A lackluster performance
The US side showed up and acted surprised that they were in the World Cup.
The entire game.
It was ok for the first minute, even the first goal, but the Czechs took them seriously, prepared to play them, and did. And the US, who must have expected to run them down and surprise them, did nothing.
The Czechs blocked their attacks and closed their defense, letting the US possess the ball. But they could score when they got the chance and the US defenders looked overwhelmed.
Bruce Arena was pissed, and he should have been. It was a mediocre performance and the days of being happy to be in the World Cup are over. Even in a Group of Death, you can't watch yourselves get beaten.
Ok, now watching the game was a very, very different experience from any other American event I've ever been to. People had flags, US soccer shirts, places were jammed. ESPN SportZone was packed to the point where you could only stand at the bar.
Then, tiring of that, I hopped in a cab for Nevada Smiths. expecting to stand there as well, I went to 99 Miles from Philadelphia, a cheesesteak place with a big flat screen TV. I had been in there in the past, and Fox Soccer Channel was on.
When I walked in, there were about 20 people watching. So I decided to stay. If the US had won, people were primed to go nuts. I saw people with flags draped around their shoulders, which is rare in the US for any sporting event, excluding the Olympics. A US victory, even a US goal would have been fun. And the loss was as disappointing as any I've ever saw, people were actually depressed.
The thing was, most of the guys watching were young, under 35, with the same shorts and faded baseball caps you see everywhere. There were even women watching, sans boyfriends at ESPN.
It was also a mixed crowd, mostly white, but not exclusively, no different than any sporting event. But the thing was that a lot of places were crowded. And the fans cared. It was surprising. Because most American soccer fans feel like cult members, secretly sharing their passion with each other. If the city had put up a live screen in Bryant Park, the place would have been packed. There was an amazing amount of passion for soccer and the US team. Unfortunately, it wasn't unleashed today.
Despite the outcome, I had to feel that a corner had been turned. That suppoorting US soccer wasn't contingent on victories, but was what people did, just like the Poles and Swedes. Sure, the US looked awful today, but there's Saturday and the future. This isn't a one-off any more. People support the US and expect them to win. The novelty is gone,
And that is a very good thing.
posted by Steve @ 5:58:00 PM