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.