By Andrew Tyrrell, Editor-in-Chief
On September 10, former US Men’s soccer player Alexi Lalas hit the current team with a fiery hot take. “Are you going to continue to be a bunch of soft, underperforming, tattooed millionaires?”
Is the question posed by the former men’s team star. His comments came after the team continued to struggle in its quest for a World Cup bid this summer in Russia.
Lalas makes a fair point about the team: this is a soccer generation, probably the first true generation of soccer stars since the men’s team finished in third place at the 1930 World Cup. Boasting household names like Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley Jozy Altidore, and now rising star Christian Pulicic.
The fact that they aren’t producing in the way that they should is not only disappointing for the US Men’s Soccer, but also for American fans who will once again find themselves looking for another nation’s team to root for this summer.
While Lalas’s point may not be unfounded, particularly in light of the success of the Women’s National team, it ultimately sounds like another athlete from a bygone era telling his contemporaries they’ve gone soft.
It’s something we hear all the time, particularly in regards to the NFL. Any old, retired player who makes the case that say, Johnny Unitas, is a better quarterback than Tom Brady will rely on the argument that it was “tougher” back then. They seem to forget that the game has changed.
Lalas isn’t wrong that this team needs to toughen up if it wants to compete in the World Cup, particularly with the reigning champion German team being just as big, fast, and physical as ever.
But this isn’t the same game that Lalas played in the 90s. It may have been grittier, but players now are better. That’s just a fact. Messi and Ronaldo are genuine forces to be reckoned with, and the only possible detraction is that neither have been on a team talented enough to win a World Cup, though Messi did carry Argentina to a close loss against Germany in 2014. The same goes for a lot of players.
Alexi Lalas ultimately comes across less as a former player trying to motivate the young stars who have replaced him because he wants to see them succeed, and more like a bitter former star who doesn’t like that the game has evolved and passed him by.
If Lalas were playing today, he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the guys on this squad. But they do still need to play better. The 2018 World Cup kicks off this summer in Russia.
Though we might not be seeing the US Men’s National Team there at all this summer.