Skip to content

U.S. crisis update: Let’s take this down to DEFCON 5

Mar 23, 2013, 2:20 PM EDT

Costa Rica v United States - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Getty Images

Before we get into this, let’s establish one thing: As far soccer crises go – the type of crises that aren’t crises at all, just figurative language we foolishly lean on to describe different levels of drama – the U.S. was definitely “in crisis.” A must win game combined with open (if anonymous) dissent combined with lingering skepticism of the team’s direction? Yes, that’s a crisis, regardless of whether the game was really must win.

So ahead of the biggest game of the cycle, Tuesday’s match at Azteca, it’s worth asking: Is that team still in crisis?

I think you see where I’m going with this one, but let’s engage the exercise.

There were a number of factors that went into creating last week’s crisis. Consider this a checklist – an inventory of circumstances that need to be present for that crisis to exist:

  • Poor performance in previous game – Despite Honduras’s obvious improvement, nobody was happy with the result in San Pedro Sula. Not with the late breakdown. Not with the stagnant attack. Not even with the amazing bicycle kick Juan Carlos Garcia put in before halftime that’s since been overlooked. Nobody likes spending a month staring at a “0” in the points column.
  • Lingering doubts – For now, let’s set aside the Sporting News’ work and remember there were doubts before anonymous players provided the substance. Does Klinsmann’s approach work? If so, where are the results? Is the U.S. really better off under their new boss?
  • Players falling like flies – Here’s the list of injuries U.S. Soccer identified when Klinsmann chose his squad: “Edgar Castillo (facial fractures), Timmy Chandler (hamstring), Steve Cherundolo (knee), Tim Howard (back), Fabian Johnson (hip), Jonathan Spector (ankle), Jose Torres (hamstring) and Danny Williams (illness).” Of the six defenders called in, three had never appeared in a World Cup Qualifier.
  • High stakes – You have to win your home games, they say. Especially when you’re coming off a loss. Especially when it’s an opponent you’re expected to beat. The fear of the opposite – what the world would be like if they lost – fueled Friday’s urgency.
  • The fuse – No denying: Monday’s report turned up the heat on the team. Some said that was a good thing, that it forced the team to focus, but if Friday went bad, that feature would have stayed in focus. “These are the reasons why they’re losing.”

Now let’s get our minds back on Mexico. Come Tuesday, now many of these elements will still exist?

  • Performance – Scoreboard says? Status: Gone
  • Linger doubts – One night can’t eliminate one-and-a-half years of anxiety. Add a result in Mexico to Friday’s win? Then you’ll have something. Status: Still around
  • Player fitness – The big concern here wasn’t the injuries. It was the solution. What options did Klinsmann have? Friday looked like a decent one. Status: Gone, maybe
  • High stakes – There’s a difference between intense and high stakes. Azteca will be intense, but if the U.S. loses that game, they’ll be fine. Everybody knew the U.S.’s final round schedule was front loaded. Three points in as many games is workable. Status: Gone
  • That fuse – Winning in Colorado doesn’t mean those critiques were unfounded. And it doesn’t mean they go away. But it makes them less important. Now the team has something to offset those concerns. Winning does wonders, etc. Status: Defused.

Even the best teams can find themselves in a faux crisis. Who knows when the U.S. will find one again. But faced with the biggest adversity of the Klinsmann era, the team responded.

If I remember my Wargames correctly, the military use a threat readiness/alert system called DEFCON. “1” means we’re on the verge of nuclear war. When Kim Jong-un’s having beer on the White House porch, we’re definitely at “5”.

Sitting second in the standings with three points through two games, let’s take the U.S.’s DEFCON from 2 to 5.  Everybody can chill out.

This crisis is over, but let’s conjure our inner cynic: “I can already see the next one.”

Latest Posts
  1. 2015 Gold Cup – Group B preview: Costa Rica’s to clash with Canada, Jamaica, El Salvador

    Jul 2, 2015, 3:35 PM EDT

    Brazil Soccer WCup Netherlands Costa Rica AP

    Here’s a look at who Los Ticos will have to get by in the group stages. Can Canada and Jamaica make a deep run?

  2. Guardiola urges Manchester United target Schweinsteiger to make up his mind

    Jul 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga Getty Images

    Pep is more than happy to keep Schweinsteiger around at the Allianz next season, but he’s becoming a little restless.

  3. Thursday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Pogba to Barcelona, Ramos to Manchester United

    Jul 2, 2015, 1:40 PM EDT

    Sergio Ramos's early brace sparked Real Madrid to a dominant display in Munich. (Photo: AP Photos.) AP

    The latest gossip is right here, with updates on two monster transfers.

  4. Mark Sampson: “England achieved things no one thought we could”

    Jul 2, 2015, 1:04 PM EDT

    Japan v England: Semi Final - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Getty Images

    England’s head coach was full of pride and admiration for his team despite falling at the semifinal hurdle.

