Saturday, June 26, 2010

World Cup Day 16

It's not all bad. Sure, the U.S. ripped out the collective heart of its supporters with today's 2-1 loss to Ghana. They're a soccer team: that's what soccer teams do alot of times.

Instead of performing the autopsy, penning the obituary, or giving the eulogy on this current crop of Americans, I think the space afforded me at this little blog is better used by putting this whole bit of heartache into perspective.

First, lets look back at the past 365 days. At this time last year, the Yanks beat Spain, a.k.a the country that hadn't lost in its previous 35 matches a.k.a the best team in the world, in convincing fashion.* A few days later, they went up two goals against Brazil in the Confed Cup Final, only to fall 45 minutes short of winning their first global competition.

(*So convincing that Switzerland stole the American blueprint on that game to beat the Spaniards 1-0 during their first match in Group play. The last time the USMNT's tactics were copied: never.)

Months later, they finished first in CONCACAF en route to the World Cup. Once they arrived in South Africa, they drew the Three Lions, the same Three Lions that should have mauled them to like a 7-2 bloodbath or something. Days later, they rallied from a two-goal deficit and came within a Koman Coulibaly brain cramp of pulling off The Greatest Comeback the World Cup Has Ever Seen. They effectively ran the Algeria match before deciding to finally put it away in stoppage. And today, they put an extremely underrated Ghana on the ropes before succumbing in extra time.

Today hurt. There's no debating that. If your patriotic heart loves soccer, today wasn't fun by any stretch. But, despite the pain, let's not forget that there's so much more to admire about this bunch.

Their accomplishments in the past year have been unprecedented. This team found an identity along the way to the World Cup and dogged out five points to win their Group for the first time in 70 years. They fell behind, and battled to draw even three out of four matches. And yes, they've been bossed out of the gate in those three matches. Clearly, this team was not Kobe Bryant-ready this afternoon.

What they were, and are, is an accomplished bunch of soccer players. Perhaps the best this country's ever sent to a World Cup. Just look down the roster. Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Oguchi Onyewu are some of the finest players this country's ever produced. They were augmented by young money like Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Jose Torres.

No doubt, there are some departments in which this team is desperately lacking. And those deficiencies will surely be addressed through player turnover, coaching, and countless hours of training leading up to Brazil '14.

In the interim, it would be an injustice to overlook the fact that this team is eons better than it was less than a generation ago. Progress is in full effect. We are living in exciting times.

A few people have remarked that the way the chips fell this particular tournament greatly favored the Yanks. Had they won today, they would've played a beatable Uruguay and possibly could have pulled a shocker in the semi-finals, all the while England, Germany, Brazil, and Argentina were busy beating themselves up elsewhere. It had all the makings of a soccer Cinderella.

But here's the thing: the days of Cinderella are over. I suspect that in four years' time, the Americans will be better than they currently are. And in saying that, I also say this: the days in which the Americans are a soccer superpower are not as far away as it looks right now.

1 comment:

Boston Ultras said...

A lot depends on who the next coach is. We can't afford another Steve Sampson.

I'm more of a Mario guy myself.