The U.S soccer team’s World Cup hopes may have come to an end on Tuesday after falling 2-1 in extra time to Belgium despite a historic 16 save performance by U.S. goalie Tim Howard. Never the less their journey to make it to the round of 16 makes them one of the most memorable teams in U.S. history.
Soccer is a sport that has for ages been seen as simply secondary in the eyes of Americans. Despite soccer or as the rest of the world calls it football, being the most popular sport in the world, the United States has failed to truly ever embrace the sport. So when the World Cup comes around every four years despite it being considered the biggest sporting event in the world excluding the Olympics, Americans show no interest or only see it as, “oh that soccer thing again.” The USMNT has had little to no success in the world cup from the beginning, and this has served as one of the many reasons that Americans have never deeply rallied behind U.S. Soccer. Let’s face it people to Americans winning is pretty much everything, so unfortunately if your racking up losses don’t expect U.S. sympathy or support.
This year’s World Cup in Brazil from the outside looking in it seemed like the USMNT was once again heading towards an early exit in the World Cup. The U.S. was playing in the “Group of Death” which consisted of Ghana a team that had defeated the U.S in the 2 previous World Cups, Portugal the No.3 team in the world lead by Christiano Renaldo, and No.2 Germany a powerhouse and one of the favorites coming into the World Cup. Even USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsman in a press conference admitted that he felt the U.S. taking home the World Cup wasn’t likely: “For us now talking about winning a World Cup, it is just not realistic.” These words may have served as even more fuel for the U.S. to once again take on the role as the underdog that Americans essentially have a soft spot for.
The 2014 World cup for the U.S. without a doubt has definitely been one to remember. The U.S. opened the tournament by first exorcising the demons of World Cup past against Ghana. The U.S. was able to defeat Ghana in dramatic fashion with a decisive game winning header from U.S. reserve John Brooks in the 86th minute for a 2-1 victory. Following the match the U.S. seemed to be only one win away from escaping the group of death, as they would face off against a Renaldo led Portugal. Despite being down 1-0 at halftime the U.S. was able to claw their way back into the match with 2 second half goals from Jermaine Jones (64’) and captain America himself Clint Dempsey (81’). As the final seconds were winding down and victory seemed to be within reach Portugal was able to score a last second goal off of a beautiful cross from Christiano Renaldo making it a 2-2 draw for the U.S.
With their world cup lives on the line against Germany where the U.S. only needed to tie to survive, their hard fought match ended with a 1-0 loss to the No.2 team in the world. For a second it seemed that the men in stripes world cup dreams had come to an end. The football god’s had shined brightly on the U.S. that day because Portugal had defeated Ghana 2-1 behind the game winning goal of Renaldo sending the U.S. to the round of 16 and escaping the group of death.
Though the USMNT did not win the World Cup they accomplished something that no team had ever done before, which is to finally win the hearts of the American people. This team embodied what the U.S. was all about. They weren’t the most talented or skilled but their effort and heart was second to no one. This team may have influenced a whole generation of youngsters to even think about soccer. Most importantly the boys in stripes encouraged this nation to finally believe.