By Ryan Fleming
It seemed like all the hype, all the excitement around the United States Men’s National Team game against Algeria was all for naught early Wednesday afternoon. The Yanks were still deadlocked in a scoreless game with the clock inching closer to the 90th minute. England, which was playing at the same time, led Slovenia, 1-0. So, if the Three Lions pulled out the win, which was seeming more and more plausible as the game went on, the Yanks would go home, and soccer would remain a second-rate sport for at least four more years.
A tie, one point, wasn’t good enough. Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and the rest of the USMNT knew that too. In the second half, they all showed it. The Yanks continually pressed deep into Algeria’s half, trying to force passes, shots and even fouling more in the process. Before U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard tossed the ball down the right flank to Donovan, who eventually scored the game-winning goal, there was a thought that crossed my mind.
Soccer, a sport that is never mentioned within the higher echelon of American sports and probably won’t ever be as big as MLB, NBA, NFL or NHL, had it’s greatest chance to own the spotlight despite a track record of utter disappointment. All eyes were on the Yanks, the 11 players on the field and their coach who always looks completely concentrated.
If the Yanks lost, I thought this would be it. Soccer would take a backseat once again.
No other sporting event is catching the eyes of Americans at this time of year like the World Cup. There is more interest in this team and this sport than there has ever been. Underdogs have a place in everyone’s heart and that is what the USMNT truly is. Being the underdog is a position that they revel in. If Howard didn’t zing that ball down the right side, if Donovan didn’t slot home that rebound, all the analysts, the annoying, often ignorant morning show commentators on sports radio, would be tearing the sport in two.
So, I want to thank you Tim Howard, Landon Donovan, Bob Bradley and Co. Thank you for giving this sport a push and an unthinkable chance to succeed in a country where 10 years ago was still far, far behind. You now, cause of the grit and passion you show have a place in more hearts than you think. And you’re not done yet.
Ryan Fleming is a writer and editor for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at email@example.com.