If you told me a month ago the US would have four points after two games, I’d be satisfied.
A week ago, I’d be happy.
Tell me five minutes into the Portugal game, and I’d be thrilled.
So I don’t know why it’s so devastating now.
I’m not the biggest soccer fan in the world (a subject that I plan to get into more later), but having had not one, but two roommates from Seattle, one of the US’s few soccer hubs, during my time in college, I couldn’t help but get excited about this World Cup. And there’s been so much talk about Jurgen Klinsmann, 2013-2014 being the most popular and successful year the US has ever had in soccer, the “Group of Death” they drew into… By the time the Yanks finally kicked off against Ghana I was more excited about this than I’ve been about any sporting event since… Well, probably the last time the Huskers played a football game, to be honest. But the point still remains, I was ecstatic. And when Dempsey nudged the ball across in the 82nd minute last night, I literally jumped out of my seat. I never expected to have that reaction to a soccer match.
It was all there. A guaranteed ticket to the next round, a meaningless game against Germany that would let our stars rest if they needed it, proof that Jurgen was the Klinsmann for the job (please don’t punch me), and a marquee win on a world stage that could have done untold good for the popularity of the sport in the US.
And it all vanished in the twinkling of a Christiano Ronaldo cross.
There’s still a lot of good to be said about the game. The USA basically took Portugal’s game and shoved it back in their throats for 70 or more minutes. The fact that Portugal needed a desperation goal to tie it in the final thirty seconds, even with stoppage time being, ridiculously, five minutes long speaks volumes about how well the USA played.
But even though I’m new to soccer, I’ve been a sports fan long enough to know there are no moral victories. Just like there weren’t in the 2009 Confederations Cup, when the US led Brazil 2-0 at half, only to fade out in a 3-2 loss.
That night we found out that, bad as the Stars and Stripes can sometimes appear in a close game, they’re absolutely awful when defending a lead. Especially against elite competition.
Five years later, a different cup, a different team, a different result.
Somehow the same story.
The US team still isn’t capable of pushing an advantage. They sit on it and hope something good happens.
There are no moral victories, there is only tomorrow.
And the hope that the boys can do a better job moving on than I have.