There’s an important thing Taylor Twellman wants to stress about soccer in the United States. When he decries the arrogance that Americans have regarding the sport, it has nothing to do with the women’s team, which won their fourth World Cup earlier this year. To Twellman, having an arrogance about your program is warranted when a team possesses the ability to back it up on the pitch.
“If there was an arrogance but it was rooted in success, you kind of take it for what it is, right?” Twellman asks. “But if there’s an arrogance and you’re not successful at all, or your success is really mediocre, then you sit there and you scratch your head and say ‘Wait, is this really the road you still want to continue going down?'”
The road to which Twellman alludes involves the one being traveled by the United States Men’s National Team. Twellman, a former forward who played for the national team, serves as an analyst for ESPN and covers the beautiful game all over the world. One of the more memorable nights of his broadcasting career did not come on a pitch somewhere as two juggernauts in world football squared off. Instead, it occurred while he was seated at a desk in Bristol, Conn. and was tasked with giving an immediate reaction to the national team’s lowest point.
Back on Oct. 10, 2017, the United States had to win or draw against Trinidad and Tobago to make the 2018 World Cup. If they lost, they needed one of Mexico or Costa Rica to not lose to Honduras or Panama, respectively. The disaster scenario happened: the U.S. lost, while Panama controversially won thanks to a goal that should not have counted and Honduras took care of business. As a result, the Americans missed their first World Cup since 1986.
Twellman was stateside for all of this, watching the action from ESPN headquarters and preparing to go on the air and react to what everyone expected.
“Even if they tie, you sit there and you move on, you talk about preparing for a World Cup and that’s it, and you drive home,” Twellman told Uproxx Sports by phone, “while I was there for 28 straight hours and doing a thousand hits and talking about the darkest day in U.S Soccer history.”
The television hit soccer fans remember came in the immediate aftermath of the loss. Twellman joined SportsCenter anchor Max Bretos for a frank and candid discussion about some of the systemic issues that existed and finally got their moment in the sun as Murphy’s Law played out on that October evening — the moment that you have probably seen, even if you are not a footy fan, came around the 4:16 mark, when an exasperated Twellman proclaims “what are we doing?”
That occurred two years ago on Thursday. Fast forward to today, and one challenge that Twellman made to U.S. Soccer — the need to collectively “wake up” following the failure to qualify in 2017 — hasn’t quite come to fruition.