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.
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.