USMNT is focused on the grand prize

USMNT thanks the fans after qualifying for Qatar and the World Cup.

USMNT thanks the fans after qualifying for Qatar and the World Cup.
The image: Getty Images

It is impossible to stay in physical and mental shape with zero failures for the exhausting 10-month football season. I really put blinds on outside world for a month, maintaining top condition both on and off the field was an insidious but not impossible goal. Cutting each day to meet these criteria sought to make the 23 men who represented the United States national team at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, and it did better than any other men’s team in the world today. history of the country.

The 1930 Americans finished third in the first World Cup and won the elimination match once again in history 72 years later. This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Yankees’ exit from the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and South Korea. The victory of the Americans in the round of 16 over Mexico is the most important match in one of the fiercest rivalries in international football. The anticipation of the quarterfinals was one of the favorites of the tournament Germany. Before we dive into the specifics of this game, let’s look back at how this group of Americans from the beginning of the millennium has made almost incomparable steps and how likely we are to see it again soon.

“We created one of the best teams we’ve had in the history of the national team,” longtime USMNT defender Frankie Hayduk told Deadspin in a recent interview. “We had a bunch of guys who were a bunch of veterans who were at their peak – half of them played in Europe, half played in MLS. And then you had a bunch of young, budding stars who were, if not stars, would shine in London (Donovan) and (DaMarcus) Beasley. All these guys. You had the best version of us all as a team.

The Columbus Crew legend is right. A dozen of the previous golden generation USMNTers were in the state when their glamorous moment came, the slightest advantage over the 11 players in the European leagues, including Hajduk, who played for German giant Bayer Leverkusen at the time. The first time Hajduk realized the true potential of American men at the time was not in the camp before the North Carolina Cup. He was at the 2000 Summer Olympics, where six members of the team have played together for the first time since 2002 in a major international tournament.

This largely American under-23 team finished fourth in Sydney, losing to Spain in the semifinals and largely beating Chile in the bronze medal match, but losing to the South Americans 2-0. Brad Friedel, John O’Brien, Jeff Agoos, Josh Wolfe, Donovan and Hayduk did not win a medal, but strengthened the belief that USMNT will play a bigger role on the world stage. Hajduk has developed a nickname for Donovan, the “Superstar”, on the occasion that the current head coach of San Diego Loyal was named the best young player on the showcase in 2002.

“It’s pretty amazing it’s been that long though. 2002 feels like a really long time ago. I was just a kid. I was a baby. So it’s crazy to think about,” Donovan told Deadspin in a late May interview. “I remember being really brash, brazen, brave and fearless. That timeframe was so exciting because Major League Soccer didn’t exist when I was growing up. So my dream was always to play in a World Cup. So here I am getting the opportunity to realize my dream.”

Having the desire to be the best version of yourself is a great motivating line but much harder to apply. The USA was guaranteed 270 minutes of World Cup play. Things could fall apart quickly, especially with powerhouse Portugal across the field in its opening game of the tournament.

“That meant concentration, concentrating on your heart, your mind, your mind, your body, your soul, on the field, off the field,” Hejduk said. “… And every player got it. Literally, every player.” Donovan conquered: “I think there was a level of respect for everyone that we played. But we didn’t have any fear, especially the younger guys. We didn’t have any fear. So what if it’s Portugal? Who cares? Just go play the game. In retrospect, you don’t have to be the most talented group of players to be successful. If the mentality of the whole group is to be successful as a group, then you can do that.”

And it carried the USMNT to a quarterfinal match against Germany. After Michael Ballack’s goal brought the Americans down 1-0, the opportunity to equalize in the second half after a corner kick would have developed much differently today. Crossing Claudio Reina found a shot from Donovan in the main zone of defense defender Greg Berhalter (yes, the current head coach of the USMNT). His attempt to score was partially saved by German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn before falling into the hands of his teammate Thorsten Frings. There was no live call and the game continued.

