After Devastating Loss For USMNT, What Comes Next?
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
If you listen very closely to this next highlight, you can hear the sound of millions of U.S. soccer fans tearing their hair out.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Long distance blast, and it's Alvin Jones - one for the legend books. Oh, my, his first Trinidadian goal, and he might as well retire right now.
SIEGEL: The second goal for tiny Trinidad and Tobago clinched the match against the United States men's team last night, and it kept the U.S. out of the World Cup for the first time since 1986. Well, now fans and experts alike are wondering what happened, and one of those experts joins us now. He's Roger Bennett, a co-host of the "Men In Blazers" show and podcast on NBC Sports. Thanks for joining us today.
ROGER BENNETT: I'd like to say it's a pleasure, Robert, but to hear that open wound of a goal and live it out again after the night that we all went through - the American football community - these are dark times.
SIEGEL: Well, to put this in context, just how bad a loss was this for the U.S. men's team?
BENNETT: It was a debacle. It was an Armageddon. It was an apocalypse. It was a night in which so many results had to go against the U.S. for them to fail to qualify. And slowly, as if there was no such thing as free will but we were all just doomed by fate, all those results did start to slide. And I know that it's only a game of football. I keep telling myself that. But it feels so much more. It's simply devastating, the result, to those of us who care about the game in America and its future.
SIEGEL: I'm a sports fan but a very casual soccer fan. This is not something that I watch closely. But every time I've watched a soccer match in recent years, Tim Howard has been in the net, been the goalkeeper for the United States. Is that a sign that he is the greatest goalkeeper around or that the U.S. has a very old goalkeeper playing every year?
BENNETT: Tim Howard is an incredible servant for U.S. soccer. The night of the World Cup against Belgium - that's how I'd like to remember him, for the save after save after save as he played lights out. This was not his finest moment. It's not just him. With a manager that they changed to mid-cycle, a gentleman, Bruce Arena, who'd led them wonderfully in the early 2000s and in players that he then picked, it was a little bit of a reversion of what we used to know. And the U.S. Soccer Federation, at all levels, perhaps could be accused of worshipping the old gods. And now it needs to work out the new.
What I will say - in this moment of darkness, we really should usher in the light. Other teams - Germany - when they had a national debacle in 2000, it triggered a national soul searching about how they train their players, how they coach them, how they recruit them. And I believe that the U.S. have a true opportunity that they can do something similar here.
SIEGEL: Well, I mean, what does U.S. men's soccer do at this point? Do you fire the coach? Do you change the way the team trains or the way it's selected? Do you decide this is a disaster; we've got to zero it out and start all over again? What?
BENNETT: It's not a birth right to qualify to the World Cup. We have had a remarkable run - seven straight tournaments. And no team qualifies forever, Robert. And Chile failed this time around. The (unintelligible) Netherlands failed. The World Cup's still going to be massive in America. It will still be a television ratings buster. But this was always going to have seismic repercussions for all levels of the game.
SIEGEL: Boy, listening to you, I'm feeling worse and worse and worse. This is just disastrous what happened last night.
BENNETT: That's what I'm here for, Robert.
SIEGEL: Yeah, that's what you're here for.
BENNETT: Thank you very much. And good luck.
SIEGEL: Roger Bennett, co-host of the "Men In Blazers" podcast and show on NBC Sports spoke to us via Skype.
BENNETT: Courage. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.