Dramatic U.S. soccer run over too soon by justinwhitaker

by Justin Whitaker

I will admit, I jumped on the bandwagon that is United States soccer.

Noted that I said is – not was.

This run in the World Cup by the U.S. was one of the most dramatic and intriguing sporting events in our country from recent times.

The American team represented their country in the truest form. Never giving up, never stopping believing and never backing down.

Even after giving up a goal in the first 15 minutes of three of their four games, the U.S. never laid down. They kept pushing and fighting, tugging on the heartstrings of the millions watching.

Each of the United States games had their own unique, wackiness to them. They became immediate ESPN Classics because of the drama and excitement involved.

In England’s 1-1 tie, it was English goalkeeper Robert Green’s fumble of the ball that allowed the U.S. to tie with the powerhouse. The looks and reactions on the English sideline showed the disappointment of tying their little brother.

In the next game against Slovenia, America showed true grit and determination. After being down 2-0 to Slovenia at halftime, the United States blasted back with goals by the face of American soccer, Landon Donovan and the coach’s son, Michael Bradley.

But the story of this game was not the goals scored, but the one that did not count. Mali referee Koman Coulibaly cost the Americans the victory in the 86th minute when he disallowed a goal on a ghost of a foul. U.S. striker Robbie Findley was also given his second yellow card of the tournament when Coulibaly called that Findley’s hand had hit the ball when in truth it was his head.

With America sitting with two ties, they needed a victory over Algeria to advance out of group play. A tie this time would not be sufficient. But after 90 minutes and England’s victory over Slovenia, the American’s amazing run was going to be over without ever losing a game. But extra time allowed for the Americans to have the final push they needed.

And of course in dramatic fashion,  U.S. striker Jozy Altidore shot bounced off of the Algerian goalkeeper and lay just feet from his hands and the goal. As the ball lay untouched in the box, Donovan swooped in for the goal, causing American fans and myself everywhere to burst out with joy and exhilaration. (LANDON picture)

The U.S. – Algeria game became the highest-rated and most-watched soccer game in ESPN’s history. The dramatic game was watched by 6.1 million viewers.

In the next game, during the loss against Ghana, it took an extra 30 minutes to decide the outcome. The U.S. was eliminated with a loss of 2-1, but they gained national attention for their run. Hopefully this awareness carries over to the MLS, the 2014 World Cup and soccer in general in America.

What made this team so exciting was that they were actually good. America showed constant resiliency and while they might not have won the tournament, they showed they belonged. America is not a joke of a squad anymore. Countries now have to take the U.S. seriously.

Winning the World Cup is one of the biggest accomplishments in all of sports. In terms of worldly appeal, the Super Bowl, World Series or NBA Finals do not measure up to a World Cup. The World Cup is the world’s competition for its biggest sport.

While soccer is not anywhere close to the top here at home, in almost every other country fútbol reigns king. What happens when America’s sixth or seventh most popular sport grows and becomes an elite power like Brazil, Argentina and Portugal?

A great showing like this for the United States puts the rest of the world on notice.

The U.S. is coming. Watch out.

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Clock Runs Out for USA Soccer, and America’s Interest in the Game by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

Every four years, we watch.  ESPN makes a big deal of the the World Cup, so like lemmings, we pay attention.  The game for kids too skinny and/or short to play football captures our attention until the American team is eliminated, and then we go back to watching more traditional American sports fair.

The Americans lost to Ghana today, and I watched every minute.  When the Americans beat a team (I’ve already forgotten the nation the team represented) with a goal in the 92nd minute, I was thrilled.  Does that translate into a new love for soccer?  No way.  I played the game through high school on a team that should have won a state championship (because I was too small to safely play football), but I could literally write a list tens of thousands of items long of activities I would rather watch or participate in myself before I got to “Go to a soccer game”.

I understand the game and its rules.  After explaining offsides to my wife, I realized I still know how the gameworks.  The incredible dexterity necessary for even the simplest soccer play is awe-inspiring.  Seriously, try to control a ball traveling at 70 miles-per-hour two-feet off the ground with your foot.  Even a goal kick to midfield is beyond impossible for the average athlete.  What those players are able to do with a soccer ball is miraculous.  But it’s not worth watching – except during the World Cup.

The commissioner (I think that is his title) of Major League Soccer was interviewed during the USA vs. Ghana match, and very excitedly proclaimed that the World Cup would drive burgeoning interest in the game and his league.  I felt bad for the guy.  He reminded me of a senior in high school who thinks that because a fat girl with acne agreed to go to the prom with him that he would now be on the radar for cheerleaders.

