. Absolutely. Should England be able to score when there are seven defenders around the ball like for the second goal? No, of course not. But the absence of clear, concise and constructive coaching and preparation is evident, and it completely and utterly undermines any sense of security and decisiveness that the players play with.

That may sound like a shot at Dave Sarachan, the interim head coach, but this is not his fault. It is not his fault that he, and his players, have been thrust into an almost year-long purgatory. It is not his fault that the U.S. Soccer Federation has given him no power or authority or influence. And it is not his fault that the search for a new head coach had been delayed for this long.

There may be a good reason for the delay. Gregg Berhalter, the presumed successor, wanted to see out the season with the Columbus Crew. That seems fair enough. But the season ended at the weekend for the Crew. The USSF had plenty enough time to have a deal in place with Berhalter for as soon as the season ended. And yet, here we are, a week later, still with no concrete coach in place.

And that is why the players are not to blame as strongly as many will blame them. Playing without a plan is like trying to cook a new recipe with ten other chefs without a recipe to follow. You may all know how to cook chilli, but if one of you wants to put chocolate in it and the other wants to make it really spicy, it might not go together so well. There must be a connected, singular, supported system.

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Until that is in place, it is somewhat meaningless to derive any serious and long-lasting conclusions from these games. Yes, the U.S. were very poor against England. And yes, many of the individuals made mistakes and played below their expected level. But without a coach, it is almost impossible to heap any of the blame on them. That should go far higher up the chain of command.