You know what I absolutely despise?
The word itself is defined as “a concerted set of messages aimed at influencing the opinions or behaviors of large numbers of people.” But the term has garnered a negative connotation over the years making its true meaning to me something more like “lying and using misinformation in order to trick the populace into thinking the shit they are served is a delicious supper.”
What does propaganda have to do with soccer?
Take the official U.S. Soccer reaction to yesterday’s loss to Spain.
Bob Bradley saw a “big improvement.” DaMarcus Beasley thought the U.S. “played really well.” Eddie Lewis asserted the U.S. “went about the game the right way.” The official U.S. Soccer report regarding the match described it as a “toe-to-toe fight” that only resulted in a Spain victory because of an “opportunistic goal” by Xavi Hernandez.
For all of these statements I have only two words (make that two initials):
Nothing but propaganda.
There is no such thing as a moral victory in soccer. Last time I checked, there’s no column for it in the standings, and no coach gets his contract renewed because he almost won a tough game. Never seen a player rip off his jersey and pump his fist because his shot nearly found the net either.
But such is the state of U.S. Soccer in 2008 (er, make that men’s soccer, anyways). While other teams, like some of the rising African powers, are not content to simply play second fiddle to the World’s soccer superpowers, those in charge of U.S. soccer’s fate seem happy to lose, so long as its only by a little.
Now, I admit the U.S. looked good (i.e., better) in the first half. Adu and Johnson both played well and showed some natural chemistry up top. Bradley and Edu did their job by preventing Fabregas and Alonso from raping the U.S. defense. Onyewu played stalwart defense.
But I take offense to the suggestion that getting shut out a second straight time should be considered a “big improvement.” If the U.S. “played really well” and “went about the game the right way”, then it’s pretty sad we again could not find the net. Finally, the second-half was anything but “toe-to-toe” and if Hernandez’s goal was “opportunistic”, then I apparently don’t understand the meaning of that word.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (which I think does know the meaning of that word), opportunistic means “to unethically take immediate advantage of a situation for personal benefit.”
What the hell is U.S. Soccer doing describing a goal as “opportunistic”. If there had been some huge stroke of luck that resulted in the goal, then the adjective would be proper. But what happened wasn’t luck or dishonesty.
After Spain had twice drilled the crossbar in the second half (and Guzan had made a fantastic point blank save), Xavi took the ball at the top of the box and simply juked the shorts off both Onyewu and Bocanegra. He then raced into the middle and perfectly placed the ball in the lower left corner past Guzan. It wasn’t opportunistic. It was artistic, tactical and ultimately agonizingly unstoppable.
It’s OK to lose to the fourth best team in the World. It’s not the worst thing to ever happen. But just don’t bend the truth to make it into some big step forward. It’s a baby step at best.
Did we play better than last week? Yes. But then again, if we hadn’t, we likely would have lost 4-0 and no one would have wanted to show their face this weekend against Argentina. We created more chances than at Wembley, but in the end, they were just that, “chances.”
Ironically, a chance is defined as “a favorable set of circumstances, or an opportunity.” Oh, so I get it now, the U.S. played well because they created opportunities, but Spain won because they were “opportunistic”. All this word play is confusing.
How ’bout we just let our play do the talking for us then?