humor me for a minute and try to follow along. im well aware that most of you could care less about soccer. a few of us played and cheer for america every four years for the world cup, while most could care less. i get it, but i have always enjoyed the international game. there is an inherent pride there, but i also love it because it’s truly symbolic and representative of the different countries. when you watch you can really feel the artistry and flair of brazil and see the buttoned-up tradition of england. different styles, different approaches and more than anything else it’s *that* that really makes it fun to watch.
if any team screams the identity of it’s country, america is right there. late comebacks, grit and determination. sheer willpower. as witnessed by the last two world cups (2010 men’s and 2011 women’s) you can see the us teams ooze this spirit. the women’s world cup was incredible to watch. it was like an epic march madness for soccer. for years american teams have been under talented and have over achieved. their style, with its decidedly ‘can-do’ attitude, is a miserable game to watch. defense, defense, defense. put everyone in front of our goal, and maybe well get lucky once or twice a game on a corner kick. essentially that has been our MO. we don’t attack, we *counter* attack. we wait all game for them to make a mistake then try to exploit it. maybe we get one chance, maybe none.
for years, the us soccer community has been discussing why we cant make that leap to an elite level and there are reasons aplenty, all the way down to how tykes like me get started playing as a kid. within the last few weeks we’ve undergone some seismic changes. they are really shaking things up. we just hired a new coach, jurgen klinsmann. he has been described as a ‘rockstar’ that is uniquely suited to bring us forward, literally and metaphorically. he is redesigning how americans play and think of the game. it’s his goal to *truly* create a uniquely american team and philosophy by using our ‘melting pot’.
for those of you who can remember before i was born, or if you’ve seen the movie ‘miracle’, just think of the 1980 hockey team. it’s a perfect analogy. we’re not the biggest or the best, but we can take a little bit of brazilian style and a little bit of the german style and keep a little bit of our style and put all these together and make a great american style. he doesnt want to sit back and defend anymore. he wants to attack and set the tempo.
tonight at 9 he coaches his first game against, none other than our hated nemesis, mexico. the ned flanders to our homer simpson. despised neighbor. this is a rivalry unlike any other. red sox/yankees got nothing on this. from the 1930s until 1990 mexico dominated north american soccer. they dominated us. but for the past 20 years we have established ourselves as equals, with maybe a slight edge to us. mexico doesnt like that one bit, actually they loath it. we have *never* won a game played in mexico. it might have something to do with the temp, altitude and smog. but it also *could* be because the mexican fans bring bags of urine to dump on players, throw batteries, beer bottles, and cheer for ‘osama’ as they did in 2004. most recently, at a game played *in los angeles*, where mexican fans outnumbered american fans about 60,000 to 10,000 (and the rays think they have a fan problem) the mexican fans booed every time an american touched the ball. in america. which brings us to the next point of why this could be so important. mexico just got good. scary good. like, they might win the next world cup good.
so if you have an hour and twenty minutes (i promise it won’t be longer, no commericals!) tonight and enjoy some compelling drama, tune in to espn2 at 9 and let’s support our yanks and look forward to the future of american soccer.