High Hope for U.S. Men’s Soccer

Jamie Gorry

Look back to May 30, 2013 and one sees a U.S. men’s national soccer team that was in a state of disrepair. Having won just one of their previous six games, the US was coming off of a shellacking at home friendly match against an admittedly talented Belgium squad. They sat in third place in their FIFA World Cup qualifying group of six teams, with only goal differential to thank for keeping them above fourth. In a group where only the top three teams are ensured entry to the World Cup and with a tough road ahead, times were troubling for coach J??rgen Klinsmann’s men. Goals were hard to come by and the defense was lackluster, star Landon Donovan was off on sabbatical and the news was rife with rumors of discontent in the locker room. It is safe to say, dreams of glory in next summer’s World Cup were far from the minds of even the most optimistic of fans.

 Today, the outlook for the U.S. is much brighter. Starting with a surprise 4-3 victory over world heavyweight Germany in June, the U.S. ran off an amazing 12 straight victories. 12 wins in a row was not only a record for the U.S., but the seventh longest win streak by a national team in the history of soccer. After defeating Germany, the U.S. beat Jamaica 2-1 in a must-win World Cup qualifier in Kingston thanks to a last minute goal by Brad Evans, his first ever in international competition. They went on to beat Panama and Honduras on home soil to move into first place in their

qualification group. The Panama match was one of the first played in Seattle, where the atmosphere was so impressive that US captain Clint Dempsey cited it as a main reason why he joined the Sounders, Seattle’s MLS team, later in the summer.

   With World Cup qualifying completed for the summer, the U.S. turned their attention to the Gold Cup, a bi-annual tournament that determines the premier team in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. After defeating Guatemala in a friendly match for their fifth straight win, they rolled off three straight wins against Belize, Cuba and Costa Rica. With momentum surging, they defeated El Salvador 5-1 in the quarter-finals of the Gold Cup for their ninth win in a row. They went on to beat Honduras 3-1 in the semifinals and Panama 1-0 in the final to capture their first Gold Cup championship since 2007, outscoring their opponents 20-4 along the way. Winning the Gold Cup allows the Americans to at least have an opportunity to play in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, a warm-up to the World Cup. The perfect summer concluded with a 4-3 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo, with Jozy Altidore’s hat trick capping a comeback from a 2-0 half-time deficit.

From June 2 to August 14, the U.S. won 12 straight games, beating tough European opponents, winning the Gold Cup and

surging to the top of their World Cup qualifying group. The reasons for this sudden success were plentiful. Coach J??rgen Klinsmann hit all of the right notes, with surprise starters becoming stars and substitutes scoring mere seconds after entering the game. Landon Donovan, considered by many to be the face of the team, returned from his sabbatical to demonstrate outstanding form, leading the team to their Gold Cup triumph. While the Americans have always been known for their grit and determination, a suddenly brilliant offensive force was truly what made this summer such a success. Jozy Altidore, a forward often defined by his potential became world-class seemingly overnight, scoring in five consecutive games. Position by position, game after game, the gears clicked into place, making the U.S. men’s national team a finely tuned machine.

In the world of soccer however, momentum and identities are rarely definite. The US’s 12-game win streak came to a sudden end on Friday, September 6, as they lost 3-1 to Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier, causing the Americans to drop to second in their group. Three qualification games remain, Mexico on September 10, which took place after we went to press, Jamaica on October 11 and Panama on October 15. While qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil remains likely, it is not a certainty. But if the U.S. can maintain this summer’s form, many more seemingly unattainable

accomplishments could be suddenly within their grasp.

Contact Jamie Gorry at [email protected]