Some say that the interest generated by the World Cup and our own National team is due to the increased immigrant population where soccer is the only game. Ann Coulter recently published an article ridiculing soccer fans and young soccer players. Others who have never investigated the “beautiful game” are quick to opine that soccer is boring, silly, overrated, etc. So, what is the U.S “mindset” towards this particular team?
Huge crowds have been gathering in outdoor viewing spots all across the country. ESPN reported the U.S.-Germany match drew a viewer audience larger than any World Series game from 2013. WatchESPN also reported record “plug-ins” on the internet. Several that I’ve spoken with, who are not soccer fans, are watching mainly because our country is playing. Success breeds success and as long as the US is winning, people all across the country will watch.
The most popular player in U.S. soccer history, Landon Donovan, was left off of the roster, causing some in soccer circles to question Jurgen Klinsmann’s judgment. A final roster of 23 players, five of which are German-Americans, a team with no less than 4 center backs, no backup for target players Jozy Altidore and only four players with World Cup experience have also generated a great deal of second guessing Klinsmann.
However, an escape from the most seemingly most difficult group has moved the U.S. into the final 16 and caused a momentary elevation of this coach’s work. A surprising win against Ghana, a win over Portugal that was lowered to a tie in the last moments of the game and a very respectable 1-0 loss to Germany earned the U.S. national team its meeting today with Belgium.
Klinsmann has crafted this team into his own image, sold it to his players and is now selling it to America and the world. The first three games have revealed what’s good and what’s bad about this team. Make no mistake, the U.S. in attacking has players that can deliver high quality play. With Altidore back, Clint Dempsey can drop back to his recessed forward position and that will mean more creativity in going forward. Michael Bradley was moved up to an attacking mid position but has resulted in erratic, if not disappointing play. With a return to his position, it is hoped that Bradley will resume his rock solid play as a defending mid.