Posted by Jack Tumen
The U.S. men’s national soccer team has been an enigma for some time now. Not only on the field but off it as well. When it comes to the popularity of soccer in our country, America has been playing catch-up with the rest of planet Earth for decades.
For a sport that single-handedly gives lifeblood to many world countries, soccer (or futebol, as the majority of humans call it) has spent a considerable amount of time on the back burner of the American sports scene. However, the World Cup has always drawn the attention of general sports fans; but usually to witness the typical powerhouses like Brazil, Argentina and Spain demonstrate their mastery of the sport – not to see team America compete for a title…
…Because team America could never realistically compete for a title; until now.
Ok, well, maybe not even now, but my name’s Elvis Presley if our country didn’t get fired up after the epic victory we pulled out over rival, Ghana. That game was the most goddamn American thing I’ve ever seen; we lost one of our best players to a pulled hammy early; our captain played the majority of the match with a bloodied, broken nose; one of our youngest and most inexperienced players displayed epic heroics to take a late lead; all while holding off a relentless attack from the team that knocked us out of the last two World Cups.
And all of this coming the day after the season finale of Game of Thrones.
However, Monday’s events were the culmination of much previous uncertainty. The hiring of Jurgen Klinsmann in 2011 was…simply a hire. We would hear his name maybe once a month on Sports Center during an international friendly or something of the sort, but no one really cared; the next World Cup was three years away and there was a lot of football, basketball, baseball and hockey to be played in that time span.
As the cup drew nearer, the hype naturally increased but the same underlying doubt resided amongst Americans regarding the team’s chances of getting very far. Then, Klinsmann pulled a Klinsmann (because I hear he’s pretty daring) and left the U.S.’s all-time leading World Cup goal-scorer off the final squad. Landon Donovan; the perennial face of United States soccer is not representing the United States in the biggest tournament of modern mankind? Well fuck us. How will this impact the team? Don’t we need that experience and leadership to advance out of the GROUP OF DEATH?!?! Now Landon’s upset; now he’s ripping his own country for cutting him – and now the team’s gonna implode – and now we won’t win a game – and now I can’t breathe – can’t…breathe…
…Until Clint Dempsey put that sucker in the back of the net faster than I can say ‘MURICA! Man, that was awesome; instant gratification. We’re winning! Let’s go, baby! But wait, that was way too easy. Great, now we only have 89 1/2 minutes plus extra time to hold the lead. Not a chance, buddy; we all knew that equalizer was coming to break our hearts when we could almost smell victory. This is going to overtime. We’re losing in overtime. It’s just gonna happen. Good run, boys.
But fate was in store this evening for the 21-year old, John Brooks; the second of three subs that Klinsmann inserted due to injuries. Just 4 minutes after Ghana brought us back down to Earth, a perfect ball from Graham Zusi (the third U.S. sub) off the corner kick found its way through a crowd of white jerseys. Brooks nailed a perfect header to cap off a Hollywood ending for team U.S.A.
Now, even Klinsmann himself said that it was unrealistic for the U.S. to win the world cup. That statement is even more true now that Jozy Altidore blew out his hammy. Regardless, there are a million reasons to be incredibly proud of this team for what it accomplished on Monday – And next they get Portugal man down…maybe this Group of Death thing isn’t so bad after all.
Having to utilize his bench three different times, Klinsmann put the utmost faith in his hand-picked group of players to support one another when the going got rough; and they did that in the biggest way possible. Even if this team isn’t the best on paper, Jurgen Klinsmann has his team – our team – believing.
You’re on, Portugal.