What made this team different? Longtime fans of the national team will remember our past painful efforts to string together possession. Or the times when our defense consisted of spasmodic clearances. Or the moment we coupled poor quality with poor character, staging our own disgraceful mutiny. This was a fine team in every respect. It should be said that they played several atrocious halves, the kind that reminded one of the most shambolic chapters of our soccer history. But they were able to put those behind them. They were a team that had mythic aspirations and seemed prone to shatter the ceiling that held the U.S. in the second rank of soccer nations. And so now we return to that strangely familiar feeling of finding proxy identities for ourselves, that great empathic act of championing nationalist armies of foreign countries. Of course, what makes the loss so painful is the sense that the U.S. felt like it was on the brink of the cultural transformation that every fan wants—even when professing to care less. The great tipping point was imminent. Was it a coincidence that there were so many “Yes We Can” signs in the stadiums? This felt like the sport's Barack Obama moment. What makes the World Cup such wonderful spectacle, and makes exits from it so pungent, is the simple fact of the four year interval between occurrences. There's no next year.
June 26, 2010
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