Skip to content

Thoughtful Olympic rehash: So much style, but what of substance?

Mar 27, 2012, 12:36 PM EDT

Brek Shea

Hipsters, models and fashion mavens step over one another to set the next trend in clothing style. Kids kick it “street style.”  Weather may dictate seasonal style. And lest we forget that fashion fades, but style is eternal. Or so I hear.

At the end of the day, of course, we’re really just talking about composites and material to protect ourselves from sun, from the nasty elements and from strangers seeing our tummies. At some point, it’s not “style,” it’s just essential coverage.

It’s a good thing to remember about our soccer, too, this pursuit of “style.” Especially on the “mourning after.”

Did the U.S. under-23 soccer team, along with the rest of us, lose the plot along the way, paying a little too much attention to style while paying improper heed to time-tested tenets of athletic competition?

Perhaps. Maybe it’s just a learning curve as the U.S. search for its soccer style slogs inexorably forward – whatever that means to everyone individually.

There’s really no problem with these discussions, nothing misguided about scouring the lands in search of our passing-and-trapping brand, so long as this elusive fox hunt remains rooted in a simple concept:

Style is a means to an end … not the finish line itself.

Anyone think maybe that simple notion got misplaced along the way to Nashville?

In domestic soccer circles, talk of style became de rigueur as Jurgen Klinsmann inherited the top U.S. post eight months back. Klinsmann never imagined we would “style” our way to soccer’s promised land; he’s no dummy that way. But he did want to influence a better way forward, a methodology with a further view up the field, so to speak. (Never mind that his biggest win, last month in Italy, tilted smartly back toward a pragmatic approach.)

So it was with Caleb Porter’s 4-3-3, stylistic and dynamic as it was for his under-23s. And it was so pretty to watch!  So very Ajax-in-the-day. Especially against Cuba in the American Group A opener. The geometric triangles inspired by the great Dutch sides under Rinus Michels were being drawn up like so much chalk talk in the locker room.

But Cuba, defensively disheveled and chronically unfocussed, was never a barometer. Then came the crushers, which were. Barometers, that is.

While some of us debated merits of “style,” Canada and El Salvador (big credit to both, by the way) reminded everyone that so much of the game is about desire and passion. It’s about leadership and chemistry. It’s about roster balance, with a few technically competent mudders who don’t give a hoot about style so long as they get to leave a mark here and there.

It’s about identifying the men who can rise to the moment (young men though they are).

I like and appreciate an attractive match as much as the next guy. It is the “beautiful game,” after all. These are important discussions in U.S. soccer circles, about playing a better brand, etc. – but the talks always deserve rooting in a foundation of something bigger.

Style in itself can never win a match – and at some point that’s what it’s all about.

Latest Posts
  1. MLS Snapshot: Sporting Kansas City 1-3 Houston Dynamo

    Aug 30, 2014, 12:06 AM EDT

    Graham Zusi, Mike Chabala

    The Houston Dynamo downed Sporting Kansas City, 3-1, at Sporting Park on Friday night.

  2. WATCH: Will Bruin strikes the first goal for Houston Dynamo

    Aug 29, 2014, 10:49 PM EDT

    Will Bruin 3

    Will Bruin’s close-range finish put Houston ahead of Sporting Kansas City, 1-0.

  3. Orlando City SC’s Yordany Alvarez retires due to medical condition

    Aug 29, 2014, 9:55 PM EDT

    Diego Chara, Yordany Alvarez

    Orlando City SC midfielder Yordany Alvarez retired from professional soccer because of a medical condition.

  4. Portugal excludes Cristiano Ronaldo from roster of Euro 2016 qualifier

    Aug 29, 2014, 8:59 PM EDT

    Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo bows his head as he reacts to a play during the group G World Cup soccer match between the United States and Portugal at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil, Sunday, June 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) AP

    Paulo Bento didn’t name Cristiano Ronaldo in his squad for Portugal’s Euro 2016 qualifier vs. Albania in early September.

