Americans need to finally act like favorites
Fans of the US national team are all very familiar with the blue collar manner in which the boys go about their business. Unlike our action movies, political theatre and Super Bowl presentations, the 'Nats are not brash.
Truth is, tactical gripes aside, we love them for it. We like their humility and their on-field demeanor. And we especially appreciate their work ethic.
And without wanting to ditch that last trait, Friday's key clash with early Group C leaders Slovenia is the perfect time for some things to change in the USMNT way. It's time to see some strut.
Plenty of outstanding American scribes have fretted over how the U.S. will manage the switch from being underdogs against England to being the favorite against Slovenia. How will they handle it, enact it, succeed with it?
With all due admiration for my colleagues, I can't fathom why the fuss. Just for starters, the Red, White & Blue play as the big dog against teams desperate to build the perfect bunker in most of their competitive matches. That's life in CONCACAF.
They're well used to this paradigm, but the aims should be higher now. They should wish to compete with the big boys on an even keel. I worry if they can do that.
Of course, last summer's Confederations Cup knockouts and Saturday's fair England draw has relaxed me a good bit. In fact, it has me mellow enough that I want to go out and break Slovenian hearts with authority myself.
I'm not in any way suggesting a US player should make the bonehead move of Slovenia midfielder Andrej Komac, who declared for print a guarantee of victory over the Americans. That's not the kind of brashness I'm talking about.
I do, however, wish to see some attitude begin to seep into their approach and play. Another common refrain in the American press leading up to this game is that the U.S. and Slovenia are virtual soccer twins, the mirror image on the field.
Again, with all proper respect paid... hogwash.
Yes, they play similar formations. Granted, they have similar game plans. Sure, they each do yeoman's prep work, try to stay in a smart defensive shape and strike quickly when given openings to break out.
But the reality is this US team has more talent, more speed, more size, more big game experience, more cultured players and a bigger array of specific skills in the locker room than Slovenia.
This is the biggest game in Green Dragon history. Slovenians have every reason to be on edge, especially the 11 that will take the field on Friday.
The Americans, however, should be to the point where they'll go out expecting to win this match. They are not poor sisters in the soccer world anymore, and their play in a game exactly like this should reflect that.
They should still go about business with all the blood, sweat and tears they can muster, as ever. But Friday, they should also go out there to work Slovenia over.
The word is Bob Bradley will move Clint Dempsey into the middle to run off Jozy Altidore. If that's the case, the midfield will gain a playmaker even if the coach doesn't opt to switch Ricardo Clark out for a ball handling central midfielder.
The U.S. needs to walk on the field and use those creativity boosts to pick apart Slovenia as early as they can. They need to widen the field and run at the shaky wingbacks. And they need to continue doing that until they find a goal. When they get one, they need to be on the lookout for another.
There's a big difference between raising your swagger level and playing unwise soccer. This showdown with apt underdogs Slovenia is the perfect occasion for the US to display it for all to see.
In many of those big, brash action movies, some wise leadership figure inevitably explains that being too careful is precisely the thing that can make everything go wrong. On Friday, I'm hoping to enjoy the opening of Die Hard 5 - Take It To The Hole, instead of gritting teeth through another showing of Ordinary People.