All we can do now is believe

It’s so, so simple for us tomorrow. Just win. Just go out against a team that is less talented than we are and score one more goal than them.

But of course it’s not that simple, not for this team and not at the World Cup. In my entire lifetime, the US has won exactly three World Cup matches… out of 20.

Of course, few of these players have much to do with that record. Some do, of course, and worryingly, they seem to reside in our defense.

And yet, when I stop thinking about 2006 and 1998 and that same awful look of fear and cowardice we’ve grown to dread out of this team on the big stage, all I can think is… holy shit, there is a very good chance that not only will the US get out of the group stage, but they could well win the group. That could very well actually happen.

What does tomorrow’s game mean for American soccer in general? Practically nothing… I’ll save the cultural stuff for after the tournament, but the sport in this country is safe. Whatever happens, soccer will still exist in America on Elimination Day+1.

So really then, it’s just about those 11 or so guys and 90 minutes on the field. It’s about Landon Donovan deciding if he’s going to be like Michael Jordan or like Karl Malone. It’s about Michael Bradley proving to himself and the world that the world’s next great holding midfielder might not be from Italy or Spain, but might be from New Jersey instead. Finally, it’s about our defense showing that with some thought, composure, skill, and blind luck, they can play beyond the sum of their parts and, for once, bar the door shut at the back.

But for once, in a sport whose fans tend to obsess on the peripheral stuff, is a moment where none of that matters. At 10 am tomorrow, David Beckham doesn’t matter. TV ratings don’t matter. English press patronizing doesn’t matter. Sunil Gulati doesn’t matter. Guiseppe Rossi doesn’t matter. Jim Rome doesn’t matter. Don Garber doesn’t matter. Brian Ching doesn’t matter. None of it matters.

All that matters is that the US goes out and plays like we know it can play when it actually believes a win is possible. If the US does that and actually, finally, plays up to its true level then Algeria doesn’t stand a chance.

All I can do now is quote Herb Brooks, a far better speechwriter than I could ever hope to be.

To the players and coaches of the USA:

“This is your time, now go out there and take it.”

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6 thoughts on “All we can do now is believe

  1. “Practically nothing” betrays the assuaging of a fearful outlook, and one that I well understand. But, as a resident of Bing-town (Spokane), I not only want to e-lim-eye-nate the negative, but accentuate the positive.

    We have already managed half-[posterior protuberance]ed respectable, and the sport has enough momentum to not retrench into oblivion.

    But the opportunity to advance the ball into the attacking half lies in victory. The stuff you say doesn’t matter will matter even less if our boys do that.

  2. Great blog entry. Tomorrow’s game is, after all, just a game, but somehow it means everything. Here’s hoping our boys represent well.

  3. The guy who sits across from my cube at work is Indian and doesn’t really care for soccer (it’s not a knock on him, it’s who he is…), and he said yesterday, “Why do you care so much if the US win tomorrow. It’s just a game. A game that this country doesn’t dominate, so why will people care? They don’t care. When it’s over, no matter what happens, your life will go on.” The only thing I responded with was, “You just don’t understand. A win tomorrow will help to shut up all of those people who badmouth a sport I enjoy, and who say that we shouldn’t be involved in anyway because soccer is stupid and we suck at it.”

    I love my country and these players. When they scored the tying goal against Slovenia, I went apeshit at my desk. I didn’t yell, but I went nuts. These guys have me believing that they can do great things, and I think today’s match is just the beginning. We will win today, and move on. I don’t care if they win the group or not. I have faith that no matter who we would play in Group D, we can take them offensively enough that our defense won’t have to take the brunt of it. After beating Spain last year, I honestly believe we can hang with and beat anyone. The first step to doing that begins today, and today we’ll beat Algeria.

    USA! USA! USA!

  4. It’s important because we bleed with this team. We suffer with this team. And when something good happens, we rejoice. I am completely nervous about this game and almost can’t bring myself to watch.

    Almost.

  5. From disqualification to group leader in the 92nd minute. Do you still think this match means nothing in general for US soccer…(;-)

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