We’ve been down this road before with the North American Soccer League.  Pele, Georgio Chinaglia, Franz Beckenbauer came to America in the late 1970s, and suddenly soccer was on ABC.  It was exposed to enough people that it died.  Every generation gets their opportunity to reject soccer as a spectator sport, and now is that time for young Americans.

World Cup is the sporting world’s game of Risk.  Remember the game of world domination with the wooden cubes that represent armies?  You and your opponent roll dice, and the loser cedes control of Irkutsk.  The game takes eight hours to finish, and by the end, everyone is glad it’s over regardless of who wins.  Every four years, we look in the closet and somehow forget how tedious Risk is and start down the road of reminding ourselves.  Eight hours later, we recall that after turning 14, only stoners in college dorms play Risk.  The World Cup does that for us, and the 14 huge soccer fans in America get all goose-pimply about America falling in love with what they love.

What really happens is that America remembers why soccer inspires only apathy here.  I’ll set my soccer snooze alarm for 2014.

Today, by virtue of a 2-1 loss to Ghana, the national spotlight on soccer was unplugged.  No matter the enthusiastic effort, that light can’t be re-lit until the next World Cup.  We’re just not bored and gullible enough to embrace soccer.



I Believe–U.S.A. Soccer by The Truth

By Kyle Miller

First of all, I would like to start by saying I know very little about soccer, but I am a soccer fanatic, at least when it comes to the World Cup.  I played soccer up until seventh grade, about as competitively as a seventh grader can play the sport, so I have a hidden enjoyment and appreciation for the game.

Anyway, the U.S. is on the brink of advancing to the round of 8 in the World Cup if they can somehow find a way to defeat Ghana tomorrow.  Unless you have lived in a cave for the last two weeks, I don’t see how you can’t be excited about this upcoming game.

The United States was beyond fortunate to escape with a 1-1 tie against England, then fell behind 2-nil to Slovenia at the end of the first half, but since then the United States have been groovin’.  Their final group game was remarkable, incredible, exhilarating, hell I don’t know what word to use to describe that goal my Landon Donovan.  All I know is when the ball connected with the net; I victoriously leaped out of my chair, threw my arms up, and yelled “GOOOOOOAAAALLLL—and I was home alone.  It was almost like sitting in your dark by yourself and crying from laughing so hard at a line in a movie, it must be funny if that happens.

As the United States have battled back from several adverse moments in the World Cup, I find it astonishing that regular fans of sports are not rallying around this team.  This year is the first year the U.S.A has won its group since 1930.  Which means the last time they accomplished this feat, golfer Bobby Jones won the only Grand Slam ever recorded in golf history?  When U.S. hockey made that run into the finals of the World Championship earlier this year or when the U.S. united in singles to beat the Europeans in the Ryder Cup , Americans seemed to gather around them, but not now?



How About U.S. Soccer? USA Moves Into Final 16 in World Cup by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

Soccer is a bit of a guilty pleasure.  It’s like watching paint dry most of the time.  I played soccer until I was 20, so I’m predisposed toward enjoying it, but I never have.  Most of the time, it’s brutal.  But holy shit, that 1-0 victory over Algeria that allows the American team to move on to the round of 16 in the 2010 World Cup was as exciting and ultimately satisfying as any sporting event of the last decade.

After being hosed again and again by the officials in the game against Slovenia, when a goal was preposterously disallowed for a phantom foul, and again today for an incorrect offsides call in the first half, Landon Donovan put a ball in the net during extra time.

Had the Americans earned a 0-0 draw today, they would have boarded a plane back to the United States.  Because of the extremely late goal, the Americans win their group and will play the runners-up for another division (if I had cared more until the last 30-minutes, I would know which group).

That I’m sitting here watching this game is impossible for me to believe.  Playing soccer is still fun for me, although I haven’t laced up my cleats in a couple of years.  That I invested enough in the outcome that I yelled emotionally when Donovan won the game, may be the sign that the end is near.  But it’s irrefutable that given the backdrop of being jobbed by foreign refs, there was not only some national pride but a sense that justice was served.

Maybe I’ll watch the bracket play when it starts – don’t ask me when that is (I’m only 35 minutes into caring at all, and completely reorganizing my allegiance away from being a soccer hater is going to take time).  Oh sure, I’ll sit and watch the Cubs lose day after day and night after night, but soccer incurs my wrath?

I don’t think this change of heart will last long – maybe like a bad case of stomach flu – but today I danced around the living room because of a goal in a soccer game.