'It was an emotional reflection of where we are' – Lalas explains his epic tirade against the USMNT

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The former U.S. national team defender unloaded on Bruce Arena's side, and says he made a calculated choice to call out some players by name

Oftentimes during halftime of Fox's MLS broadcasts, Alexi Lalas will take a minute or two to present his opinion on any given topic in American soccer.

Usually these segments don't reverberate much after the broadcast is over. Sunday night was different.

At halftime of the LA Galaxy-Seattle Sounders match on Fox Sports 1, Lalas unloaded on the underachieving U.S. men's national team, calling out several players by name.

Very few of the team's biggest stars were spared, whether it was its goalkeeper ("Tim [Howard], the Belgium game ended three years ago — we need you to save the ball now"), its captain ("Michael Bradley, the U.S. does not need you to be Zen — the U.S. needs you to play better") or its coach ("You lost at home to Costa Rica — this is now all on you").

Geoff Cameron, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic (who will now forever be known as "Wonderboy") also were among those blasted by the former U.S. defender.

The U.S. was coming off two subpar performances — a home loss to Costa Rica and draw at Honduras — which put the team's World Cup chances in jeopardy.

Bruce Arena's side likely needs a win and a draw in its two qualifiers next month to qualify — and even those results could mean a fourth-place finish and a spot in an intercontinental playoff against Syria or Australia.

"To see us at this point where it could go two different ways, this precipice if you will, I just felt that given the problems that occurred over the last week with the two qualifiers, it was topical and that's why I decided to do it," Lalas told Goal. "It was an emotional reflection of where we are and where we hope to be.

"I am a human being — I can confirm that — and as such I have emotions and I have reactions and I have feelings, especially when it regards something that I hold near and dear, which is this team."

Perhaps the most striking part of Lalas' tirade wasn't that he harshly criticized the team — the U.S. clearly deserved to be admonished after its recent results — but that he went directly after individual players by name.

"As far as the individuals mentioned, they were by design because ... the premise was based around a time for leaders to step up and to lead," Lalas said.

"I believe that that group I mentioned, including Bruce Arena, are at least from the outside, who the leadership of the group is. That's in a nutshell why those people were singled out."

Lalas' words were certainly stinging, but were they 100 percent genuine?

The 47-year-old has a long track record of making provocative statements on TV, and he knows the value of generating buzz. To his credit, Lalas doesn't entirely deny that his tirade, though genuine, was also the product of a skilled performer.

"I'm in the entertainment business. How I say something is just as important as what I say — I don't make any apologies for that," Lalas said.

"I recognize that when that red light goes on and I'm on camera, I am performing. Now that doesn't in any way mean that it is any less genuine or honest or authentic. I believe the things that I say, how I say them. The words that I choose are calculated and they are designed to have a desired impact and affect.

"If this is news to anybody out there, I think they're being disingenuous and pretty naive."

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Though Lalas went negative Sunday evening, he says that if Arena's men do make it to Russia, he'll be the first one to go the other direction in his commentary.

"I fully believe that this team will figure out a way to get the results that it needs in order to qualify for the World Cup, but certainly you'd have to agree that they need to improve in order to do that in the next two games," he said.

"When they do that, I will shower them with love."

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