I don’t care that USA is not going to Russia

USA men’s nationalism team went to Trinidad and Tobago, angered the locals by making a big deal of the conditions, and then promptly lost in a fit of American hubris not seen since… well since something Trump probably did this morning on Twitter.

Trinidad and Tobago are a dual island nation in the Caribbean (off the coast of Venezuela) and in case you have forgotten about recent events (and maybe you don’t believe in science) there have been eight hurricanes dumping tons of water on their country. No amount of drainage was going to prevent surface water from accumulating and sure enough, the Ato Boldon Stadium was flooded. But in a tone deaf few moments of American history, the USA men’s nationalism team changed their twitter hashtag from #roadtorussia to #rivertorussia.

The Ato Boldon Stadium is named after one of Trinidad and Tobago’s most beloved athletes, Ato Boldon. Mr. Boldon expressed his pride that the USA team would be playing in his stadium before the match but also dismay that the track was flooded, speaking to Newsday he said:

“I woke up this morning to that all over my Twitter, and I was a little annoyed at first because I felt like this supposed to be a fun week for me, because the US team playing in that stadium is kind of a thrill for me,” Boldon said.

“I have since spoken to people who live in the area and they said, ‘Listen, you don’t understand the kind of rain that has been falling there.’ Stadia flood all over the world so I am looking at it a bit differently now. No amount of drainage would have probably helped that situation.”

If only the USA Men’s Nationalism team had a similar level of understanding. But they didn’t and their social media antics angered the local population, giving the T & T players an extra fire in their bellies.

Trini assistant coach Stern John spoke to USA Today and said “There was a lot of fire in our eyes. I think it was disrespectful of them. I think they were a bit overconfident and a bit disrespectful because they came in yesterday and rain fell on the pitch and they were giving each other piggybacks (over the water) and all kind of stuff.

“Rain fell, it is not our fault. They made a big scene out of it and it was international news all over the world. It was all over the media. Our families (told us about it). Most of our guys are on social media so they see it. They see the USA guys getting piggybacked to the field – it is embarrassing.”

Whether that outrage really won them the match is irrelevant. I only bring it up because it’s embarrassing to see these rich Americans travelling to another country and making fun of them for the conditions that they live in. Who does that?

That hubris didn’t just rest in the boots of the USA Men’s Nationalism team. After the loss, soccer pundit Taylor Twellman launched into a spittle-flecked rant about how the USA should beat Trini. In scenes reminiscent of Alex Jones’ Infowars or Peter Finch’s Howard Beale from Network, Twellman rants about how the “billion dollars” MLS failed, how the television contracts need to take responsibility, mentions pay-to-play, and suggests that the nation needs to come together with a 10-year plan to make America great again, so that we can win the World Cup. He ends his rant pointing fingers and holding up his phone and calling people “idiots”.

And it’s the incredulous tone he uses to describe how the USA should beat Trinidad and Tobago which really riles.

This is America right now. President Trump makes a Twellman rant every day. Because what’s happening in America is that many people passionately believe that this country deserves better. But the reality is that we are getting exactly what we deserve.

I could talk at length about the actual match and why USA lost. The USA men’s Nationalism team is pieced together from the discarded parts of old men. These are has beens who have been has beens for years now: Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and worst of all Clint Dempsey – players who couldn’t make it in Europe so they have been plying their trade in the Senior’s league here in the usa affectionately called “major league soccer”. Youth players like Pulisic and Yedlin seem to be few and far between, or at least they aren’t getting into the first team while Michael Bradley is hogging up space and air.

And the team is managed by Bruce Arena, the manager who brought the USA team into the international spotlight before being fired in 2006. That was ten years ago and ironically, the last player to score a goal under that Bruce Arena tenure was Clint Dempsey. That was back when Dempsey was just 23 years old. He’s 34 now. 35 if you ask some Arsenal supporters.

But ultimately I don’t care about the USA Soccer team. I don’t care about whether they make it to Russia. I don’t care about FIFA or enriching them by watching their substandard product. I don’t care for these pointless international breaks and the constant money-spinning tournaments that FIFA put on to enrich the thieves and liars who have been in power at FIFA for the last 20 years.

FIFA are straight up thugs, corporate thugs who literally just extract capital from poor countries. You look at the effects that the World Cup have had on South Africa and Brazil and judge for yourself what’s really going on. Brazil spent $15bn hosting the 2014 World Cup. Almost $4bn of that was on stadiums. Stadiums like the Maracanã, which now lies fallow, the pitch infected with worms, 7,000 seats stolen, $1bn in debt to the electric company, and serious questions being raised about its structural integrity. Almost all of the stadiums in Brazil have similar stories: they are too cavernous and expensive to host local teams, so they often sit fallow, costing taxpayers billions a year to service.

