After a recent string of bad results in World Cup Qualification, the United States Men’s National Team was left scratching their heads. Just a single point from games against Costa Rica (at home) and Honduras; a disappointing result to say the least. In the latter, it took a late equalizer from Bobby Wood to salvage a point – certain qualifying doom was just a hair away. Were the players lacking creativity? Did the defense look as shaky as it has in years? Were the lineups poor from the start? Are there systemic problems holding the nation back from reaching the heights of the football world? Many would say yes to these questions, but not Bruce Arena and company. Arena, in his second stint in managing the USMNT, has only lost a single game since rejoining the team. Yet, the team finds itself precariously toeing the line between qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and disaster. With the pressure building and critics knocking at Arena’s door once again, he turned to science to help him sort out the woes haunting America’s best.
After weeks of hypotheses being tested, questionable human trials, and meetings behind closed doors, scientists finally presented their findings to Bruce Arena. In a conference closed off to the media, the scientists told the United States Men’s National Team staff what could be done to turn the team around. They concluded that after the continued success of bald goalkeepers through the years – from Brad Friedel, to Brad Guzan, to Tim Howard – the only solution was to recruit and call up more players who are devoid of hair. In addition, those who are current mainstays on the USMNT will be forced to shave their heads to a shining glow. Arena has been suspiciously quiet about the new guidelines for the team, not appearing publicly or speaking about them to the media. Twenty barbers have been hired and added to the USMNT staff to keep a close eye on the players at all times – shaving cream and razors at the ready. Reports are stating that players have two weeks to decide if they will comply with the new regulation.
Team captain Michael Bradley has spoken out in support of this new development, attributing his success to his barren scalp. “Never worry about getting hair in your eyes during a critical point in a match, better aerodynamics, less pregame prep… I don’t know what the guys are complaining about,” He said in an exclusive interview with Offside Football, “It’s not that bad.” The goalkeepers on the team, who are adjusting well to the new rule change, echo this feeling. When asked for comment, Guzan said he wasn’t sure why his teammates were “overreacting.” Tim Howard simply gave a knowing smile and asked, “Who’s laughing now?” But not everyone is happy about the change. John Brooks – defender for Wolfsburg and starting center back for the stars and stripes – has reportedly been very slow to come around to the new change. Star youngsters DeAndre Yedlin and Christian Pulisic are reportedly struggling with the new direction the team is going. Both refused to comment on the matter, but Pulisic was recently seen on Instagram Live with a full head of hair joking around with friends in his hometown of Hershey, Pennsylvania. Could this mean an early end to the international careers of one of America’s brightest young stars in years? Yedlin, now playing in the Premier League with Newcastle, and Pulisic, getting consistent time at Borussia Dortmund in Germany, may consider challenging the new rule, but it is a fight in which they are not likely to come out ahead.
In addition to current players, American soccer legend and current Fox Sports soccer analyst Alexi Lalas has been a vocal adversary to this new team-wide rule. Since the announcement of the scientific findings, the quaffed redhead has been on a warpath in an attempt to discredit and deny. Lalas, famous for his luscious locks during his playing days almost as much as he was for his actual play on the field, has even started recruiting other famous athletes to help his cause. NFL hitman Troy Polamalu and current MLB poster boy Bryce Harper in particular have been vocal in Lalas’ support. While he does not himself belief in these findings, leading follicular scientist Morton Googenhaus responded by saying that “you can’t just disagree with facts”. In addition, they went on say that his hair may actually be the issue, “It’s not just about playing the sport; it’s about general safety. We believe that if Mr. Lalas does not comply and rid his head of any trace of hair, it may affect his thought and speech skills. But judging from his commentary for Fox, we fear it may already be too late”.
In related news, three USMNT workhorses have decided to retire from international duty. Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, and Graham Zusi have all come forward to say that they will be hanging up their boots for the red, white, and blue while their club careers continue unaffected. In fact, Beckerman recently wrote and released a letter that he wrote to himself as a child, passing on things he wished he knew and urging him to remember that some things are more important than soccer. While such an exodus of big names has caused distress in the squad, there is no shortage of bald headed players chomping at the bit to get their chance. Reporters on the ground at the USSF headquarters in Chicago, Illinois are seeing hundreds of bald men and children of all ages lining up to be noticed. The shine is immense and president Sunil Gulati can’t help but take notice. But who will be the one to lead this new wave of hairless footballers? Rumors have begun to spread that Bruce Arena himself is on the hot seat. With qualification for the World Cup on the fence, the United States Soccer Federation is beginning to look for potential replacements. Early reports say that the leading man for the job is Bob Bradley. Bradley spent three years with the USMNT – leading them to a Gold Cup title, a second place finish in the Confederations Cup, and out of the group stage in the 2010 World Cup – and has even tried his hand at managing in the Premier League with Swansea. While his European experiment may not have ended in glory, those at the USSF believe he has “something special” that can bring the team to new heights.
Only time will tell if this new direction for the United States Men’s National Team will be feast or famine. One thing is for sure, they will have to play head and shoulders above the competition if they want to go to Russia next year. If only we could look into a crystal ball – or perhaps Michael Bradley’s cranium would do – and see what the future holds. Until then, for more on the USMNT and what’s on their head, keep your eye on the line and stay with Offside Football.