Who should be the captain of a nation's soccer team? Someone who is a vocal leader, who motivates and supports the men around him when they need him? Or is it the best player on the team? For the United States, the answer to both of those questions is Tim Howard. Last night, the Howard-led United States team defeated Mexico in Mexico City for the first time ever. It was fitting that it happened on a night where Howard not only captained the team but saved the day twice at the end of the game.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra has been the stalwart captain for the United States for many years, and his leadership is unquestionable. He's currently playing for the Glasgow Rangers in Scotland. The Rangers, stuck in bankruptcy protection, were relegated to the third division (or, as the fourth tier, the lowest level of professional soccer in Scotland). As the level of competition is bound to be considerably lower, Bocanegra no doubt hopes to catch on with another club soon but his skills are sure to diminish the longer he is stuck there.
Indeed, with the start of the new club year throughout Europe starting, that's a major reason why coach Jurgen Klinsmann went with so many (10) MLS players last night in the friendly with Mexico. He's not been shy about playing younger players, and one of the things I noticed last night was the speed and aggressiveness of our defense. Granted, Mexico really took it to the Americans and could have scored more goals (we'll get to that in a moment), but our defenders never truly seemed lost as in some matches before. They covered well and got to the ball quickly.
In making the case for Howard to be captain means making the case that it's time for Bocanegra to lose that position. Personally, I also think it's time that Klinsmann begins to phase Bocanegra out of the starting lineup over the next few years leading into the 2014 World Cup. He's currently 33, and will be 35 when the World Cup begins. Although he's long been regarded as a speedy player and a great defender for the team over the years, the defense simply looked much faster as a whole without Bocanegra back there. With a speedier, younger, more aggressive defense, it makes Howard's job a little easier. One could say that the first miraculous save off a deflection was possible because one of the American defenders actually slowed the ball considerably by touching it. The second incredible save was vintage Howard with perfect positioning and the mental awareness to continue to kick the ball out of danger while still lying on his back.
Howard is the natural choice to be captain. He's easily the most vocal member of the team on the field, and can be seen constantly guiding and imploring his team when the ball is in his end of the field. He made the choice to play last night in Mexico City despite the fact that his team, Everton, opens its season on August 20 against Manchester United. That's an exceptionally important game for his club, but he still made the choice to be present for his national team. That's true leadership. By the way, this is the Barclays Premier League (one of the toughest in all of soccer), and Howard has been their goalkeeper since 2006. He's the best player on the American side, and he's a proven leader. Time to give him the permanent captain's role.
Julie is a passionate supporter of the United States men's soccer team and has been following them for several years. She's still in shock that they pulled off the win in Mexico City last night.
- Sports & Recreation
- Carlos Bocanegra
- Tim Howard
- United States
- Mexico City