There were two United States Men’s National Team games yesterday. One was good. One was bad.
The senior national team went full Mel Gibson in Payback against Guatemala in Columbus, avenging their horrendous loss to the same team just four days earlier, doling out a 4-0 drubbing to the La Azul y Blanco. Dempsey, Cameron, Zusi, and Atlidore were all on the scoresheet. Hometown Hero Ethan Finlay was denied a dream goal by a horrendous offside call – us USMNT fans call this being CONCACAF’d. And 17 year-old wonderkid Christian Pulisic – he plays for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga – became the youngest American to play in a World Cup Qualifier, which ties him to the United States forever and always.
With this win the USMNT swung from fighting for their qualification lives to having the chance to wrap up a spot in the Hex with two wins in September. Such is World Cup Qualification.
It is bittersweet for many Yanks fans as it all but ensures we will be going to Russia 2018 with Klinsmann at the helm. Unless he totally goes against all evidence he has thus far provided by championing a consistent formation, and playing our guys in their natural positions, it will be a nervy World Cup Qualification and Tournament proper (assuming we achieve qualification). At the very least, we are able to bypass the dread of Hex qualification failure. That is good.
The U23s – or Lil’ Nats as I like to call them (some like to call them the Baby Nats but that should only be reserved for U20s and below IMHO) – flammed out of their last hope for Olympic Qualification in rolling over for Colombia in Frisco. Giving up 70% of possession is never a good idea, and committing terrible turnovers and various other bad decisions makes it damn near impossible to win. We did those things and lost.
The match was super chippy, as is expected against any Central or South American side, but the US could not hold their composure, receiving two red cards – although the game was pretty much over beforehand anyway. The U23 side came in needing to win or draw 0-0 to progress. That was too tall a task for our boys. Horvath made a few fantastic saves in goal to keep hopes alive, but poor passing and defensive letdowns made it only a matter of time before Colombia took total control.
It is sad enough for us fans that we do not get to cheer on the USA men in Rio, but the worst part is that this group of players are missing out on a high level international tournament that would have provided experiences and challenges not found elsewhere. That is bad.
In all, the highs and lows of last night pretty well sum up what it is like to root for the USMNT. (Getting two USA Soccer games in one night, which occurred twice in four days, was amazing. I feel sorry for those who felt watching the GOP Town Hall/Shit Circus was a better way to spend their evening.) We talk ourselves into the promise of young talent, and are encouraged by the progress we have made as a soccer nation. And then we are hit with the extreme disappointment of failing to live up to expectations, and missing golden opportunities to develop towards where we all think we should be. Well, that’s sports. And, really, that’s life.
But we won’t give up. We love our players and teams and country. We will always scream till our lungs shutter, and we will continue to hope against all odds. We are compelled; we are called; we are hopelessly devoted.
Come on you Yanks.
by Michael H.FOLLOW THE OPEN FIELD