So, I’m admittedly not a huge soccer buff, but I certainly respect the sport AND I can definitely appreciate a rowdy, exciting, adrenaline-pumping, unexpected game with loads of athletic skill. Last Wednesday, I watched the Confederations Cup Semi-Final between the US and top-ranked Spain. The U.S. Soccer team vanquished the Spanish team that had not lost since November of 2006. Led by their defense, the Americans capitalized on their physical play and opportunistic goals to beat the Spaniards 2-0.
So how does the low-ranked US national team defeat the best team in the world? Maybe because they actually played them like they wanted to win instead of just waiting to swap jerseys and get their Spanish autographs. Landon Donovan, a US team veteran agrees, “Most teams respect them a little too much and back off of them, I think we did a good job being harder and more aggressive than most teams.”
I couldn’t agree more. The Americans were diving in front of goal shots, challenging and hustling for every possession, and actually putting a body on the Spanish strikers and defensemen. They were scrappy and poised and made the best team in the world look ineffectual and weak. These are the same Spanish athletes that start for the best soccer teams in England, Spain, and Italy. Their American counter-parts don’t receive the same appreciation; they play as back-ups for less-touted European teams or play in America’s beleaguered MLS. This was the practice team trouncing the starters or the Washington Senators walloping the Harlem Globetrotters. The underdogs beat the champs.
Goal-keeper Tim Howard looked like a brick-wall in net, while attackers Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey looked so goal-hungry that they forgot all about how great Spain was supposed to be. At this level of soccer, it seems everyone’s good, everyone’s in shape – sometimes it just comes down to who wants it more. Team captain Carlos Bocanegra came back from injury and helped stabilize the defense and give confidence to attack. Oguchi Onyewu won just about every physical contest in the box and made the Spanish strikers think twice. The unwarranted red card for Michael Bradley, the coach’s kid, means that he’ll be unable to bring his tireless play in the final against Brazil on Sunday, June 28, 1:30pm (central).
All in all, daily newspapers around the world had their sport sections dominated by the American upset over the Spanish, except of course in America. But armed with my new found love for this sport, I believe that we can change all that… tomorrow is the first FIFA final the American men’s team has ever been in, why don’t we all watch it and witness American soccer get some international props.
What did you think of this review?