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Friday, July 25, 2014
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United States' Clint Dempsey, left, and Michael Bradley attend a news conference before an official training session the day before the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, on, Sunday. (Associated Press)

United States' Clint Dempsey, left, and Michael Bradley attend a news conference before an official training session the day before the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, on, Sunday. (Associated Press)

Manuel column: US soccer team has something for everyone

Last Modified: Monday, June 16, 2014 2:01 PM

By Rhett Manuel / American Press

Watching your first, or any, World Cup match is an experience all its own.

I’m convinced that nothing springs optimism like the first match of the group stage.

That phrase “hope springs eternal” is really never more true. Teams go through a grueling qualification process to get to the tournament.

That’s why today is the best day to watch the United States in the World Cup.

When the U.S. Men’s National Team kicks off at 4:30 p.m. today against Ghana I can guarantee you one thing — you’ll get the purest experience you can of what I think is finally a burgeoning sport in our country.

Leave the stereotypes about what soccer is and isn’t at home if you choose to tune in today. Gone are the days of every game being 1-0, “guys just kicking the ball around for 90 minutes” and the United States not being very good at soccer.

Yes, the team isn’t Brazil, Germany or Argentina. To be honest, it doesn’t have to be in order to be entertaining.

Yes, Landon Donovan — the most decorated player our country has produced — isn’t on the team this time around. To be honest, he’s not the same guy he used to be anyway.

Yes, there’s a chance you’ll tune in and regret doing so. You may still consider it boring and in that case I’ll try my hardest not to cry if I get any harsh emails.

But before you do any of those things or jump to any conclusions, just take a walk with me.

If you’re a fan of spectacle, passion and things that move with a continuous flow you may find yourself entranced.

Watching the United States in a soccer match embodies every thing it means to be an American. As a country we are many things: industrious, smart and diverse to name a few.

The team I’ll be watching today is all those things. The 11 men on the field who pull on that red, white and blue will work hard for those two hours. For many of them, the opportunity to represent their country will be the highest honor of their careers.

Diversity — the U.S. team is led by a German coach and features players of Mexican-American, German-American and plain old American descent.

There are characters for everyone to love. There’s a 32-year-old dreadlocked, free-spirited midfielder. There are a couple stodgy old curmudgeons who just want to get the job done. There’s the midwestern man who’s made the most of his opportunities and is living — every pun intended — the American dream.

Then there are the fans. You think the U.S. won’t be represented in Natal, Brazil, because this “isn’t our sport”? I’d beg to differ.

The following will be loud. They will be vocal. They will most certainly be rambunctious and likely aided by a bit of liquid courage.

If you need convincing, just look into the eyes of the players as “The Star-Spangled Banner” is playing before the match. What you’ll see from our most senior players, guys like goalkeeper Tim Howard and striker Clint Dempsey, is pride and joy.

Then they will roll the ball out to play, and whether it’s understood what’s going on or not, you’ll see a group of guys that leave it all out on the field for their country.

Whether you’re pro- or anti-soccer, that’s something to be proud of.

Rhett Manuel will be following the World Cup. Email him at rmanuel@americanpress.com

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