A heavyset man walks into the emergency room clutching his chest and complaining of pain in his left arm. He’s sweating and gasping for a breath he can’t catch. He’s moving slowly when he can muster the strength to move at all. He’s nauseous, too, and when he can speak, he mentions there’s pain in his neck and jaw.
And his left eye is pink.
After examination, the doctor prescribes drops for the eye. The man dies 20 minutes later.
As any physician would tell you – including doctors Grey, Carter, and House, from whom I learned everything above – the first step to saving someone’s life is identifying their problems and deciding which is most important.
In losing to Costa Rica Friday night, the U.S. Men’s National Team walked into the emergency room, and doctors are spending too much time focusing on the pink eye rather than the massive heart attack. Perhaps because the pink eye is all that can be treated.
We can debate tactics and lineups all we want, but the simple, largely unspoken truth of U.S. soccer doesn’t take Dr. House to diagnose. The players simply aren’t good enough.
Name the best soccer players in the world and you’ll get dozens of names into the list before naming an American. Because if you name the best American athletes, you’ll get dozens of names deep before you name a soccer player – which leads us to a question that’s been debated for years in every soccer bar across America: What kind of team could the U.S. put together if its best athletes played soccer instead of football and basketball?
This is my answer to that question – a 4-4-2 built to maximize ability in space up front, speed on the outside, and aerial dominance up the middle. With no current soccer players allowed.
Goalkeeper – Anthony Davis: At 6’9, with a 7-foot 5-inch wingspan, there aren’t many balls the All-Star big man wouldn’t get his hands on.
Left Back/Right Back – Xavier Rhodes/Patrick Peterson: These two are two of the NFL’s best cornerbacks, tasked with staying near and in front of men whose job description requires top flight speed, agility, and strength. I can’t think of many athletes better suited to take on attacking wingers.
Middle Back – Klay Thompson/Kawhi Leonard: Two of the NBA’s best defensemen, this pair would be able to hang with rival forwards, and with both standing at 6’7, they would never lose a header in the box.
Right/Left Midfield – Tyreek Hill/Odell Beckham Jr.: Running a 4.24 40, there aren’t many people in the world faster than Tyreek Hill. He bursted onto the scene last year as OBJ did a few years before with his own dynamic speed. Their runs down the sideline would be explosive, and both are agile enough to create space in tight quarters.
Controlling Midfielder – LeBron James: At 6’8 and 250 pounds, as fast and as strong and as agile as he is, there may be no greater athlete alive than LeBron James. Throw in his vision and creativity in space, as well as his defensive talent, and the Cavalier makes an ideal midfielder – whether ranging back, or setting up the attack.
Attacking Midfielder – Julio Jones: The Falcons’ wide receiver is a freak. What center back could defend against him while the ball was in the air?
Forwards – Kyrie Irving/Russell Westbrook: Two of the best point guards in the NBA, these two make magic in the paint. They’re nearly unstoppable when driving to the hoop – a skill that would translate well inside a crowded 18 or 6-yard box.
Alternate – Russell Wilson: This lineup is meant to dominate with height, but at times, a more nimble approach might be called for. In that case, I would take Julio Jones out, move LeBron forward, and allow the NFL quarterback to control the offense.
Impact Sub 1 – Tylor Gabriel: Only hundredths of a second slower than Tyreek Hill, this Atlanta Falcon would be a blur to tiring defenses as a second half sub.
Impact Sub 2 – Mike Evans: At 6’5 with a nearly 40-inch vertical, Evans would be another great target for late-game corners.
Impact Sub 3 – Bryce Harper: Sometimes, you just want a substitute to come in and play like he’s on fire – sprinting at full speed everywhere and into everyone. Bryce Harper lives his life at that speed. Plus, hair:
“I whip my hair back and forth”
– Willow Smith
– Bryce Harper pic.twitter.com/9JuGZPM9F5
— Baseball Serious (@BaseballSerious) April 4, 2017
If I were an Ugly American, I’d spend this last paragraph talking about how no defense ever constructed could stop this combination of size, speed, and power. I might even predict a World Cup title. But I’m not an ugly American, so instead, I’ll close by asking you to imagine two things:
First, LeBron James on the pitch next to Lionel Messi.
Second, these athletes, with years of training, losing to Costa Rica. Because I can’t.
Author: Joseph White
Joe Bianchino is a writer, producer, and radio host located in upstate New York. He is a life-long New York sport fan, Chelsea supporter, and Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter @JoeBNTS. Email him at Joe@noticketsports.com.