So I tried. I really did, but as I watched the USMNT vs Portugal Tuesday afternoon I could not help but get more and more frustrated and ultimately outright upset.
Not with our play for that match mind you, in fact I thought “the kids did ok”, which seems to be the overall consensus. And before I get the obvious “this is a friendly” comments, let me say that I get it. I know this was the Portugal “B” team, missing Cristiano Rolando. They already have qualified for Russia and this was essentially a scrimmage, nonetheless, there are still take aways.
As the game played out it was very clear that Portugal wanted no part of Danny Williams. He was a beast. Playing the defensive mid in a 4-1-4-1, Willians and the United States side were consistently able to pressure the Portuguese attack, forcing turnovers and creating counter attack chances that were dangerous. It was refreshing to see a pseudo-Jermaine Jones back there, an enforcer playing the role of backline defense. Furthermore, he also got involved in the attack, several times flying down the wide areas looking very dangerous on many crosses. I’m going to say it again: Danny Williams was a beast.
We legitimately bothered the FIFA #3 ranked team in the world, the defending European champions. Isn’t that odd considering we failed to qualify for the World Cup despite being in basically the easiest region?
Which brings me to why I am so angry. Danny Williams is 28 years old and could have, no wait should have helped us qualify for the World Cup. I watched every USMNT qualifying game and at no point did we have a presence like the one Danny Williams gave us Tuesday afternoon. Sure, the 35-year-old ghost of Jermaine Jones did his best but let’s be honest his prime is behind him.
Michael Bradley was not that player, never was. Yet, he was always the undisputed number 6 in every starting lineup to qualify for this cycle. Why? Teams like Costa Rica (current FIFA rank #22), Honduras (current FIFA rank #69), and Trinidad (current FIFA rank #83) carved up our mid-field time after time after time. Often while watching the games, I would beg for one of our midfielders to hard tackle someone, send a message that we won’t tolerate you coming into our final third! But no we were beat in the mid-field all the time.
Not Michael Bradley, nor Darlington Nagbe, nor Alejandro Bedoya, nor Kyle Beckerman, nor Graham Zusi, nor Benny Feihaber, nor Sacha Kjestan, nor Dax McCarty or anyone else who played in the swiss cheese that was our defensive midfield had what Danny Williams did against a pretty damn good Portuguese attack who clearly were trying to win the game and consistently were frustrated by our pressure.
This is directly on the leadership and coaching staffs (Klinsmann and Arena) that essentially could not get out of their own way. Consistently, doing the same things despite warning signs on the pitch that it was not working. And now Danny Williams (who by the way wore the captains band for us against Portugal) will be 32 years old for the 2022 World Cup.