USMNT: Friendlies Aren’t All About Winning


The USMNT gave up another late goal and fell 2-1 against Colombia last week. They prepare for the Republic of Ireland tomorrow in another tough test against a strong international side. Even though the USMNT has had a rough post-World Cup, there is no reason to be alarmed and freak out. These games are friendlies and it is not about wins and losses. On the contrary, friendlies are about chemistry, development, and experimentation.

More from USA Soccer

The friendlies in 2014 post-World Cup has featured a mixture of veterans and youth. It hasn’t been the USMNT’s A roster. This shouldn’t come as a shock. Friendlies are a time for a coach to evaluate his player pool and pull from all avenues. Jurgen Klinsmann has done this by calling up European based players, MLS based players, NASL players, and even college soccer players. Klinsmann and company will never know if one of these lesser-known players becomes the next US Soccer legend or key contributor to the squad without giving them a chance.

At the same time, friendlies serve as a time to try new formations and tactics. They may fail or they may succeed. Yet, no one will know unless they are tried. We wouldn’t have electricity without Thomas Edision’s determination and persistence. Both those qualities pays off in sports too. Klinsmann may be criticized for bad tactics etc, but attempting new ideas tactically is key to finding what works and what doesn’t. It may look unfamiliar and unsuccessful, but they need to be tried.

Soccer isn’t a sport where doing it one way will work all the time. Likewise, it won’t always work with the same starting XI. Klinsmann, or any coach for that matter, experiments with his/her tactics and roster during friendlies. It is the right time to do that, so they know what works and what doesn’t when the games that matter happen.

More from Playing for 90

The October and November friendlies have not been the best display by the USMNT. There have been bright spots by players called-up and ugly moments. Yet, they each serve a purpose and show the coaching staff what is clicking and what needs to be changed. The friendlies in the early part of 2015 will serve the same purpose and could see more MLS based players called-up. This will give Klinsmann a different sample size and allow him to see different angles as well.

There is no need to freak out and worry about the USMNT’s performances in friendlies thus far. It’s a time of experimenting, growing, and developing as a unit. There will be rough and not so pretty moments, but it’s a needed part of the development and growth of the national side. It’s better to give up late goals in games that don’t matter than in a tournament like the Gold Cup or World Cup.

Everyone take a chill pill. The USMNT will be just fine when the 2015 Gold Cup rolls around in June and the Olympics in 2016.