Here’s what’s sad: I’m just not going to enjoy this World Cup as much from now on. Even though I don’t follow American soccer as much as I should, I got caught up in this team. I was scrambling to find a place to watch after having a filling replaced. My dentist noticed my jersey and promised to have me out in time. It was really hard to find a bar in Manhattan to watch the game that wasn’t packed. Most places were crowded by people who were skipping out on work for a few hours. I clearly wasn’t the only one who cared.
I got two texts after the game. One was “Goddamn Prince Harry”. The other was “Wondoloswki is now a verb.”
The Prince Harry comment obviously referred to Kevin De Bruyne who scored in the second minute of extra time to break all of our hearts. Despite Lukaku and Julian Green, that was really the nail in our coffin. But seriously, look at that guy. He looks like he’s twelve. As my jaw started to regain feeling and I could speak, I just said to anyone would listen, “he’s just so cute! Isn’t he cute?! He’s just a cute little guy!” But he can play and, as we have all seen, he can score.
I don’t blame Wondolowski for missing that sitter (though, I’m really not sure how he did). If he had scored on that chance that late in the game it would have been another stolen game. Our offense was weak during the whole game. Poor attacking just looks a certain way as it unfolds. We would move the ball up field but there was only Clint Dempsey up top and he seemed to be surrounded by three Belgian defenders at all times. We needed Wondolowski up there if we had any chance of scoring.
And, awful as it is to say, I was happy to see Fabian Johnson off the field because I knew DeAndre Yedlin would get on. I wanted to see what he could do with more than ten minutes on the field. In previous games, his pace was deadly down the right side. He obviously couldn’t sustain that for more than forty-five minutes but I was still impressed.
One thing is for certain, we always have world class goalkeepers. Tim Howard was amazing and he set a World Cup record for saves. Every fan is proud of that but we have to ask, why did he have to make so many saves?
Look at the tournament as a whole. We won one game, our first. We tied one and lost two. We had problems with possession, especially against Ghana, Germany, and Belgium. It could be frustrating to watch. What is the United States’ style of soccer? The Germans are patient and precise with lots of possession. The Italians are staunch defenders. The Dutch are creative and stylish (or at least they’re supposed to be). I wonder if the United States’s game will ever develop to the point that is has a distinct character.
Belgium is a strong, prodigiously talented side. We held on for most of the game but when Lukaku came on, the true depth of quality available to Belgium was apparent. We really didn’t deserve to win. Although, nothing endears a fan more than fight and Julian Green’s goal meant that this team was still fighting to the end.
This has been a trying tournament for all the teams. Brazil the country is wearing everyone out. Five of the eight games in the round of 16 went to extra time, two to penalty kicks. All the group winners went through. Maybe it’s coincidence or maybe that’s just who strong those teams are.
But I’m happy I watched every US game. Kyle Beckerman, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Chris Wondowlowski – they all play in the MLS proving that the MLS has quality. I have an MLS team a PATH ride away to watch.
Also, maybe this is too soon but I have to say it: I hated the chant. I didn’t like it when I did in high school. I even heard it during a Brooklyn Nets game once. We need to up our chant game. And, people, the call and response goes for the whole sentence, all the way to “I believe that we will…” I was in bars where people would start the chant right after “I beleive that…” Come on, man. It’s a mediocre chant but respect it.
So, the tournament continues and I’m having a deja vu moment. In 2010, as both England and the US exited the tournament, I turned to the Oranje. In 2014, I am doing the same. Hup Holland Hup!
(Oh, good Lord, what does that even mean?)