The final game of the Confederations Cup demonstrated that on June 28th, 2009, the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team was capable of competing with Brazil.
The previous meeting of the two teams in the first round of the same tournament demonstrated that Brazil v. the U.S. was a ridiculous mismatch, and suggested that it might remain so forever.
Since Brazil scored three times in the second half of the finals to win the tournament, lots of observers have concluded that the U.S., which had built a two – nil lead in the first half, let the game slip away.
During the first half, the U.S. was dogged on defense and opportunistic on offense. Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey took advantage of two of the very few scoring opportunities with which they were presented.
But during the second half, Brazil put on a clinic. They were patient and creative. At one point when they were still trailing, Brazil appeared to score when U.S. keeper Tim Howard, standing in the net, punched out a ball that seemed to have crossed the goal line. The call went against Brazil, but there was no letdown in their play. They continued to dominate the game in terms of possession and flair. They were, in short, the better team. The U.S. team did not blow their lead. They were outplayed, as they have so often been when they’ve faced Brazil.
So what, if anything, does Sunday’s game signify?
Some observers have concluded that since the U.S. men lost by just a goal in the finals of a FIFA tournament, soccer has arrived in the U.S. This seems silly. Soccer has been here for a long time. Many of us have been enjoying it as it has been played by both genders at various levels for decades.
Lots of other people in the U.S. regard soccer as a poor cousin to baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. That opinion didn’t change when the U.S. beat Portugal and Mexico and outplayed Germany during the 2002 World Cup, or when the L.A. Galaxy brought the world’s most recognizable player to Major League Soccer. The U.S. team’s performance at the Confederations Cup, where they beat Egypt and Spain and lost twice to Brazil and once to Italy, won’t alter the landscape, either. Maybe even winning the World Cup wouldn’t do that. And maybe those who continue to wonder what it will take for soccer to break into the big time in this country – with all the blessings and curses that ascension would entail - should relax and enjoy the games.
This program aired on July 2, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.