Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Victory Laps and Leaps of Faith: The Two Halves of Thursday

Hello, this is a column that will run every week looking at two of the many stories going on in American soccer. Don't be mad after reading this, Friday is a day away. 

The USMNT get to celebrate qualification again at home on Friday.


Victory Lap for the USMNT

Ignore Jurgen Klinsmann rhetoric, or at least take it with a grain of salt. The USMNT manager says Friday's game against Jamaica is the beginning of the team's plans to prepare for the World Cup. Right. 

Not to say that Klinsmann is a liar but rather a spinner in this case. It is not a bad thing either. It boils down to the fact this Friday is the last home game the US will play this year. 2013 was a very good year for the national team but laying an egg in Kansas City would put a bitter cherry on top of a sweet run of form. So to prevent that, Klinsmann needs to develop a message to sell fans and players on the importance of Friday's game–especially against a Jamaican team that must win to keep its faint qualification hopes alive.

With a World Cup seed basically out of the question and first place in the Hex probably not meaning much except a possible bonus for Klinsmann, a lackluster US performance is forgivable. With that in mind, we can acknowledge the fact that it is very difficult for the US to be as motivated as it was last game against Mexico. The stakes just are not as high. What do you do as a coach fully aware of this?

Create some stakes.

Manipulate the same asset that helped you qualify for the World Cup with two games in hand–the deep roster pool. Publicly state how you want to begin World Cup preparations, privately state that roster spots are there to be had and express to your players that their efforts to claim a spot on the World Cup Squad will be monitored beginning on Friday. 

Gives us a reason to watch.

Vucetich Takes a Leap of Faith

Victor Manuel Vucetich will be Mexico's third coach in as many games when he steps onto the pitch at the Estadio Azteca on Friday night. Vucetich will be coaching El Tri's most significant home World Cup Qualifier in recent memory and he will be who history remembers as either the manager who successfully avoided disaster or who will be on the sideline when Mexico's unthinkable elimination is confirmed.

Victor Manuel Vucetich will be relied upon to save El Tri
This is a fact Vucetich had to have been well-aware of when he took the managerial job for Mexico.

Vucetich was not helped out by Carlos Vela again refusing a call-up. Vela's perpetual refusal to Mexico's interest will be a long-term issue for Mexico but given their current situation, the long-term is insignificant. 

That is why Vucetich empathized calling in players who were in-form with their clubs. That is the reason Rafael Marquez and Jonny Magallón were recalled and it was the reason Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera were excluded. It also worth noting that Marquez and Magallón are 34 and 31, respectively while Guardado and Herrera are 27 and 22. It is a sign that Vucetich is going to value experience for Mexico's critical final two games. It's the conservative, myopic solution.

Going with the veterans as stopgaps may be enough for Vucetich to get through this two-game stretch but then there's likely another two-game stretch–the playoff with New Zealand. Is he going to use conservative stopgaps again or is he actually going to try to be progressive and solve Mexico's problems?

ONE GOAL Contributor
Christian Araos (@Christian_Araos) 

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