  5. Watch Live: Sporting Kansas City vs. Houston Dynamo (Lineups)

    Aug 29, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Houston Dynamo v Sporting Kansas City - Eastern Conference Championship - Leg 2 Getty Images

    Watch the MLS match between Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo live on NBCSN.

  6. UEFA looking to change Champions League seeding

    Aug 29, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    uefa Getty Images

    A new system would benefit domestic club winners by separating the teams into different pots.

  7. Van Gaal: Roy Hodgson ‘cannot judge’ Luke Shaw’s fitness

    Aug 29, 2014, 5:43 PM EDT

    louis van gaal Getty Images

    Louis van Gaal thinks Luke Shaw has been coping with his injury problems well.

  8. Arsene Wenger to be ‘as secret as possible’ over transfer deals

    Aug 29, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    wenger Getty Images

    The Arsenal manager will remain quiet to the media until the transfer window closes as rumors swirl around the Emirates.

  9. Del Piero’s move to Indian Super League raises political dispute

    Aug 29, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Alessandro Del Piero Getty Images

    Alessandro Del Piero is going to the Indian Super League’s Dehli Dynamos, bringing to surface political debate in Italy.

  10. Premier League preview: Manchester City vs. Stoke City

    Aug 29, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    city Getty Images

    The defending champions will look to open the season with three straight wins as Stoke City visit the Etihad.

  11. Southampton looking to add Brek Shea on loan

    Aug 29, 2014, 3:59 PM EDT

    Fulham v Stoke City - Premier League Getty Images

    Southampton may acquire Brek Shea via loan.

  12. Transfer needs: Sunderland, Swansea, Tottenham, West Brom, West Ham

    Aug 29, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona Training Session Getty Images

    Wrapping up our journey through the Premier League with the last five alphabetical names out of the 20-flight teams.

  13. Chelsea confirms two-year AC Milan loan for striker Fernando Torres

    Aug 29, 2014, 2:43 PM EDT

    Torres Getty Images

    The one-time largest transfer in Premier League history is moving to Italy on loan, the Stamford Bridge club confirmed today.

  14. US men to face Honduras in October; USWNT name roster for Mexico

    Aug 29, 2014, 2:21 PM EDT

    Honduras' Emilio Izaguirre and Graham Zusi of the U.S. jump as they challenge for the ball during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Salt Lake City, Utah Reuters

    News from the senior teams for the United States men and women comes across the web this Friday afternoon. What’s cooking? Head inside.

  15. Liverpool boss Rodgers: ‘This is not the Mario Balotelli show’

    Aug 29, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    balo Getty Images

    Brendan Rodgers liked what he saw in training from the club’s newest signing, but says the troubled Italian must change his ways at Liverpool.

  16. Serie A season preview, predictions: Juve still class of deep league

    Aug 29, 2014, 1:38 PM EDT

    Italy Soccer Serie A AP

    The Old Lady went an absurd 33W-3D-2L last season, busting No. 2 AS Roma in the nose by a meager 27 points.

  17. Premier League preview: Everton vs. Chelsea

    Aug 29, 2014, 1:10 PM EDT

    Diego Costa could be sidelined with a muscle injury Getty Images

    A Diego Costa injury could hurt Chelsea’s chances as the Toffees look to rebound from a tough draw against Arsenal.

  18. Friday’s transfer rumor roundup: Vidal stays at Juve, Cerci wants move

    Aug 29, 2014, 12:49 PM EDT

    Juventus Training Session Getty Images

    Manchester United, Liverpool, Newcastle, PSG and Arsenal all make the transfer churner to end the workweek.

  19. Report: Manchester United accepts $13 million PL bid for Tom Cleverley

    Aug 29, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Can Paul Lambert and Roy Keane convince the midfielder to come to Villa Park?

  20. VIDEO: Louis van Gaal talks Angel Di Maria, Man Utd rebuilding process

    Aug 29, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 11.20.53 AM

    LVG says the addition of ADM won’t change his approach to building how United plays soccer.

Featured video

Breaking down Di Maria, Balotelli deals