Stay with me. Danish person and self-proclaimed world-renowned superstar scorer of goals Nicklas Bendtner is the U.S. men’s national team of European players. Nothing exemplifies this fact more than the 90 minutes he spent running around the field today, in Aarhus, Denmark, in a friendly against a relatively useless U.S. men’s side.
Let’s start with the facts: Lord Bendtner scored a hat trick against a very questionable back four of Greg Garza, John Brooks, Michael Orozco, and Timmy Chandler. The second part of that sentence may sound like opinion, but it isn’t; it’s fact. It may not be fact forever or even next week, but today, it’s fact. Add or subtract a substitute to that back line and the result stays the same.
Now, while hat tricks sound great, probably because they include three separate, individually packaged goals, they can be deceiving. Yes, #AllGoalsMatter. But some goals, against some teams, aren’t necessarily the badge of honor they’re made out to be. In context, the first two of Lord Bendtner’s goals could have been scored by a toddler. Judge for yourself, and please purge the idea of intelligent runs or positional awareness from your mind. These goals are basic as hell:
The third, however, was a thing of beauty and all praises are due:
Now, is Bendtner the greatest thing ever because he scored three goals against a relatively estranged, meh back four? No. No he is not. Sometimes we can lose ourselves in moments of euphoria, because let’s face it, euphoria is fun and you bet I’m going to tweet about Bendtner in all caps like he just landed on Mars. But ultimately, Bendtner is a questionable talent at the highest level. Regardless of his occasional hat trick or goal against Barcelona, he’s gone nearly a decade without a high-end club giving him a legitimate shot to be the guy.
There’s a reason for that. After prolonged periods of time watching him, you realize that moments of awe and joy can’t cover the cracks. The cracks are a part of the deal, as are the Instagram photos and random run-ins with trouble. It may not always be that way, but over time, you come to expect that Nicklas Bendtner will always be Nicklas Bendtner. It will be a string of “I can’t believe this man is a professional” interspersed with rare moments where you find yourself wondering why the Ballon d’Or trophy isn’t named after Lord Bendtner.
And that’s the U.S. men’s national team in a nutshell. Talented? Sure. Capable of providing fans moments of unadulterated joy? Check. People still talking about future potential? Indeed. But over time, regardless of personnel changes, regardless of theoretical pedigree, regardless of the coach’s visions or delusions, regardless of Landon or no Landon, the U.S. always has always been consistent in its lack of consistency, just like Bendtner. It still can’t regularly do so many of the things that it couldn’t do a decade ago, even though, on occasion, it hints it can. Spectacularly.
That doesn’t mean the U.S. will never climb that mountain. It just means that if that doesn’t happen today, or next week, or next year, or in four years, you probably shouldn’t be shocked, despite what happens on a given day. It’s a lesson that I’ve learned over a years of watching Bendtner and the U.S. men. Relax, sit back, and let the entertainment happen. Any other path only ends in mutually assured destruction.