Our beloved United States Men’s National Team of Soccer Players lost yesterday, ending their thrilling World Cup run. Only in America could we celebrate a team that overachieved by going 1-2-1 and only really outplaying their opponents once – in a game that ended a draw. Not-America’s version of football sure is cruel.
Even though we lost – multiple times – it was a fun ride. This was my second World Cup as a die hard USMNT fan. In May 2010 I saw the team lose in person to the Czech Republic in Connecticut. For the World Cup, I remember where I was for England’s own goal (a beer tent), Donovan’s extra time winner (a lounge in my old college’s activities center) and the Round of 16 loss to Ghana (hotel bar at my friends’ wedding). I have to assume I wasn’t the only new USMNT fan. It was really my first experience watching soccer on such a large scale. It was fun. I was happy to come back for more this year.
Here’s the thing – Did you know that at the 2006 World Cup our only point came in a 1-1 draw with Italy in the group stage and Italy won the World Cup in 2006? Did you know that at the 2002 World Cup we beat Portugal in the Group Stage and then went on to make the quarterfinals where we lost to Germany who lost in the Final to Brazil? And Landon Donovan was named the Top Young Player? How about the fact that in 1994 we qualified for the Round of 16 where we lost to eventual champion Brazil?
Yeah. Turns out the good ole U-S-of-A has been awesome at soccer for like 20 years now. This bandwagon has been around for two decades. This year basically overachieved and underachieved at the same time. The World Cup exit was understandable, but brutal. We nearly won and we should have been blown out. We lost and tied games we could have won. Won a game we should have lost. There are just so many emotions. That should be us kissing the girl. Stupid, sexy, Argentina.
Boy, does losing suck though. I watched the last 3 USMNT games at bars this WC. Each game ended with people just kind of wandering. “Well, what do we do now? Back to our regular lives? Pretending to care about mid-summer Yankees games?” The air just gets sucked out of the room when USA gives up a goal or loses. There is nothing as thrilling in sports than that moment when a goal is possible. Each goal is so rare and beautiful and you never know if any team will ever get that close again. It doesn’t matter if it goes in or not. It’s like seeing lightning strike a unicorn. A brief “OMG WHAT WAS THAT DID SOMETHING JUST HAPPEN I CAN’T BELIEVE IT” moment. It is either followed by joy, soul-crushing depression or relief depending on the result of the play and your rooting interest.
I can’t wait to experience it again in 4 years. For now, we only have our agony. And we should celebrate that agony because we pulled together as a country and tried to root for a winner. Someday we’ll win a World Cup. It might take 4 years or 40, but it will happen. Then we can look back at this and remember why it is so damn special. Because we’ve wanted it forever. And we’ll have proof.