July 7, 2009


USA a team of extremes (When Saturday Comes, 7/06/09)

The traditional soccer narrative of the United States, dating to the 1970s, highlights the country’s supposedly enormous potential. But rather than waiting another few decades for the US to become a power, why not embrace its unpredictable, quirky side?

True, the current edition of this team is infuriatingly inconsistent. But at least it’s a marvel of inconsistency. Whereas Mexico always lose in the second round of the World Cup – yawn – the United States’ sheer unpredictability makes the team worth following. In June alone, Team USA was routed by Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying, then confidently snapped Spain’s three-year unbeaten run.

While all teams have peaks and valleys over time, the US frequently packs them into 90 minutes. Consider the World Cup campaign. In El Salvador in March, the US played a horrible 75 minutes to fall behind 2-0, before a frantic rally produced two late goals and further untaken chances. At home to Honduras in June, the US fell behind within five minutes before scratching out a victory – an uneven performance personified by Carlos Bocanegra, who headed in the winner, then immediately got taken off with an injury after the restart. With these guys, good and bad are intertwined.

Impressively, the United States can produce these trademark half-good, half-dismal efforts against anyone. And they don’t always involve late rallies. Against Brazil and Italy in the Confederations Cup, fast starts and half-time leads were followed by three-goal second-half meltdowns. The excitement of sport comes from its uncertainty, does it not?

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 7, 2009 6:06 AM
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