By the time this piece is posted and read, many United States soccer fans will have already moved on from the 2010 FIFA World Cup. American soccer fans around the world had their hearts broken in an instant when Ghana forward Asamoah Gyan buried the fatal shot three minutes into extra time of the USA-Ghana match, a brilliant goal that sent Team USA home. The 2010 men’s national soccer team did not go down in vein. There is much that we, American soccer fans or just sports fans in America, can take from the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Most importantly, that we actually cared.
I’m not talking about record-breaking ratings or millions of dollars in advertising working like a charm. Once the United States managed to tie England in the team’s first World Cup match, the bandwagon was filled ten-times over. Were you out during the US-Algeria match or the US-Ghana match? Were you and your friends among the hundreds or even thousands of USA fans (depending on where you were at the time) wearing red, white and blue soccer jerseys and/or flags, screaming at the top of your lungs when Landon Donovan hit one of the most golden goals you’ll ever see? What started out as pure nationalism and the typical “US versus them” mentality you see every Olympics, World Cup or similar international competition turned into a love affair with a club that, for a couple of weeks, captivated a nation.
People gathered together in bars, homes and around company computers in order to watch full soccer matches. Not because they were blowing off a few hours of work, wanted to get hammered or just like screaming at television sets. Americans who, a month prior couldn’t name three players on Team USA, were sporting Tim Howard jerseys and asking each other why the hell Ricardo Clark was starting even before Clark’s horrific miscue in the USA-Ghana game. American sports fans were watching every match of the World Cup to get a look at potential future opponents. For about one week in 2010, soccer was the most popular sport in the United States.
Perhaps most stunning was the impact of Team USA’s defeat. People weren’t mad or disappointed when Ghana eliminated the United States from the World Cup. They were defeated. Crushed. In the no-more-room-in-the-inn bar I was at, fans wiped away tears with their American flags. The entire town fell into stunned silence for hours.
USA Hockey captivated sports fans in this country in February, especially during the gold medal match. No sane person shed a tear when Sidney Crosby snatched gold away from the Americans, though. We didn’t feel the same connection to that Team USA as we did to this Team USA. Why is that? Was it the dramatic comebacks? The fact that the World Cup is the greatest sporting event on the planet? Americans actually getting swept off their collective feet by the beautiful game? Probably a little of each.
USA Soccer and American soccer fans both are extremely disappointed by the one-and-done elimination round World Cup exit. The love affair doesn’t have to end with Asamoah Gyan’s shot sailing past Tim Howard. Team USA hosts Brazil at the new Meadowlands (Giants) Stadium in August. It’s up to you to show up or watch on TV and support this team that, admittedly, broke your hearts this June.
Both USA Soccer and USA soccer fans need to start preparing for 2014 right now. Oh, how I want Ghana in round one.
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