Here are the ten things we learned from Week 32 of the 2017 MLS season.
1. What Is MLS’s Role In The USMNT’S World Cup Failure?
Whether you think MLS is an underlying cause of the U.S.’s failure to get the 2018 World Cup, there’s no denying this: MLS played a bigger role in this edition of the USMNT than any other since its founding. And this was the one to fail to reach the World Cup.
This was MLS’s show. Bruce Arena was an MLS coach, and he trusted MLS players to get to Russia. Of the eleven who started the Panama and Trinidad games, nine play or played for years in the league.
In many ways, Arena’s appointment and tenure was MLS’s revenge against the blatantly and consistently anti-MLS reign of Jurgen Klinsmann. It didn’t work.
Costa Rica, Panama, and Honduras can thank MLS for their World Cup lives. Those countries have benefitted hugely from the league’s rising standard. The U.S. will, in the long run, benefit too.
But maybe it hasn’t happened yet to the extent we might have thought. In MLS’s hands, the U.S. missed its first World Cup since 1986. It’ll take a long time to get over.
2. Besler’s Experience
The common refrain, repeated with renewed urgency in the days following the collapse in Trinidad, is that American players don’t face any real pressure.
Jurgen Klinsmann, when he was the coach, talked frequently about wanting his players to be made uncomfortable in post offices and bakeries after bad performances. Taylor Twellman made similar points throughout the week.
On Sunday, none of the returning national teamers were booed. Most, if not all, were cheered by their home fans – welcomed back with open arms. This account of Matt Besler’s experience, from the Kansas City Star, is hugely informative.
Is it a bad thing that U.S. Soccer fans want to pick their players up? I don’t think so. On the whole, it’s a more a good than not. The soccer culture here tends to be positive and healthy.
But would more pressure – more fear of facing home – have made a difference in Trinidad? We’ll never know. Perhaps it might have.
3. Jermaine Jones’ Criticism
One voice that emerged during the fallout from the qualifying failure was that of LA Galaxy and former national team midfielder Jermaine Jones.