USA vs. Algeria 2010 FIFA World Cup: A Victory for the Diehard U.S. Soccer Fan
Story after story has been published in the last few hours, talking about what this American victory over Algeria means.
Some say that it is a victory for soccer and in general, converting casual fans. Some claim that it is a victory for the next generation. Still, others assert that this is the turning point for American soccer.
They're all wrong.
This is a victory for the diehard American fan. This is vindication.
I've been a fan of the U.S. national team ever since 1994. I was only eight years old, and I didn't know many of the players, but I was screaming just as loud as anybody else, cheering on my team. As I've gotten older, my passion has remained just as strong. I may not have the time or money to travel to support them, but I make sure to watch every match that they play.
Over the last 16 years, I've experienced it all: The embarrassment of 1998, the joy of 2002, the frustration of 2006. I remember the Gold Cup titles, I cherish the wondrous Confederations Cup run of last summer, and I respect the slow climb to the top of CONCACAF.
Most of all, however, I remember the scorn and derision directed at my team.
It came from all directions, from within the country and also outside its borders. Sports commentators such as Jim Rome have ruthlessly attacked the sport and the national team. I have dealt with friends talking about my favorite pastime as a sport for children; real men don't play soccer, they said.
Countries around the world, especially in Europe and South America, look at the U.S. team and laugh. To them, it is a joke.
But no more.
This was the day, this was the game, when the U.S. national team stood up and declared that they were no longer going to be a laughing stock. Today, we stand above England, the nation that invented the sport. They certainly have more talent, and if we were to play 100 matches, England would likely win more than half, but on this day, the U.S. tops the group.
Sure, the U.S. has had bigger victories, ranging from Brazil to England to Spain, but we've never performed like this when we were the favorites. Before, we were always the underdog, pulling out the unlikely victory. Now, we're ready to shed that tag.
Make no mistake, that is a very big deal.
It is impossible to accurately describe my reaction when Landon Donovan finally struck from six yards out.
I was jumping up and down (not easy to do with an orthopedic boot on one foot), hugging people, and, I believe, generally flipping out. It was as if all of the pent-up emotional energy was released in that one instant. When the final whistle blew, I had to wipe tears out of my eyes.
I don't care what other people say, this one victory isn't going to do much to improve American soccer anytime soon.
What it did do, however, was vindicate the faith that I and every other U.S. national team fan has had in the team. This was a giant middle finger to all of the doubters out there. Even when everything was going against us, even when it seemed like we couldn't buy a goal, we found a way to win.
Continue to underestimate us at your own risk.
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