by kevin dooley
American Football… Or Should That Be Soccer?
In the rest of the world it is the game commonly known as Football, and to be fair, the rest of the World laughs at how those from the states refer to it as “Soccer”. It has also been known for other World nations to take delight in the fact that the USA are traditionally not very successful at World football, after all everyone fears the outcome that is more than possible if they start to take the game seriously…..would anyone else have a chance in future World Cups? Would the trophy ever go anywhere else? 20 years ago you would have been laughed out of town at the suggestion that the United States may become a World force at “soccer” but are there now signs than this is a realistic suggestion?
The 2010 FIFA World Cup being held in South Africa will have opened up many eyes to the soccer revolution in the States. The team known as “The Stars and Stripes” topped their first round group, finishing ahead of the much fancied England after an opening match draw against said fancied team, a second draw against Slovenia and a late win when faced with Algeria. Undefeated qualification and top of the group, can you ask for more than that?
Should we really be surprised at their fortunes? The United States do have some World Cup pedigree. At the inaugural tournament held in 1930, the Stars and Stripes finished a creditable third. It is well documented that this early feat was succeeded with some real wilderness years during which time qualification to the finals was extremely rare. The change in fortunes came when the USA hosted the 1994 World Cup. Spirited performances in that tournament in front of large crowds began the rebirth of North American soccer. That rebirth did not take to come to fruition with a fourth place finish at Copa America in 1995, a quarterfinal appearance at the 2002 World Cup and significantly a 2009 Confederations Cup final appearance. On top of this the USA can boast four successes from their ten ventures in the Concacaf Gold Cup, a record bettered only by Mexico.
Detractors may point to the relatively poor standard of the USA’s major soccer league (Major League Soccer). However, other nations suffer from poor domestic competition such as the African nations but they succeed because their players represent clubs who appear in strong competitions. This could be paralleled at the Untied States who have only four players in their 2010 World Cup squad that appear in their domestic league with the rest all appearing in strong European leagues, (added to this Landon Donavon has recent European experience with Everton). Seven of the States squad ply their trade in the English Premier League, three in Italy’s Serie A and one in the Spanish Primera League. It is experience such as this plus an abundance of confidence running through the squad than points to the reasons behind their 2010 group stage success.
At the time of writing the USA are awaiting their second round match against Ghana, surel they have a great chance of progressing to the quarter finals and then from there who knows????