US Men’s Soccer: The View from Rock Bottom

US Men’s Soccer: The View From Rock Bottom

By: Trever Spoja

            Trinidad and Tobago. A Twin Island nation located in the Caribbean with a population of roughly 1.4 million people that 90% of U.S. citizens couldn’t even find on a map kept the United States Men’s National Team from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. The USA, a nation of 325 million and widely considered the sports powerhouse of the world was unable to even draw the lowly Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National team who had only mustered 1 win in the CONCACAF group stage. The worst part of it all though? The majority of the United States weren’t even aware we had missed qualification for the World Cup until it arrived. Some of the population found themselves searching the World Cup schedule, frantically Googling when they could tune in to watch their country compete against the soccer powerhouses of the world and cheer for a miraculous upset. Many though, didn’t even care. They may have heard from a friend, or a sports Twitter account that U.S.M.N.T disgracefully didn’t qualify and didn’t bat an eye. This is where our problem begins but most definitely is not where the blame lies.

            The U.S. is globally known for their superior athletes and being highly competitive if not dominant in major sports except for a select few, most notably, soccer (baseball is the only other sport that can be argued that we are not head and shoulders above the rest). Actually, let me correct myself. Men’s soccer. Our women’s team is cream of the crop globally and has medaled in every World Cup in the history of the Women’s World Cup and won 3. So how in the world, with the U.S. being so dominant in basketball, football (although widely considered an American sport), and even the Olympics where only China consistently rivals us, can we be so bad at soccer? Well it begins here, growing up in the USA as an aspiring athlete I dreamed of play in the NBA, the NFL, and the MLB. This is exemplified by a tweet that I found this past year by ESPN who talked about the U.S. Sports Equinox, when the 4 major sports in America all play on the same day. The NHL, NBA, MLB, and NFL all have a game played on one day and ESPN went crazy. HOCKEY, god damn hockey is considered a major sport league before the piss poor MLS is.

This is the status quo for the majority of American athletes and is why this is where our downfall begins. The rest of the world, especially Europe lives and breathes soccer. Our best athletes go on to play in the NBA and NFL where they can make millions in their first year. When people think of American athletes, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Odell Becham, and Tom Brady are usually the first that come to mind. Michael Bradley? Absolutely not. Josey Altidore? Hell nah. Tim Howard may be an AFTERTHOUGHT for a select few after his heroic performance against Belgium in 2014 but you see my point?

            You go to Europe or South America and ask them who their best or even favorite athlete is, they’re likely to name a soccer player like Ronaldo, Messi, Mbappe, or insert countries best soccer player here. That’s the difference in the culture that begins to set apart the powerhouses like Germany, France, Spain, Argentina, and the countless other countries that are tiers above the embarrassing United States. Imagine, just for a second, if our best athletes played soccer. If LeBron James, Russel Westbrook, Odell Beckham, Alvin Kamara, and more of our other worldly athletes grew up with the passion and work ethic they have for their sport but for soccer. I think we’d have a damn good team. If they grew up in a soccer loving environment I can only imagine the potential they would have but here lies the deeper problem. Many of them wouldn’t have the opportunity to reach the realms of their soccer potential because the youth soccer system in the U.S. is a pay to play soccer country.

            With our current system it is virtually impossible for our underprivileged youth to crack into the sphere of “elite” soccer in our country. It costs thousands of dollars for these kids to join these high-level clubs and travel across the country in order to play the highest level of competition. This is drastically different from other countries models that make soccer readily available for their promising youth. The saddest part of it all? Many of our best athletes in the U.S. come from below poverty line homes. LeBron grew up in single parent home with very little income that had no chance of paying the steep registration fees these youth clubs require. By no means does this say that this is why LeBron did not play soccer but this is very much the case with other families. Great athletes that want to play soccer are not easy to come by in our nation and by keeping this system in place we are only limiting our already limited options.

            Here’s the bright side. We’ve hit rock bottom but now there’s nowhere to go but up. We are realizing that our current trajectory is not the path we want to be on and we have an opportunity to change it. Culture is difficult to change but with the promise of our up and coming youth who are refining and improving overseas there is an opportunity for greatness. The U.S. will be joint hosting the World Cup come 2026 and if we can field the competitive team we are capable of and put out a quality performance there is a hope to inspire the next generation to want to be apart of greatness in a sphere that we never have seen. Many things need to change but we must keep the American spirit and struggle until we see our goals achieved.

