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Lalas and Twellman coverage shows stark contrast in analysis

Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman coverage

Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman coverage following the USMNT’s fateful evening in World Cup Qualifying differed drastically.

In the wake of the disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign that culminated in a 2-1 loss Tuesday night against Trinidad and Tobago, it was surprising to see the differing approaches from the two most high-profile analysts of the US Men’s National Team. In one corner, you had FOX Sports Alexi Lalas, guardian of the status quo and US Soccer system. In the other, you had ESPN’s Taylor Twellman who continued his long-standing calls for reform in a more aggressive fashion than ever before.

At the full time whistle in the Caribbean, the USMNT’s failure came into full view. The US, which had been described by one English pundit as the “furniture” at the World Cup because it was always there, had been eliminated from qualification by a combination of events. The reaction was predictably filled with anger among fans and several former USMNT players.

Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman coverage

Different emotion levels

Using the megaphone afforded him by his role with ESPN, Taylor Twellman — whom I previously have classified as the best American-born analyst in history — was on fire, delivering a seven minute rant in tandem with Max Bretos which amounted to the elements of a manifesto. Twellman’s dissatisfaction with the US Soccer system and leadership of the US Soccer Federation (USSF) allowed him to go onto the types of mainstream sports shows where soccer is hardly ever discussed, especially in the middle of NFL and college football season to deliver his points with a passion and authenticity unmatched in the business.

Lalas

Meanwhile, across the country, Alexi Lalas used his platform of FOX Sports shows and Twitter to offer what amounted largely to insecure defenses of the US. Lalas’ Twitter feed was filled with what seemed snarky or half-hearted defenses of the US situation and shots at critics.

For more than a month, Lalas’ mantra has been that he wants to see greater effort from the players and more “heart and desire,” those uniquely American characteristics that pushed the USMNT to a higher level in the past. But Lalas’ is also conscious of not calling out some of the obvious points that can be brought into this discussion — the failing youth soccer structure, the lack of competitiveness for places in MLS when it comes to USMNT players, the lack of tactical coaching happening both in MLS and in the US system, as well as the lack of accountability for failure within this system. Lalas’ hails from a generation where the USMNT established itself as a power in this region and an upstart on the global stage.

While Lalas’ isn’t alone in finding the most reasoned way to push back against massive structural change following the USMNT failure, he is the most visible and credible voice defending the status quo. For those like Lalas who have a vested interest in promoting MLS and US Soccer, no doubt non-qualification for the World Cup has been humbling but should be met with only cosmetic changes that ensure the existing order isn’t upset. These “changes” would simply be the type of window dressing, putting lipstick on a pig that entrenched establishment cliques in all lines of business or politics use to appear reform-minded but stay in power.

Lalas, despite his undoubted passion for the USMNT and its success, has no doubt fallen into a comfortable pattern of wanting to upset the apple cart as little as possible. Lalas’ view appears to be the prevalent sentiment at FOX Sports and among many of the players of his generation who despite having to fight for everything they earned as individual players and a national team are cozy with some degree of the current order.

SEE MORE: MLS cannot escape blame for US implosion in World Cup qualifying

Twellman

Twellman perhaps represents a younger, hungrier and more rebellious child of US Soccer. Having come up in an era when the United States was an established leader in the CONCACAF region and fixture on the global soccer scene, he’s observed and called out the seeds of decline in the recent past. Twellman is more in tune with the American sporting landscape and culture these days and has made the point that unfortunately the USMNT has taken on an American sporting stench, where mediocrity and failure are seemingly rewarded. American soccer has long had a “participation medal” feel to it, operating in a self-contained vacuum of insecurity, self pity and paranoia.

Having observed these tendencies and understanding the American sporting landscape in a way that most soccer pundits don’t, Twellman has been able to formulate some critical observations about why the USMNT has failed and where the nation’s soccer structure must go from here. He’s unafraid to deliver this message in the most aggressive and articulate manner possible. Twellman’s use of mainstream sports programs to make his point and his ability to draw a contrast with American sports and the mentality there has been critical in selling his message.

Two networks, two pundits, two different world views. In the coming months one of the two visions for the future of American men’s soccer will carry the day. The contrast between Lalas’ defenses and Twellman’s critiques couldn’t be more telling. At stake is the battle for the future and the heart and soul of American soccer.

