…Chris Wondolowski had scored that potential game-winning goal.
…DeAndre Yedlin hadn’t been pushed forward to where he couldn’t track back in time to stop Lukaku.
…Fabian Johnson had not gotten hurt.
…Coach Jurgen Klinsmann had selected different players to the squad.
…Klinsmann had gone with a different line-up against Belgium.
…Landon Donovan was on the team.
…Michael Bradley had played better.
…Jozy Altidore hadn’t tweaked his hamstring early in the tournament.
…the U.S. had more skilled players
…they had beaten Germany
…they had beaten Portugal.
If only, if only, if only.
“If only” is the statement equivalent to the age-old question, “what if”.
Much like the daily life that goes on in the world itself, the World Cup is filled with “if only’s” and “what if’s”. For every team that makes it to the World Cup but doesn’t win it or every team that didn’t even make it to the World Cup, it’s that statements and questions that linger for years.
For every team but one.
The U.S. won’t be that one this year. They will be part of that fraternity that has to provide answers or explanations. They are necessary things to reflect upon. For it’s when those are meditated upon that growth happens . In life and yes in the World Cup too
It’s easy to second-guess coaching decisions, especially when you’re doing it from your computer. I suppose that’s the beauty of being a fan or working in media. We’re not the ones who actually have to implement the ideas or the execute the schemes or the plans. We evaluate based on what we see being done. And, if the expectations are winning and we don’t see it happen, second-guessing rises.
There were positives and negatives in this tournament for the United States. Positives like Tim Howard, Jermaine Jones, super-sub DeAndre Yedlin. There was the unsung dirty work Michael Bradley did off the ball, despite the many missed touches or passes he made. The grinders like DaMarcus Beasley just bustin’ his you-know-what every single time he was on the field. But, with the loss fresh in our minds the positives are offset by the fact that the U.S. is no longer playing. Again.
There is one question, however, that continues to hang over this country.
Has soccer made it in the America?
My only answer to that is a question: Does it matter? Soccer continues to grow in this country, make no mistake about that. In terms of both playing and watching – it’s growing. With the growth of the Hispanic population and Hispanics continuing to play (and watch) soccer, it will only grow. Many Hispanics (and Latinos) who come to this country have soccer as part of their identity. Just as the NFL or MLB or NBA is part of many who are born here, that is how it is with soccer in other Latin countries. They bring that with them. And, they transfer that to their children, the next generation.
Will that translate into rise television ratings for Major League Soccer (MLS) or English Premier League (EPL) or Liga MX? That remains to be seen. I think it will. In the next 10 to 20 years you could very well see a change in sports popularity landscape. It’s inevitable. Baseball (Major League Baseball – MLB) used to be America’s past-time. In the world of American sports, it’s the NFL, NBA and MLB. In terms of ratings, baseball continues to lose ground. It struggles to fend off college football or NASCAR as part of the big three It used to be the big four with the NHL, but the NHL’s popularity has waned to. If it can happen to America’s past-time it can happen to any of them. That’s not to say that soccer will ever take it over. That’s just the natural ebb and flow of sports and the American sports fan.
As much as I’d love for every American to embrace soccer or football like I do, it’s unrealistic. Just as it’s unrealistic for MLB fans to expect embracing every single game on the 162 game schedule. I can appreciate all of the different nuances of each sport. That doesn’t mean I have to like them all or watch them. Neither do I expect that from others. Accept it for what it is, recognize that it has a place and enjoy the sports you like.
Will Soccer ever make it in America? That depends on your definition of make it. “Make it” in terms of having a soccer league as popular as the EPL is in England? Or “make it” as being a part of daily conversations, daily sports conversations, around the country? During the World Cup, it’s as popular as the EPL. During the World Cup, every social media channel is buzzing about it in this country. During the World Cup fans, are turning out for public viewings of games in the tens of thousands. That’s during the World Cup when fans embrace their national identity with pride. Fans wear their colors on their faces, their shirts, their outfits – any place they can they wear their colors, they wear them. It’s about national pride. Diehards and casual fans alike tune in to the World Cup.
Beyond the World Cup, these next few months we will see how much it tranfers into daily life. We’ll find out how much connection this team made. The casual fans that heard the names, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, DeAndre Yedlin, Omar Gonzalez – who all play in the MLS – will fans tune in, or attend games in person, to connect with them again?
The answer would be a resounding YES, if only the United States had won the World Cup. I’m sure stadiums would be packed to the rafters. The “American heroes” would be mobbed by fans. Fans would be seeking them out everywhere they turn. Fans wouldn’t be able to get enough of them. This U.S. team would have been “world” slayers. The MLS surely would have been attractive even to the casual fans. Fans crave connection. They would have been able to connect with the winning team’s players.