Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Most Important Images from the Slovenia Game

Two Fans’ Reaction and the Yank’s Big Step Forward in World Soccer

James Mundia

The most poignant images from USA’s dramatic tie with Slovenia are not of the team’s celebration after Donovan’s or Bradley’s goals. They have nothing to do with the puzzling and much-talked about disallowed goal in the 86th minute. And thankfully its not the choreographed Slovenian celebration after their first goals.

Instead, I point a couple twenty-something diehard American fans embracing in the stands, one of them in tears, following the tying goal from Bradley.  It’s a goal that to an 80’s baby like myself is the most important strike since Paul Caliguri scored the  “Goal heard round the World” against Trinidad and Tobago in 1989 to qualify the US for Italia 1990, ending a 50 year World Cup drought.

The few seconds of video showing the jubilant and emotional celebration following the goal are what will stay with me and many others following the match. For years the question has been asked as to whether soccer can get “big” in the States, whether we have the passion to flourish in the world’s game, let alone the talent.

During the match, my old roommate texted me, telling me that these were two guys he’d actually played college soccer with that had made the trek to South Africa, and emailed me the pictures.

As we fight our way through the group stage abroad, and fight the battle with FIFA to try and host the Finals in 2018 or 2022; dedicated and passionate fans, willing to let their emotions (appropriately) hang out will help our chances greatly. And it doesn’t help that we just added Bill Clinton to the World Cup hosting bid committee.

Despite our ability to make it to the World Cup for the 6th straight time, we’re still  considered outsiders in the world’s game. These images, broadcast worldwide, show a new side to Sam’s Army.  This type of passion in the stands shows that we are more than just posers trying to join the world’s biggest party. Yes, we are relative newcomers to the elite soccer world, but win, lose or draw, we still bleed our country’s colors when they take the field. And despite the vast differences between our soccer history and most other nations, I think they can all identify with that.

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