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44 Comments

44 Comments

  1. John

    October 19, 2017 at 9:43 pm

    R.O. – I thought the U.S. tied Italy in their second game in 2006.

  2. Konit

    October 17, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Where was Bundesliga, EPL, on tv before MLS? Nowhere to be seen.
    Likewise, were European powerhouse clubs visiting the US annually prior to MLS? Nope!
    US soccer needs massive restructuring no doubt. For one there’re way too many appologists for the good of the program and less rational thinking people. Case in point, Klinnsman needed to restructure an aging team and bring in new faces but while winning decisively and playing attractive soccer! Else, bring back old reliable who stunk the last time he was at the elm! Brilliant.

  3. Brian Schultz

    October 16, 2017 at 11:04 am

    The people in charge will make no real changes. They are doing very well with soccer the way it is, lots of money and prestige.
    The people that really care don’t have the power to make a difference. Do yourself a favor watch EPL or German football and root for Iceland.

    • Can-Tuna

      October 16, 2017 at 8:56 pm

      So you think that if MLS fails, soccer will win? You are delusional. It defies logic to think that the demise of a domestic league is going to benefit the sport it showcases. Without MLS and without the USMNT, there would be no soccer fans, no EPL, Bundesliga or World Cup on TV, no soccer culture. Period.
      And I will root for whatever team I feel like supporting, if I decide to watch.

      • Konit

        October 17, 2017 at 12:07 pm

        Agree!

      • MAHLUF

        October 18, 2017 at 1:50 pm

        Huh, I didn’t realize that there wasn’t any soccer culture (PERIOD) before 1996 (the year MLS began) in the United States. Bold statement.

  4. J.M.

    October 16, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Alexi takes a political position to sound intelligent and respectful…when in his heart he knows Taylor is correct. Alexi and the author fail to point out that Sunil Gulati has been president of US Soccer since 2006 …eleven years of ineptness in US Soccer. failing to qualify for Olympics and now World Cup… so when is change needed?
    They have no courage to stand up and speak the truth ….PURE SHAMELESS……Fox Sports would do a service to the country if they fire Alexi…

  5. R.O

    October 15, 2017 at 8:09 pm

    The US Soccer and USMNT has been down this road before. Here are some quotes from 2006 after 3 losses in World Cup (From ESPNFC)

    1). Gulati said: “We didn’t get the results we wanted in the World Cup, but Bruce didn’t become a bad coach in three games with a few bad bounces of the ball.”
    2). “You can’t put that entirely on a coach,” Dempsey said. “It’s on the players, as well. We didn’t do what we needed to do. ”
    3). “Both parties should be blamed, but that’s not the way it works. And it’s tough that he gets the blame.”
    4). “” Gulati said. “I’m not going to say we felt the need to change directions.” (on Arena let go after 06 World Cup)

    http://www.espnfc.com/story/373876/arena-out-as-us-national-coach-at-end-of-year

    Lalas is a poor Soccer analysis, poor commentator and poor pundit. He was also a lousy GM for the San Jose Earthquakes, NY Red Bulls and LA Galaxy. Many people have been talking about the need to fix the soccer system in the US going back to 1998 after US bad showing at 98 WC.

    • Oliver Tse

      October 16, 2017 at 3:40 am

      US Soccer Federation is like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a “tombstone agency” that does nothing until body bags stuffed with remains of charred dead passengers and airline crews arrive at the morgue.

      Just like the FAA, the USSF will do the absolute minimum necessary after a disaster.

      The same issues that plagued the men’s national team have been known for 25 years. Not much has changed.

      Those same issues (pay-for-play, relying on college soccer to develop 18 and 19-year-old players, etc.) will ultimately lead to a disaster for the women’s national team sometime in the next 20 years. The USWNT got away with one after losing to Mexico at Cancun in 2010. The USWNT wasn’t so lucky 6 years later, flaming out at the Rio Olympics. A bigger disaster is coming. Only a matter of time.

      • Oliver Tse

        October 16, 2017 at 4:16 am

        Article from Villanova University Sociology Professor Rick Eckstein

        theconversation.com/until-youth-soccer-is-fixed-us-mens-national-team-is-destined-to-fail-85585

      • Bizarre

        October 16, 2017 at 10:11 am

        You’re a fake FAA insider also?

  6. Bill

    October 15, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    You are completely wrong about this! Twellman is using this to try and elevate his career. Lalas voiced his opinions 1 month ago and now he can bask in how right he was! There’s definitely a contrast in their reactions but you are completely misreading Lalas.