  5. Clint Dempsey replaced by Michael Bradley as USMNT captain for Gold Cup

    Jul 2, 2015, 11:57 AM EDT

    Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley

    Kilnsmann reveals he has decided to take the armband off Clint and hand it to Bradley.

  6. Despite devastating World Cup exit, England’s women inspired a nation

    Jul 2, 2015, 10:25 AM EDT

    Despite defeat to Japan, England's women have inspired a nation this summer. Despite defeat to Japan, England's women have inspired a nation this summer.

    Describing the scene from England, as the Lionesses helped to inspire a nation this summer in Canada.

  7. Report: Abou Diaby heading to MLS, FC Dallas after Arsenal release

    Jul 2, 2015, 9:23 AM EDT

    Stoke City v Arsenal -  Barclays Premier League Getty Images

    French international is reportedly mulling over an offer from FCD. What do we think about this?

  8. Huge blow for Mexico: Javier Hernandez breaks collarbone, out of 2015 Gold Cup

    Jul 2, 2015, 8:47 AM EDT

    Javier Hernandez Javier Hernandez

    Manchester United’s “Chicharito” will not play for El Tri this summer after being injured in a friendly.

  9. US ask Switzerland to extradite seven FIFA officials

    Jul 2, 2015, 7:40 AM EDT

    65th FIFA Congress Previews 65th FIFA Congress Previews

    The U.S. Department of Justice wants to bring FIFA officials accused of corruption to the USA.

  10. Round 3: USA-Japan Women’s World Cup final a familiar matchup

    Jul 2, 2015, 12:59 AM EDT

    150702-Wambach-Sawa Getty Images

    Japan beat the U.S. to win the 2011 World Cup. The U.S. beat Japan to win the 2012 Olympics. Round 3 takes place Sunday in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final.

  11. Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup roundup: Dwyer bags four, RBNY top Cosmos, quarterfinals set

    Jul 2, 2015, 12:28 AM EDT

    Sporting KC's Dom Dwyer (14) heads a ball over the New England Revolution's Jose Goncalves (23) in the first half at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images) Getty Images

    A Major League Soccer franchise is going to win the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

  12. “She’s in a hard place”: England boss Sampson consoles, praises Bassett after semifinal loss

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:57 PM EDT

    Sampson consoles his players after the crushing defeat. Getty Images

    Mark Sampson spoke in detail about the character of Laura Bassett and how he hopes girls in England are inspired for the future.

  13. Bassett’s long journey takes cruel twist, but England women show future is bright

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:11 PM EDT

    Laura Bassett of England is comforted by her teammates. Getty Images

    Full credit to England for an inspiring World Cup, and to Japan for getting to a second straight World Cup final.

  14. Clavicle injury could cost Mexico’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez his Gold Cup (video)

    Jul 1, 2015, 10:51 PM EDT

    during practice for the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 5, 2015 in Montreal, Canada. Getty Images

    Three weeks from tonight are the Gold Cup semifinals, with the final on July 26 in Philadelphia.

  15. The world wants Laura Bassett to know that her own goal is nothing to be ashamed of…

    Jul 1, 2015, 10:11 PM EDT

    during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Semi Final match between Japan and England on Canada Day at Commonwealth Stadium on July 1, 2015 in Edmonton, Canada. Getty Images

    From Brandi Chastain and Jeb Brovsky to total strangers from England and beyond, my goodness, people are trying to console Laura Bassett.

  16. Minnesota United misses MLS stadium deadline; Deputy commissioner speaks out

    Jul 1, 2015, 9:12 PM EDT

    BLAINE, MN -JULY 19: Minnesota United FC defenseman celebrates with fans after scoring a goal on Swansea City in the first half of their friendly soccer match on July 19, 2014 at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota. Minnesota United FC defeated Swansea City 2-0.(Photo by Andy Clayton-King/Getty Images) Getty Images

    United says it remains committed to bringing MLS to Minnesota, and it’s worth wondering if the rival Minnesota group is hampering progress.

  17. Stoppage-time own goal sinks England, sends Japan to Women’s World Cup final

    Jul 1, 2015, 9:02 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Defending champion Japan advances to second straight Women’s World Cup final.

  18. Targeted by Man Utd and other giants, Ilkay Gundogan extends deal with BVB

    Jul 1, 2015, 8:20 PM EDT

    MUNICH, GERMANY - APRIL 28:  Philipp Lahm of Muenchen challenges for the ball with Ilkay Gündogan of Dortmund during the DFB Cup semi final match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Borussia Dortmund at Allianz Arena on April 28, 2015 in Munich, Germany.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Big story for Dortmund, even if it’s a bit under-the-radar.

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip