Itís time for Americans to answer some questions.By Dave Marino-Nachison
(Sunday, June 14, 1998) -- With the United Statesí final World Cup tune-up, an uninspiring scoreless draw against a Scotland team that looked like they didn't enjoy soccer -- at least in the punishing 90-degree Washington heat -- out of the way, it's time for the real games to begin.
It's fun, and American, to dream about a storybook run through group play and an advance deep into elimination play fueled by an enticing mix of youth, skill and experience and a wily, inventive coach. But let's go by conventional soccer wisdom and say: What if the U.S does what's expected of it and tacks a win over Iran atop two losses to Yugoslavia and Germany? How will we measure success if the team doesn't come home with a few glowing results?
Here are 20 questions -- broken up into five easy-to-use sections -- that U.S. fans, detractors and opponents are asking now and that will be answered all too soon in France. Read them now, then come back and check up them when the team comes marching home.
Defense: The back four, including goalkeeper Kasey Keller, is the team's strength, but as many observers have mentioned, a team whose key player is its netminder is probably lacking elsewhere on the field.
1. Was Tom Dooley, whose importance to the squad increases with his age, fit,
fast and sharp enough to keep the young team together and make his own presence
felt at both ends of the field?
Midfield: There are plenty of talented players in the mix, but thanks to injuries, inexperience and overlapping talents it was unclear after the Scotland match just what the best combination would be.
5. Were Chad Deering and Brian Maisonneuve ready to step up and prove their
mettle at the highest possible level, or were their rapid rises to the top of
the depth chart premature?
Forwards: These are the guys who are supposed to score the goals, but they were mostly impotent in Cup warm-ups. If that continues, they'll carry most of the blame for the team's failures when they come home.
9. Did Eric Wynalda regain his pop and fire, or was the U.S.'s best striker
ever all talk?
Coaching: Steve Sampson took something of a chance in installing a new system and a host of new players late in the game. The team has shown the ability to hold possession in the 3-6-1, but whether the U.S. has enough skill to milk goals from the formation against other teams who use similar systems - with superior players -- remains to be seen.
13. Was Sampson's plan to clog the midfield with strong, steady players enough
to slow down the high-powered offenses of Yugoslavia and Germany?
Other factors: On paper, as everyone knows, a 1-2-0 record and first-round exit is a reasonable expectation. Three losses would be a disaster, while more than one tie would probably mean an early trip home as well.
17. Did Germany have one of its rumored "slow starts" - and was the U.S. good
enough to capitalize if it did?
With soccer, the bottom line is always the result, but even the top U.S. soccer brass admits the deck is hardly stacked in the Americans' favor in France. As such, it's probably a bad idea to grade the U.S. performance solely on the outcomes of the games. As a soccer nation, the U.S. just isn't ready to check its progress simply by checking its scorecards, particularly against storied European opposition.
But as soccer fans the world over know, the World Cup generates more stories
than just the tale of the champion. There are beloved upset winners, stylish
losers, Cinderellas and cherished personalities that often obscure even the
result of the final game. For the U.S., there are plenty of ways to leave
France with honor. A few wins on top of some good memories would be icing on
Dave Marino-Nachison writes for a "A Clash of Heads" which can be found at
Articles and opinions expressed by other columnists are not necessarily the
opinion of SoccerTimes.
Dave Marino-Nachison writes for a "A Clash of Heads" which can be found at http://www.headsclash.com/.
Articles and opinions expressed by other columnists are not necessarily the opinion of SoccerTimes.