In the run-up to Sunday's Olympic confrontation between the Netherlands and the United States men's national teams, Netherlands manager Foppe De Haan appeared to insult the United States with his assertion that "they don't have anybody extremely good." In my opinion, this brings up a very valid point concerning the States: we really don't have an extraordinary player.
Many would argue fiercely for the talent the U.S. has at its disposal in the Olympic team. Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Sasha Kljestan and Brad Guzan are some of the luminaries, but none of them are genuine superstars in the international vein. While I believe Freddy and Jozy are pearls for the future, they really haven't proven themselves enough to be called "extremely good" internationally. Although they've done very well in the MLS, that's hardly enough for them to compare to such stars as Ryan Babel, Sebastian Giovinco, Alexandre Pato, Leo Messi, Sergio Agüero, etc. who have proven themselves in Europe's top leagues, despite their relative youth. Freddy languished on the subs bench for Benfica (although he did manage a respectable haul of 5 goals) when he went abroad, and was subsequently loaned out to A.S. Monaco in the French Ligue 1 for this year. Jozy has yet to see a Spanish pitch in real competition for his new club Villarreal, and it will be interesting to see whether he accepts being loaned out (after initially rejecting the idea) in order to get some valuable minutes to aid his development.
Even Bryan McBride, the U.S.A.'s "best" player, is not a real world star. He was a good, solid striker and captain for Fulham in the EPL, but he hardly lit up the league with brilliant, game-changing performances day in, day out.
Foppe De Haan's statement speaks directly to one of the problems with the U.S. soccer team now. Although the team is as always very solid and well-organized, it's lacking in the individual creative brilliance that so many of the nations we strive to compete with seem to produce in excess. With every new generation of players issuing from the Netherlands, their fans see the possiblities of the "new Van Basten", the Italians hail their "new Roberto Baggio" and the French can look forward to the prospect of their "new Zidane". However, the U.S. struggles to produce exceptional individual talent because of several inherent flaws in the U.S. soccer system itself.
In summary, I feel that instead of taking offense to De Haan's words, we should instead examine the problem that prevents the U.S. from developing the talent we have at our disposal into genuine stars. In addition, what can we do to prevent the talent we've developed from escaping our clutches (a lá Giuseppe Rossi)?