Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Hangover

As someone who appreciates being given chances to prove myself in this game, I like to pay it forward. A few soccer scribes-in-waiting out there hit me up for advice from time to time, and one of those enterprising writers is here to deal with the aftermath of today's World Cup final loss. Without further ceremony, I turn the page over to New York high school senior Jacob Klinger...

The story is as old as the World Cup itself; reasonably favored powerhouse stumbles through the early stages of the tournament in less than convincing fashion only to round into form and take home the shiny gold trophy when it's all said and done. Unfortunately, as crossover fans of the US Men's National Team can attest, that is simply not the American way.

Having been the last to qualify for Germany 2011, the American women were much-maligned in the build-up to the World Cup - yet nobody that could read a team sheet was foolish enough to count them out of contention. After grinding out victories against the steroid-infused North Koreans as well as doormats Colombia, three points were naively dropped against Sweden setting up a talent-packed quarterfinal. The pulse-pounding two hours of soccer that ensued against Brazil caught the eye of the fickle American public and the dramatic 3-1 victory over least-loved allies France left the ladies all but signing a movie deal.

Only the Cup final against plucky heartfelt underdogs Japan stood in the way. The Americans couldn’t deny they were favorites and they started the game looking fully the part. Two hours, two blown leads, and a penalty shoot-out later (one that favored the United States against Japan’s significantly less experienced team and 5’7 keeper Ayumi Kaihori) the Americans were the bad kind of teary-eyed.

As Saki Kumagai's winning penalty inevitably hit the back of the net American fans and players alike were left wondering simply "How?" The sad truth is that champions rarely "make it interesting." Cup-holders Germany had been ruthless in their eight-year reign over the Women's World Cup just as you’d be hard-pressed to recall an occasion in which the Spanish men let their victims back into a meaningful match.

Champions certainly aren't required to play anything resembling the beautiful game (see Italy '06), but once given an advantage such as a late sending-off or a lead they go to work maintaining possession, controlling the game, defending when called upon, and whittling away the game as well as their opponent's spirit. For all their bravado and fighting spirit, Team USA did none of the above today. Consequently, the technically superior Japanese women will deservedly return to their disaster-struck nation as champions.

The silver lining for the Americans: they can look forward to a third straight nearly-patented Gold Medal Rebound in London next year.

- Jacob Klinger


emason1271 said...

Great article. You clearly know and love the game. Keep up the good work!

Clint said...

Nice work, Jacob!

SPA2TACU5 said...

Good writing, but maybe try to add some more "football" as an ingredient. Or at least pose a more clear thesis.
There's enough potential, good luck!

C. Goldkamp said...

Well done Jacob, I throughly enjoyed it.

Jacob Klinger said...

I truly appreciate any and all of the feedback. Hopefully there will be plenty more to come.