Soccer is my life.
I was born and live in Bayonne, New Jersey. A city located only a short car ride away from where the MLS's New York Red Bulls play their home games and simply miles from the stomping grounds of renowned and admired American players like Claudio Reyna, Tim Howard, and, now, Jozy Altidore.
Still, until this Confederations Cup, the U.S. national team and American soccer, in general, mattered very little, if at all, to me.
Soccer, however, is still my life.
Let me explain:
Like many of the players on our roster for this year's Cup, I am the son of immigrants, and being so, I have been raised from birth in an atmosphere where the culture of my family, and of course, that of soccer utterly dominates my household.
As in the case of Rapid's midfielder Pablo Mastroeni, my parents and relatives are all from Argentina. Of the male members of my family, my grandfather's life is consumed by football, to say the least, and my father played in the youth squads of one of Argentina's most prestigious clubs (Newell's Old Boys).
So, understandably, although being born and bred in the USA, my heart has always been tied to Argentine football; specifically, the Argentine national team, a group that is talked about in my family constantly, whose every game is purchased on pay-per-view, and of which I can name every singly player who has been called up in the past four years, since my obsession with football first truly climaxed.
Yet, for some reason, after watching the U.S. play the way they did in this Confederations Cup, I am ready to leave behind my long love affair with the Albicelestes and begin a new one with Team USA.
Why exactly am I considering this conversion?
For one, the heart and ruggedness displayed by our national selection, which in this latest tournament, and for many years has been characteristically unique of a squad in modern football, for multiple good and bad reasons. Perhaps, the most significant of these, and influential upon our brand of soccer, is the fact that our league, the MLS, is so under-developed and under-supported.
In other countries, for instance Spain, Italy, Brazil, and Argentina, where soccer is the breath, the life-source of the people, the magnitude of the game has reached proportions far surpassing that of even our most followed sports.
As a result, so much money has seeped into the "beautiful game" that it now, in many ways, has become almost an absolute mockery of what it once was, and a sport where the virtues of honor, toughness, and allegiance have slowly been replaced by glamour, diving, and expensive cars.
In the United States, though, this transformation has not quite yet happened, thanks in large part to Major League Soccer.
Paying traditionally far lower wages to its stars, continuing to draft players out of college (at ages where most in South America and Europe are already at top clubs), and using a basketball-esque conference and playoff system unlike any other in world football today, our MLS is one of strangeness and frustration to any of us Americans who follow other leagues in places where we consider football to be more important and successful, like Europe.
And, while an inevitable change might take place, shifting our game to become more like that of the popular and high-quality English and Spanish top flights, and eliminating the heavily criticized customs of American soccer, to this day you still can see in most American players the once ubiquitous qualities of valor and honesty that have been allowed to remain because of the unusual nature of our system and it's inability to find soccer a spotlight in the American mainstream.
In a way, it can be said that the U.S. is almost disconnected from the rest of the soccer world, excluding, of course, the few American players who do make the trip to play for bigger clubs overseas. And in many ways this factor has benefited us.
Nonetheless, that point isn't the singular reason for why I have recently been so attracted to American soccer. It can be said that what has called me to our game is rather a mishmash of multiple things I've only just realized.
One of these, which is perchance the most alluring personally, is the fact that our squad is such a splendid and accurate illustration of what our nation actually looks like and who it represents.
While nations like France and the Netherlands are witnessing the replacement of their soccer-playing indigenous populations with representatives from immigrant groups having only newly arrived from Africa and the Middle East, the United States, a country with very few remaining indigenous inhabitants, is embracing its title as a land of and fore immigrants, fielding players with links back to some of the multitudinous nations of the world: Oguchi Onyewu (Nigeria), Freddy Adu (Ghana), Carlos Bocanegra (Mexico), Jozy Altidore (Haiti), Sacha Kljiestan (Serbia), and Benny Feilhaber (Brazil), to name only a few of those who played in this tournament.
As well, and most importantly, the United States is finally starting to make a name for itself in world football.
Where most would argue that we are the economic and military powerhouse of our planet, and a behemoth in other sports like baseball and American football, we are but minnows in soccer just starting to stick our heads out of the water. And, that is why the U.S. national team and the MLS need us now more than ever before.
Of those born and raised in this country, many of us support teams overseas or from the countries of our parents, for an assortment of reasons. Personally, mine for supporting Argentina have been political, cultural, and pridefully-oriented.
Because, I am greatly opposed to the imperialism and hubris of American political history and would rather side with a nation that isn't, at times rightfully, looked at in the world with such negative perceptions.
But, what I realized this week, is that our national team is not that of the invasive exploiters, of George W. Bush, and of big business. It is a group of youngsters with all different sorts of backgrounds and stories fighting to give their country a name and glory on the world stage, where no one takes us into account.
Footbalistically speaking, we are the polar opposite of what we are politically, militarily, and economically.
That is exactly why I am calling for the disillusioned fans of soccer to come back to the MLS, come back to the U.S. national team. Together we can create something beautiful, a history for the United States that can be looked at in admiration for the generations of our children and grandchildren.
And, after losing to Brazil, the planet's most formidable footballing outfit for the past 50 years, 3-2 in a game where we played mightily, it is now more than any time in the past that we must give Team USA everything we have.
To make sure that, next time, it is the Brazilians wearing the silver around their necks and us celebrating, for the first time, with a world trophy in our hands.