Thursday 28 September 2017, 14:30

Conrad: USA need to show some character

  • Jimmy Conrad earned 27 caps for USA

  • Represented the Stars and Stripes at Germany 2006

  • Has gone from the pitch to having his own successful YouTube channel

USA stand on the edge of a precipice. Currently fourth in the Hexagonal – the final six-team round in the CONCACAF Zone – having collected only nine points from their eight games so far, they have no margin for error in their remaining matches.

Their next one is of the ‘life or death’ variety: at home to Panama, who have a point more to their name and will qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ should they beat the Americans.

One man concerned for USA’s hopes is Jimmy Conrad, who ran out for the Stars and Stripes at Germany 2006 and has since moved into the media world. He spoke to about his country’s prospects, showing the selfsame style that has earned him hundreds of thousands of followers on his YouTube channel.

Guarded optimism Kicking off on an optimistic note, Conrad said: “I think we’ll make it. I think we’ll qualify. We’ve got ourselves in a position that we should never have been in, but it ought to help the team show a bit of character. And the fact is that when things go against you, you have to look in the mirror and tell yourself that you can do better.”

Though confident that the Stars and Stripes will be at Russia 2018, Conrad does not see it as the end of the world if they come up short: “There’s actually a part of me that hopes we don’t make it because it would allow us to address a few problems in our football, problems that we’ll totally ignore if we do qualify.”

What does he mean by that exactly? “We’ve got some great players, for example, with a lot of talent, but they need to be mentally tougher. If they fail once, they can’t recover from it. That’s something we need to work on if we’re going to take a step forward and be among the best in 2022.”

Jimmy Conrad, the player

  • Played between 1998 and 2011

  • Spent his career in the USA, aside from a spell in Poland

  • Made 27 appearances for his country

  • Two of them came at Germany 2006

  • Scored one goal, in a friendly against Mexico 

A tough test Now 40, Conrad has seen a fair few World Cup qualifiers in his time, which explains his objective stance to the upcoming showdown with Panama: “We’re behind them in the table. Our fans don’t know or don’t seem to realise that Panama will be pumped up for it because they can qualify for their first World Cup.

“They also know, as Honduras did, that USA are really vulnerable right now. If they get the first goal, I’m going to get really nervous. They’ve got nothing to lose, unlike us.”

So if, in his opinion, the Stars and Stripes have to strike first, where is the goal going to coming from?

Though Christian Pulisic has proved a reliable source of goals in recent times, Conrad is hoping someone else can shoulder the burden: “He’s got all the talent and skill, as you’d expect of someone who plays week in, week out for Dortmund, but we don’t want to put all the weight on a 19-year-old kid. It’s time for players like Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley to show what they're made of and step up, like they’ve been doing for so many years.”

Despite his warnings, Conrad believes his compatriots are favourites to take maximum points when the two sides meet in Orlando on Friday 6 October: “Though, like I said, it wouldn‘t be the end of the world, I’d be very disappointed if we couldn’t beat Panama at home. If we don’t beat them, then I don’t think we deserve to go to the World Cup. I think we’ll make it in the end, but there’s no doubt that we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”