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Great Expectations of U.S. Soccer

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  • Great Expectations of U.S. Soccer

    Great expectations of U.S. soccer
    Sean Wheelock / Fox Soccer Channel

    For those of us who began avidly following the United States before 1990, Wednesday's 2-1 victory away to Trinidad & Tobago seems like something of a dream.

    It wasn't just that the U.S. won their opening match in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualification, it's that they did it with such poise, confidence, and relative ease, in a pretty difficult place to gain a result.

    Now, I'm not kidding myself into thinking that beating Trinidad & Tobago in Port of Spain is like defeating France in Paris or Brazil in Sao Paulo, but a win away from home in CONCACAF is a quality win. And until relatively recently, they didn't happen all that often for the U.S.

    Last week, I interviewed Bob Gansler about America's victory vs. Trinidad & Tobago, which resulted in qualification for the 1990 World Cup. The U.S. of course was not supposed to win that match, or even come close to giving the Soca Boyz an actual challenge.

    At the time it ranked as this country's biggest win in international soccer since the 1-0 defeat of England at the 1950 World Cup. Now, not even a generation later, I am going to treat a 2-1 victory in Port of Spain as, dare I write this, expected. Has American soccer really come that far?

    I'm actually bracing myself for the columns and comments of the soccer media who will proclaim that the U.S. wasn't dominant enough in that match; that the scoreline should have been more decisive. Perhaps they should be reminded of the years 1951 through 1988 when wins, home or away, were neither plentiful nor expected.

    As the United States closes in on a fifth consecutive World Cup appearance, it's important to consider a time not that long ago, when even one trip to soccer's biggest event would have been regarded as a miracle. In fact, the berth in Italia 1990 was considered just that. Now a place in Germany 2006 is not only expected, it's demanded.

    As I watched the match develop from Port of Spain, I could scarcely believe how comfortable and dominant the U.S. squad looked. I had to continually remind myself that Trinidad & Tobago is a very solid squad, with a Premiership goalkeeper, Shaka Hislop of Portsmouth; a defender who starts for Rangers, Marvin Andrews; and two of the best strikers to come out of CONCACAF in the past 20 years, Dwight Yorke and Stern John.

    I also had to remind myself that Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain is a very difficult place for an away side to play, as they have to contend with passionate supporters, sweltering temperatures and a pitch, used predominately for cricket, that is both massive, and well, not exactly of the highest standard. Yet, here was the U.S., dominating the match, and looking very much the favorites.

    The United States is now into its fourth year unbeaten by a CONCACAF nation. For this cycle of World Cup Qualification, the U.S. has outscored the opposition 21-6. Against the two biggest rivals in the Confederation, Mexico and Costa Rica, America has lost just two of its last 13 matches.

    This country has players at clubs in the highest divisions in England, Germany, and Holland, some of whom can't even make the current squad. And yet, with all of this evidence, it still comes as something of a highly pleasant surprise to see the U.S. so comfortably handle a match like the one on Wednesday.

    I know that when at full-strength (or even close to it), the United States is a world-class squad, capable of beating any nation. I just have to pinch myself to believe it on occasion. Why?

    Deep down, I think that all of us who support the U.S. squad, with a memory that pre-dates World Cup 1994, worry about becoming spoiled and complacent. We don't want to take any success for granted.

    But perhaps in the evolution of a soccer nation, results need to be expected, not just hoped for. Wins should be treated as commonplace, even those away from home in a World Cup Qualifier. Were Brazilians really surprised when their team won the last World Cup? Of course not, they would have been surprised to lose.

    It's going to take some time for me to affect this "ho-hum, another U.S. victory" pose. Next time out, I'll try to act as though I knew that this would be the case, so there's nothing to get that worked up over. But for now, I'll revel in the fact that the U.S. has gone away from home in a World Cup qualifier, and emerged victorious.

    Come to think of it, next time out is away to Mexico, and a positive result will make me deliriously happy, thus blowing my cover.

