Today on Blogcritics
Home » Culture and Society » Time is Now For USA Soccer

Time is Now For USA Soccer

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

In my family, Father’s Day 1994 might be remembered as the day seven year old Danny McGowan realized it was okay to like sports more than anything else in life. Eating. People. My children. There we were, a Scottish family crammed inside an Italian restaurant, mispronouncing manicotti and asking if they sold mashed potatoes, laughing and drinking (I assume), in honor of my grandpa. And there was my grandpa, looking so bitter you’d have thought the bar ran out of booze.

Norway was playing Mexico in the World Cup and he was missing it for dinner in an Italian restaurant.

Now it’s quite possible my papa hated Norwegians and Mexicans (and Italians for that matter) all the same, but this was soccer on national television and he was missing it. I remember not really understanding his hostility toward us, but also being amazed by it. To that point, I had never known anyone that passionate about anything. Hell, I’d have burnt my baseball card collection for a trip to the Discovery Zone. He loved soccer. And he was my best friend. So I decided to love soccer.

It started with the Cup that summer. I felt that it was my patriotic duty to root for the Americans (he hated them too) and was crushed when Brazil eliminated us. That’s when I made it my goal in life to lead the United States to the top of the soccer world.

My career began that autumn.

My career ended that autumn.

I swear I gave it an honest effort. One Saturday morning, I even skipped a fall ball game in favor of a match. But I couldn’t help it. Soccer, put simply, was stupid. There were no rules, the coach’s son always got to play goalie and practice involved too much running. And even at my young age, I was bright enough to recognize that that much running should serve only as a punishment.

That was almost 16 years ago and while soccer clearly wasn’t for me, it seems obvious that hosting the 1994 World Cup led many children to take up or become more serious about the sport. Of the 23 Team USA players who dressed for a recent friendly against Denmark, 18 hadn’t reached high school by 1994 and 12 were younger ten, meaning they were probably still balancing soccer, Little League and the Power Rangers at the time.

What does that mean? For the first time in American history, the national team can select from a talent pool larger than your average swimming pool. The guys competing for spots on the World Cup roster didn’t settle for soccer because they couldn’t hit a baseball or make a jump shot. They chose it as their sport and they received more and better instruction at a younger age than anyone before them.

With that comes real expectations and if my grandpa were still alive, he’d probably offer the following advice:

“Don’t fuck this up.”

It’s that simple. Public opinion has changed on soccer. It’s trendy to like the game. The sophisticated sports fan now spells color with a “u” and says things like, “I love to watch soccer played at its highest level,” which is both a way of fitting in and an excuse for having never watched an MLS game in their lives.

Of course, luck often plays the biggest role in determining the outcome of the World Cup, and team USA appears to have received plenty of it in last week’s draw. Aside from what everyone considers a favorable opening group with England, Slovenia, and Algeria, the team would also be guaranteed not to play the defending champion (Italy) or any of the top three ranked teams in the world (Brazil, Spain, and Holland) until the semifinals if it were to advance to the second stage.

Have all the stars aligned for the US National Team? It might be too early to tell. But the ingredients are all there. The fortunate draw, the fan base that has never been so excited, and most importantly, the most talented group of players the team has ever had.

This has been 16 years in the making and if the Americans are looking for inspiration, they needn’t look far. Recently, a much more prominent national team faced about a ten year stretch of international struggles, much like Team USA in this decade.

But Italy went to Germany and won the whole thing in 2006.

Of course they did. They hosted the Cup in 1990.

Powered by

About Dan McGowan

  • Dr Dreadful

    The USA is not going to win the World Cup this year, although they have improved immensely, as evidenced by their performance at the Confederations Cup last summer.

    The US should qualify from their group behind my home country, England. And it’s true that if they do so, they wouldn’t be required to play Brazil, Spain, Holland or Italy until the semis.

    Unfortunately, as runners-up in the group it is highly likely that their second-round opponents will be… Germany.

    Bye-bye. :-)

  • zingzing

    hopefully, germany stumbles out of the gate and winds up in second. (or, more hopefully, we beat england and take first and avoid germany should they win.)

    germany doesn’t tend to make all that many mistakes, which is where we’ve been at our best (taking advantage of mistakes, i mean.)

    did you hear about their goalkeeper? killed himself last month. crazy.

  • Dr Dreadful

    zing, I’m hoping that Germany match England’s performance in the group stage because I guarantee that if it’s England v Germany in round two there’s only going to be one winner. [spit! spit!]

    See, the thing about the Germans is they’re bloody impossible to kill. They’ve mastered the art of getting results even when they don’t have a particularly good team.

    They could send a squad of alcoholic amputees with advanced multiple sclerosis to South Africa and they’d still reach at least the semi-finals.

  • STM

    And if Australia are runners up in the Germany pool of death group, they get to play … England.

    Hardly easybeats. So it’s bye bye. So much for making soccer a popular sport Down Under.

    It even has to be played in spring/summer here (generally at night) so it doesn’t clash with the three oval-ball codes that have a huge stranglehold on winter football in Oz: Australian Football, rugby league and rugby union.

    The World Cup sparks a bit of interest in soccer and then it dies off again except in the small group of hardcore supporters …

    Can’t see them beating England (and possibly not even Serbia in the group), so expect to see interest in the sport wane again and most of the very top players turning their backs on the local league to play in Europe or Asia where they can earn a huge quid.

  • zingzing

    yeah, the germans have had your number for the past few decades… except in 2002, when you absolutely demolished them during qualifying.

    i’d much rather face australia or serbia, although they ain’t no pushovers either. but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

    got to make it out of the first round first. (and for us, that means beating you stupid. please?)

