They were supposed to be the group that brought the US to unforeseen heights in world football. The first group of players to graduate the Bradenton Academy joined with the young players who had done so impressively for the US at the 1999 World Youth Championship to usher in a generational change for the US National Team.
The generation led by Claudio Reyna, Brian McBride, Earnie Stewart, John O’Brien and Eddie Pope enjoyed wins over Brazil, Argentina and Germany in competitive tournament matches. As that generation gave way between 2002 and 2006 to the next generation, CONCACAF domination was solidified for the US but nothing else.
Since the torch was passed to a new generation of American footballers, more technically gifted and talented than before the US has recorded zero significant victories over world powers even in friendlies on home soil. The best result, a 0-0 draw versus Argentina in 2008 was saved by Tim Howard’s reflexes. Losses on home soil Brazil and England were also matched by losses in Europe to Germany, England and Spain. The US also drew Italy 1-1 in the 2006 World Cup but in that match relied on the backbone of the previous generation of players led by Claudio Reyna and a bloodied Brian McBride.
This generation considered the best ever in American football can place their stamp on the legacy of the national team this week in the Confederations Cup. The torch is about to be passed to the next group of players: Jozy Altidore, Freddy Adu, Jose Torres, and the older Clint Dempsey who did not come up through the USSF system but did play for the U-20 team in 2003.
The leader of this current team when he is healthy appears to be Frankie Hejduk, even though Carlos Bocanegra wears the captain’s armband. The generation of supreme talent and unparalleled youth achievement has shown little leadership and little ability to even match the accomplishments of their predecessors.
With Jermaine Jones a strong personality and player of unmatched quality in the US pool potentially joining the US during the later stages of World Cup qualifying this week may be the last chance for this generation, to achieve a signature victory in a competitive match and move the US National Team forward.