    I think it's going to take some time to become a complacent American soccer fan. My memory is just too long and vivid, but my expectations are slowing moving on up.

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  • 01d 0rd3r
    World Cup time
    by 01d 0rd3r
    As everyone knows it is world cup time, which mean that one of the biggest sporting events in the world will be going on for the next month. So I am interested, if you watch the World Cup what country to you want to win. I have been an Italian fan since I was little, and look forward to a repeat by the Azzuri. What team is everyone else watching.
    -06-12-2010, 09:10 AM
  • evil disco man
    Devastated By U.S. World Cup Team's First-Round Loss, Nation Grinds To Halt
    by evil disco man
    Devastated By U.S. World Cup Team's First-Round Loss, Nation Grinds To Halt
    June 15, 2006
    Onion Sports

    NEW YORK, LOS ANGELES, and WASHINGTON, DC—With the Dow Jones average down over 600 points, factory productivity in a downward spiral, and workplace attendance down by nearly a third, experts say the U.S. World Cup team's heartbreaking 3-0 defeat at the hands of Czech Republic on Monday has brought life across the soccer-crazed nation to a virtual standstill.
    Enlarge ImageDevastated By U.S. World Cup Team's First-Round Loss, Nation Grinds To Halt

    "What happened in Gelsenkirchen has indeed dealt a grievous blow to the morale of the American people," said President Bush, who had promised his constituency a swift and speedy victory in the World Cup this year and whose popularity has taken a 9 percent hit since the U.S. team's loss. "I want the citizens of this great nation, the world's only remaining superpower, to know that I grieve alongside them and urge them to be strong in our hour of darkness, and urge them to return to their jobs and schools despite their heavy hearts."

    Mere days ago, the feeling across the nation was one of great joy, eager anticipation, and optimism for the prospects of the most talented American team to ever take the field. It is estimated that over 85 percent of U.S. households were watching the USA–Czech Republic matchup. And going into the game that most Americans have been waiting for, analyzing, and all but living for during the past four years, schools, offices, shopping centers—everything, in fact, except vital services—closed their doors as the game began.

    Now, days after the end of penalty time, many of those doors are still closed.

    "I take full responsibility for losing the game," said Claudio Reyna, whose shot off the crossbar of the Czech goal as the U.S. trailed 1-0 in the opening half of play has been shown to coincide with a significant bump in the suicide rate, a momentary increase in reports of domestic violence, and a $0.45 increase in the per-gallon price of gasoline. "But we still have games to play in this opening round. I realize that the United States, more than any other country, loves this game. But that is no reason for so many people to cancel their weddings."

    The general feeling of hopelessness may be felt across the United States, the nation the rest of the world thinks of as Pelé's adopted home, the land that popularized the term "soccer," and Americans are finding many different ways to voice their despair.

    Hundreds of yards of black bunting hung over the head and arms of the Statue of Liberty has yet to be removed by the New York City Parks Department; similar shrouds have appeared on Mount Rushmore, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Hawaii's Pearl Harbor Memorial. Las Vegas casinos are running skeleton staffs at the tables...
    -06-15-2006, 08:19 PM
  • txramsfan
    U.S. tries to close in on World Cup Berth
    by txramsfan

    EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - Claudio Reyna is rested, and ready to help lead the United States closer to a World Cup berth.

    He skipped a pair of World Cup qualifiers in early June, drawing some criticism from Bruce Arena. But the U.S. coach now praises the decision by his captain, who wanted to heal from leg injuries and get ready for what he hopes will be 12 straight healthy months that will take him through next year's World Cup.

    "I just needed a rest. I wanted to get my body right," he said Tuesday, a day ahead of the Americans' World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago.

    The 32-year-old midfielder missed much of last season with Manchester City because of leg injuries and has played just once with the national team since September, the 2-1 loss at Mexico in a World Cup qualifier in March.

