U.S. Soccer's 2-0 Win Over Spain Has More Implications
On the food chain of pro sports in this country, soccer is way down the chart but at times one would be hard pressed to notice. Out here on Long Island, nary a patch of grass is empty without some sort of soccer match going on between kids as young as four and through college age. But when you get to the professional level, it takes a sharp nosedive.
Even in this area, which can be called a 'lukewarm bed' for soccer, our big league team has a very appropriate name. It has not gone smoothly for the Long Island Rough Riders of the United Soccer League and they even had to move down to a developmental division a few years ago.
Their squad is having one of their best seasons in the team's history, with 10 wins in their first 12 games. The problem is that not many folks know that and the fact that they play their home games at a high school does not help either.
Soccer has always played second (or more accurately, fifth) fiddle to baseball, football, basketball and hockey in America. The national team has maintained a competitive grind but going against powerhouse clubs from overseas has always resulted in an early or mid-round ouster.
That may have all changed with the United States' incredible 2-0 win over top-ranked Spain in the semi final round of the FIFA Confederations Cup. Just to make it that far, the U.S. needed to win its last game by three and have Italy lose by that same number. As luck would have it, that is exactly what happened and the Americans moved on by way of goal differential.
Tallies by Jozy Altidore at the 27-minute mark and Clint Dempsey at the 74th minute mark was enough as goalkeeper Tim Howard made it stand with 8 saves, many of them highlight reel material.
Spain had their 35 match unbeaten streak snapped and suffered their first loss in 16 games. Calling this just an upset is not doing it justice. This was David slaying Goliath, Part II.
"We constantly talk about reaching higher and trying to accomplish new things," U.S. head coach Bob Bradley told reporters after the epic victory. "Spain is a team that we have the greatest respect for. They are a super team. Their ability to play, pass and move. We knew it was a challenge, but we felt that we would have a chance and that we could win this game."
Of course no coach is going to tell his team that their opponent is unbeatable, but to a man Bradley has to at least admit it to himself that this was far from expected. Regardless, the U.S. awaits the winner of Brazil and host country South Africa to find out their opponent in the final on Sunday.
Even if the Americans come up short, they have already earned a great amount of respect worldwide and the win over in the semi finals may act as a springboard for popularity of the sport here.
It has been an uphill battle for soccer to grow around the states. Everyone loves a winner and it may take the U.S. either winning or coming close to a World Cup title before soccer is more than just a kid's game.
But beating Spain was a huge step towards that ever possibly taking place.