You should read Brian Phillips because if you don’t, you’re some kind of weirdo who hates a) soccer and b) good prose. His stuff for Grantland makes Grantland great (screw those jerks in blazers), but this one jumped out at me for several reasons. First, because of Phillips’ description of the US national team:
The USMNT has been “up-and-coming” for essentially the entire career span of the current generation of players, but rather than rising like an elevator, we seem to be stuck in a weird elevator-like contraption, one in which the ceiling keeps rising while the floor stays in the same damn place.
Which he develops here:
Under the domed, doomed gaze of Bob Bradley, the USMNT often seemed to be raising its ceiling by small increments while focusing on the parts of the game that are supposed to raise the floor: organization, defensive cohesion, stamina, muscle, heart. Klinsmann seems to have decided — spectacularly if not wisely — that the floor is actually a boring place to be, and that what we really ought to do is focus on technique, creativity, and speed, push the ceiling up into the exosphere, and let the ground take care of itself. Party on the roof!
The whole thing screams Toronto FC at me, not least because this is exactly what Aron Winter is trying to do at BMO Field, and because his hiring was Klinsmann’s call. Except as Phillips acknowledges, the US “actually has the players” to attempt short-passing, anti-longball football, though it may not exactly be practical considering they’re about to battle for the Hex. Toronto FC however don’t have Clint Dempsey. We have Joao Plata. We don’t have Michael Bradley. We have Eric Avila.
The thing people generally say now in regard to the Winter project is “well, there’s Downsview” (which, remember, is only as good as its staff, something I’ll be looking at a little later when I get around to it). Which even if it was La Masia won’t show returns until Aron is long gone.
And if we’re going to drag Swansea into this wide-ranging narrative (let’s!), I’d be hard-pressed to say within this team there is a future Joe Allen, or Leon Britton, or indeed any player who will begin to show the benefits of a rigorous, possession-based, aesthetically charming, triangle-filled Dutch dream by next season or so.
Reggie Lambe starts for Toronto FC for gawd’s sake.