Since the final whistle in Rustenburg, much of the talk has been about what the US’ 1-1 draw with England means. Was this the watershed moment US soccer has been waiting for to take it to the next level in the American sports consciousness?
This type of big-picture hand-wringing is so very us, isn’t it? We US soccer fans always seem to need to find meaning or watersheds or transcendence in these types of moments. We journalists like to try to frame moments as momentous.
But here’s the linguistically loopy truth: The momentousness of this moment is its total lack of momentousness.
The US drew with England, so what?
That’s the attitude many fans have taken. For someone who has been intimately involved with this game in the US for the past 30 years, I find this an amazing sign of progress and development.
Sure, in 1993, the US beat England, but that was in the US Cup, which meant very little (except maybe to England manager Graham Taylor, who was out of a job a few months later). But to draw with these Three Lions, now coached by the master Fabio Capello and favorites to contend for the actual World Cup trophy, is a remarkable feat.
Except that it’s not. The US were outshot and outpossessed during the match. But they were not outplayed. Looking at the stats, England outshot the US only 18 to 13 and outpossessed them only 54% to 46%.
And be honest: After the US went down a goal in the 4th minute, didn’t you get that familiar niggle in your belly that this was about to become another Czech Republic-like fiasco?
But it didn’t. The US held their composure. They started to move the ball. They bent a few times but didn’t break. Tim Howard was heroic in goal. Ricardo Clark and Michael Bradley were equally heroic in wrenching the Steven Gerrard-Frank Lampard spine of England’s formation.
And by the 15th minute, the notion of a demoralizing soccer-in-America-destroying blowout was gone. This was going to be a real match. England knew it. The US knew it. And most important US fans knew.
By the time Robert Green bundled Clint Dempsey’s shot into the England net, who didn’t think the equalizing goal was inevitable? I certainly did.
After the match, US coach Bob Bradley said, “I think at halftime the feeling was we still had a really good chance to win.”
He could’ve been talking about England or Honduras or Vanuatu. It didn’t matter. For the US, getting a result against anyone, even soccer’s powerhouses, is no longer an event. It’s no longer a moment. And that is as momentous as it gets.
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