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Young Professionals in an Old Professional’s World

Skylar Vukasin

In order to succeed in business you need to secure a well-paying job; in order to land a well-paying job you need experience; in order to gain experience, a company must take a chance and hire the young college graduate.  It’s an age-old dilemma, yet somehow college graduates still end up being turned down by employers because they want someone with experience. We’ve all heard or asked the question,  “how am I supposed to get experience if no one hires me?”  

We’ve all heard the success stories, the ones our professors tell us about where graduates with bachelor’s degrees land jobs with some of the top companies in the nation. We all have similar potential and the education to obtain these same internships that lead to those hired positions, but not all of us will because there are only a few positions offered and thousands of students applying for them.

So, what do the people who don’t get the Google, Nike, Deloitte or KPMG internships (the ones that lead to a future hire) do to be noticed, seen or to simply stand out? When GPA’s don’t seem to matter and you already have a LinkedIn bio to tell people why you’re a great hire, how can we be top-notch and different?

For those of us who didn’t get the foot-in-the-door job/internship, what can we do to stand out in a world where experience is still the primary driving factor behind a job offer? We still have to fight for our place in the conference room. We still have to prove to our superiors, colleagues and future employers that we’re not just another one of “those millennials”. You know the ones I’m talking about – the lazy, know-it-all, millennials that also have no work ethic. In order to avoid some of those stereotypes, here are some tips from my own experience, as well as some of my peers, on how to stand out.

  1. Dress for success. The ever-expanding tech and startup world may allow for a more relaxed and casual dress code, but many companies still want their employees to look and act professionally.  
  2. Be confident, but not a know-it-all. Just because you understand technology and the internet does not make you smarter or better than your colleagues.
  3. Don’t overstate your accomplishments. You know what you are and aren’t capable of. Don’t say you’re an experienced website designer just because you’ve logged into the backend of a website once or twice.
  4. Learn from your older colleagues – after all, it is experience we’re after and they have it.
  5. Teach your colleagues what you know about technology and new trends. The more they can know and learn from you, the more they’ll trust and respect you.
  6. Challenge yourself. There’s a lot you still don’t know – be open to learning it.
  7. Speak up, but don’t overstep. This is a tricky one. This is a “know when to speak” kind of word of advice. Offer your ideas, because as obvious as it may seem, not everyone thinks like you and it may not have been thought of before.
  8. Never think something isn’t your responsibility because it wasn’t in your “job description”. Go above and beyond. It’s usually noticed, and if it’s not, at least you know you’re doing your absolute best.
  9. Don’t let people take advantage of you. Paving your way often leads to doing things for others to either fill time gaps or prove your worth, while this is great, know when to say no – you’re not everyone’s assistant.
  10. Ask questions. No one grows by doing the same thing all day, every day. Keep learning from those around you as well as other resources.
  11. Read. You hear it from your professors and guest speakers all the time. “The most successful people read every day”. Not only is reading one of the best ways to learn, but it’s also a way to calm down, decompress and take your eyes off a screen for a while. Additionally, reading for fun or leisure is much more enjoyable when there’s no school deadline attached to it.
  12. Make time for fun. Don’t get so caught up in trying to prove yourself that you forget about taking care of yourself. Enjoy your time off and make time for it. Burnout is popular among ambitious young professionals – work for a living, don’t live for work.

Your first “real job” is terrifying, but also an exciting opportunity. Establish that you deserve to be there and you are ready to handle any task that is thrown your way. Once you get through the door and have the job, it’s not all downhill from there. Quite the opposite actually, now it’s time to work your ass off. Good luck!

What Losing Friends Has Taught Me

By Gianna Pagano

My Sophomore year of college I met a girl and we instantly connected on so many levels. From that moment forward we became best friends and we were practically inseparable. We did everything together, and I literally mean everything. She was the person that I looked up to for advice on family, friendships, boyfriends, and even academics. Not only was she nice, but she was smart, loyal, spontaneous, hilarious, and most important, she always supported me whenever I needed her.

As we get older and mature into who we decide to become, we often grow out of friendships or lose touch with them. A lot of the times these falling outs can be completely unintentional. Whether we get busy with school, work, family, new relationships, or we simply just change, the truth is that this is just the reality of life. 

I’m sure many of you have experienced something similar, and you can relate that it isn’t easy. There was never an argument or a huge fight that ended our friendship, we simply had a falling out. The past few months have been extremely difficult for me, and I feel that both my friend and I have missed out on being there for each other for many important events.

