Originally posted on Fox Soccer  |  Last updated 3/22/13
The US Men's National team is in trouble. The team was already in a hole entering this week's World Cup qualifying slate due to an embarrassing 2-1 loss to Honduras in February - a result that leaves them last in their Hexagonal - but that could easily have been overcome with results against Costa Rica tonight and against arch-rivals Mexico Tuesday night in Mexico City. But then came an explosive report by the Sporting News , where 11 players anonymously took shots at coach Jurgen Klinsmann, his staff, his methods (or lack thereof, in their opinion), and some of their teammates - most notably the German-American contingent like Jermaine Jones, a midfielder who is expected to start tonight. In a game that has been described by Klinsmann as a "must win" now mere hours away, how can a group of players trust one another? Ask any coach or manager of a championship-winning team how they achieved their goal, and chemistry is bound to be one of the most cited factors. But take a look at the play of this squad recently - they struggled at times in the earlier rounds of qualifying and sputtered out of the gates in Honduras - they were already lacking. Now imagine how a report where some teammates openly questioned others - along with their coaching staff. That's bound to create tension, not chemistry. "Did you say this?" "Were you one of the anonymous sources?" "How do you really feel about this team?" Clint Dempsey, the Tottenham Hotspur forward who has been named captain for tonight's game, stated that he has not spoken with the team about the allegations. But surely, these types of thoughts are in players' minds as they prepare for the latest set of matches. U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley tried to downplay the storm but was blunt in his assessment, telling the Washington Post on Wednesday: "When you play in a team you have a chance every day to give everything you have, and part of that means having the balls to say things to guys to their face and having the balls to say things in front of the team." World Cup qualifying is an arduous journey - teams are forced to travel far and wide, and expected to get results from the word go. And that's on top of their actual "day jobs" with their club teams. With little time amongst their national teammates, there must be a foundation of trust and mutual respect. Can we know for sure that such an environment exists within the US team at this critical junction? Klinsmann is doing his best to spin this in a positive form: "Journalists and people can say whatever they feel, whatever they think, whatever they believe, which is important. I think it's a great sign, all the debate that is going on about soccer in this country. It shows you that people care." But at the end of the day, rumors only get started when there is disharmony and results are not there. U.S. Soccer is celebrating its centennial this season - and they have certainly seen tough times before. But few times before has the team seen such a passionate fan base yearning for glory. Anything less than a result against Costa Rica at home and against a very tough Mexico away on Tuesday (they are ranked 15th in the world - compared to 33rd for the US in the latest FIFA World Rankings) - and you will see even tougher questions getting asked. The US Men's National team is in trouble. Only success tonight in Denver will keep this trouble from becoming a full-blown crisis.
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