Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Best of American Soccer

I couldn't even live up to the pressure of playing for my dad on his high school varsity team, so I can't imagine how Michael Bradley is excelling at the national team level, where his father is the coach. Bradley's right foot contributed to the only two goals of the night, as the U.S. Men's National Team knocked off Mexico in the first game of the final World Cup Qualifying Round, 2-0.

Bradley's first goal came just minutes before halftime, giving the U.S. a momentum they would not ever lose. DeMarcus Beasley found longtime teammate Landon Donovan on a corner kick, who then directed the ball to Oguchi Onyewu. Onyewu's shot was saved, but Michael Bradley was there to put the ball in the back of the net, making his father and coach, Bob Bradley, quite pleased.

Donovan would again be responsible for another, this time in the 90th minutes. Playing off an advantage call, Donovan exploited the Mexican defense by knocking the ball back to an oncoming Bradley. Bradley rifled a shot from 28 yards out that trickled under the arms of the Mexican keeper. Neither goal was necessarily pretty, which is somewhat fitting in this dirtiest of rivalries.

The game was played at the home of U.S. home fields, in Columbus, Ohio. The United States likes to schedule their games against Mexico in the northern half of the country, away from the Mexican fans who might otherwise travel to locales such as Texas and California. The colder weather and harsher conditions are also unfamiliar to many on the Mexican side, which is why the Americans are now 9-0-2 on U.S. soil since 2000.

Soccer in America is probably never going to be on par as even the lesser of sports leagues in this country, say, the NHL, mainly because the quality of the MLS is never going to be what American fans would like to expect, or even deserve. Many fans in the States would much rather wake up early on a weekend morning to watch the England Premier League than watch an MLS match on some idle Thursday night. I can't really blame them, as the quality of play is so much better over there.

But if you are looking for the atmosphere and excitement of a European game, matches between the U.S. and Mexico are worthy of the comparison to any game between two European countries. The atmosphere is electric, the play is fantastic, and the rivalry is unlike anything at the international level for the United States at this point. It's a fantastic game anytime the two match up, one that would get even the the most anti of soccer fans to change their mind.

It's a good start for the journey the United States is headed on, as they look to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.


Anonymous said...

I'm in full World Cup mode already.

Seriously, there is no more pure and exciting sport than world soccer from a competition stand point. The national pride that the fans exhibit is awesome.

Sure, knock soccer, call it boring. But you really are not a competetor if you don't find world stage soccer riveting.

Unknown said...

boooooo to soccer

Tony Brown said...

I was really hoping for a recap of the Ireland-Georgia qualifer, but I guess that has nothing to do with Wisconsin. Damn

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