Chris Henderson

Sounders’ former U.S. internationals disappointed with recent USMNT struggles

TUKWILA, Wash. — The Seattle Sounders have quite the United States national team pedigree.

Head coach Brian Schmetzer has repeatedly lauded forward Clint Dempsey as the best field player to ever put on a U.S. kit. Rookie Jordan Morris is getting more and more looks at national team camps. Herculez Gomez has played in a World Cup, and Brad Evans recorded over 25 caps as well.

There are even national team ties in the front office, as sporting director Chris Henderson logged 80 caps over 10-plus years.

It’s no surprise then that there was palpable frustration over the U.S.’ embarrassing 4-0 loss to Costa Rica in CONCACAF 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying on Tuesday. The U.S. sit in last place with zero points through two rounds of the Hexagonal after their 2-1 home loss to Mexico last Friday.

“It’s disappointing,” said Henderson. “I don’t think we’ve had a loss like that since 1980 or something. Qualifying is difficult. When you go down to Costa Rica, those are tough places to play. People think it’s going to be a cake walk, but there’s enough points out there for us to get in. The mentality has to be we keep going one game at a time.”

Said Gomez: “The Ticos are very good at exploiting spaces on the counter and I think they proved that last night. It’s already hard enough playing against Costa Rica away, but when you play with lack of concentration and give up sloppy passes to the competition, it just makes life even more difficult.”

Jurgen Klinsmann has come under no shortage of criticism during his tenure as United States manager, and those disapproving voices have only grown louder after Tuesday’s result. Myriad outlets have called for Klinsmann’s firing, citing tactical ineptitude and incomprehension of where his players are best suited on the pitch.

Part of what makes Klinsmann’s job so difficult is selecting from arguably the deepest U.S. talent pool in history and trying to implement a system that will work. But with so many rotating parts and so little time to get his players acclimated to them, they’ve seemed lost at times.

“When you talk about the national pool in general, to get them to buy into an idea, you’ve got maybe three or four days per World Cup Qualifier that you can actually work on something,” said Gomez. “So when you want to implement a new formation, a new tactic, new players, it’s very difficult. It’s a short amount of time. It’s not like a club team where you can work on something over the course of weeks and hammer it in where it finals soaks in.”

The next Hexagonal matches are not until March, which is quite a bit of time for U.S. Soccer to regroup, whether with coaching, personnel and/or tactics. But it will leave a sour taste in fans’ mouths until that time, as they’re left to just prognosticate how the U.S. will climb out of the considerable hole they’ve dug.

Two of the U.S.’ three hardest matches are out of the way — playing away at Mexico is the third — so they can ideally find some solace in knowing it’ll get, albeit slightly, easier. Mexico qualified for the 2014 World Cup after recording just 11 points in the Hex and defeating New Zealand in an intercontinental home-and-home playoff series.

There are still 24 points up for grabs. If the U.S. win even three of their four remaining home games, they should be in a decent spot, but they have to rethink their approach and right the ship internally before then.

“It’s a difficult job as a national team coach to put a mix of different players at different points in their season together and have them all gel,” said Henderson. “Right now there’s pressure on the team and they have to get results.

“I think the guys will respond.”



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