Originally Posted by WilyMoROCKS
When I talk about athleticism, I mean that more in the way of ball skills, creativity, and quickness. The only U.S. player with world-class quickness is DaMarcus Beasley. Our defense, while physical, will be one of the least-athletic starting back lines in Germany. McBride isn't athletic (comparatively). Gritty? yes. Hard driving to the ball? No doubt.
There's a reason Landon Donovan couldn't cut the mustard for Bayern Munich. He's a great player who fits into the US's cohesive unit style of play very well, but he doesn't possess a world-class skill set at this point in his career.
Look at Claudio Reyna, arguably our best player. He's far from athletic, especially at his age. He is, however, an excellent decision-maker and very strong on the ball.
I do agree that we should play a hard-charging style of soccer in the world cup to maximize our chances, but our success won't be because we have better athletes (yet) or players with better, more complete, skill sets.
I think you need to separate out ball skills and creativity from athleticism.
Athleticism is comprised of the raw animal qualities the players bring to the mix. The U.S. ranks decidedly ahead of other nations on that front and it's advantage on which the club needs to capitalize (on a sidenote, imagine if LeBron James, Michael Vick and Alex Rodriguez played soccer).
It's why I mentioned marrying style to temperament above. Watch a kid's soccer game sometime. I remember in Spain seeing kids work a short-passing game while they showed off their ball skills. American kids want to boom the ball, streak down the field and attack the net. Pardon the pun, but we're a goal-oriented lot.
Obviously soccer requires you to forge a team and work together, but Americans by nature want to get there faster and strike harder. Our best and brightest do just that. We're never going to have the most skilled players. The Brazilians will always be more creative. The Italians will always have better ball skills. Yet we just might be able to field a team that runs its opponents into the pitch. Shock and awe might be overstating it, but they're not bad guideposts.
BTW, I really like the idea you've got about deploying the midfield with a distrbutor like Reyna playing quarterback and allowing attackers like Donovan to trasition forward in quicker fashion. Obviously defense and ball control are a huge part of the game no matter what style you play. What I'm suggesting (and I'm guessing Heeler is too) is that the U.S. make sure it can run a good fast break, that it be able to pounce.