A Message from US Soccer to the World: LET US IN!

John KessanisCorrespondent IAugust 13, 2009

MEXICO CITY - AUGUST 12: Landon Donovan #10 of the USA has trash thrown on him as he attempts a corner kick during the FIFA World Cup Qualifying soccer match between the USA and Mexico at Azteco Stadium August 12, 2009 in Mexico City, Mexico. USA lost 2-1. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

In a world where the United States of America seems to deviate from the international status quo more often that not, the rest of the planet lays claim to what is internationally known as the "world" sport.


Yes, even the way we say the name deviates from everyone else. 

The original "football" has brought together races and religions of all varieties.  It has ended civil disputes, encouraged political peace, and inspired millions of people of all classes and castes to be proud of their heritage.

Yet, there seems to still be one monstrous clique which is on the outside looking in.  And that is the United States.

While the States may possess the audacity to name their most popular sport after the world sport—and just spell it differently to get away with it—soccer fans in this country feel more like the kid who doesn't get picked in a pick-up basketball game during recess.

We—being US fans and players alike—are starting to feel left out.  When soccer is mentioned internationally, the vernacular in a discussion about US soccer sounds more like a description of the Los Angeles Clippers then, say, the Lakers (Brazil) or the Celtics (England). 

There are no legendary memories.  There are no national treasures like Argentinian Diego Maradona, no one-named superstars like Pele. 

And discussion about the top teams in the world never focus around the red white and blue, but rather the red, white, and green.

The US strives to be the most dominant nation in every facet possible.  Yet we are the laughing stock of the one sport which unites the world. 

Until recently.  America's victory of then-ranked No. 1 Spain in June measured about a 9.4 on the international soccer Richter Scale.  A team which had not lost in over two years (7 Feb 2007 - 24 Jun 2009) went down to a country who's best player would ride the bench on many other national or club teams worldwide.

A 3-2 loss to Brazil weeks later would prove to be another step in the right direction for the US.  Despite the loss, the United States had won the first half 2-0 and shown, at least temporarily, that the talent and chemistry was at least there to give the big boys a potential run-for-their-money type of game.

Yet, the rest of the world seems to have made it clear that they do not want us on their team.

Watching the States' 2-1 loss to Mexico on Wednesday, US soccer as an organization looked like a deer in the headlights.  And that is not a bash on a team which, I believed, played very well with all things considered.

But picture a deer which runs out into the middle of a busy road and freezes when they see oncoming danger.

Well, with a bigger and bolder target on their back then ever before, the US got their first full dose of what may lay ahead.  Mexican soil has always—always—been a problem for the US.  And Wednesday was nothing different.

But so much was different about how the US went down.  Yes, there was the usual smattering of boos and Duracell's at the "gringos" from the north. 

There was a packed Azteca Stadium full of Mexican flags and obnoxious plastic horns.  There were the few and far between US fans in the Azteca being thoroughly abused by the home crowd.  Ethnic epithets were being thrown around just as much as empty soda cups and debris was being thrown at anything and anyone Americana.

Only this time, that would not be enough to win for the home team.  American fans—and some honest Mexican fans—who watched the game will tell you that the 12th man for Mexico was not in the stands, but rather right there on the field.

Wearing yellow shirts, black shorts, and carrying whistles and flags.

After playing to a 1-1 tie in the first half, the US went into the final 45 minutes of play with three yellow cards.  The Mexicans had zero.

The second half was more physical then the first, with a prime example coming in the 74th minute. 

In that 74th minute US forward Charlie Davies dropped down on the field.  Video of the incident seems to suggest Davies went down with cramps. 

As the 105,000 home fans drowned the field with boos, several Mexican players tried to pull him off the ground.  And anyone who knows the sport knows that is a big no-no.

An angered US midfielder, Benny Feilhaber, began to shove the players off his smothered teammate.  This led to more pushing and shoving from the boys in green and, eventually, a mini-melee broke out just outside of the 18-yard box.

While Mexico was issued a yellow card, it came only as a result of Mexican forward Gerardo Torado striking Feilhaber in the throat during the ruckus.

Within the full 90+ minutes of the game, however, there was more pushing and shoving than a eighth grade fist fight.  And it was evident that the Americans were becoming more and more frustrated with officiating.  Or rather, the lack there of.

In all, the US would finish with four yellow cards to Mexico's two.  Yet, what will haunt the US will more likely be the plethora of non-calls which never came.

The States will not use it as an excuse.  Why?  Because excuses don't work when you're expected  to lose.  Have a Brazilian forward tell you they lost a 2-1 game because of poor officiating, and people will open their ears and watch replays.

Have the US tell you the same and, well, you can imagine the reception.

With a team which finally seems like it could be a contender, the rest of the world just doesn't seem like they want to let us in.  It's like, since we as a country have everything, the world wants to keep us from the one thing they—yes they—call their own.

The rest of the world, and not the US, call soccer "our" sport.  And it just seems like they want to keep it that way.

So with the 2010 World Cup more of an expectation than a stretch of reality for the United States, what should fans accept?

Will the rest of the world finally play fair and allow us to try out this thing they foolishly call "futbol?"  Or will we forever be the class bench-warmer who gets the tier two treatment?

One thing is for certain, and that is the US has a steep uphill climb ahead of them.

They traveled 7,400 feet above sea level to play Mexico in their home Estadio Azteca.  Their endeavours left them with their first lead of any sort in the Azteca in the 43-year history of the stadium.

Now, they will have to make an even steeper trek up the world rankings to prove that their victory over Spain was not a fluke.  That their tussle with Brazil was not an Ali-esque bob-and-weave by a more dominant Brazilian team, which simply absorbed all the opposition could give them and eventually dominated then with their knockout power.

And that this US squad will not be treated like that bench-warmer.

We got next.


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