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Soccer Fri Jun 25 2010

The Arrival - USA Into the Round of 16 of World Cup

Landon-Donvan-Algeria-Goal.jpg

American Soccer has arrived in a dramatic and unprecedented way. Over the course of the past two weeks the excitement surrounding the USMNT campaign in South Africa has grown into an ecstatic orgy of adoration. Lando and Co. won the top spot of their group, felling giants and overcoming injustices to realize one of the most dramatic runs in United States sports history.

Landongoal.jpg

This is not a fluke, our boys have not gotten lucky. Their success so far has been built on the collective determination of a team whose character has shone through on the world's largest stage. Boss Bob Bradley molded the identity of a team that left the 2006 tournament with an air of disgrace. His tenure has been marked by quiet and poised surety, he exudes a stoic confidence that seems to have enveloped the mentality of the entire team. The team's 11th hour victory against Algeria showed the world what mental-toughness meant, never surrendering even past the 90th minute, and Landon Donovan's fateful strike was the glorious reward for their virtue.

France Implode.jpg

The character of the USMNT is remarkable especially in contrast to our tournament contemporaries. France was disgraceful, literally imploding into itself. They were a Shakesperian tragedy, replete with deceptions, mutinies, and warring factions. Patrice Evra led a boycott of training, Nicolas Anelka engaged manager Raymond Domenech with the foulest of language to earn himself an early flight home. The shocking sum of their behavior and performance has prompted President Sarkozy to involve himself. He's instigated a wide round of firings in the French Football Association, and called Thierry Henry to the Elysee Palace for a full accounting of the travesty.

terry conference.jpeg

England have been no better. Disgraced ex-captain John Terry staged a challenge to Fabio Capello's authority in a one man press conference. You might remember Terry's name from his pre-cup intrigues of sleeping with a teammate Wayne Bridge's ex (and mother of his child). Terry attempted to stage an Evra-esque coup in front of a room full of reporters. Capello squashed the situation with a firm Italian fist, but the damage has been done, and England look the worse for it.

We are not these teams. And while we don't field a team of blue collar workers like the equally commendable and newly awesome All-Whites, our players act like winners and not pack of backbiting millionaires. There is a culture of pride being fostered in the USA locker room, and it earned USA the top spot in Group C, standing firmly on the neck of the vaunted English.

The nation has responded in kind. American fans are setting television ratings records, creating new ones for the internet, and beating out every other nation in tickets sold. After the win over Algeria, we broke the internet with our fits of joy. Mere minutes after the victory, praising editorials poured forth from every media outlet from the New York Times to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Blogs were awash in photos and videos of jubilant fans, and even more jubilant players. The indelible image of Landon Donovan's celebration run to the corner flag and the family pile-on will last in the ether of American sports for a long time to come.

Corner Pile.jpg

If this all reads like fawning hyperbole, that's because it should. Drink it up America, bathe in it. We have become the story of this World Cup, acquitting ourselves in the most spectacular of fashions, and have earned the right to hold up a new set of heroes. There are still plenty of detractors to this soccer phenomenon, but their petulance reads like childish jealousy. For the merest of moments, once every four years soccer pushes its way into the American spotlight--it just so happens that this time around our team has been a revelation, and the sport is making more converts daily. Let the contrarians shout, it just gives Team USA another canyon to jump, and to tell the truth--we've looked pretty damn good doing that so far.

 
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Laura smith / June 25, 2010 12:47 PM

I'm an everton fan so have been watching the USA games and supporting donovan and Howard and now the team, your boys have what our English team had years ago before the money and egos took over, a passion an pride to be playing for their country in an amazing tournament, I just hope it becomes as popular in the USA as it is here as your team deserve a heroes welcome when they return!

Ian / June 25, 2010 6:10 PM

What a tournament it has been! The beautiful game is already America's game! Bring on Ghana tomorrow!!!

Pavel Y. / June 26, 2010 12:37 PM

I'm picking USA to beat Ghana, too. Why stop now, right?

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