    Total garbage article. Why do people like yourself have a platform? Happy to discuss.

    • Mccort912

      October 15, 2017 at 5:37 pm

      Is that you Alexi? You’re aware this problem started more than a month ago right? You’re aware Lalas has called MLS one of the best leagues in the world, has said Arena can manage a big club, has said the U.S. should beat Argentina and much more nonsense right?

    • Oliver Tse

      October 17, 2017 at 12:53 am

      Kartik is still young and is still learning. Way too many kneejerk reactions, not enough research. That’s what happens when his “news cycle” is 24 seconds instead of 24 hours or 24 days.

      Kartik and Christopher came up with a list of names that they though Turner should consider for UEFA on truTV. I am willing to bet that Turner will hire NONE of them.

      In contrast, I did my research and came up with these two names: Kate Riley and Carlos Bocanegra. At this point, Bocanegra should be a lock, and Riley is close to being a lock.

      • MAHLUF

        October 18, 2017 at 1:46 pm

        You and your research are garbage. How many times have you been wrong and any number of topics? Stop pretending that you know any more than anyone else here, because it’s painfully obvious that you do not.

  7. Oliver Tse

    October 15, 2017 at 1:50 am

    When I started doing freelance media work 23 years ago, I was warned by an observer that US Soccer Federation (USSF) is a “reactive” organization that doesn’t like change.

    23 years later, that observation remains true.

    USSF is similar to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), long known as a “tombstone agency” that doesn’t do anything until body bags filled with charred remains of dead passengers and dead airline crew members pile up in morgues.

    • rkujay

      October 15, 2017 at 5:24 am

      ‘Freelance Media Work’…..translation: writiing huge tomes on blogs for no pay and positioning one’s self as an insider.

    • zzzzzzvsssq

      October 15, 2017 at 5:45 pm

      Holy crap you are a clown.

  8. GRM

    October 15, 2017 at 12:40 am

    Youth soccer has no true natural players (Christian Pulisic might be the closest thing to that). My opinion why…….youth competitive soccer is too dam expensive. These local youth travel and competitive clubs are more concerned about making as much money as they can versus coaching and developing players. Why should a director of coaching get paid close to $200k a year when it’s clear that our youth system has issues. Because of the salaries we pay these director of coaches and their staff in these youth clubs, we’re making soccer a privledged youth sport. So the kids that are playing in the streets and are the more naturally gifted players, are not getting a chance because of the costs to pay the outrages salaries that these clubs are demanding.
    I understand that resources are needed for the sport and these resources cost money. But when we are paying a Youth soccer coach the same salary of a doctor, then we as parents need to get our priorities right. And believe me I’m in that boat. We will spare no expense to have our son play for the best club in the city with the so called best coaches in the city. But do I really think that all the kids on the B,C, and D team are really going to change the US youth soccer programs. Probaby not! As much as I’d like to think that these are the feeder programs for the A team players, I have my doubts. Major major doubts. These appear to be nothing more than a way for the clubs to generate loads of money to keep up with those ridiculous salaries.
    We need to breakdown the whole system. Thanks Sunil Gulati for your paid service but it’s time for a fresh pair of eyes.

    • Al P

      October 15, 2017 at 8:43 am

      I agree that the elite programs are just as much about money as development. But here’s the other problem – are there really “kids in the street” playing soccer who can’t get into elite clubs? Every major club in my state has a scholarship program. But there frankly isn’t a ton of competition for those spots. Soccer is just not enough a part of US culture yet. Most kids are still playing football or basketball or baseball b/c those are their parents’ sports and their friends’ sports and what’s on TV. Soccer is gaining ground, but it’s not there yet.

      Another issue is coaching. In our “elite” soccer club, I see HS players still lacking in technical and tactical fundamentals. Quality youth coaching is sorely lacking, especially in the very young years, so half the time, when kids get to the elite club, they still have lots of deficits in their game.

      We’re just clearly a country where soccer is way down the list in terms of interest and profile, and all the expected kinks are there because of it. It’s getting better. The fact that the Atlanta United is selling out Mercedes Benz when the Braves couldn’t sell out playoff games ia few years ago is a great sign. But there’s a way to go yet.

