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. U-20 World Cup Roundup: Three draws, U.S. win open tournament in New Zealand

    May 30, 2015, 10:16 AM EDT

    Panama Getty Images

    The United States picked up the only 3 points of the opening day games as Argentina, Panama, Ukraine, New Zealand, Ghana, and Austria all played to draws.

  2. Rio Ferdinand retires after being released by QPR

    May 30, 2015, 8:56 AM EDT

    Ferdinand Getty Images

    After 503 Premier League appearances, 6 Premier League titles, and 81 caps for England, the former Manchester United great is calling it a career.

  3. Blatter hits back at US Attorney General, says “something smells” about the investigation

    May 30, 2015, 8:24 AM EDT

    Blatter Getty Images

    After winning his fifth term atop FIFA, Sepp Blatter said the United States is overstepping its bounds by arresting members of his organization.

  4. Hyndman stars as U.S. U-20 team downs Myanmar 2-1 to open World Cup play

    May 30, 2015, 7:38 AM EDT

    Hyndman Getty Images

    The Fulham midfielder returned from injury to assist the opener and score the winner in a 2-1 victory.

  5. Three things we learned from Sporting KC’s 4-0 thrashing of FC Dallas

    May 30, 2015, 12:48 AM EDT

    Krisztian Nemeth, Sporting Kansas City Krisztian Nemeth, Sporting Kansas City

    Three talking points from the latest installment of MLS’s “Viernes de Futbol.”

  6. WATCH: Krisztian Nemeth’s header puts Sporting KC ahead of FC Dallas, 1-0, at the half

    May 29, 2015, 10:01 PM EDT

    Sporting Kansas City v Houston Dynamo Getty Images

    Watch the lone first-half goal of the Sporting KC-FC Dallas match, televised on UniMas tonight.

  7. IRS official says more indictments to come in FIFA case

    May 29, 2015, 9:39 PM EDT

    Sepp Blatter, FIFA president Sepp Blatter, FIFA president

    An important I.R.S official told The New York Times that more indictments in the FIFA corruption investigation will be released.

  8. Orlando City SC announce private funding of new stadium, increased capacity

    May 29, 2015, 7:16 PM EDT

    LA Galaxy at Orlando City LA Galaxy at Orlando City

    Orlando City SC made a big announcement earlier today regarding the future of the club.

  9. Neymar’s former club, Santos, to sue over transfer to Barcelona

    May 29, 2015, 6:34 PM EDT

    AP

    Barcelona has yet to pay the remaining 83 million euros of Neymar’s transfer fee, and his former club, Santos, will sue.

  10. Men in Blazers podcast: Rog talks with U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos ahead of World Cup

    May 29, 2015, 5:41 PM EDT

    meninblazers

    The Men and Blazers speak with U.S. U-20 head man Tab Ramos ahead of the 2015 U-20 World Cup in New Zealand.

  11. FA chairman Greg Dyke: Sepp Blatter’s full term will not last, out in two years

    May 29, 2015, 5:05 PM EDT

    greg_dyke Getty Images

    FA chairman Greg Dyke thinks Sepp Blatter’s fifth term of FIFA presidency won’t last.

  12. 2014 MLS Cup rematch: For the New England Revolution, it’s a new season, different game against LA Galaxy

    May 29, 2015, 4:10 PM EDT

    2014 MLS Cup - New England Revolution v Los Angeles Galaxy Getty Images

    On Fox Sports 1 this Sunday, the New England Revolution face LA Galaxy in a 2014 MLS Cup rematch.

  13. 2014-15 Premier League season review: PST’s Best XI of the Season

    May 29, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Chelsea v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Chelsea’s title-winning team dominates our picks. But there are still plenty of surprise inclusions.

  14. Leaves jail in ambulance, gives speech hours later: Jack Warner knows no FIFA scandal

    May 29, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT

    Trinidad and Tobago's National Security Minister Jack Warner talks with journalists after a meeting with residents in Port of Spain

    As the soccer world continues to react to Sepp Blatter’s fifth-term as FIFA president, his 72-year-old former VP is basically telling the law to take a long walk off a short pier.

  15. Blatter’s “Wolf of Wall Street” moment could play out the exact same way

    May 29, 2015, 2:05 PM EDT

    Nominee for Best Actor in "The Wolf of Wall Street" Leonardo DiCaprio arrives on the red carpet for the 86th Academy Awards on March 2nd, 2014 in Hollywood, California. AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECK        (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    We’re in the shadow of just one rushed afternoon, and the FBI and others are watching the money float off the yacht, hoping to strike.

  16. 2014-15 Premier League season review: PST’s Manager of the Season

    May 29, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Southampton v Aston Villa - Premier League Getty Images

    This award went down to the final vote. Do you agree with our pick?

  17. Sepp Blatter wins first vote 133-73, but not by enough to avoid second vote

    May 29, 2015, 1:02 PM EDT

    ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - MAY 29:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter talks during the 65th FIFA Congress at the Hallenstadion on May 29, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images) Getty Images

    There were 209 votes, and nations could abstain from voting as well.

Featured video

PST Extra reviews the 2014-15 season