It was appointment television for me. I could have recorded it, but instead I wanted to see it live. The U.S. National team had high expectations going into the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Then they actually played a game that counted.
The opener against the Czech Republic was about everything that American’s hate in a sporting event. No scoring by the home team, getting hammered by the opponent and showing very little fight in the process.
Where were those “stars” of American soccer when their country needed them?
I heard all kinds of reasons for why the Czechs won 3-0. The Americans were flat, the Czechs were more ready. They were bigger and tougher. Baloney. What, did we not know we were going to play on June 12th? (It’s about the only time a writer or broadcaster can use the word “we”.)
Anyway, I found myself in front of the television at noon anticipating our breakout game against the Czech Republic on the big stage.
And then nothing.
I was yelling at the television right at the sixth minute when the Czechs took a 1-0 lead on what looked like a non-hustle play by the American defense. They lost track of the Czech forward, and nobody contested the cross closely enough. Having followed professional soccer since the early ‘80’s when I was the voice of the NASL’s Jacksonville Team Men, it was tough to watch this game in comparison to the others I’ve seen the Americans play, even when they were just a bunch of college kids it seemed like there was more effort involved.
It feels like people in the States want to care about soccer on the world stage. The MLS has a mild following, but with some of the top American players on English and European teams, there’s some talent on the US squad. It just didn’t show up today against the Czechs.
It was right there in front of them, facing a highly ranked national team (the Czechs are ranked #2 in the world, the US fifth) on national television at noon on the east coast. How could the team be flat? How could they not have energy? This is what the American sporting interest wants from a team wearing the red, white and blue: effort and energy. Yes we want to win, but even when it was curling in Torino during the Winter Games, all we wanted was effort and energy. Look like you’re trying. Instead, on the big stage, the “stars” laid an egg in the worst possible manner. With high expectations come crashing lows, and that’s where the US is right now.
Our team disappointed us, made us look bad and validated everybody’s thoughts about soccer in the US, especially those outside of the country. We were awful and lost in Europe, again. In fact, our national team has never won in Europe. I know our top athletes aren’t choosing soccer. What would it be like if Dwayne Wade was our striker? Or Tim Duncan our goalkeeper? Or if we had Derek Jeter at midfield and Ray Lewis as our sweeper? It would be a very different story, but right now, it is what it is.
And it’s not good.
Maybe they’ll prove us different against Italy on Saturday but after watching their game this afternoon, Ghana is no pushover either.