Tuesday, June 30, 2009

U.S. Soccer Earns Worldwide Respect

I know it's hard to swallow.

Those who don't follow soccer religiously are probably conditioned to think that blowing a 2-0 halftime lead is a massive choke.

They aren't going to see it any other way, no matter the facts of the story.

In this case, it's not your normal "2-0 lead to 3-2 loss". The United States experienced this Sunday in the FIFA Confederations Cup final against Brazil.

It would be one thing if the Americans had blown a 2-0 lead against, say, Mexico. It might be the death of soccer in this country, with the sport barely having a pulse in many ways already.

This isn't disrespect toward Mexico, no matter how much they deserve it. Instead, it's a nod to how freaking good Brazil is.

After all, we could have been up 4-0 at halftime and still lost. They're just that good.

It brings to mind a major question: Is it choking when you lose a match to someone who is infinitely better than you are?

My answer is "No". The odds of the Americans slowing down the likes of Fabiano and Kaka for 90 minutes were about the same as the odds of Adam Sandler winning an Oscar for Best Actor after shooting a remake of Citizen Kane.

Brazil was too good for the "play defense and pray" mantra the United States used to hold off Spain in the semifinals. They were too fast to be allowed to attack relentlessly for over an hour of game time.

No matter what Team USA did, they were doomed. Their only shot was to get lucky and net a couple more goals, hoping that would be enough to get Brazil to give up. As long as they smelled blood, we were in trouble.

What does this mean for the World Cup? It means that there is real evidence -- not just conjecture -- that we can play with anyone in the world. A contending team is not too much to ask for next year in South Africa.

In fact, anything less than that will be a(nother) monumental disappointment.

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