Twelve years ago I witnessed the most horrifying missed-call of my life. I was 9 years old and woke up at 4 a.m. to watch the game; I loved soccer and the United States was playing Germany in the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
The U.S. is down by one in the 50th minute when their center defender, Gregg Berhalter, connects on a header that appears to be going in. The German goalkeeper, Oliver Kahn, misplays the ball and allows it to bounce over his out-stretched arms. The ball now has a clear path to goal, except for Torsten Frings standing on the inside of the post; it bounces off the turf and strikes Frings right in the forearm, a clear handball. (Play can be seen at 1:38 mark)
The U.S. goes onto lose 1-0.
The United States Soccer Federation can still point to this game as “the American’s” pinnacle-showing in soccer’s most prestigious tournament. If you watch the highlights above, you’ll hear the announcer introduce the game saying, “America had defied belief”; you can really get a taste of that in the short clip. They were underdogs but played the role admirably, showcasing skill and putting in the effort that an American blue-collar worker would be proud of.
The mistake I made after this game is one I’d like to help keep you from making, and that is, I didn’t pay attention for another four years.
It’s an easy thing to do, the World Cup comes and goes in a month, and while the team will send you on a roller coaster ride, the emotional attachment doesn’t always extend beyond the reach of the quadrennial tournament.
Generally, Americans possess limited knowledge about international soccer and all of its nuances. Many fail to realize that a team’s showing at the World Cup is the culmination of four years of games and players, not just the result of one month’s work.
This guide is going to relive how the United States Men’s National Team made it into this year’s world cup, as well as explore different facets of international soccer. It will offer player commentary and analysis, especially as the World Cup draws nearer. The idea is to get you as well-informed as possible, in the hopes that the added context will make for a more enjoyable World Cup experience; as well as provide you with a base knowledge to continue following the team after the tournament is over.
If you stick with me, you’ll be running laps around the casual fan. And if you can already do that, then it’d be great to hear opinions in the comments section. Each posting will include previous articles and be accompanied by a table of contents, allowing you to easily navigate the different topics. There will also be a glossary for terms used that may not be familiar to the casual fan.