Friday, June 25, 2010

US Soccer: Bring on Ghana

Lets take a second to reflect.  We were three minutes from being eliminated and looking worse than when we did in 2006.  In the previous games we displayed more luck than talent.  Against Algeria, the Yanks displayed more talent and heart than ever seen before by an American team in the World Cup.  It all finally paid off in the goal heard round the world. 

Landon Donovan has shown in the past four years that he has all the leadership and talent needed to lead the Americans deep into the tournament.  Everything is going right for him right now, and he may even get back together with his estranged wife Bianca Kajlich (shes on Rules of Engagement, I avoid CBS at all costs) but I hope he worries about that till about, oh, July 12th.  He's right, hes had a rough 4 years (swine flu, David Beckham, rough qualifying, Mexico hates his guts) but its all starting to work out and it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

US Soccer has transformed so much over the last 20 years.  Taking a look back, the US team got third place in the first World Cup in 1930, in a tournament we wouldn't recognize nowadays.  Then a last place finish in 1934 led to a 16 year drought.  Then, like the revolutionary war, a bunch of farmers and cooks beat the professional redcoats English limeys 1-0.  Then, the Yanks disappeared until 1990.  The team was quite a mess, playing a few games here and there, being a franchise in NASL, and generally being a laughing stock of the world.  The team started to build back when they put together a young improving team and was rewarded the 1994 World Cup.  The MLS was started in 1993 (started play in 1996) and things were looking up.  Every MLS teams signs young American talent to develop and sell the European teams (Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley), with academies and decent minor league system in place.  The popularity has never been better, the league is expanding soon to 20 teams (three in Canada) and the league may even reach profitability soon.  Big matches like Wednesday vs Algeria only help to expand the fan base and recruit bigger sponsors for the team.  Look at the team in 1998 (all MLS vets) to right now.  Almost all the players on the current US squad play in Europe (or have at some point) and the English Premier League is starting soccer academies in the growing US market.  Things are only going to get better for the Stars and Stripes. 

History lesson over.  It is Summer, and because Summer credits cost so much more at WMU, I just can't hand out free knowledge.  Tomorrow is an interesting game.  Going into the tournament, I wanted out of the group play plus one win.  Now, here comes Ghana with a chance at redemption.  Ghana is far younger, faster and have more support in South Africa, but the underdog US team needs this to fuel their spirit.  Its a very winnable game, and once again the US will be called upon to beat a team it should.  Like my beloved Michigan State Spartans, winning games we should is pretty tough.  But this time, Donovan and company will bail the team out a la Bret Swenson.  US 2 Ghana 1.  GO YANKS!

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