Want Backheel Breakfast in your inbox? Sign up for the email version here.
The United States exceeded many expectations at the 2014 World Cup when they got out of a brutal group and put up an excellent fight against Belgium in the Round of 16 before bowing out. Everything since then, though, has been a display of mediocrity and disappointment -- and Mike L. Goodman is wondering just how much more will be enough for U.S. Soccer.
Constantly taking the temperature of a national team program is often a fruitless and self-defeating endeavor. A four-year World Cup cycle is a long time, and there are only so many milestones along the way to look at. Part of Jurgen Klinsmann's mandate when he was hired in July of 2011 was to give the American program space to grow and progress, and to not let the immediacy of less important, bad results impact a longer-term goal of improving how the nation plays the game. That's a reasonable plan, but also an ephemeral one. How exactly do you judge a team's style, completely divorced from results? How do you hold a coach (who also happens to be, at least by title, the program's Technical Director) accountable to goals that are so intangible?
-Source: ESPN FC
The USMNT, as Goodman points out, did show marked improvements leading up to the World Cup, and while the team's aesthetics on the pitch may not have been to the liking of everyone, the results were for the most part. Since then, though, things have been stagnant at best most of the time, and that constant march of improvement that every team needs has been utterly absent.
Goodman goes on to make the argument that Klinsmann and the USMNT need to show marked and obvious improvement very soon, or for the good of the national team it should be time for U.S. Soccer to look at finding Klinsmann's replacement. A year ago, that would have seemed premature, but right now it doesn't seem so terribly unreasonable.
Goal of the day
In the news
The friendly between the Netherlands and France will be stopped in the 14th minute to honor Johan Cruyff. (BBC)
Diego Maradona honored Cruyff, who helped inspire the Argentine's brilliant career. (MARCA)
David Beckham and the ownership group hoping to bring a Miami team to MLS have bought land for a stadium. (MLS)
The Seattle Sounders have signed ex-USMNT star Herculez Gomez. (ESPN FC)
Where Antonio Conte goes and who replaces him with Italy this summer could have a domino effect on Serie A managerial jobs. (Football Italia)
From the rumor mills: Antonio Conte wants to bring Juan Cuadrado and Radja Nainggolan to Chelsea. (Guardian)
You should be reading
In memory of Johan Cruyff, Scott Murray looked at the very first Cruyff Turn. (Guardian)
Gabriele Marcotti calls Cruyff one of football's greatest trailblazers. (ESPN FC)
Luis Mazariegos speaks of Cruyff as the architect of Barcelona's modern-day successes. (Barca Blaugranes)
What happened on Thursday
What to watch on Friday (click for listings, all times ET)
Friendly: Netherlands vs. France (3:45 p.m.): The Dutch won't be at Euro 2016, but beating France would be a good way to salve that wound.
Friendly: Portugal vs. Bulgaria (4:45 p.m.): A highly experimental Portugal squad could feature a number of players without much international experience, potentially opening the door for Bulgaria to extend their winning record against them.
Olympic qualifying: Colombia vs. USA (5 p.m.): The first leg of the last chance the US has to get their team into the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the U-23's need to get a positive result against Colombia in a bad way in order to stand a good chance at qualifying.
World Cup qualifying: Seven matches from 3:30 p.m.: Both North and South America are in qualifying action, with six CONCACAF matches and one CONMEBOL match on the day as both continents work to determine who will represent them in the 2018 World Cup. The CONMEBOL match is a high-profile affair between Brazil and Uruguay at 8:45 p.m. ET, while the CONCACAF action is highlighted by the pair of 10 p.m. nightcap matches, with Canada hosting Mexico and Guatemala hosting the United States.