  • Dr Dreadful

    except in 2002, when you absolutely demolished them during qualifying.

    Yes, and the bastards still qualified… and guess who reached the final that year and who didn’t? This is what I’m talking about. :-(

    Looking at the rest of our group, there’s Algeria, who are only in the finals by virtue of their fans throwing more rocks than the Egyptians :-), and Slovenia, who made it out of a weak qualifying group and then squeaked past Russia on away goals in the playoff. Even if the USA loses to England – and the way we’re playing right now, zing, don’t get your hopes up! – I’ll be very surprised if they don’t go through.

    And yeah, Stan, the Socceroos have an incredibly tough group. But – they’re no pushovers these days. Most of the squad play at the top level in Europe and they came through Asia qualifying without dropping a point, which is no mean feat these days when you’re up against the likes of South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iran etc. I’m backing Ghana to accompany the Germans through from that group – unless Germany pull a France 2002 and implode, which, let’s face it, ain’t gonna happen – although the Aussies could surprise everyone. Much hinges on what, if anything, they can get out of their opener against ze Chermans.

  • STM

    We’ve beaten them a few times before at some other things.

  • zingzing

    “Even if the USA loses to England – and the way we’re playing right now, zing, don’t get your hopes up! – I’ll be very surprised if they don’t go through.”

    england plays to our strengths (counter attack and taking advantage of teams that play very aggressive and straight-forward), so i think we have a better chance against them than other highly-ranked, hot teams. of course, a lot can change in 6 months, and we have lost a bit of steam lately, both through injury and a lack of urgency.

    i think we’ll make it either way, as england should take care of the others with ease and we should get two wins, although i think we can sneak through on 4 points, i want to see at least 5.

    of course, 5 points probably leads to germany, so gimme 6 or 7 and a bunch of goals in at least one win.

    (knowing the english, they’ll probably try to injure howard. bitches.)

  • Dr Dreadful

    We’ve beaten them a few times before at some other things.

    With help! 😉

  • Dr Dreadful

    Team USA in the past has had a lot of the same tactical problems as England – particularly a tendency to overthink things and the apparent expectation that the other team should just stand and watch you play the moves you’ve worked out on the training ground. When those moves don’t work, you’ve ended up completely baffled and without a Plan B.

    I sure hope your national team doesn’t try some of the dire stuff that’s been on offer in MLS. The other week I saw a Chicago defender put the ball out for a corner when there was no attacking player within 50 yards of him. Couldn’t believe my eyes.

  • zingzing

    maybe he was seeing things. ever heard of that guy who threw a no-hitter on acid? yeah, well, this didn’t work out the same.

    as for the us’ tactical issues, they seem to be playing a lot more fluidly this year, trying not to make stuff happen, but taking advantage of what falls in their laps. it never looks like they’re trying to build up to anything. it’s just the right circumstances come their way–a muffed pass, a defender that trips, a failed dive, all the little things. it always feel like luck, or the other team’s mistake to me.

  • El Bicho

    Is Dan passed the age cut-off where grown-ups can talk about drugs?

    zinger, have you seen “Dock Ellis & The LSD No-No by James Blagden” at youtube? you may want to

  • STM

    Doc writes: “With help! ;-)”

    Lol. Of course, Dear Doc, no doubts there about that and that our brethren in the Old Dart scored most of the goals after getting off to a slow start. I wasn’t going to be specific but they still deserve it, and it’s you Poms who still carry on with that silly “two world wars and a world cup too”, isn’t it? It’s 40 years ago since that last one and you still can’t let go!

    I was thinking of some specific Aussie fixtures as part of the whole where we got through to the second round in a couple of previous world championships and then into the final: Passchendaele, Villers-Bretonneux, Amiens, Hamel, St Quentin Canal, Hindenburg Line … Tobruk, El Alamein :)

    You know, some of those friendly little international fixtures against the naughty side we hate to love (still) and love to hate (although there’s another team in this part of the world that’s still not that popular, either, and we beat them in the last world cup).

    OK, I know I’m being very, very naughty. But erhaps we could ALL draw on such lessons to countering the machine-like perfection of our continental cousins.

    The trick: do something completely unexpected to confound them. Like fight back from the opening whistle and then keep battling away at them like rats up a drainpipe even if you’re down at half time. Eventually, they’ll get tired and the goals will come.

    Tactics? Nah. Just stick it out … then belt ’em.

    (In the real world, however, I’m predicting they’ll give us an absolute caning).

  • zingzing

    eb: yep. masterpiece. i assume you’re talking about the completely incredible animation.

  • Dr Dreadful

    maybe he was seeing things.

    Yeah, probably. They were playing the Galaxy. When you know David Beckham’s on the other team, small wonder if you start seeing him out of the corner of your eye everywhere!

  • STM

    I can remember when Beckham came here with the Galaxy to play. Everyone just turned out to see him … mainly women.

    They packed out the stadium.

  • Dr Dreadful


    And ask any one of those women what the score was, they wouldn’t have been able to tell you…

  • zingzing

    i looked at tickets for la’s game in ny sometime this summer… tickets that usually go for $12 were going for something like $700. that can’t be right, but that’s the figure that’s sticking in my head. maybe it might as well have been $700…

  • Dr Dreadful

    Probably Ticketmaster trying to pull a fast one before they drop ’em to the actual list prices. There are always going to be a few numbnuts who’ll fork out $700.