Excuse me while the diehard USA soccer fan kicks the snot out of me for what I’m about to say.
I want to say Tuesday’s 2-1 loss was a travesty. I want to relish in this feeling of despair, repeating over and over again that we deserved more from a national team that had flown out of the starting gate with a demolishing of arch-enemy Ghana.
Yet, that’s not true.
While all of America held its collective breaths as the Yanks pored in the disheartening crosses, almost all of which seemed innocent and pointless, it dawned on me that we were losing to a better team.
“But the ref was atrocious and the single minute of stoppage time was a bigger joke than George Carlin could tell.” my heart shouts.
Yet in all of the fiery fury, I can’t help but admit that 2014 was a success.
Let me make one thing clear, though.
Unlike all of the other pundits, who will point to the opponents that we played and shout from the rooftops how getting out of the group stage was a momentous achievement, I take solace in not what others did but what we did and the individuals that had Belgium trembling in their half-French half-Dutch boots for the last 14 minutes.
It’s too easy to sing praises of Tim Howard up and down Pennsylvania Avenue, so let’s start with the defense. It has always been the goat of the national team. Time and time again, defenders have shown their brute strength while unable to put together a soft touch on the ball. Or in other circumstances flail miserably at an easy clearance, laying the ball in the path for an opponent to knock it home. Geoff Cameron, I’m looking at you.
Yet, for 93 minutes they played like an impenetrable wall, clearing out crosses like their heads and feet were trampolines. It was glorious to watch for a fan that has seen his fair share of the defensive nightmares.
Fabian Johnson had to be the surprise of the tournament. When he left the field with an injury, I felt a weight drop in my stomach, but then I realized we had DeAndre Yedlin behind him on the depth chart. That right back position, which had been a disaster for years after the departure of Steve Cherundolo, is now one of the USA’s best and equipped with attacking prowess that this country has never seen in that part of the pitch.
On the other side was Demarcus Beasley, who I normally can’t stand to watch play. Beasley appeared in his fourth World Cup, something only he has done for the U.S., and this was clearly his best. I don’t know if he has the same disease as Benjamin Button, but Beasley looked nothing like he did when he first moved from attacker to defender in the early Bob Bradley years. He was absolutely menacing and balanced attack and defense in extraordinary fashion. The only mistake he made was on the final cross by Christiano Ronaldo, but let’s just pretend that didn’t happen for the rest of U.S. soccer history.
Next the midfield, where if someone would have said five years ago that the U.S. had enough depth to use five midfielders I would have called the psychiatric ward.
But unbelievable performance followed unbelievable performance and pretty soon each player had a huge hand in the results that the team achieved.
Well except for Michael Bradley, he was terrible.
The forwards did well. Still would have liked to seen some more of Aron Johansson, but Julian Green? Are you kidding me? (Pun because he’s 19 Haha). I’m sure he had at least one person say “Donovan who?” when we closed the gap on Belgium.
So here’s to the future. We’re in a lot better place than we were when we lost to Ghana in 2010, and maybe this team can achieve glory.
If not, at least we’ll have John Brooks, the man who can dream goals into reality and as his Wikipedia page pronouced is the greatest American since Abraham Lincoln.
God I love this country.