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Once more: The USA, soccer, and the World Cup
July 3rd, Kansas City: Some thoughts after the defeat against Belgium
And once more, Independence Day is coming up and with it, the usual program of BBQ, shopping for sales and I guess, also sports on TV. This time, more than ever in the USA will watch soccer and still, it will be in no way comparable to the numbers watching football or baseball. Especially not, since the US team is out after a defeat against Belgium. Many Americans belive, soccer is just no American sport. However, for allegedly being not familar with it and having no traditions, the US Team did good, no very good, in Brazil. Coming originally from Germany, I admit to have a different relation to soccer and by this German soccer tradition in my back, I would like to tell you, the US are a great soccer nation, only the Americans miss that fact all the time.
Lets start with a little comparison. Football is the American sport, as many say. Soccer is for wussies. Fine, then let your men get out of their body armor, send them on the field and let them run for 90 minutes. With a short break after 45 minutes. No stop after 30 maximal 40 seconds, no endless interruption. I would like to see it. And if a defender pulls the emergency brake on you, there is no helmet, your face just takes it ... or not.
Second thing, modern soccer is often a brain game. You can't just squeaze the ball under your arm and run straight forward, hoping someone defends you and you make the goal. You have to find the free man, you have to pass the ball over twenty, thirty yards by kicking it and you have to do it precise enough, that reaches your team mate. Which means, when you don't have the ball, you have to run yourself free to be in the position to be the next recipient.
And Soccer is a speed game. A striker who gets the ball somewhere in the forward middlefield gives you maybe five to ten seconds to stop him. And he will, with ball and maybe two or three defenders on his heels move almost with the speed of a 100m sprinter. And he will do it again and again, for ninety minutes. A defender will probably run even more because every striker needs to be covered, every angle closed and when the time comes, defenders have to go forward, sometimes over the whole field ... and be back in seconds. Yeah, I would like to see that from a football team!
Now despite all those differences, soccer does good in the US. Teams like Sporting Kansas City play often on European level.

US Soccer 2014

And club soccer is the base for national teams. Everyhwere, not only in the US. Lets just remember, it doesn't look too good, to be kicked out in the group phase in every second world cup. But it also means, to have reached that stage in the first place. It means, to be perpetually in the 32 best teams of the world. Which in itself is an achievement for US soccer. But more, this time, in Brazil, the US got really unlucky with the group drawing. The "Group of Death" it was called. Of course, yes, it was a hard group. Germany, Ghana and Portugal. We know the results: A 2:1 victory against Ghana, a 2:2 draw against Portugal and a 0:1 defeat against Germany. Now, Germany, one of the soccer superpowers in the world, is a little bit under form, it appears, but still one of the best teams and still a contender for the cup. And this soccer superpower could make it barely to a one goal victory against the US team. Ghana, always a strong team, lost against the US team. Not that big but big enough. And Portugal who counts also as one of the strongest teams in the world, couldn't break the US team and had to be happy with just one point for a draw. Germany had their draw against Ghana, the same team, the US had defeated. So, it was high level soccer and the US showed themselves on eye to eye level with the big guns ... once more, because that is not the first time. Today, it was USA vs. Belgium. In the US, the bets stood against the US Team about 80:20, I heard. And right, critics would say, the US lost that match. That's true and nothing can change it. But it was narrow enough. The US Team forced another European team into overtime. And when the worst for them happened, they fought and fought on, caught up
to 2:1 and there were chances to get the equalizer. A bit more luck and things could have ended up different. Which makes Belgium a worthy winner because they had to fight for this victory too and it makes the US Team what? To lose in the round of the sixteen best in the world is no shame. But to stand the ground, to show that much potential for the future, that is more than "no shame", that is setting your mark. And, together with other teams, the US team has broken up the exclusivity, European and South-American teams had once in this sport. This makes soccer even more a world sport. Maybe, David didn't defeat Golith, this time, but Goliath is seriously damaged.
Bottom line: We have one of the best soccer national teams in the world. Our team stood the round of the sixteen best in the World. And opposite to football, in soccer this means really the whole world. Belgium was end of the road for them, but from where I stand, it doesn't really matter in the greater scheme of things. Because what we see here, over the last world cups already is, US soccer has claimed its place on the international stage. The team is, without a miracle, no contender for the cup. Still, seeing the tendency, my impression is, the US national teams got stronger from tournament to tournament. They are on the way to build a soccer tradition. That's the important thing, as far as someone considers sports important. I don't tell you to abandon football and baseball. Those sports are as American as it gets. But dear sportsfans, keep a little bit of space in your hearts for those soccer players, who ran their rears off and fought their hearts out in Brazil in the "Group of Death" at 85-90F and humidity of 70% plus to get where they were, till the luck left them- It was actually a quite lofty place. Because you may haven't noticed it, but despite all your denial, the US have become a soccer world power, noticed all over the world, only not in our own country. And that's a reason to celebrate. And then, we aill see. Four years till the next world cup comes up, that time in Russia. Four years of more building, of more training, of more soccer also here in the US on club level. But I am sure, the US will stand their ground there.

- PB -
... back
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Copyright if not otherwise mentioned Peter and Diane Brendt 2010-. All copies, also in parts, demand the written consent of the copyright holders