A demonstration of American strength in an ever-shifting geopolitical landscape.
For those of you who understand and appreciate the beautiful game, this post is for you. For those of you who still lack the mental fortitude to understand and appreciate the sport of the world, quietly drown yourselves in a toilet. Cheers.
Growing up between the U.S. & France, the contrasts of my upbringing were always glaringly displayed on the pitch. Stateside, I never really had an issue hanging with the guys I played soccer with, be it organized or pick-up. Some guys were bigger and faster, others were a bit more technically proficient, but overall we were basically on the same level.
The Apologist, Age 12, Buffalo Bisons Delaware Park Soccer League. Humorist. Video Game Enthusiast. Goalkeeper.
However, each summer, when soccer season was REALLY heating up, my mother would "drag" me to France to spend at least 1-2 months with my family over there to make sure I understood our heritage, spoke the language, and generally had a worldly perspective of life outside the confines of the Elmwood Village (the bad village, not the gentrified Spot Coffee Land you've all come to know and love. I'm talking about "hey man what muthafuckin TIME is it" turns into "gimme yo fucking BIKE" within 3 seconds Elmwood Village. Ahh, the early 90s.)
Vive la Difference.
Until I set foot on the dusty park pitches of Europe, I had NO clue what soccer was. I thought I understood what we were doing in Delaware Park, but apparently I had no idea. I saw kids 5-6 years younger than me doing tricks with their feet that I still cannot hope to do today, and I haven't seen them on an American pick-up field yet. Football was in their blood, and it showed. Literally every kid, boy or girl, plays over there. If you're good, you get picked up as young as 9 or 10 to play for an Academy, which then shepherds you through your education until you're good enough to play at an elite level. Here, you're lucky if the farthest you go is a partial college scholarship. There, you're groomed from grammar school into adulthood to play for club & country.
Laugh it up, but these LFC Academy players could probably run through the NCAA Men's Tournament.
With the gross disparity between American Soccer and European (& World) Football, I always rooted for the US Men's National Team with a grain of salt. The 2002 World Cup was spectacular, but I genuinely thought we were lucky to get as far as we did. I thought the 2006 Cup disaster was more the norm. Coming into the 2010 World Cup, I thought we would be outclassed by the bigger, stronger sides we drew in Group play.
If you don't get at least a little bit emotional watching the video above, you have the heart of a serial killer. Congratulations. You're Charles Manson.
But then something weird happened. We started to win. Yeah, we didn't make the semis. The game we lost to Ghana could have gone either way. We beat England. Landon Donovan provided the single greatest moment in USMNT history. For not winning the whole thing, that was the best tournament I've ever watched aside from the 1999 Tournament of Lord Stanley. It changed my entire perception of American footy, from the amount of people who lived and died with every passing minute to the increased interest in MLS after the tournament. I have actual conversations with Americans about soccer now, something I never thought would happen. However, the Buffalonian in me felt that couldn't last. I figured we were like England: the last half decade produced the best crop of players the US has ever had, and we may never be as good as a national squad ever again. I felt like that until last night.
Last night, while Europe played qualifiers for Euro 2012, the rest of the world played International Friendlies. The U.S. faced Argentina, a side blessed with the likes of Cambiasso, Zanetti, Mascherano, Di Maria, Sergio Aguero, and of course, Lio Messi (if you don't know who he is just stop reading this post and go to YouTube, stupid). The last time Sam's Army faced the Albicelestes, we drew 0-0. However, Argentina's dominant performance in the World Cup coupled with the sheer existence of Lionel Messi gave me little hope against our MLS-laden squad. The first half was basically the Argentinian strikeforce VS Tim Howard. Another questionable starting lineup by Bob Bradley had Jermaine Jones, a holding midfielder, starting instead of an attacker. I understand the approach to go defensive, but against Argentina, the only hope you have is to score as many as they do....followed by heavy finger crossing.
'I got this fellas.'
The second half was in keeping with what we've come to expect of the USMNT. Bradley put in Juan Agudelo, the first product of the USMNT Development program to put on a Senior Shirt, and he delivered with a tap in from an impossible angle. For the entire second half, the US looked like it could hang and maybe even beat the Argentinians....that's pretty damn remarkable if you ask me. Oguchi Onweyu and Michael Bradley basically beat the shit out Messi for 30 minutes, and the rest of the team quietly forced the Argentines to play wide, eliminating their ability to shoot dart passes into the center of the American defense. The game ended in a draw, and as much as ties piss the shit out of Americans, I turned the TV off with a feeling of victory. We drew the second best team in the world with a squad of players with only two full time EPL starters (at mid-table clubs, no less). The Argentinians were filled with guys who are the focus or at least key players at top European Clubs: Messi (Barca), Di Maria (Madrid), Zanetti (Inter), Cambiasso (Inter), Aguero (Atletico), Pastore (Palermo), Banega (Valencia), and Milito (Barca). Four Argentinian starters could conceivably play in the Champions League Final this year, and we drew them. With a squad of younger USMNT players. If that doesn't give you hope for the future of US Soccer, then you must be a Bills fan.
Deuce says 'GET THE FUCK UP!'