It all started with ESPN commentators and ex USMNT members Wynalda and Balboa calling for Arena’s firing flat out. Julie Foudy tried to stick up for him but it was halfhearted at best. A quick look around the Soccersphere and there is no question it’s a pile-on. While it is often instinctive for fans to call for a coaching change after a poor performance, sometimes that is just the medicine that’s required. Do you think fans in other countries would be muted in their response if their team played like we did?

Let’s see what everyone is saying…

Mervin Gavarnes at F.C. Camena, under the title ‘Hatchet Job’:

the ESPN crew is absolutely hammering Arena, and calling for his head (or for him to at least step aside) in the wake of the current US MNT’s disappointing World Cup finish.

For his part, in his post-game press conference Arena did his best to pawn off responsibility to the ref for calling the penalty and to FIFA for the draw that the US ended up with.

I almost choked on my beer when Arena complained about the grouping and said FIFA needed to use seeding. Are you kidding? Our #5 ranking was a joke – everyone knew it, but we had hope. It is called a draw for a reason – it’s a random draw. Yes, we got a crappy draw, but the other groups weren’t a cake walk. Would we have advanced in Group A? (Germany/Ecuador) How about B? (England/Sweden). C maybe? (Argentina/Netherlands) Would we have beat the Socceroos in Group F? Yes, Group E was brutal. But if we fall back on ‘Oh we were in the group of death’ for 4 years, we’re done for. Moving on…

Bobby at Pseudo Corner Kick – ‘Hey Hey Hey, Good Bye‘:

The difference between 2002 and 2006 is, that this time the refereeing talk will overshadow USA’ poor performance over 3 games.

Where were you Donovan? Where were you Beasley? What were you thinking Arena? Where were you shots on goal?…seriously do you remember in three games, the US forcing the opposing goalie into making a save??? I don’t.

Where were the shots on goal? We had, what, four the entire cup? I’m surprised some opposing goalies didn’t nod off except during set pieces. I still can’t believe Donovan dribbled by a wide open hole in the defense in the box without cutting in and shooting. Bobby continues on in a second post:

The offense had little imagination, resorting to crosses from the wing. Little offense came up the middle…I’m glad you are supposed to be such a superstar Landon.

Anyway, it was an extremely disappointing end to an extremely disappointing World Cup for the US. In a position to advance, they failed miserably. While much of the talk will and should surround the referee’s poor call in giving away a penalty kick, let’s not forget how poor the US played for most of the game.

I really think the players had convinced themselves they didn’t have the ball control to own the middle. They ALWAYS went to the wing unless given space. We never seemed to fight upfield. Ever.

Hardman at Worldview World Cup:

Too bad Uncle Sam is done, especially considering Italy did their part. Lots will be said about Coach Arena’s game plan, a terrible call for a Ghana penalty kick, and the lackluster performance of the standouts from the last World Cup.

Kali @ The Real Salt Lake Blog:

I don’t really need to go into all the blathering about the USMNT’s squirrel ball in the middle of the pitch, lack of desire to go forward, ineffective use of the flanks and all of that again, do I? Didn’t think so.

Like, if I wanted to watch people pass backward, play with a melancholia not seen since the heyday of the Smiths, and give away stupid goals, I’d just watch an old RSL game on Tivo or something. Seriously.

Ouch. Joe @ We Call It Soccer has some advice:

I cannot live in hatred all referees, world-class players who cheat, or of a lack of preparedness and effort forever. Or at least, not for more than two or three days.

Oh yes you can. We need to stay angry. We have a right to be angry – no? J Hutcherson over at The Soccer Daily (US Players Assoc) has an awesome post up called ‘Where Bruce Went Wrong’, go read the whole thing.

The US system needs to adopt a seriousness that in their world every result really is life and death. There are no meaningless games. The reputation they’re building is on the line every time they play. In other words, break the MLS malaise that exists from knowing that in the end a short run of results will likely get you what you want while avoiding the standard speak like taking time and letting everybody calm down before discussing options.

The US National Team should not be built around CONCACAF standards. It should be built around world standards.

That last sentence NAILS it (emphasis mine). Let’s face it. The MLS is light years away from European standards, though hopefully that will change over time. And even though we’re in CONCACAF, we need to stop playing to that level to ‘get by’.

The Sporting Rogue had some positive thoughts, sort of

I’m not here to single out any one of our players for blame, although I do remember some point late in the second half saying "Landon is a cheesebag," and some time in the first half I did say "Get Reyna out of there." Oh, and Eddie Johnson did play like a scared little bunny rabbit.

Dave’s on Soccer are ready for new blood:

time for Arena to move on. Thank you, Bruce, for some fantastic service. You’ve built the US into a legitimate threat and you deserve credit for it. But it’s time for some new ideas. Anyone have Phil Scolari’s number?

And it’s also time for some of the "golden generation" to take a long, hard look at what they’re going to do. In particular, we need to figure out the middle of the park. Reyna will retire from internationals before 2010 (and if he’s still playing, we’re in trouble). But Landon Donovan, I’m looking at you. After this World Cup, you can see why he turned tail and fled Germany for LA.

Can we all pitch in for a one way ticket to Europe for Landon?

Joe and Bernardo at Soccer y Futbol compare things to 1998:

At the end of the day, though, the U.S. leaves with one point out of a possible nine. That’s one point better than in 1998 when the team lost all three games. That led to the demise of coach Steve Sampson. When the dust clears, Arena may be on his way out as coach.

Dan at Worldview World Cup spreads the blame around:

As for the U.S. I’m glad Wynalda, Balboa and Foudy are taking shots at Arena and the boys. Wynalda is even calling for Bruce’s ouster, and rightly so. This is what would happen in any other soccer nation after a disappointing performance in the World Cup. Yes, the players were bad, but the coach did not put the right players in the right spots to be successful. The U.S. Soccer Federation also deserves its share of the blame for the very American practice of putting marketing interests ahead of substance over the last four years.

Dan also makes a VERY good point toward the end of his post about the lack of quality tournaments the US participates in, which really lessens the competition the team faces in off years.

Football kNuts doesn’t hold back:

There were too many bad touches, too many terrible passes, too many mistakes on defense, and not enough creativity on the ball when it was needed. I mentioned during the Group E review that I wasn’t sure U.S. football had advanced much since 2002. We have not developed any world class players, and while the squad was certainly deeper, it was not noticeably better across the starting lineup. After watching this squad play for three games against excellent competition, I feel I was right.

Josh at ThroughBall is ready for Bruce to go … now:

It’s official; the U.S. Men’s National Team is out of the World Cup and Bruce Arena should be fired.

In a stroke of bad luck, the U.S. team was victimized by awful refereeing during the 2006 World Cup. Conversely, Arena’s side experienced a good deal of fantastic luck in the 2002 World Cup. During that tournament, opponents took the U.S. side for granted and the U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals. Bruce Arena successfully exploited that good fortune and rode it all the way into the 2006 tournament, all the while giving the impression that he belonged.

The end of the United States’ 2006 run ought to finally prove that Bruce Arena is a fraud.

Soccerjones jumps on too:

Ok so you got a bad penalty call. Don’t paper over the cracks though. Bruce Arena needs to step down as coach. You had the players to progress but his tactics and selections left alot to be desired! The whole balance of the team is wrong. The only thing that went right was the performance against Italy. And I personally feel it was the players pride more than anything that gained that shock draw.

Stop the rot now and appoint someone who can bring a breath of fresh air to this side that has talent.

Wendy Parker at Off the Ball felt there was plenty of blame to go around.

