Soccer nitwits…

I managed to watch the US/Ghana match this morning and peeeeyoooooo sir, boy does the US World Cup team reek. They run slow, react slower and have zero ball control. They were thoroughly outclassed in every way by the team from Ghana.

What’s amazing has been all the hype surrounding the US [tag]World Cup[/tag] team. [tag]FIFA[/tag] ranked them #5 in the world and after watching them play today I cannot imagine why. Ok, not true. I can imagine that a lot of dollars changed hands in order to assign that ranking to a team that could probably be beaten by most of the high school [tag]soccer[/tag] squads out there.

Ever since the World Cup was hosted by the US in 1994 (which automatically qualified the US team for the tournament) there have been pronouncements prior to each event that “soccer is on the cusp of being HUGE in the United States.” Big problem with that statement – soccer is already the most played sport in the US. My step-son plays little league baseball. A grand total of one of his friends play organized baseball. His other friends who play sports all play soccer.

Ok, so the pundits grant that soccer is really popular in the US with kids. Some nasty pundits also opine that soccer is actually more of a girls’ game here. Yes, girls’ soccer is very popular (partially because it’s well funded and the equipment and facilities required to run an organized league are minimal – fund girls’ softball or basketball as well and they’d be popular too). But these folks are ignoring some basic math. The US has an enormous latino population and in Latin America soccer is like a religion. [tag]Univision[/tag], the most watched latino network, has punted their entire schedule for the duration of the World Cup. They’re risking nothing by doing this. Their viewership is probably a third higher now than it normally is.

And it’s not just latinos who love to watch soccer. We put a TV in the cafeteria at work and tune it to Univision every morning during breakfast and during the lunch break. The room is packed and according to the food service manager our coffee sales are through the roof.

Soccer is a big deal in the US. Watching American teams play it? Not such a big deal. They stink. They play a sluggish, loping, unrefined version of the game. The only drama in a match that features a US team is the massive whining from players, coaches and fans about the officiating. You can expect to see this rachet up about six notches over the next day or two, coming from people who fail to see the obvious foul committed by [tag]Onyewu[/tag]. [tag]Bruce Arena[/tag], the obviously overmatched and underbrained US coach, was moaning about the foul as soon as the game was over and implying that the referee was incompetent, in spite of the fact that this same referee had clearly favored the US team on foul calls throughout the game.

Or, to put it another way, that the US was trounced by the Czechs (who played badly in all of their other matches and will also be headed home today) and cleanly beaten by Ghana, a team who had never been in a World Cup before, ought to tell everyone that hopes and expectations for the US squad were way out of line with reality. Hopefully Arena’s firing will be announced within the next day or so and a suitably qualified coach will be hired who actually knows who to put on the pitch and when in international competition. That should help a bit four years hence. What cannot be so easily resolved is the lack of basic talent from which to draw a US team for another World Cup bid.

[tag]MLS[/tag], the third professional soccer league in US History, doesn’t make much money. They therefore don’t have the resources to do what professional leagues in Europe, Asia and Latin America do – build a system of farm leagues to feed qualified, talented players into their top level teams. I have no doubt that there is an abundance of young talent our there, what with every kid on the block kicking a soccer ball around for better than half of every year. But these kids end up playing basketball, American football and even baseball as their primary sports in high school and college and when given the choice end up playing one of those sports professionally because there’s a lot more money in them and a much more certain future.

Americans love soccer, like I said. They just don’t enjoy watching lousy American teams play it.

Ok. Enough grouchiness. Someone on Deadspin posted this video from YouTube to lighten the mood of US soccer fans. Enjoy…

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