Following the last gasp goal that led to the U.S. and Portugal sharing the points, much fan vitriol has been directed towards Michael Bradley and the back four for mistakes leading to the goal. To their credit, the players have stood up bravely to the media inquisition.
When fans watch a game that is lost “at the death” (or in this case – tied), there is an unfortunate, natural tendency to blame someone. It’s easy for fans to criticize and look for scapegoats. Personally, I don’t subscribe to this idea. Instead, rather than fix the blame – fix the problem! This is what coaches do, and we can all be sure that the National Team staff have done this by now. Regardless, the reality is that there were a number of mistakes that occurred in the last few minutes of the game that led to the goal…and not merely the loss of the ball in midfield.
In any game at every level, players make countless errors. Not all, however, are punished. There are numerous missed opportunities, tackles, errant passes, etc. Some occur in the very beginning of the game, some in the 50th minute, and yes, some in the 95th.
How does it relate to youth soccer? I’ll let Teddy Roosevelt explain (I was reminded of this quote from a @JerseyJBradley tweet last week):
As I practice restraint, I have leaned on these words a lot the last two World Cups. http://t.co/UTK5oqHgls
— Jeff Bradley (@JerseyJBradley) June 19, 2014
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
How often do we hear parents criticize kids on a soccer field? How many times do you hear a complaint from the touchlines about how bad a touch was, or couldn’t the player get to the ball faster? How easy is it, sitting in front of the tv – or on the sideline of a youth game - to criticize a player? Perhaps this is partly the influence of the plethora of televised sports. They say some kids have a hard time differentiating between video games and reality; maybe parents have the same problem changing from ESPN to the youth field.
No player – youth or pro – is perfect over the course of a game. Mistakes happen; players at every level are defined not by their mistake – but by how they respond to it. Part of the reason kids play sports is to enjoy the freedom to make their own decisions; why can’t parents let them? Parents need to be supporters of their kids – especially when they make mistakes. Without such support kids may lose the confidence they so desperately need not only to solve the game’s problems – but life’s challenges as well.
Michael Bradley and the rest of the U.S. National Team will be ready for Germany because they have the support of their teammates and coaching staff. Let’s give our kids the support they deserve so they have the same opportunity to develop.