The USMNT Earns an Important Point By Outplaying Mexico in a Scoreless Tie at the Defanged Estadio Azteca
You cannot imagine how Reyna's run delighted me. As somebody who has followed and witnessed soccer in the United States -- as well as U.S. soccer -- since my arrival here in 1967, I cannot put into words the immense development and improvement that we have come to witness -- and MUST acknowledge -- that soccer has experienced here. BRAVO to all, and yes, that includes MLS. The US -- as Grant rightly says -- is still not a first-class soccer country but in some ways it will always be different from those that are by dint of lots of reasons but none more important that in no country in which soccer provides the hegemonic sports culture are there four major team sports that crowd that country's sports space. England has cricket and the two rugby codes -- though regionally separated with Union in the south and League in the north. Basketball is a solid number two in the Mediterranean countries plus Brazil and Argentina; hockey has cultural presence in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and, of course, the Scandinavian countries. But in NO COUNTRY other than in the United States are there four such items. And this is fine! Soccer should -- and has already -- developed in the United States with its own accent so to speak, literally! And there is no shame in that. Alas, our cultural closeness and linguistic overlap with England means that there will always be a battle for authenticity in American soccer that will measure itself by English everything -- play on the pitch (do you see my authenticity here?), fan behavior, terminology, language, all of it! Soccer is not the only cultural item in which I see English, the common language that divides us from England and Britain, as a real curse! Onward to clinching a spot for the World Cup this Sunday!!!
Very much agree about the recent pervasiveness of negativity. The insane anti-MLS contingent is particularly annoying. Acosta has one bad game vs Panama and that crowd ignores his previous good games vs MX, his 3 assist/hockey assists vs Honduras, and even his fantastic chip to Reyna that should have resulted in a Pefok goal. I think at some point, we just have to try and ignore the negativity crowd and enjoy the fact that this is a young promising team with players in leagues around the globe that just went toe-to-toe with MX in the Azteca. Eight or twelve years ago any of us following the USMNT would have been overjoyed to hear what was in our future. Clearly T&T still has a hold of many of us, but hopefully the team can put that to rest on Sunday.
Regarding fan angst and the prescriptions for them - as a coach at multiple levels, I tried to get the players and the parents to understand that soccer is so much a failure game - that every player makes a litany of mistakes, mental, physical, technical, and tactical, throughout the game. We can only help them perform better by being positive — relentlessly positive throughout a game. As Bora taught us — the most important play in soccer is the next one!
Like it or not, we have a prevailing media culture that rewards outrageousness and negativity. Many fans pick up on that and mimic it, as though to validate their credentials as fans. Whether it's sports or pop culture institutions such as TV shows or movies, there's a segment of fandom that seems to feel entitled to be gate-keepers and to be perennially angry. Contrary to what they believe, this doesn't make them better "fans," just angry, miserable people as your reader commented.
Feel the same way about the toxic fans. Hopefully qualifying will tone it down but there is certainly a segment of the fanbase that a) is convinced this team is basically Spain or France with its talent level and b) is sure that if they just picked this or that 18 year old we would throttle everyone.
Excellent as always.
1. seems strange that i've not heard of transfer talk about Zimmerman. Seems like at least Fulham should be reaching out...since he reminds me a lot of a young Tim Ream. Both in play and looks. I think Tim even did the silly man bun for a while.
2. Totally agree on the toxicity of US soccer social media. WC 2002 created so many unrealistic expectations based on US results in that tournament that was a product of a much good fortune.
I read, and recommend "What Happened to the USMNT: The Ugly Truth About the Beautiful Game Hardcover – May 18, 2021
by Steven G. Mandis (Author), Sarah Parsons Wolter (Author).
That book totally puts things in perspective and explores the core of the unrealistic expectations that some US fans have....especially about WC performances. Should be required reading for US soccer fans.
This is a great piece. I think it's perfectly reasonable to have PTSD (I still do from the T & T game), but to also be supportive of our team.
Given my PTSD, I got up at 3am to play with scenarios re the upcoming games, and came away with a sense of relief. If the US beats Panama, that will pretty much ensure we get one of the top 3 spots, given the +7 goal differential we have versus Costa Rica. Of course, that's dependent on Costa Rica not going on a goal rampage against El Salvador and us to cut into that differential, (sorry, my PTSD kicked in again for a moment), but a barrage of Costa Rica goals is very unlikely. They've only scored 9 goals in the first 12 games of qualifying.
