Posted by Jack Tumen
It was a fun ride; but the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team has finally (and somewhat inevitably) been eliminated from the World Cup. However, unlike past World Cups, the interest in our men’s national team is not likely to die away so quickly.
Firstly, a standing ovation is in order for the players who so valiantly represented the stars and stripes. They gave every last ounce of effort while attempting a miracle comeback in extra time. Even after Belgium seemingly put it away with their second goal, we were still treated to a “wait, we just scored” moment; then we were treated to a “holy shit/face grabbing” moment when a masterfully drawn up play fell inches shy of coming to fruition.
Yes, Chris Wondolowski completely blew that last second ‘gimme’ to pull off the stunner, but the blame shouldn’t be placed fully on his shoulders. This is a team that consistently struggles with ball control; they were practically on defense the entire game. Tim Howard was forced to have the game of his life; and boy did he ever. Howard had the most saves in a World Cup match since 1966 with 16. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say he had the performance of the century. 16 saves? Are you kidding me? If it took nearly 50 years for that record to be broken, combined with the growing number of offensive stars the game has to offer, I’ll make the educated guess that a keeper won’t achieve that feat for at least 50 more years. Heck, we should have been down 5 nil in that game. Tim Howard was the only thing in the world giving the U.S. hope.
Aside from the game itself, the nation came out in a big way to support this World Cup effort. You saw countless people wearing their team USA jerseys in the streets. The “I Believe That We Will Win” chant ran rampant throughout crowds of viewers at outdoor events and bars. For the first time, we felt emotionally connected to this team; we knew the players names and what positions they played. We knew that Graham Zusi was supposed to take the corner kicks. And we finally figured out what offsides is. The match vs. Belgium was one of the highest rated World Cup matches that ESPN has televised, drawing over 16 million viewers.
In my opinion, this was finally the World Cup that built enough interest at home for it to stick. This team captivated our nation. People who didn’t know a thing about soccer found themselves having fun while watching this World Cup.
That said, I don’t think the excitement will carry over to the MLS. National team players will receive name recognition, but the focus will be on the nation representing itself every four years rather than a growing interest at the day-to-day level. We like to be good at the sports that we invented ourselves like (American) Football, Baseball and Basketball – Regardless, it’s about time the United States caught up on the sport that 6.5 billion other people so endearingly call, “Futbol.”