The same thing happened in South Africa. Writing in Sports Illustrated five years after the 2010 World Cup, James Young observed:

A mere four years after the competition, most of South Africa’s World Cup venues stand largely empty, used only for poorly attended local soccer games and the occasional concert. It is a long way from being enough to justify the huge construction and running costs of the stadiums. One of those is the $600 million Cape Town Stadium, which, according to a story in the Toronto Globe and Mail last year, is losing an estimated $6 million-$10 million annually.

Unlike Brazil and South Africa, FIFA made a nice little profit off each event. $2.4bn in profits, PROFITS, off 2010 and $2.6bn in profits off 2014. The same will happen in Russia next year and in Qatar in 2022. The same will happen in the USA when they win the right to host the World Cup in 2026. In each of these countries FIFA show up, demand that the country build them tons of infrastructure, and then take all the profits off the events. That is a straight up mugging.

International football is also boring. It’s bad football. The World Cup used to be the place where teams like Hungary could demonstrate innovations in the game. Where Brazil and England could show off their different interpretations of the game. Where Holland could give the world Total Football. But that was back when FIFA and the World Cup actually did something. Now every team plays one of two or three systems and there’s no beauty or art left.

Few teams can afford to take chances and try different systems. The USA Men’s Nationalism team should be giving itself over to youth but they can’t because they are afraid to fail. So, the dire Michael Bradley is still captain and 34 year old Clint “can’t hold on to a ball to save his life” Dempsey is brought on at half time as some kind of saviour.

And for what? So that USA can feel proud of their flag for a few weeks? That’s ultimately what all this comes down to: flag-waving, jingoistic, nationalism. That’s why Twellman ranted, because his beloved flag wasn’t lording itself over Trinidad and Tobago’s flag.

No thanks.




Team USA meets ‘river’ at Ato Boldon Stadium


  1. Apologies, Tim, for importing this off-topic post from your last one. It sits better here….

    (I’m) still stunned by USA’s failure to qualify for Russia 2018. So Christian Pulisic will not be strutting his stuff on the big stage. I happen to live in Trinidad and Tobago, and I can tell you that they’re learning to spell the word schadenfreude.

    When you turn up for practice at a flooded football field a few days before the game, and you poke fun at your hosts all over social media that your road to Russia is a “river to Russia”, complete with photos of USA players taking the Mickey, it riles the locals. And if it riles the locals, it would probably rile the players. We know what hubris and over-confidence leads to. They had right to expect to beat T&T, but they needed to be respectful travellers. USA acted, for all the world, as if qualification was already in the bag.

    Appointing Bruce Arena was like Arsenal going back to George Graham. Where does American soccer go from here. T&T were dead last in the Hex, and didn’t even qualify. This must be as painful to US soccer fans as our Carling Cup final loss to Birmingham.

    P.S. I will miss the USA in the World Cup. Of late, they’ve pushed some big teams like Portugal very hard, and I rooted for them to do well.

  2. Eloquent rant, by the way.

    Great point about the thoroughly corrupt FIFA and the money they waste.

    The tournament’s going to Russia and Qatar, two major violators of human rights, and one of whom, Russia, is spectacularly corrupt.

    How does USA soccer recover from this?

    1. And we miss out on the drama? Hell no. One of most entertaining days in the world cup is when England inevitably fails.

  3. don’t forget about hope solo and her social media antics before the olympics. the photo of the insect repellant, mosquito nets, rubber gloves, malaria pills, etc galvanized the whole world against that u.s. women’s team. every time solo took a punt or goal kick, the whole stadium yelled out “zika!” it was fitting that their arrogance saw them fall. likewise in the game last night. no one’s crying tears over the u.s. team failing.

  4. Excellent article. Some people have called it a travesty but I agree with you, the US got exactly what it deserved. Even ignoring the disrespectful behavior of the player, the downward spiral began when people were clamoring for an American coach. It reminded me of the FA wanting an English coach. There is an undercurrent of xenophobia in this that people just don’t seem to realize. Are we to believe that Bruce Arena was the best available manager in the whole world?

    The other thing I absolutely agree with is how people view the USMNT as another way of being patriotic. I see a lot of people who don’t give a sh*t about the sport, go crazy for the US national team during these tournaments. There is nothing wrong with supporting your country per se but I think it’s also important to respect the sport and “soccer” is viewed by many as a women’s sport. That is slowly changing with demographic shifts but America’s misogynist tendencies lends itself to the game and still has an effect on young athletes choosing their career. The other factor is money obviously.

    Even though the world cups games are generally boring and FIFA, I think we can all agree, is a criminal organization, I am actually sad about not making the world cup. Was looking forward to beating England.

    1. “America’s misogynist tendencies lends itself to the game and still has an effect on young athletes choosing their career.”