Having a falling out with a close friend can be emotionally draining, so here are 5 recommendations that helped me and can help many others going through the same process:

Give yourself time to process your emotions and understand the situation

A breakup with a friend can be just as tough as a breakup with a significant other, and it is normal to experience a wide range of emotions. To cope with your emotions, start by giving yourself time to grieve and assess your feelings about the situation so you can come to terms with the reality of losing a friend. During grieving, ask yourself: Are our problems beyond repair? Did they do something unforgivable? What caused this to happen?

Since the breakup with my friend, I have experienced about every emotion possible. I initially tried to brush it off and pretend I did not care. However, as weeks turned into months, I realized I was genuinely hurt by the situation and I missed her. I experienced a range of emotions: jealousy, anger, disappointment, loneliness, and confusion. I cried, A LOT.

It is important to remember that it is okay to feel vulnerable during these situations. You might force yourself to hold in your emotions, but bottling up your feelings is not healthy and it is normal to cry it out. 

Look at the situation from their perspective

Everyone has flaws, even you. Try to be more self-aware and understand you might have been in the wrong too. If you both equally contributed to the falling out, then you cannot throw all the blame on them nor should you hold a grudge. It is better to ask yourself: Why did the friendship end? Should I have tried harder to maintain it? Remember, friendship is a two-way street and it takes two people to communicate.

You should take into consideration how they are feeling. When you lose a close friend, it is likely that they are also experiencing the same or similar emotions as you are. And guess what, she probably misses you just as much as you miss her.

Do NOT make your mutual friends choose a side

I cannot express this one enough. A good friend would NEVER try to put their other friends in an uncomfortable position by forcing them to take a side. This problem involves two people, and no one else. Your mutual friends might be hurting too because they’re conflicted and feel they now have to split their time. Making your friends choose a side will only cause more drama and could ultimately make you lose those friends too. 

When both of you are in the wrong, you must be mature and refrain from speaking negatively about them. In my situation, I know that the girl was and still is an amazing person, so I never could say anything bad about her. Talking crap to your mutual friends puts them in an even more difficult position, and frankly, it will make you look petty.

Make new friends

Moving on is never easy but making new friends can be when you put yourself out there. While you may think that no one will ever compare to your lost friend, surrounding yourself around different people can fill the void and offer you new friendship qualities. Evaluate which qualities you look for in a friendship, then find the courage to expose yourself to new people.

I used to struggle when it came to making friends, and when I was younger, I honestly did not have that many. After my falling out, I decided to put myself back out there because I was tired of feeling left out. I ended up meeting a few girls recently that welcomed me in with open arms and have since become people I could not imagine my life without.

And finally, reach out when you are ready

If you are as stubborn as I am, this will be the hardest part. This requires you to be the bigger person and to take initiative. If you realize that you still want them in your life, start by apologizing or reaching out. If the two of you are still unable to resolve your issues, then at least you know you did everything that you could.

I found myself reaching out many times during the first few months, but I eventually stopped because nothing was changing. We would agree that we both missed each other and wanted to resolve our issues, but after each time I reached out, I never heard from her again. It turned into a never-ending cycle and only caused me more pain. I finally had to accept that when she was ready, she would let me know. 

If the friendship was genuine, remember that this is only temporary. Eventually you will both come around and have the opportunity to discuss the situation, but for now it is going to take some distance. In the meantime, be patient, focus on yourself, and understand that sometimes people change.

Winter at the hot springs

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We all heard of the idiom “early bird gets the worm”, probably from your parent, or someone like my friend Michael! I used to, who am I kidding, still am the one who sleeps in till 10 am and can’t fall asleep before midnight.

When I moved to Missoula, MT to study business at the Uni, I got introduced to a community of fun, down-to-earth and adventures photographers, which became really good friends of mine! At the end of summer 2017, I was invited by the supeeeeer duper talented and the sweetest Michael Graef on a VERY early sunrise exposition (4am kinda early!) somewhere outside of Missoula and as much as I thought I could pull myself out of bed, I simply couldn’t. But, there was a time when I agreed to get myself out of bed one morning and meet with the group that was going. To be completely honest, that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

On the day to day basis I love sleeping in as much as I can, but when it comes to getting up to get with a group of creatives, my camera, and explore new areas I am ALWAYS down!

Few nights ago, I got a message from Michael about going to the hot springs in the am with a few other friends, and I will likely never turn down that opportunity, especially on a Wednesday morning when the chances of us getting an empty pool are very high.

Here are a few of my favorite photos of Meghan from that morning, and you can find some behind the scenes in my “Sunrise” highlights on my Instagram @fotografed_ .

Aleksandra Was