    He missed the game against Guatemala three days later because of a sprained ankle, then wanted a seven-week rest after the English Premier League season ended. Reyna spent the time with his family in the Hamptons and the Caribbean.

    "Being injured for so long is a lot worse mentally than when you're playing and having to deal with just trying to play well," he said. "I was looking at the big picture, the long term. I didn't want to just play through injuries and not really be fit. I think it benefits me and the team if I'm fully fit and mentally rested. I felt I needed it. It was hard because I've never taken a break from the national team since I was 20."

    The U.S. captain most of the time he's been on the field since 1999, he also was captain of Manchester City for the first time last Saturday, filling in while regular captain Sylvain Distin is sidelined for the opening month.

    "He's been our most consistent player that's played in Europe and has played at the highest level for a long time," Landon Donovan said. "He doesn't yell at people. He doesn't say much, but he's just calming. Our team constantly wants to go, go, go, and he's the guy that knows when to settle it down. But he also knows when to go. You always want him on the ball. He's going to make things happen. It's invaluable."

    Arena says Reyna looks fit and thinks the rest was beneficial.

    "The young player look up to him," the coach said. "The older players obviously are friends with him and he brings confidence to the group."

    The United States (4-1) is second in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region with 12 points, one behind Mexico (4-0-1), and can move to the verge of qualifying for its fifth straight World Cup.

    Costa Rica (2-2-1), which plays at Mexico, is third with...
    -08-17-2005, 02:15 PM
  • txramsfan
    Keller settles in as US Goalkeeper
    by txramsfan

    That's Kasey Keller in my avatar

    During his career in Europe, U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller has lived in big cities and out in the country, and the move to a new country also brought about a new living experience: In a castle.

    "It's a small castle, like a mini-resort," Keller says of his abode in the western part of Germany, between Dusseldorf and Moenchengladbach. "It has a steam room, a Jacuzzi. Not a bad deal." (Related item: Glimpsing at Keller's career)

    Keller's wife, Kristin, found the thousand-year-old castle, which is normally rented out for short-term stays and special events. A bit of lobbying was all it took to move in the Kellers and their twin children, Cameron and Chloe, who celebrated their eighth birthdays last Friday just before Dad left to join his U.S. teammates for a crucial CONCACAF World Cup qualifier vs. Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN Classic; Telemundo).

    A win by either country clinches a berth in the 2006 World Cup.

    "They just think it's normal," Keller says of a career that has taken him to several locales in England as well as Spain and Germany and almost Turkey. "When they go back somewhere and tell people they were born in London and then moved to Madrid and then we moved back to London and then we moved to Germany and lived in a castle for a while, it'll be interesting when they look back on it. That's when it will really sink in."

    During the past few months, what has sunk in is the fact that Keller, who for more than a decade dueled with Brad Friedel for the starting U.S. goalkeeper's job, is No. 1. He has made stellar saves throughout qualifying and has a 417-minute shutout streak over four games.

    Although Keller has been a member of the U.S. team since 1990 and has played 87 times for the national team, not until Friedel retired from the team last winter did coach Bruce Arena publicly declare that at last the U.S. team had an undisputed No. 1 goalkeeper. A win Saturday would give Keller, who is No. 1 in almost every statistical category for goalkeepers - from shutouts to World Cup games and qualifiers played - his 50th with the U.S. team.

    Stuck on the bench

    If the 2006 World Cup is anything like the 2002 version, the Americans will need superb goalkeeping. Somewhat lost during the giddy march to the quarterfinals, in which the USA lost a tight 1-0 decision to eventual runner-up Germany, was the seven goals conceded in five matches.

    Friedel saved two penalty kicks - only the second time that feat had been accomplished in the tournament's history - and rescued his teammates on a few other occasions with superb stops.
    -08-31-2005, 06:23 AM
  • RamDez
    Upcoming World Cup (soccer)
    by RamDez
    Anyone into soccer, whats yer thoughts on the coming world cup ??
    -02-14-2002, 03:45 PM