By Ryan Fleming
Sitting in my living room in the same chair where I watched the United States Men’s National Team defeat Algeria in what I thought, at the time, was the best sporting event I’ve seen in my 24 years, my opinion has now changed.
Admittedly, I was late in watching the game, coming back from a weekend away. On my drive home I followed the game through the numerous sports outlets I follow on Twitter (God save Twitter). I got home with about 15 minutes left in the game and couldn’t remove my eyes from the TV.
Something about the passion of USWNT forward Abby Wambach yelling, encouraging her teammates forward. The knowledge already of the red card that really wasn’t — sending off Yank Rachel Buehler in the 65th minute on her invisible foul that saw her and five-time World Player of The Year, Marta, collapse inside the box. The save that wasn’t – all to be taken away for an encroachment penalty, that is certainly correct by the book, but often gets overlooked.
I guess it just makes sense that the US got the last laugh. Wambach’s seemingly impossible header in the 122nd minute – the latest goal in women’s World Cup history – thrilled those in Dresden, those in Germany, the United States and even Brazil, albeit for a different reason.
It was the team that didn’t give up, playing with only 10 players for over 55 minutes, coming back down a goal, then winning 5-3 in penalty kicks with US keeper Hope Solo, stopping the Brazilians, again, and proving why she is the No. 1 keeper in the world.
It was frizzy-haired Megan Rapinoe’s 30-yard cross that found its way, with seemingly destined eyes, to the leaping Wambach and with a loud, almost buffered “chank” put to fruition all those thoughts in my head of “something great is going to happen” and disintegrated the possibility of the worst ever World Cup, by losing two games – the first time it would have happened to the USWNT.
It was the collectively cool finishes that each US player displayed after lining up at the penalty spot. Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd, Wambach, Rapinoe and the German-speaking defender Ali Krieger, who played professionally in Frankfurt, Germany, that finished off Brazil 12 years to the day when Briana Scurry, Brandi Chastain and the 1999 US team dominated headlines with their win over China in the Final.
“America is finally realizing that soccer is a beautiful game,” Solo said on ESPN following the win. There’s truth to that statement. It is moments like this, players like them, passion you cannot teach and the tremendous amount of heart that coaches wish for in all their players that are transforming this country into one that is finally not just recognizing the sport, but beginning to find the passion.
France awaits next and whatever the outcome, US soccer is starting to grab the hearts of many and attract many more to such a special game.
Ryan Fleming can be reached at Ryan.Fleming@thesoccerguysonline.com.