      This is a wee bit crazy. Not even sure how we’re connecting misogyny and national preferences for sport, not to mention a claim that many in the US view soccer as a women’s sport.

      “The other factor is money obviously.”

      I would say the primary factor is money.

      1. It’s absolutely viewed by some in the US as a women’s sport. I went to school in the Midwest for 4 years and that was the attitude towards “soccer” among many of the “football” players.

        1. Also, where did you find an “undercurrent of xenophobia” in wanting an English/American coach for the English/American national team?

          And was anyone actually clamoring for an American coach?

          1. Why do you think Arena got the job? Because he was the best manager available who just happened to be American?

  5. Before reading this, I was kind of bummed that we missed out, that Chile missed out, that Argentina didn’t miss out (what a boring team), that Wales missed out, and happy that Iceland made it in.

    That bit about FIFA made me pretty apathetic about the whole thing.

    I knew FIFA was corrupt, that they extract profits from countries they visit (just like the IOC), but the bit about the football not even being great. I hadn’t considered that. It’s true.

  6. Great points about FIFA, have always said since about the early 80’s world flop has been in a downward spiral.
    The corruptness makes one ill.
    The countries just do not have the power to say no.
    Dempsey was successful in Europe no matter what you say, 57 goals in 200 games is.

  7. Thank you, Tim. This topic has been on my mind through a broader context for a long time now. Full disclosure, I am an immigrant from Hungary and long time US resident, so this is my outsider’s perspective. During the last World Cup, I saw previously unheard of levels of interest in my adopted hometown of Louisville, KY and thought to myself: At last! The sport is taking hold! It was quite a nice moment. I felt, for once, more connected to my neighbors there instead of the usual feeling of a fish out of water.

    I didn’t consider the alternate angle that perhaps these people weren’t there for the sport but for their country. That in and of itself is not bad at all, but when viewed through the lens as a precursor of the rise of Trumpism, it’s downright depressing. Of course, everyone roots for their home team and there is nothing wrong with that. What IS wrong is showing up once every four years with the expectation that U-S-A will rise uber alles because that is its place in the world. I didn’t go around and ask those fans why they were there. It doesn’t matter. What my heart tells me is they were there, at least in part, to see America get the better of the rest of the world like they do in every other major sporting competition.

    There is an expectation that America will get the better of the rest of the world in all things, especially sports: exhibit A is the Olympics, exhibit B is the sport of basketball, and then we haven’t even mentioned the mind-numbing hubris of naming the national championship baseball game the “world series.” And the NFL? It has the rights to the word “Football” even though the ball is only kicked once in a great while and even though the rest of the world calls another sport by that name (much more appropriately). This is a nation of sports fans that doesn’t just think they’re better than the rest of the world: they actually advertise that they are better than the rest of the world. And in the case of basketball at the very least, they are probably right. The US has produced amazing athletes of all stripes in every imaginable sport and have cleaned up medals, trophies and accolades in most international competitions. Except the biggest sport in the world, the one they still can’t crack: football/soccer, which we should just affectionately dub: “Foccer.”

    So when I saw the news that the US team lost to Trinidad and Tobago and was therefore out of the world cup, perhaps you’ll forgive me if I didn’t feel even one ounce of regret, empathy or sympathy for them. In fact, I was quite glad. Glad that I didn’t have to bear witness to months of anticipation for Altidore, Howard and Dempsey to lug their bones around a football field using Arena’s god-only-knows-what-I’m-doing plan while being cheered on by bellicose announcers like Gus Johnson as if they were some kind of heroes. They are not heroes. They are below average foccer players playing below average foccer and they do not belong in the World Cup.

    As corrupt as FIFA had become, and as much as I know that filthy corruption landed the Russians their chance to be hosts, it’s still a tournament that holds a special place for me and for so many people out there. Let’s have the best teams, the ones with exciting players and exciting style, the ones who really deserve to be there. The US wasn’t and doesn’t. That is as it should be.

  8. I still cringe from hearing the American commentators’ voice rise in the apoplectic throes of anticipation every time a cross came in from the determined but painfully limited Eddie Lewis. Or the superstar treatment afforded to Landon Donovan, who, god bless him, didn’t really want it but suddenly he was on the cover of every magazine or video game marketed in the states for 10 years simply because he was the best of a bad bunch. At least that 2002 vintage had some actual ability, but in some ways they are responsible for where the team is today: still trying to relive that past glory of almost knocking Germany out in the quarterfinals.

    1. Yeah, the 2002 team had a bit of ability and was pretty fun to watch, which is why I thought Arena wasn’t a bad appointment as coach. Klinsmann (and I loved the man when he was a player) was a disaster of a coach, and Bradley not much better.

