24 June 2007

First Impressions - USA 2 : 1 Mexico

In a way, this is how it should be.

I've never really come to terms with the idea as the US as a soccer power, even in the limited landscape of CONCACAF. The team I grew up rooting for was always the underdog, odd and scrappy, never quite the team to match up with Costa Rica, let alone Mexico. And so the idea that the United States should be favorites to win the Copa Oro, even on "our" soil, never really felt like a comfortable concept. If it wasn't comfortable to me, why should it for players and coaches?

And so the United States grits out a win in the Gold Cup final. Did they look like the superior team for the entire game? Hardly. But they did enough that the result was not unfair, and had DMB iced his final shot then the final minutes would have been less tense.

The US was always the young, immature program that had to struggle though when I grew up. They are not yet the giants we might think they are. However, there is a term for a coming of age, for a difficult transition from stage to another. Adolescence. And that is what this seemed to be to me: The first recognitions of perhaps a new maturity that faces the US National Team, at least in CONCACAF. We are no longer precocious, we are not yet giants. We are growing. That's good enough. And adolescence is an awkward, sometimes fumbling stage in life. Would I have started the team Bradley did? Nope, I was screaming when I saw the line-up, seeing Dempsey up top and Benny F. on the left. But they came through it okay. That's enough for me. And, in a strange way, just as satisfying.

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13 Comments:

At 24 June, 2007 23:10, Blogger odacrem said...

Interesting impression. I agree that the US is in its "adolescence".

 
At 25 June, 2007 10:31, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great win for the US. They looked pretty lifeless in the first half, and had a lot of stuff working against them. Once again they were playing an away game in their own country. By and large, the Mexican fans were great. They were spirited and loyal and stayed until the end. Looked like Bradley may have been pelted with trash at the end, but that's really no big deal. It's just sad that this team can't get home field advantage on home soil. That home soil wasn't in San Diego or Los Angeles or even New York where you might expect a big turnout from Mexican fans. I'm just wondering what the factors are that lead to a pro-Mexican crowd. Are these Mexican citizens making the long trek to Chicago to loyally support their team or are these Americans of Mexican descent who would rather cheer for their country of origin? If it's the latter, why do they prefer Osorio over Onyewu? Maybe it's a combination of both options above and the sad fact that there aren't enough soccer-mad Americans in a big city like Chicago to fill a stadium. I just feel like the guys in red, white, and blue deserve better. They deserve the same rabid adulation that Mexican fans are willing to heap on some fat, slow slob like Cuahtemoc Blanco.

 
At 25 June, 2007 10:39, Blogger Fullback said...

Nice metaphor and I agree completely. You've got some "adults" in the likes of Italy, Argentina, and Brazil - sexy young things like France and Portugal, and of course, the crotchety "hey you kids get off my lawn" grandpa in his Three Lions bathrobe.

 
At 25 June, 2007 10:50, Blogger Bob said...

That DMB miss was just silly.

And what about the USWNT? Abby Wambach scores with her head seemingly at will.

 
At 25 June, 2007 10:55, Blogger D said...

Bob: You're right. Full credit to the USWNT for taking out Brazil. Abby is amazing, though I could have done without the "Let's win one for Kristine Lilly" references. Something I may talk about from that game is Julie Fowdy, who is a very good soccer commentator who gets marginalized because of her gender.

 
At 25 June, 2007 11:01, Blogger tucksider said...

anonymous: Chicago has the largest Mexican population of any US city other than LA. i'm sure some people made the trek, but you could fill Soldier Field over and over again just with Chicago-resident Mexicans.

fullback: i love the Three Lions bathrobe vision. that's exactly how i see England.

 
At 25 June, 2007 11:01, Blogger Kinney said...

Anon: Chicago has the second largest Mexican population in the US. Plus many Mexicans are willing travel pretty far to see El Tri.

D: I don't think Feilhaber was ever on the left. I think that was just FSC being stupid. In fact the game started with Donovan up top and Dempsey on the right, but they switched 20 minutes in when it was obvious that wasn't working. Feilhaber played the entire game in the center.

All: That was a balls out great game on both sides. Enjoyable all around, if only because the US pulled out the win. This is going to be a great rivalry for a long time to come.

 
At 25 June, 2007 11:14, Blogger D said...

Kinney: You're right. My reaction was when they splashed the line-up, but the actual play belied the graphic, and I had calmed down by then.

 
At 25 June, 2007 11:17, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand that Chicago has a big Mexican population, but that doesn't answer my question. It also has a large Polish population and a huge Scandinavian population and a huge Greek population. If the US played Poland in an international competition, would the stadium be overwhelmingly Polish? If so, why aren't American fans coming to games held in America? Is it marketing? I know there's 100,000 US soccer fans in the Chicago area with enough disposable income to make it to the game. I'm second-generation Polish, but if the US played Poland at RFK in an internationl match, I'd be there in full voice. I sure as hell wouldn't be there in a Jerzy Dudek jersey (or jerzy) either.

 
At 25 June, 2007 11:37, Anonymous Skippy said...

This is probably the wrong forum for this, but particularly after the Gold Cup success, I want to beat my head against a wall when I see the Copa America roster. I understand that getting players away from their club teams can be a problem, but someone was telling me that Gold Cup is a bigger deal for the U.S. than Copa America. Can someone explain to me why? I would think that playing against the likes of Brazil and Argentina would be better for the MNT than Panama and Honduras (no disrespect them, but. . .) I don't get it, its not even a B team, its closer to a C. I'm not disagreeing persay, just that I really don't understand why the Gold Cup would be more important with lower quality teams.

 
At 25 June, 2007 14:36, Blogger tucksider said...

anon: there's no question the US is still far behind in terms of passion, and that's just how it's going to be for a while. a few months ago RFK was filled with Chivas jerseys during a supposed home game for DCU.

skippy: yesterday's win earned the US a berth in the Confederations Cup, which brings a lot of advantages. it will be held in South Africa a year before the World Cup and will include some quality opponents: WC champ Italy plus the South American champ -- i.e. Brazil or Argentina -- and whoever wins Euro 2008... and Asia and Africa will likely send some capable teams, too.

 
At 25 June, 2007 15:16, Blogger The Manly Ferry said...

While I don't entirely agree with the adolescence metaphor (I'd push us up to a kid who's moving out of home for the first time), you nailed one emotion/sensation I had yesterday: I'm not used to pulling for the U.S. as anything but a scrappy team. At the risk of jinxing the team for years to come, I think we're too big for CONCACAF; ditto with Mexico. That doesn't mean that both teams will win ever game they play, but to suggest we're the big fish who have out-grown the local pond.

It'll never happen, but I really hope CONCACAF merges with CONMEBOL down the line, thereby creating a Western hemispheric region. I know we'd lose a qualifying tournament or two, but it'd also make qualifying way more fun and competitive.

Whoops. One last thing and I'll shut up: even in our less-than-stellar first half, I didn't think the Mexicans played us off the field. I kept saying to my wife that we were deservedly down that one goal, but that we didn't look hopeless and we weren't bunkering. That's an improvement in my book.

 
At 25 June, 2007 20:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the few places USMNT has had a real "home crowd" was in Salt Lake City for a qualifier against Costa Rica in 2005. Maybe US needs to try out some medium-sized markets to get a better pro-US turnout. That being said, Mexico fans are great to listen to and to watch. You can't help but admire their passion.

 

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