World Cup Is Over for Tim Howard and the Team USA, But…

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Rename the nation’s main airport after the goalkeeper of a soccer team? The soccer team that lost? That guy had got to do something really amazing, like breaking the World Cup record with 16 saves! Even I went ahead and signed it. Maybe the next generation of politicians or rather the ones who come after them will bestow this honor on Tim Howard. Well, after he’s dead, of course; no one is allowed to break traditions. 🙂 

Yes, I believed that we would win. Or at least hoped.

It is not like I was hoping for the miracle–not this kind of miracle anyway–what I hoped for was a little nudge for the US team from one of the Lady Luck’s departments. With a little nudge we could’ve won that game. The Belgians hadn’t looked that scary to me when they had kicked out my native Russia in the 1/16 during the stoppage time. So even though the Belgians had eliminated one of the two teams I’d been rooting for, I had still been cautiously optimistic. Well, my optimism did not survive the game, but by god, the team USA will be remembered! I will go out on a limb and say we will be remembered like no other “loser” in this World Cup. Here is one reason why!  

Right after the game, the US goalkeeper Tim Howard was randomly picked for the drug test. Randomly! FIFA does pick two players from every team after the game for drug testing; that’s the routine. Of course, the probability of Tim Howard having been picked randomly is slightly over 9%, but stranger things have happened. Or it might be that FIFA just couldn’t believe that anyone could ‘ve made so many incredible saves without some pharmaceutical assistance. At least, that’s what Dan Patric jokingly(?) suggested during his yesterday’s interview with Howard (found here).

Tim Howard has become a true World Cup 2014 sensation only to leave the World Cup when things are starting to get interesting. Fans from all over the world will be missing him. Him and another phenomenal goalie, Mexican Guliermo Ochoa. It’s heartbreaking that arguably the best goalies in the sport have been forced to go packing.

But there is also another reason why yesterday’s game between the US and Belgium was so special.

No, not because it was such a great game. Both teams made silly mistakes; it’s just that our mistakes were graver. Not because we lost by accident, we didn’t; the Belgians deserved to win because they played better. There was nothing truly unexpected about the final results, as the pundits had given us 43% odds, and they turned out to be right. The Belgians were slightly stronger, faster, and more experienced, and we sucked in defense most of the time.

Our team’s performance has drawn a lot of fair criticism. Alexis Lalas, ex-player who is now an ESPN personality, said it better than many others.

And yet, there is something that the US team has demonstrated in abundance.

Guts!

  • Fighting fiercely to the last second against an experienced and masterful opponent who threw everything they had into the game–it was nothing like their game with Russia–that’s guts!
  • A 19-year old debutante scoring a goal two minutes after hitting the grass–that’s guts!
  • Klinsmann’s sending this inexperienced kid in the most critical for the team moment–that’s guts!
  • That beautifully and elegantly executed free kick in the 113th, as if there was no pressure or worry in the world–that’s guts!
  • Surviving the group of death with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana and even finding its way there in the first place against all odds–that’s a lot of guts! Our team has all the rights in the world to be proud!

And so do we!

And this is why I believe that USA vs Belgium has been so far the most powerful and memorable performance by the team that has been eliminated from the World Cup 2014.

Soccer is on the rise in the US. Americans have bought more World Cup tickets than any other nation on earth, with an exception of Brazilians. Maybe the critical mass has finally been achieved, and all US soccer fans have a good reason to look to a bright future.

I’ll drink to that. As a matter of fact, right now!

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