      Honestly, I haven’t really cared at all about the US team since the 90’s, and even then I mostly enjoyed watching them for the inevitable comedy value. Still, I do think the US should not be losing to T&T in a significant, competitive game, and I don’t think it’s arrogant for us to think that way: we’ve got a much, much larger talent pool, and more/better money/infrastructure in our game, so we should be better, period. That’s not to say it’s our God-given right because the US is the bestest at everything in the whole wide world. Twellman is usually a lovable idiot, but he was absurdly over the top last night.

      1. Despite his relative fame and success in the MLS, Twellman was such a mediocre player in the grand scheme who likely would’ve been a borderline second tier footballer in any of the major European leagues. In fact, Wikipedia just told me Twellman spent two years at TSV 1860 Munchen II prior to spending the rest of his career for the Revs, so it’s not like he didn’t try to make the grade in Europe. It just shows the incredible dearth of talent in US foccer and the bubble we live in that he is considered some sort of authority with his 30 international caps and 6 international goals. He was so influential that, wait for this: Clubs no smaller than Odd Grenland of Norway and Preston North End both tried to sign him!

        He also ended his career due to concussions, so maybe all the anger is due to undiagnosed CTE. It could be worse, at least he didn’t spout off what Mike Ditka did the other day. That’s some bad CTE right there.

      2. while i think twellman was animated, i don’t think he was over the top. he was emotional but with good reason. the u.s. should have qualified for the world cup. finishing the fifth of 6 teams in concacaf is awful and he merely said as much.

  9. Frankly, you got to say serves them right to both Russia and Qatar. But, unfortunately, both would have bribed their way to their nominations fully aware of the huge costs but having calculated that the ‘PR ‘benefit’ they expect to get from their tournaments was worth it. Jury’s out on that one.
    Not sure if FIFA or IOC is the more egregious but it certainly seems the penny has started to drop with the Olympics, with the Winter ’22 and Summer ’24 games both having a lot of erstwhile bidders pulling-out.
    Someday, the same may happen to the World Cup too. Certainly people seem more aware of the full costs, with even Germany before South Africa and Brazil wondering if all those tax breaks to FIFA were worth it, the long overdue arrests of so many FIFA officials suggesting ‘not’.
    However, when the action starts, you’ve got to be a bit of a curmudgeon not to enjoy the World Cup. It may not be as good as top level (European) club football, but there’s still a bundle of excellent games and memorable goals, all enlivened by the fervour of the fans, whose fanaticism/patriotism/loyalty is no better or worse than that of club followings.
    I’m mixed about the US not qualifying. Anything that helps soccer extend its beachhead over there is obviously good but there’s also the worry that, if it ever really took off, there might be pressure to change the format and make the game ‘better’ for TV audiences.

  10. I live in Brazil and work on, among other things, the zombie-ant fungus. This is a parasite that manipulates it’s host, as many many parasites do.

    It was abundantly clear to me, during the world cup here, that FIFA was parasitizing it’s host and manipulating its behaviour.

    It even puts on a gaudy display so as to attract future hosts to ingest it and so effect transmission.

  11. Interesting article. But you would you be willing to apply the same level of scrutiny to club football?

    What exactly is the category difference between nationalism and tribalism. Between rooting for the Usa and your average PL team. Uncle Noam always said organized sports was “training in irrational jingoism.”

    How does the casual USA fan compare with the dedicated English fan when it comes to current and historical episodes of violence, racist/antisemitic chants and general boorish behavior?

    Is USA soccer following in the footsteps of PL clubs in making illegal contracts with minors, paying off agents, allowing coaches to collect bribes? Have they followed the model of Spanish and Italian clubs in engaging in actual match fixing?

  12. one of my former players, aged out in june, is panamanian and has been telling me about how much they’re celebrating getting into the world cup. he sent me a video of the president of panama stopping his motorcade after the game and partying in the ghetto with the locals. they absolutely mobbed him and he’s hugging, kissing, and singing with them; a beautiful sight to see. i’m happy for them. they’ll appreciate the experience in russia more than the americans would. americans don’t appreciate anything.

    americans are welcome to cheer for their nation’s soccer team if they do well against other nations, even if it’s only once every four years. in 2010, i was in afghanistan during the world cup and many of the u.s. games came on during dinner time. the main dining facility in bagram held nearly 700 people at once; all watching the u.s. play soccer. to hear the entire dining facility erupt in cheers when the u.s. fought from a deficit to tie/win the game late made me proud. it wasn’t only that the u.s. had found success but the fact that hundreds of war fighters, most of whom aren’t soccer fans, appreciate the tenacity required to come back against fairly tough odds, knowing that those men are also americans. i was, literally, on the verge of tears and i’m no crier.

  13. US might seem to be at loggerheads with China but they are so similar in so many aspects.
    Both countries are the number 1 and 2 in the world in sports, money etc. But they just can’t crack this thing called soccer.

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