Is there anyone in the US soccer establishment more ready for 2015 to be over than federation president Sunil Gulati? Well, check that … in this glorious year of FIFA comeuppance, perhaps we should say it this way: “Is there anyone associated with US soccer not headed to jail who is more ready for 2015 to over and done with already?” The point is, it’s been a pretty rough year for one of US Soccer’s most influential figures, punctuated by this latest bungle, this PR tire fire in Hawaii, a mess completely of US Soccer’s creation.
Yep. It’s been one black eye after another American soccer’s governing body.
On the latest imbroglio, US Soccer has officially copped to this one, to erring on the thoughtless scheduling and lack of oversight that led to cancellation of a women’s national team match against Trinidad and Tobago at Aloha Stadium. When a decision for mea culpa is one of your organization’s better choices of the year, well, that’s a bad year. (Seriously, admit the error, apologize and move on. It remains absolutely head spinning how so many important folks and big organizations, swimming in their own arrogance, simply refuse to recognize this as the fastest way to rescue a story from the news cycle.)
Gulati has had a bad year, and a lot of it is his fault. Not all of it, but a lot of it. The bottom line is this: A bad year for U.S. Soccer means a bad year for one of US Soccer’s foremost leaders, and Gulati needs to up his game for 2016.
The roiling FIFA scandal may never actually land at Gulati’s feet (let’s hope not), but Gulati did himself no favors by mostly hiding from it all, staying as far away as possible in a safe, defensive crouch. In his capacity as leader of US Soccer – especially as the man in charge of soccer in the country that has made all this happen – the “safe position” is hardly the right position. He needs to be out front in all of this.
Gulati declined to testify before a US Senate subcommittee in July, instead dispatching US Soccer CEO Dan Flynn for several hours of questioning about US Soccer’s knowledge of corruption at CONCACAF and FIFA.
Similarly, Gulati has mostly balked at questions about his relationship with Chuck Blazer, the disgraced US Soccer and CONCACAF official who helped topple the FIFA house, cooperating with FBI and IRS agents to help expose the rampant corruption. Blazer was “Co-conspirator #1” in the federal indictment last May, so Gulati’s relationship with him seems like fair game for journalists.