Home Our World Cup is over: But this one felt different, didn’t it?
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Our World Cup is over: But this one felt different, didn’t it?

world-cupAnother World Cup has come and gone for USA Soccer. Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to Belgium in the Round of 16 was disappointing to millions of fans, most of them bandwagon jumpers, like me.

But that’s a good thing, right? And as a result, this one feels different, doesn’t it, than past early exits?

I don’t think there’s any question that this one was different. Past flameouts were almost expected, and we had our excuses at the ready. Yeah, well, we don’t care about soccer, anyway; the reason we lose is because our best athletes are playing other sports.

Deep in our heart of hearts, we knew the 2014 World Cup was an uphill climb for USMNT. Soccer expert that I’ve become the past three weeks, it was obvious against Belgium that the other side was superior, controlling the pace of play in the second half and in extra time, putting immense pressure on USA keeper Tim Howard, who nonetheless through near-superhuman effort kept the Belgians off the scoreboard in regular time, and gave his squad a chance at the monumental upset in the final minute of second-half stoppage time.

Chris Wondolowski had the ball on his foot and an almost entirely empty net in front of him in the 92nd minute, but was not able to guide the ball where it needed to go.

Goal there, the match is over, and USMNT steals one.

Alas, Belgium seized control with two goals in the first extra period, and though Julian Green made it interesting with a goal at the 107’ mark, and the US was able to generate several opportunities down the stretch, the moment was lost.

The surprising thing to the final result was our collective reaction: damn, missed opportunity; should have won that one.

Belgium had 38 shots, 27 on goal, to our 14 and 9, but we actually controlled the ball more (53 percent to 47 percent). We had the best chance to win in regular time.

Why not us?

People left the restaurant where I watched the match … yeah, disappointed. I’d even say a little pissed off.

Soccer is not our national sport. Tons of kids play it, soccer moms are a go-to political demographic, but there’s a ways to go before soccer supplants football, basketball, baseball. But those kids and their soccer moms and their mini-vans and orange slices are producing better players, and the hurt that we feel over losses like the one today will produce kids who want to be the generation that brings a World Cup title home to the homeland.

So, embrace those hurt feelings, that pain, that anger. Most of us won’t pay much attention to soccer until the 2018 World Cup; one of the newbies leaving the restaurant with me today said something about not caring about kickball again for four more years. But hey, dude was there, and the more of us who get together at restaurants and bars to watch USMNT play the world, who delight in our victories, who cry at our defeats, the better we’re going to get at kickball.

It will happen one day.

I. I believe. I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win!

Just not this year, unfortunately.

– Column by Chris Graham

 

 

 

 

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