      • bitte! bitte

        October 18, 2017 at 10:21 am

        There a more Latin kids in the streets playing than I can count in my neighborhood but ZERO opportunities for them as the youth “system” is VERY exclusive. We could easily have a deeper pool of players for our USMNT to choose from but The USSF and MLS are simply not interested and too detached from reality.

  9. Oliver Tse

    October 15, 2017 at 12:33 am

    The “day of reckoning” came for USA Men’s Basketball in 2004 (12 NBAers including Lebron only got Bronze Medal in Athens, losing to Puerto Rico by 20, etc.) after USAB dismissed the massive failure at the 2002 FIBA World Championship in Indianapolis (6th place) as a blip. It wasn’t.

    The “day of reckoning” came for US Men’s Soccer on October 10, 2017 at Couva, Trinidad. All the stuff coming out of commentator’s mouths in the past 72 hours have been known for at least 25 years. Nothing has changed.

    Guess which U.S. national team will face its “day of reckoning” some time in the next 20 years?

    Hint #1: athletes in this sport in the U.S. comes from a “pay to play” system.

    Hint #2: 18 and 19-year-olds in this sport outside the U.S. now play and train year round at big money professional clubs such as FC Barcelona, Manchester City, and Arsenal. Smaller clubs such as CF America (of Mexico City) is also getting involved.

    In contrast, 18 and 19-year-olds in this sport inside the U.S. play competitive college ball only 3 months each year.

    This particular national team failed at Cancun, Mexico in 2010. That may have been a blip. The next time this particular national team has to get a result in Mexico, that team may have to travel to a much nastier venue such as Estadio Nemesio Diez in Toluca: elevation 8200 feet with smog, plus 20000 spectators literally right on top of the playing area, throwing rocks and batteries at opponents (not to mention bags contain yellow liquid that is not “beer” or “lemonade”.)

    This particular national team failed again in Brazil in 2016, as it was defeated psychologically by a coach who knows how to get a result against this particular national team.

    • zzzzzzvsssq

      October 15, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      Shut up

    • MAHLUF

      October 18, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      Why are you putting “beer” and “lemonade” in quotes? You’re terrible.

  10. Bruce Gottesman

    October 14, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    Until kids are playing soccer for fun – not because their parents are paying for them to have some sort of physical activity – US soccer will always be hit-and-miss. Sure, I was in little league baseball – but I also played for fun in my neighborhood. And in the winter it was touch football. We need more guys like DeAndre Yedlin who could have played any sport but chose soccer. Maybe soccer will become the sport of choice for American kids whose parents are concerned about football brain injuries.

    • francis

      October 15, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      50 years ago every American kid had a baseball glove, now they have a basketball and a hoop in the driveway. Very little soccer being played on the street in USA. It’s unlikely to ever become a go-to sport for working-class youngsters in the US

      • bitte! bitte

        October 18, 2017 at 10:16 am

        Depends on where you live. The parks in my neighborhood have hordes of Latin kids playing but our youth system is “pay-to-play” thus they’re overlooked and excluded. Don Garber, MLS and The USSF do an AWFUL job creating opportunities for these kids to thrive in our “system.” There’s plenty of $$$ in MLS and The USMNT but zero sense.

        • Santiago1314

          October 18, 2017 at 11:02 am

          When USSF institutes Training Compensation and Solidarity Payments…MLS Clubs will be out there Scouting HARD for those Players…That’s how it works in the Rest of the World… Kid from Barrio in Buenos Aires, ends up in Barca Academy, and everyone gets a Piece of the Pie along the way and for years to come, on EVERY Transfer of the Player…MLS is Stupid to NOT become a Feeder to Europe and make money off the Transfers.

    • Mike

      October 19, 2017 at 1:21 am

      DeAndre Yedlin is a top athlete, yes. But, he really started to develop playing for his place in the team every week at Tottenham, realizing he wasn’t yet good enough before moving to Southampton, playing a hard relegation battle, and now learning under Rafa, a master and development.

      • Santiago1314

        October 19, 2017 at 2:02 am

        Yedlin, Your going to have to Take him off your my list, Maybe.?…I know why Altidore doesn’t put his Hand over his Heart, but what about Yedlin.?..Anyone Know why he didn’t before T&T Game…I hope it’s not BLM…Cause I’m going to Turn OFF the Channel and the US Team, if it is. Unacceptable behavior when you are in the NFL and MUCH LESS, When you are Representing your Country.

