Wednesday, June 24, 2009

U.S. 2: Esp 0

So with a good helping of luck, some hard men in the back and a touch of skill it turns out that a rank outsider can beat the best soccer team in the world.

Today's victory over Spain has to be considered one of the most stunning results in U.S. soccer history. While beating Mexico was considered miraculous in the day, the USMNT has pretty much owned El Tri over the past ten years, suggesting that the level of play in CONCACAF (while still pretty much wallowing down there with Asia and the better teams in Oceania) has levelled out, with the U.S., Mexico, El. Salvador and Honduras the pick of the litter.But this wasn't Mexico at the Azteca; it was the monster, the red-and-yellow beast that has swallowed European soccer whole and been chewing on it for the past three years, the Seleccion d'Espana. This isn't just David and Goliath; this is David whipping the Giant of Gath's feet out from under him and then doing one of those Buffy under-the-arm-backhand stabs to the heart.

Not since the days of Joe Gaetjens has the USMNT done anything like this. Admittedly, the goals were freakish (mind you, Gaetjens' was, too); Altidore got away with some pretty dicey pushing and then managed to riccochet the shot in off the Spanish keeper's right hand, Clint Dempsey should, frankly, be hunting up Ramos, the Spanish defender who managed to completely lose his composure six yards from his goal and tee the ball up so the Clintster could turn on it and slot the thing in, a shot a U-6 would have had a hard time missing. And, yes, the Spanish had most of the run of play, most of the shots, and Howard and the U.S. backline had to play like madmen to keep the clean sheet.

But the point is, they did. They DID. For the first time in history, a USMNT will play in a FIFA championship final.Somewhere where the fields are always green and level, the referees always knowledgable and fair, and the fans always rowdy and happy, Joe Gaetjens is juggling a ball with a little smile on his face.

And so do I.


  1. So there I was in this Sushi resteraunt having a fix of hot sake, unagi, and a california roll and what should be on the TV behind the bar but a soccer game.... ESP 0 - USA 1.

    I blinked and thought WTF... !?

    And just then this dude slops in goal #2.

    I thought maybe the wasabe had me hallucinting.

  2. Solid game, though. This wasn't some sort of freakish, 1-nil-own-goal win. The U.S. goals were the reault of some sloppy Spanish goalkeeping and defending, but the U.S. had to make those errors happen by attacking, which they did. Their was actually a touch of creative play from the usually woeful U.S. midfield, and, as I mentioned, the back line and Howard were rocks.

    But the big show is yet to come. We'll have to see how they do against Brazil on Sunday...

  3. Soccer?
    When did this happen?

    Chief, you would have loved being down here in the Bay Area when a few of the games of the World cup was being held here. The Brazilians were travelling up and down 101 with huge flags, the Germans were all decked out in their colors, and pretty much the world had come to the Bay Area!
    But, as I found later from the people I work with...the big News story the world was focusing in on was how ambivalent the host country was to soccer.
    Not that there were "some" Americans interested, but on a whole American society here in the Bay Area was just plain, "what?"
    In one interview I saw, which still cracks me up, was a European reporter asking average American Joe, "Have you been following the football games, and what are your thoughts?"
    He had this confused look on his face and he said, "what? it's not football season yet!"

    And I'll have to confess that I still think of soccer as a School sports and little league games for kids. Of course, I stopped watching professional sports a while ago...still, I like going to the baseball games once in a grand while to PACbell park...when the weather is nice, but thats just to hang out, eat garlic fries, and have a beer or two and watch the game.

  4. Sheerah: I won't apologize for my unAmerican intererst in "the world's game". Between them, greed, cost, overexposure and pharmaceuticals pretty much killed my interest in the American Big Two (base- and football). I enjoy hockey and lacrosse (mostly because I like to skate and I played lax in college) but I found soccer in my forties and like most loves that come late in life, I tend to be intemperate about it.

    If pressed for a justification for writing a soccer post to a military- and political-issues blog, my defense would be that your Bay Area 'Niners fan's ignorance of footy ties in well with the issues I was talking about downpage a bit, about how many of our foreign adventures are cursed by our national inability to see beyond our own little cabbage patch. If we were Spain or Bolivia or Bhutan, that wouldn't matter. But because we're the U.S. our national activities play out on the world stage, and our ignorance handicaps us from being our own rulers as should be the case in a genuine republic.

    Our national soccer team represents the U.S. in a game that is, for much of the world, a serious expression of national pride. If for no other reason, a well-informed American should at least be aware of the implications of our performance in the sport.

  5. Well, as I understand it, our terms of agreement allow for posts regarding virtually anything under the sun. So, Chief, you don't get hammered—at least by me—for doing a soccer post, instead of something with a little more heft. Besides, you get jingoist points here, so I'd say this was a pertinent and timely post.

    A very well written and interesting post, too. But, really. Soccer? You like watching grass grow?

  6. Publius: Rather than grass growing, a good nil-bil match is more like watching a baseball game where one pitcher is throwing a no-hitter. As the game goes on, the release of every pitch becomes more intense; will THIS bring the hit that breaks up the no-hitter? Am I watching a perfect game? Slowly every pass, every tackle, is important; is he going to see yellow for that? Was that a corner or a goal kick?

    I'll be the first to admit that a crap match is boring as watching paint dry - I left the Brazil-South Africa game in the 78th minute because Brazil was dire and the South Africans just outclassed.

    But, for a fan, there's always something to enjoy. I'll be the first to admit that I find most of professional football pretty bland. The game has become so slick, the teams play so similarly, that I get bored between snaps. But I have friends who watch every down like an investment banker watching the Dow. So for me, it's same-same. I can enjoy watching two forwards trying to deke past the fullback in a meaningless 1-1 midweek game, just to savor the skill the guys have, with something of the same enjoyment I get out of a terrific world cup final.