Commentary | U.S. soccer team needs improved tactics for bright future in World Cup

jdill@bradenton.comJuly 4, 2014 

Brazil Soccer WCup Ghana US

United States' Jozy Altidore holds his hand to his face as he lies on the pitch after pulling up injured during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

RICARDO MAZALAN — AP

It was a valiant effort that came up just short.

But just because the United States Men's National Team's run in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is over doesn't mean the tournament comes to a crashing halt.

The quarterfinals begin Friday with two titanic matchups: France-Germany and Brazil-Colombia. Saturday's slate of Argentina-Belgium and Netherlands-Costa Rica concludes the next knockout round.

There will be fans who jump off the soccer bandwagon and revert to hibernation for the next four years until the next World Cup.

But there are many who will stick with the sport's blossoming popularity in the United States.

And those eyes should be fixed on the future.

Julian Green's wonder goal in the second extra-time period against Belgium was a glimpse of that future.

However, Green is a foreigner with American ties. He's one of several German-Americans (Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones and Terrance Boyd) who have suited up for America, with Johnson and Jones getting several minutes in Brazil.

What the U.S. needs is to develop youth players

under a solid system so the future remains bright.

Something in the vein of how Spain adopted tiki-taka to win three consecutive major tournaments (two European Championships and the 2010 World Cup) or how the Netherlands' Total Futbol revolutionized the sport in the 1970s under star Johan Cruyff.

This is needed to bring forward a new generation of soccer player, one capable of playing the beautiful game without defending deep the way this U.S. team did against Ghana, Germany and Belgium.

There was one match, against Portugal, when the U.S. looked on par or better than its opponent.

Despite scoring early and finding a late winner against Ghana, the Black Stars dominated possession.

It was an all-out siege against Germany and Belgium, with the latter forcing Tim Howard into the most saves (16) that a keeper has had in the World Cup in 50 years.

While Howard was applauded nationally for his heroic effort, it's a disconcerting statistic that Team USA's defense allowed that many shots to be taken in the first place.

Maybe they were outgunned because the best athletes in this country don't play soccer?

That theory, though, is changing. Players like speed demon DeAndre Yedlin play a key role in matching the pace of the opposition's speeds down the flanks.

And with the performance the U.S. put forth by exceeding pre-tournament expectations and getting through the Group of Death as runner-up, the country was captivated enough to remain in-tune with sport longer than just the World Cup tournament.

But in the U.S., winning is all that matters in most cases. While fans shouldn't be disappointed with the result, there is newfound hope that Juergen Klinsmann's strategy is starting to pay off.

Who knows?

Perhaps the Old Glory is getting closer to winning the World Cup, a laughable idea just eight years ago.

With Klinsmann at the helm for the foreseeable future, the development at the youth level needs to keep in line with the senior team's philosophy to produce the best talent that can be put on the pitch.

Jason Dill, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7017. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill.

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