My good friend JP coaches 3-year old soccer in McKinney, TX.
While he may not be uniquely qualified to offer definitive words on Tuesday’s USA vs. BEL game, he is indeed more qualified than I.
If asked to sum up this World Cup for the USMNT in one word I simply say “Progress”. Though there is still much work to be done over the next several years, to look at this cup as anything but a step in the right direction is to ignore the growth that US soccer has had both in this tournament and as a major sport in this country.
Now, I’m not sure which side of the Landon Donovan/Group of Death/Doom & Gloom you were on in May, but I’m sure it’s all conveniently forgotten now. Talk of Jurgen Klinsmann’s power play has since given way to a progress play. 19-year old Julian Green is a young star waiting to shoot. The future is undoubtedly bright for USMNT.
So what’s next?
Well 10 MLS players will head back to the States to rejoin their professional clubs for next week. Diskerud will head to Norway to rejoin Rosenborg. Beasley, who plays in Mexico, and the European-based players will get a little bit of time off before their seasons begin toward the fall.
USMNT has a friendly against the Czech Republic, but it’s a friendly, so I’ll smile a little and move on.
Prime time kicks off again in 2015. There are a lot of competitions that begin with Cs, and then the United States will host the 2016 Copa America Centenario. The Washington Post tells me “This will be a pretty big deal.” I believe them. Moving on.
2016! As in 2016 Olympics. Back in beautiful Brazil. A chance for soccer to once again capture the national consciousness. Of course, this is assuming we qualify.
Let’s take it back to 2012. To another close game decided in stoppage time on a March night in Nashville:
The Americans had only a handful of seconds left to run out the clock and advance a step closer to the Olympics. With the pressure building with each tick, the victory slipped right through their hands.
The United States, known for producing top goalkeepers such as Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller and Tim Howard, found itself done in Monday night when substitute Sean Johnson couldn’t handle a long shot from Jaime Alas of El Salvador in stoppage time.
The ball bounced off his hands, up over him and into the net, and El Salvador ousted the United States from Olympic qualifying with a 3-3 tie.
The stunned Americans missed the Olympics for the second time since 1976 and second time in three games.
But wait, we have Tim now, right? And Beasley and Dempsey, Beckerman and all his dreads. Right? Wrong.
Men’s soccer rosters at the Olympics are U-23, or made up of players under 23 years old, with three exceptions per nation. That’s right! A little something I like to call age discrimination, now that I’m about to hit my quarter century.
While three overage players are allowed at the Olympics, the qualification rosters must be all U23s. Should the U.S. qualify for 2016 with a strong U23 goalie effort, it might be tough to bench him for a player who did not help the nation qualify. And what would the purpose be of using one of those three overage roster spots on a backup goalie?
Klinsmann’s got his work cut out for him. Still, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more and more of these: