What a long, strange trip the US MNT just had to South Africa. The Yanks advanced via a 6 goal swing in the last 90 minutes of the group stage. Then, they shocked the world by knocking out #1 Spain. Finally, they came out swinging against history’s most decorated team, but fell apart during a messy second half that most fans would like to forget.
I don’t have to forget it because I never saw the second half of the Final. I got on a plane when it was 2-0, and spent the flight sequestered from any updates. I was happy though. It was half-time and we were winning a freaking FIFA International tourney. Of course, I was happy. As soon as we touched down, I frantically turned on my “portable electronic device” to check the final score.
I never saw the three (admittedly four) goals by Brazil. I was over a mile in the sky in an airplane full of contentment and unspoiled hope. So, I may be biased. You see, when I left the airport Chili’s @ halftime that day and got on my flight, I didn’t really care if we won. Win or lose, the team had earned some respect – and more importantly – attention from the US media and casual sports fans. I felt like – for a little while – we could actually discuss soccer here in America…
And – amazingly – we could finally do it without being called a communist. It was a good day for me. Not so much for my phone though, who fell victim to that old and wise quote: “They always kill the messenger.” I was angry about the result, but perhaps it is better for the US to lose. Think about it. We need guys who are “hungry”. Beating Spain and Brazil may have made us overconfident. Beating Spain and almost beating Brazil could pay dividends come 2010.
And I was pleased with the US performance over the tourney. Rough in spots, sure, but also capable of some disarming brilliance. What I liked best is that they never backed down. Even when they were soundly outplayed, they never looked like they weren’t giving 100%. Show me another sport in the US where you can say that about the players. Well, except Conor Casey. For someone who played so little, he sure lollygagged around the pitch a ton.
As for the rest of the players, some guys’ 2010 hopes rose greatly because the top competition around the globe brought out their best. But, others embarassed themselves and are now hoping Bradley gives them a look again before he selects his final 2010 roster. Tomorrow, I will rate the US MNT players based on their play over the span of the Confederations Cup and the likelihood their dreams of a 2010 starting role will be fulfilled. So come on back and be sure not to miss it.
Unless you have a plane to catch, of course.