If this scenario had taken place today, it would have been marked by the VAR and would have been easily awarded a penalty, along with a red card from Frings. Intentionally or not, his hand stopped naked. This is extrusion by cutting and drying, as what happened is much more obvious in a Quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup for Luis Suarez of Uruguay. Hajduk said Donovan or Brian McBride would execute the ensuing penalty kick. What version of the football multiverse do we get from there? We will never know, but you cannot reject the American victory. In this reality, Germany has advanced.

The American men from 2002 showed how close the program could be to winning a star over their coat of arms, instead of seeing that the USWNT has all four that the country has won at the highest level. In fact, women have dominated the world stage in every age group. However, their great form is not the moral of this story. This can be learned by Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams and the current Americans, who will play in Qatar two decades after the loss to Germany of the older generation.

Before you even head to the field, the world is such a different place. Blocking high-profile media is no longer possible. Donovan said that if the 2002 USMNT crashed in the group stage, there would be no noise calling for the resignation of Bruce Arena. This is constantly increasing, as it was Donovan who, after South Africa, represented the team mainly in the press, including appearances in The late show with David Letterman.

Berhalter will lead USMNT to his first World Cup in eight years, starting in November, and more eyes will be on him and his team than ever before. Hajduk, his former teammate and roommate at the club, sees the origins of the current American team from the days of Berhalter, studying under the Arena.

“(Greg) learned from Bruce, this team this year,” said Hajduk. “The team we had was amazing. Everyone really loved each other and (were) really fighting for each other. When you have such a group, with all of them on top, and you as a coach can bring them together and put them all in the same frame of mind and like each other and laugh, hug, cry and extract all the emotions from a player that Bruce can do, I think Greg took that to another level with the team he has now.

“From everything I hear, from everything many people hear, he is a coach of a player. He is a man who works hard on and off the field for the players. The players really respect him. And we really respect Bruce and you have to have him with a coach. Respect must be there. The laughter must be there. Being able to take criticism from a coach, and that’s what Bruce, for me, was so great at, is being able to say, “Hey, man, you didn’t play a good game, but blah blah blah.” I guess positive criticism. We all fell in love with him. I know Greg must have taken every piece of pie he could from Bruce and learned all this.

A major drawback that today’s Americans may have is the lack of experience of the World Cup. The number of players may expand in the coming months, but only two players who represented the United States in 2014 appear to have a legitimate path to Qatar in DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks. In other words, the probable strikers, midfielders and goalkeepers played a total of zero minutes at the World Cup. Universal.

“I think it’s almost impossible to understand how big the World Cup is until you play in it,” Donovan said. “So this will be a learning experience for some of them. But they are very well prepared. And there aren’t many things I’m going to tell them that will affect them. “Donovan stressed that showing videos and people coming to talk to the team about what it’s like to play on the biggest stage in the sport can help. But not reproduces the real thing.

“Until my second, third World Cup, I felt much more comfortable with what the process would look like,” Donovan continued. “It’s probably no different than when people go to the Super Bowl. And they talk about this weekend, how it’s different, like all the media, everyone pays attention to how different it is and you have to be able to focus on your work still. That’s a little bit of that. Until you really experience it and experience it, you will not understand what it is about. ”

Still, the easiest way to connect the points for the Americans from the last World Cup, held in an Asian country, to the next is through Berhalter. He saw what makes this team great. Now his job is to ensure that history has a chance to repeat itself.

“I think the biggest reason for this success was camaraderie, I really do, and a common goal,” Donovan said of 2002. “So many times at the World Cup, individual players think about themselves and how they improve their career. This is human nature. We all think, “How can I do this best for me?” If I show well, will a big club sign me? And will I get a raise? Am I getting a new contract? Of course, this is part of everyone and we are all human. But this team felt in it for the greater cause, the greater good. And I think that had a lot to do with our success. ”

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