  11. Kris Klassen

    October 14, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Kartik, I think you’re totally right about TT being an excellent analyst. When he was on SportsCenter he said ” who is going to talk about us not qualifying after 2 days?” I think that everyone who really looks hard at American soccer knows that we need a major change of thinking. I’m 55 years old and I always believed we would win the World Cup in my lifetime. No way I think that anymore. 2026 on home soil is our final stand, only chance

  12. Vicbklyn

    October 14, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    “Company people “is the perfect phrase for the USMNT’s. The definition of American excludes children of the military who serves overseas, excludes those who don’t support MLS, and for Lalas it also excludes a lot of others.
    Our best players need to play the best competition. The best coach should be hired regardless of where he is from. We are not at the forefront of soccer. If you’re classified as American, you can play. If someone feels different, let yhat player get replaced by a better player. This country is a melting pot.
    Let’s get objective media. The media plays a part with the sport growing. I love going to MLS games but I can’t stand listenjng to the bias commentators and I don’t watch MLS on TV.

    • Kris Klassen

      October 14, 2017 at 9:48 pm

      Can’t disagree with anything you say. I want to support MLS, I really do. The nearest team for me is Chicago and they do have good fans. Its hard to watch after tuning into the Premeir League and La Liga. The atmosphere is so awesome and when a home player does something great you can hear and feel a collective “yes!!!!!!” From the crowd

  13. Kris Klassen

    October 14, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    The problems are many. It comes down to mentality and American youth players are coddled and told how good they are. An old school approach needs to be adopted. As a former pro player and an official who used to work pro games but know just does youth, I see so many bad coaches and unknowledgable fans. I thought we would be more advanced in 2017 but we are a dinosaur soccer nation and the majority of people still don’t care

  14. R.O

    October 14, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    There are some other voices/former USMNT players who have raised concerns over the state of US Soccer programs/system for quite some time: Not with the same loudness as T.T but still talking about it, such as; Hugo Perez & Eric Wynalda to name two.

    • Santiago1314

      October 14, 2017 at 9:51 pm

      Don’t forget Abby Wambach.!!!!

      • Oliver Tse

        October 15, 2017 at 8:19 am

        Abby Wambach’s name is now TOXIC. 3 strikes and you are out.

        Strike 1: Caught driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol

        Strike 2: Showing up on set of ESPN’s Euro 2016 studio coverage completely unprepared.

        Strike 3: Saying children of American fathers serving in the Armed Forces in Germany and German mothers do not belong on U.S. Men’s National Teams.

        The other name from the 2015 USWNT that is toxic is Hope Solo.

        Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe are both on thin ice, with one strike each:
        Rapinoe for kneeling down during national anthem (she was essentially suspended for one friendly tournament), and Morgan for getting 86’ed from EPCOT Center after getting drunk and behaving badly once the cops showed up.

    • CTBlues

      October 20, 2017 at 9:46 am

      Kyle Martino has been complaining that he would run for USSF President if it was a paid position since he wouldn’t be able to afford to give up his NBC job to be USSF President. No wonder Gulati has run unopposed for 3 terms.

  15. Mccort912

    October 14, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    Agreed on all this, Herculez Gomez seems to be racing to the front to join Lalas in being a company man. Hopefully the next article is on the clowns in the media…Wahl, Tannenwald, Davis etc… all

    • Bill

      October 15, 2017 at 1:32 pm

      Guys- seriously what are you on?

      Take your eurosnobism somewhere else. The names you’ve mentioned are the names that have built up US soccer. You guys, on the other hand, have done nothing for it.

      Go listen the guru Roger Bennett. 10th tier of british commentary milking his accent for a job in the States. Same with Ian Darke. You guys are suckers for accents.

      • Mccort912

        October 15, 2017 at 5:35 pm

        LOL! you think Lalas and Hercules Gomez have built up US Soccer? Wait you think U.S. Soccer started a decade or so ago, are you that ignorant of U.S. Soccer than you think those 2 are some how relevant because you see them on TV cheer leading MLS every week? Also not sure why you’re mentioning Ian Darke or accent but that’s the standard defense your daddy Lalas and others use when called out on their nonsense.

      • zzzzzzvsssq

        October 15, 2017 at 5:46 pm

        HAHAHHHAHAH! Lalas built up US Soccer to what exactly Bill, lose to Trinidad and not make the world cup? Let me guess, you’re a bearded buffoon that marches to watch your garbage MLS teams play?

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