If you care about the U.S. MNT you probably have heard it by now, Alexi Lalas’ Rant. You may well have said, “you know what he’s right, or maybe you think he went too far. So, let’s have a look at what the former U.S. defender said, and whether it was true or right, or just plain nuts.
Lalas spoke at halftime of the 1-1 draw between the Seattle Sounders and the LA Galaxy Sunday night on Fox Sports 1. Here it is in all its naked glory:
“It’s dark days, indeed, but this is a time for leaders to step up. And so to the supposed leaders, I will say this. All right, Tim Howard. Tim, the Belgium game ended three years ago. We need you to save the ball now. Geoff Cameron, clean it up or let’s get someone who will. Clint Dempsey, you’re a national team legend; now we need you to be a national team leader. Michael Bradley, the U.S. does not need you to be Zen, the U.S. needs you to play better. Jozy Altidore, is this really as good as it gets? Because it’s still not good enough.”
“Bruce Arena. Bruce, Jurgen Klinsmann lost at home to Mexico. You lost at home to Costa Rica, This is now all on you, not Jurgen. And, oh, by the way, to all the guys that I didn’t mention, it’s because you don’t even warrant a mention. That includes you too, Wonder Boy. So, what are you guys going to do? Are you going to continue to be a bunch of soft, underperforming, tattooed millionaires? You are a soccer generation that has been given everything; you are a soccer generation who’s on the verge of squandering everything. So, now it’s time to pay it back. Make us believe again. You don’t owe it to yourselves, you owe it to us. And … get off my lawn.”
Colorful stuff, and keep in mind that Lalas has been plain in stating that part of his job is to entertain. He certainly hit the mark there, but what of the substance. The most interesting part of the diatribe, for me, was Lalas’ contention that this group has “been given everything.”
Lalas played for the national team from 1991-1998, he played in played in one World Cup, 1994, and was on the roster but did not see action in 1998. It is not much of a leap to say then that Lalas, who had yet to play for a professional club before the 1994 World Cup, was not part of a generation to which everything was given. In fact, he may feel, with some justification, that he is among those who have given the current group, “everything.”
And with two games remaining in the HEX- the final round of World Cup Qualifying play- the U.S. could squander a chance to get to the World Cup. Of course, they could beat Panama in Orlando and win at Trinidad and Tobago and then it is on to Russia.
Much of the attention around Lalas’ rant came because he named names. Lalas singled out the leaders on the team, accusing Tim Howard of living off past glories, Michael Bradley of lacking passion and Bruce Arena of blaming his woes on his predecessor.
Jozy Altidore was called out as “not good enough.” Altidore’s numbers are in fact pretty good. The Toronto FC striker is third in U.S. MNT goals behind icons Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. If Lalas wanted to call Altidore out, he should have targeted the striker’s immature behavior that led to a yellow card versus Costa Rica and forced Altidore to miss the Honduras match.
Dempsey’s leadership qualities were questioned by Lalas, and it is true that Dempsey has never fit the traditional leader profile, Deuce has always seemed more of a solo artist. Klinsmann sought to bring out Dempsey’s inner leader by making him captain, a job the coach eventually took away and handed to Michael Bradley, accused of being too zen by Lalas.
One can only assume that Lalas wants to see more emotion from the captain, although Lalas said that Bradley needed to “play better.” Is playing poorly a zen thing? Bradley was quiet against Honduras but he played well in a losing effort against the Ticos and if Lalas is speaking in general terms I think he is barking up the wrong tree. Bradley is far and away the best option in the center of the field for the U.S. despite the constant clamor of those who do not appreciate Altidore’s TFC teammate.
As coach, Arena has the least cover among Lalas’ targets. Arena took over a team in a deep hole, helped the U.S. climb out of that hole but then, as Lalas said, Arena, “lost at home to Costa Rica.”
A home win over Panama would absolve Arena of that sin, and paired with a road victory over last place T&T, the Yanks would not only have climbed back out of that ditch, they would have clambered all the way to Russia.
Whatever value there may have been in Lalas’ remarks though, was squandered by his gratuitous, pointless, and inaccurate jab at Christian Pulisic. “Wonderboy.” Really, Alexi? What has Pulisic done since arriving on the national team but put his head down and work his ass off?
Was Pulisic great for the U.S. in the recent two game set? No, he was ok. But the soon to be 19 year old worked hard for all 180 minutes, even if the Dortmund attacker occasionally showed some frustration.
Did Lalas make some sense? Sure, although I don’t know what the tats have to do with anything. In the end, these are all grown men and professional athletes. Howard needs to save that first goal against Costa Rica, Dempsey needs to score some goals. Arena needs to win games. They know this and while Lalas’ words might piss them off they won’t melt.