It seems like a long time ago when the USMNT had a hard time against anybody. This was when only a few people knew soccer - a few as in maybe it was played at camp, some recreational league or a relative told them the rules of the game during a vacation. As the years go on, just because parents have playing experience, and they’re enthusiastic about it, doesn’t mean that we’re going to be great. It’s imperative that we adopt more progressive ideas toward the game. You can love it all you want, but this does not guarantee success. Look at Mexico, Chile, Paraguay and even Uruguay. Uruguay is the best threat of the bunch, but they’ve fallen off so much, and they play with such a lack of flair. There’s something so boring to their approach. They just grind it out, fighting for space, providing a glimpse of ingenuity every so often. Chile, the same. Paraguay, even less so. Mexico, ditto. All these nations love the game much more than we currently do, and they are presently subjected – depending on who you ask – to being the underdog playing against the U.S. For arguments sake, it would at least be an even match. This was far from the case years ago. Prior to the inception of the MLS, our big victory was a friendly match against Ireland, in the early 1990s. And this was a big deal. You thought: Ireland? We can’t beat them, right? After all, in the 1980s, we were slugging it out with El Salvador and Jamaica – with a nervous eye on Bermuda – for the right to claim fifth place within CONCACAF. To beat Ireland was pretty big. They were a “European” team, not one of the dinky CONCACAF grouping of burly men we were used to. And no one was throwing batteries at our players, reminding them how the Panama Canal gave their great-grandfather gout. Thanks to the MLS we can produce confident players – who might not be doing the right things all the time, and who might have received the wrong message throughout their lives – who are athletic enough to demand good results against CONCACAF and, respectively, any team in the world. Once upon a time, we beat Ireland. It looked good. Just as it should. But we can never leave our neighborhood. It starts with a "C" and ends with a "F," somewhere in between we should take what's left.
(NS) refers to "Non-Soccer" related blog entries, stories and essays.
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