Follow Dan Leach on Twitter @dtmleach
As night descended on Natal, Brazil, it seemed it was only getting darker for the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team’s chances of a special run in the 2014 World Cup. The Americans had stunned Ghana and soccer fans worldwide with a brilliant Clint Dempsey delight in the first minute to take the lead, then sat back and played the greatest attempt at a game of keep away in recent U.S. Soccer history.
It looked like it was going to work, as all the way into the 82nd minute the Americans still had the one goal lead, even with Ghana completely controlling possession. They would finally break through with a brilliant equalizer by Andre’ Ayew that one of the best keepers in the world, Tim Howard, had no chance at. It had seemed that American hearts would be broken after what had been a brilliant defensive performance against a Ghana side that clearly had more speed then the American one did. That until John Brooks became an American hero in the 86th minute with one of the most important goals in U.S. Men’s National Team history.
I know there are many that don’t get fired up for the World Cup like I have for years, but if you watched one of the great efforts in U.S. World Cup History, try to tell me you were not riveted the whole way. Soccer is by far the biggest sport in the world — dwarfing any sport that our fine country has to offer — yet has an embarrassingly low number of fans in the U.S. compared to football, baseball and basketball.
That could all start to change if this U.S. team goes on a run in Brazil.
Soccer is truly a beautiful game that if many would just give a chance would fall in love with. This group of 23 men might be the best collection of talent as a “team” the U.S. has had at a Cup since at least 2002 — possibly the most in modern U.S. Men’s National team history.
If things continue to line up like they have so far — with the US sky-high with confidence going into their game with Cristiano Ronaldo’s bunch which just got sand-blasted by Germany on their opening game and German hero and American coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, going up against his native land in a game that likely might not mean anything to the Germans — then this could finally be the time the U.S. gets back to a World Cup quarterfinal for the first time since ’02.
And maybe — in the great words of Lloyd Christmas — the often unthinkable “So Your Telling me There’s a Chance” shot to get to a semi.
Which would be the first time since the only time it ever happened — back when milk was 23 cents a gallon back in 1930. This USMNT has the kind of talent to make a magical run in the jungles and tropic cities of Brazil.
Take a look and listen to the American goals, that could both go down in history as two of the biggest-ever for an American side in a World Cup if it spring boards the team to heights it thought it never may reach again. Try to tell me it doesn’t at least give even the most nonchalant of soccer fans goose bumps and a tremendous sense of pride to be an American.