Twenty minutes before today's game between the U.S. and England, a friend of mine, a SoCal resident, wrote to me and said, "Sorry, Earl. I can't cheer for the U.S."
I replied to my born-and-bred-in-the-US friend, "Makes sense. After all, you were born in England, you were raised there, went to school there, lived most of your formative years there, paid your taxes there…Oh, wait, maybe I'm confused…"
"Alright," she wrote back.
The US National Soccer Team falls into an uneasy and unearned culture lightning rod with "Soccer Moms" being used as a negative term and middle-class anti-US-imperialism critiques being bundled into hope that the national team doesn't develop into a world power.
I can't speak to US imperialism in the sporting context. I'm against it — even as a Persian Gulf vet — when it comes to other countries, but when it comes to sport, specifically soccer, I love the game and want to see it do well in the states for the very selfish reason that I want to see the highest-level soccer within an hour's drive of my house.
Call me selfish.
Today's game, a 1-1 draw against England, showed the U.S. has developed a high standard of play and understanding.
Game-wise, the U.S. back four need to work out their communication which is understandable given the changes and was also evidenced by the goal by England in the fourth minute.
Many a team would've been completely psyched out at that point but the US showed a lot of maturity and mental strength to maintain formation to the very end and the resiliency to fight for another goal — FUBAR goal that it was, it's all scoreboard.
Several second half US exchanges showed quality, both in touch and understanding, which made me — a fan of good football — applaud.
And while the US midfield sank back far too often in an attempt to not lose, and the US defense seemed out of synch at times, Rooney, one of the top three strikers in the world, was shut down by a team effort. Tim Howard, the US goalie, was a monster between the sticks.
England, who will see this tie as a loss of two points, needs to regroup if it's serious about bringing home a trophy it hasn't lifted since 1966. The US will take a lot of confidence from today's game as it heads into first-round games against Slovenia on Friday and Algeria on June 23.