There, I feel better. Let's win Sunday and we're in great shape.
Btw, Grant, I know we'll be without starters for that game because of injuries and yellow cards. Could you let us know how Panama's team will look when they take the field Sunday?
Reyna’s run was my favorite part of the game. But I saw on Twitter afterward some people saying he was selfish and it shows a lack of trust in his team. It’s maybe going too far to retort “should Maradona have passed?” I’m curious what you and other readers think.
I must be the fan most traumatized by what happened four years ago, because I just can’t get excited about this team and, more specifically, its abilities. I know we are down a number of key players. And we’ll be down even more ( three, at least) as we engage Panama. But get this; we couldn’t get a win ( or score a goal) against a very weak Mexican team that has little support from its own fan base. And we didn’t play in 98 degrrrs with un breathable air. It was like playing in Connecticut in May. The Mexican team is older and slower and less athletic. And we couldn’t convert two scoring chances that almost any quality player would convert. So, everyone was saying, “ what a great outcome. We got a point! “ But it was not a great outcome. A great outcome would be a 3-0 victory. This team’s best chances seem to rely on odd mathematical calculations where we back-in to qualifying. Seriously, if we qualify without winning a single one of these games, are we supposed to stand up and cheer? And that outcome is highly likely. This team has yet to show any reason for optimism. Mostly, the competition is lame. But we still don’t win!
Walker Zimmerman is 200% correct. It’s World Cup qualifying. ALL that matters is the result. Play the ugliest game in history, have 30% possession, and win 1-0 on an own goal? Fantastic. Have 70% possession, play beautiful futbol, and lose 1-0? Horrible.
Ask Italy what they’d prefer right now.
Sure wish they’d won the game, though.
Well done. Though I think the online reactions are a sign that the USMNT has finally arrived. One bad thing about the internet is that, over time, it's shown that the least thoughtful, least intelligent, most bellicose, etc., end up dominating the traffic for popular things, sporting included. So at least there is lots of interest out there, even if it seems that only the worst voices get heard.
Thought this was an excellent piece.
Nice read Grant.
Grant I think you talked yourself into understanding during your dispatch yesterday. This is about the general rise of unkindness and not specific to USNMT. Please find me a online forum with anonymous IDs where this is not true. I don't believe it exists (or is at least a unicorn). Broadly speaking, as a country/society, we have of late granted ourselves a license to embrace - even celebrate - rudeness. I call it Reverence of Rudeness. It's not just that theses behaviors are more permissible but that they are even revered. Why? Because once you accept it from someone else (especially a public figure) then you are subtilty drawn into embracing it yourself as a sort of justification for your previous acceptance. I apologize for appearing to pick sides (I genuinely do not intend) but put bluntly this is why you see T-Shirts reading "grab more p*ssy" - because once you have accepted the original trespass you then are motivated to see more folks accept it as normal/acceptable, otherwise you are the abnormal... thus making you an agent of normalcy. IMHO nasty behavior online is an indirect attempt to justify itself. We used to have more shame in our dialog with one another, we have simply experienced a dramatic devolution of that shame threshold. US Soccer fandom is not extraordinary.
I don't the negativity is anything new, the platforms just amplify it. People who are so negative and nasty that in real life no one will hang out with them can tweet in all caps, all day.
I watch all the games and am generally supportive. That said, I’m not nearly as enthusiastic as I have been. The Berhalter hiring process and his under performance as a coach (in my opinion) just doesn’t do it for me. I hope they qualify and do well. But it seems Berhalter is turning what could and should be a finely tuned sports car into a Buick. It’s terrible to watch. The talent gap between the US and everyone else in CONCACAF is massive. Yet we’re still sweating out whether we’ll qualify with two games remaining. Maybe I’m that fan and will come out of it, but it’s hard to unsee what this generation of talent could be vs what it looks like struggling against low and mid level concacaf teams under GB’s leadership. The precision to make noise on the world level just isn’t there game in and game out. The talent is there, but something is a miss to me and that falls on GB.