Portugal’s Late-Equalizer a Win for American Soccer Hater

The United States Men’s National Soccer Team was seconds away from seeing through a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Portugal. The U.S. was poised to secure a berth into the Round of 16 with a game to spare, while temporarily silencing many critics in their own country. Then Cristiano Ronaldo, playing at far less than 100 percent, made one last frantic rush down the right flank. His crossing pass to Silvestre Varela was perfect and led to a walk-off tying goal for the Portuguese. For neutral soccer fans worldwide, it was a celebration of one of the best matches of the 2014 World Cup.

Portugal goalThere were talking points and momentum swings on both sides. NBA Draft prospect Joel Embiid raised eyebrows by tipping his cap to Ronaldo on social media.

The average American Soccer Hater cheered the Portugal goal as well. Among my connections, I do not run across many who are just “neutral” on the game. It is either complete support for the USMNT or hating the team and the sport like biological rubbish.

The criticism and sarcasm is the same. They complain about tie games. They will complain in a fortnight when such games are decided on penalty kicks. They will mock the lack of goals, criticize how stoppage time is handled, offside rules, players flopping and other gamesmanship. They make references to players receiving orange slices then compare the game to the metric system, claiming because the rest of the world follows it doesn’t mean America will ever follow suit.

In 1980, the United States Olympic hockey team solidified and galvanized a nation. It mattered little that it involved a game many did not understand. As Al Michaels said at the time, “It doesn’t matter if you don’t know a blue line from a clothesline.” By the time that team won the gold medal people knew the names of every single player on it.

The U.S. soccer team doesn’t enjoy such universal support. Its presence divides America. The USMNT doesn’t represent America, but certain segments of America. It is said the game is followed by nerdy hipsters. They shop at Trader Joe’s, drink lattes, ride their bicycles to work and listen to indy records. It is a lifestyle fans of the National Football League would never adhere to.

Impressively, soccer has gained American popularity in recent years. If you don’t believe it, try to find a ticket to an MLS game, in some cases it is far more expensive to get into than the NBA or Major League Baseball. Some European teams will tour America later this summer, those tickets are sold at NFL-level prices.

But Soccer Hater is as prevalent as ever, for a multitude of reasons. Jim Rome is an example of someone who is derisive on the subject. There is a reason. The fear is talking soccer kills radio ratings. In Los Angeles a sportstalk host can never go wrong opening up the lines to a Lakers conversation on any day. Same goes for Dallas talking Cowboys football. Down south it is never too early to discuss Les Miles and verbal commitments for LSU’s 2016 football class.

England is the polar opposite, and eagerly awaiting the run up towards the next domestic season in mere weeks. The fans there will also be annoyed by the intrusion of three National Football League games. The NFL shows up in Piccadilly Circus and other venues in an attempt to sell the game. While many will show up at Wembley Stadium to see the actual product, the vast majority would like to tell Roger Goodell and his invading army to take the next flight back, or at least send better teams than the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins.

Soccer Hater may have a field day this week. The United States and Germany can both advance by playing to a draw in their final group game. Soccer Hater would be quickly joined by conspiracy theorist, and Bohemian Grove would be impressed. Don’t let the fact that the U.S. can claim first place in the group with the win and potentially draw an easier opponent in the knockout stage.

If forced to choose between the National Football League and soccer, I would personally go with the NFL just because I’ve been that way since childhood. What I don’t like is suggestions of what sports I should or shouldn’t follow.

It is unfortunate. The U.S. Team is proving to be every bit as good as it’s No. 13 world ranking, and capable of going deep into the tournament. Those ignoring the drama and exploits of United States soccer are doing nothing but cheating themselves.

About Kurt Allen

Have written/blogged about sports since 2000, along with starting my popular Twitter feed in 2009. I also closely follow fantasy sports developments, along with events such as the NFL Draft.


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