Wow. That’s all I have to say… Wow.
The U.S. Men’s National Team’s quest for World Cup glory ended at the hands of Belgians. Four years of scouting, training, qualifying, and preparation ended at the moment the whistle blew in the 121′ minute of extra time in Salvador, Brazil. It was a bittersweet ending to the story of how twenty-three men wooed the hearts of an entire county. For the past four weeks they took America by storm.
I have grown up playing and watching soccer my entire life. As I matured through high school, so did my love for the game. Each year my love for soccer grows – you will even find me waking myself up at 8AM on Saturday and Sunday mornings to watch English Premier League. I say this because it’s pretty rare to find an American who loves football. No, not the guys running each other over every Sunday. I mean football. The real football, or soccer as we call it. The sport that can make entire nations wallow in depression and in a split second jump through the ceiling of their homes because their team scored a goal.
The reason why I am so attached to soccer is because of what the American public saw happen in these last four weeks – it’s glorious. U.S. Men’s Soccer defied the odds, and battled adversity when the entire world doubted them otherwise by advancing out of the infamous Group of Death. Their journey was nothing less than an emotional roller coaster ride. One second you can feel like you are walking on the clouds of ecstasy as it seems like your team cannot possibly lose, and the next your beating heart is ripped out of your chest when the other team scores a goal. Anyone who took the time to watch the United States’ matches knows what that feels like. When John Brooks scored the game winning goal against Ghana in the 86′ minute, the crowd I was with went absolutely fucking mental, and in the very next game as the U.S seemed absolutely certain to be pulling a victory from the lauded Cristiano Ronaldo show, Portugal, we were shot right out of our seats when they equalized in stoppage time. When we qualified for the quarterfinals, there was an odd sense of satisfaction. I knew what it was supposed to feel like, but most others did not. “We lost to Germany! They played so poorly.” One would say. “But that doesn’t matter, we still made it out of the Group of Death, that’s all that matters” Another would reply. Our country became confused, “What is goal differential? How does that make any sense? This is why soccer is so stupid!” Idiots would say.
That’s what is so funny about America. For years soccer has lived in the shadows while the NFL, MLB, and NBA ruled the day. Yet when the Americans took on Belgium in the quarterfinal on Tuesday, an entire nation put everything down to stop and watch. The masses gathered at watch parties, bars, and living rooms across the country to watch our Great Nation take on the Belgians. They were captivated. In awe. And for 120 minutes we all yelled, screamed, cried, cheered, jeered, and clapped for our Boys in Brazil.
The point I make with writing this blog comes all down to one thing. The We. For four weeks We the People came together to support those Boys in Brazil.
Soccer is the only sport in this world that brings entire countries and their people together in the way it does. I was never sure when the sport would catch on in my own country, but I think it has now. I hope it has. I hope it has, so I can share my love of the game with others as they begin their journey as American soccer fans.
Either that, or its because my generation grew up being driven around by their moms on Saturday mornings to kick a soccer ball around, eat orange slices, and get yelled at by psycho fathers.