The coach didn’t have many offensive options to begin with, and with Beasley in a snit from the start, it set a terrible tone. And where was Landon Donovan, the supposed face of American soccer, in any of these three games? Even after he was thrown the captain’s armband with Claudio Reyna’s departure before halftime, L.D. didn’t live up to the billing. Floating a terrific free kick chance in the 81st minute symbolized his disappearance with the pressure on. Or was that Mike Vanderjagt out there?

Fair enough, but putting the team in a defensive posture so often in matches we had to win just doesn’t cut it.

To win the game of soccer, you have to shoot. We did NOT shoot. Lets look at the stats. USA v Czech Republic ONE shot on goal. USA v Italy – ZERO shots on goal. USA v Ghana – THREE shots on goal. This is the World Cup! You have to SHOOT the ball to win. Not dribble around the top of the box.

Well, there you have it. The US Soccersphere is NOT happy and will be following the coming months at US Soccer very closely. But we’re not the only ones screaming for a change – what about you readers? These blogs have comment setups for a reason. What do you think the US needs to do to improve for 2010 and even 2014? Read the posts above – some very well thought ideas are proposed. I for one think it’s time to let Bruce go and regroup. Then we need to toughen up the preparation schedule. Other nations do it, why can’t we?

UPDATE: The Washington Post has an article up with a lot of quotes from the players and Arena. Can we say ‘Blame The Refs?’ A second article has some choice quotes that made my skin crawl:

"I guess all of us feel a little bit like the 100-yard sprinters do
when you work for four years and you have 10 seconds to make it or
break it," said Sunil Gulati, the president of the United States Soccer
Federation, after the 2-1 loss. "It comes down to three games and
everything gets evaluated on those three games."

If we played better it would be more than three games now wouldn’t it?

"Regardless of our ranking, which we all within the team think is a bit
too high and not right, we’re still a small footballing nation," U.S.
team captain Claudio Reyna said. "We’re getting better and the
expectations are up for us to at least get out of our group. That’s why
we’re disappointed. In a short time we’ve come a long way, and that’s
the goal we set coming into World Cups."

The captain of our team feels we’re still a ‘small footballing nation’?!?!?! No wonder we had no fire on the pitch. We were too in awe by those other teams. Maybe if we started to believe that we can, you know, play soccer internationally we might actually succeed at it. I’ve read a lot of comments that talked about attitude. I don’t know that we ever had the right attitude this time around regardless of all the other issues.

This fan summed things up quite well I thought:

"When you’re a soccer fan in the United States, wherever you are, you
put up with a lot of, ‘What’s wrong with you, you like soccer?’ " said
Rob Taylor, a high school history teacher from Philadelphia. "There’s
camaraderie here. I know these fans at some point have had to defend
the sport. We’re very pleasantly surprised to see the number of fans;
it contradicts the statements that nobody in the U.S. cares about

Said Taylor, "We severely underachieved. This is close to a fiasco. We
have evolved from 1998, the players are better, and the expectations
are higher. I’m very angry right now, very frustrated. I thought we
would do better than this, make a better showing. And now we have to go
home and listen to all the people say, ‘I told you we’re no good.’ "

UPDATE II: If all this doom and gloom has you down, MLS Fangirl will make you laugh with this:

So this is it. I’m sorry to have to do this to you, USMNT, but I think
it’s time we started seeing other people. I love you, guys, but I think
it would be better this way, just for a bit. I know you’ve got to take
a breather, get your act together. We both know that you’re capable of
so much more than you’re demonstrating right now, and I need that in my
life. I know you’ll understand, because you’re such a nice guy. And you
might want to think about that, because you know how the girls dig the
bad boys. You could stand to be a little badder. But that’s OK. You’re
always going to be No. 1 in my heart. So if you don’t mind, you’ll be
seeing me around with Mexico for a few days. But don’t worry, I’ll be
dropping them for Argentina pretty soon. A girl’s got to keep her
options open and all. I’ll be seeing you in a year or so, whenever you
start getting it together to start qualifying for the next round. I
just know that you’re going to be incredible, and I’ll be waiting. Call
me, kay?