A great win over Spain … now can the U.S surprise some more?

June 25, 2009

The Confederations Cup, effectively a warm-up tournament for the World Cup, rarely captures the imagination but fans in the United States aren’t lacking enthusiasm for the tournament after their team produced a major upset by defeating European champions Spain 2-0.

Goals from Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey ended Spain’s world record run of 15 successive victories and their 35-match unbeaten sequence, a world record streak they share with Brazil. That run has taken Spain to world number one in FIFA’s global rankings.

So a major upset — but just how big a surprise was it?

Our man at the game, global soccer editor Mike Collett, poses the question by putting the U.S’s victory in historical context — North Korea beating Italy in the 1966 World Cup probably takes the prize for this reporter and the fact that the Confederations Cup is a lesser tournament than the World Cup probably weakens the case for this win being among the very greatest upset ever. But regardless of the global-historical rating there is less doubt that, as Mike argues, the win is the biggest for United States since the 1950 shock over England in the World Cup finals.

The U.S have pulled off a few surprises since then, though, and Kartik Krishnaiyer at MLS Talk lists the main triumphs. As Kartik notes, a 3-0 win over Argentina in the 1995 Copa America was a particularly impressive result for a team which had yet to make a real impact in a World Cup. But probably the best U.S result, up until Wednesday, taking into account the importance of the match, was the 3-2 win over Portugal in the 2002 World Cup.

The inevitable question then arises, could this result mark the turning point for soccer in the United States?

Certainly those sceptics who discount the United States as an emerging force in the game solely because they play most of their football against supposedly weak opposition in the CONCACAF region, will be given cause to think again. I’ve long argued that the U.S are at least on a level with the second tier nations in Europe — the Swiss, the Scandinavians, the Belgians, the Austrians and the most of the teams from Eastern Europe and results in friendly games back up that view.

It should also be pointed out that CONCACAF isn’t entirely made up of ‘minnows’ — the likes of Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica are, when things are together on and off the field, teams capable of holding their own against most international sides.

So in terms of the credibility and reputation of the U.S team, this win should earn some additional respect for Bob Bradley’s side — especially if it is followed by a decent display in Sunday’s final against Brazil or South Africa.

Whether there is any knock-on effect for the domestic game is another matter entirely. It will take more than a single surprise result to change the habits of American sports fans and people with no interest in the game aren’t suddenly going to start attending Major League Soccer matches because of a win over Spain.

But — and this is where the fortunes of the US national team and those of MLS do intertwine — the result could serve as a wake-up call to those thousands of fans of international soccer, living in the U.S but with little interest in the domestic game. I am talking primarily of the still largely untapped Latin American market which produces impressive television ratings for international games but also of those young fans of the English Premier League and Champions League who just haven’t been turned on to MLS or the US national team.

If Bob Bradley’s team can build on this result, complete their qualifying for the World Cup in style and then make an impact again next year in South Africa, those fans will be tempted to start following the domestic competition much more actively, especially if some of the best American players can be persuaded (financially of course) to return to or stay in MLS.

Until then, don’t bet against some more surprises from this American team. It may lack big names, outstanding talent and be a little short on flair but as they showed against the Spaniards they have determination, solid organisation and impressive fitness — all qualities ideally suited to the specific demands of tournament football.

PHOTO: Jozy Altidore (R) celebrates with team mate Charlie Davies after scoring for the U.S. against Spain in their Confederations Cup semi-final at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, June 24, 2009. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen

11 comments

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[...] USA! Reuters Soccer Blog Blog Archive A great win over Spain … now can the U.S surprise some more? … A great win over Spain

I’ll watch soccer when the players stop being pansies and stop always looking for fouls to win games off penalty kicks and free kicks. I’ll watch when the players shut up and play the game; when players get knocked over only to spring back up immediately to fight for the ball; when instead of diving or falling over easily in the penalty box they hustle and fight for the goal.

The beautiful game? It certainly could be.

Posted by Joe | Report as abusive

[...] a world record streak they share with Brazil. That run has taken Spain to world number one in FI Go to Source Leave a comment Related PostsJune 17, 2009 — Filling South African Stadiums Proves Difficult [...]

[...] Original post by Reuters Soccer Blog [...]

More than anything the team belongs to the United States of America and the supporters. Coaches come and go, so it really isn’t Bob’s team – in fact there is a groundswell of support to bring in a true internationally proven coach to take the team further. Also USSF the national soccer federation needs a good roto-rooter job to clean out antiquated thinking and self-protecting bureaucrats.

That said, Bob and all the US deserve to be proud of the way the team played.

Posted by pablo torres | Report as abusive

[...] See more here:  A great win over Spain … now can the U.S surprise some more? [...]

“I’ll watch soccer when the players stop being pansies and stop always looking for fouls to win games off penalty kicks and free kicks. I’ll watch when the players shut up and play the game; when players get knocked over only to spring back up immediately to fight for the ball; when instead of diving or falling over easily in the penalty box they hustle and fight for the goal.”

You are seeing the tree not the forest. I can imagine you are already brainwashed by other sports’ comments and grew that within you. The genuine jewl in soccer doesn’t depend on those what they point you to see, there are far other untouchable things, “the essence is invisible to the eyes” was said before and not necesarely about soccer.
So, what you say is old and worn out. We get your point, but we are not going to do anything to try to win your simpathy. We know what the highlights of our game are, and we have a hell of fun, the grass is greener in our side, the beer tastes better and the girls are sweeter.

Posted by angel | Report as abusive

Let’s put this in some historical context: Was it the greatest win in U.S. soccer history?
http://bit.ly/X4xqN

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

I do love it when critics of soccer in the U.S bring up this ‘manliness’ argument.

There is no doubt that diving and playacting are amongst the most unsavoury elements of soccer – unfortunately cheating is present in all sports. You only need to look at baseball and athletics in the United States to check out the amount of steroids cases for example. How many doping cases have there been in US soccer?

Of course, the manliness argument usually comes from fans of the NFL. Now, I love (American) football but if you like bravery and courage then try diving head first into a penalty area full of flying boots or be a goalkeeper and put your head in front of a set of cleats kicking right in your face – without wearing any protective headgear or padding.

Oh and you don’t get to go off for a rest to be replaced by attacking players for half an hour after making the save either…..

Posted by Simon | Report as abusive

What a surprise!

The US Soccer Team played much better than Spain’s and fully deserves a place in the final.

My most sincere congratulations.

Posted by Marcus Vinicius Pinto Schtruk | Report as abusive

The 95 Copa America game was a big-big victory for the US, but it was a one-tooth Argentine squad that year. It was also the third match, with Argentina resting their starters…

Posted by Juan | Report as abusive

[...] There was a time not long ago that that is exactly the category that everyone would put us in. A UK Reuters blogger writes: the U.S are at least on a level with the second tier nations in Europe — the Swiss, the [...]

[...] the previous post, Simon Evans discussed where the U.S. go from here after their stunning win over Spain. Below Mike [...]

It is not a manliness argument. I love soccer and I grew up in England and the US. I really want to love soccer, but I just wanna see a raw game where the great professional players play the game for real. There needs fewer players like that Italian guy who got head butted by Zidane, rolling around on the ground when it doesn’t really hurt. Get up and play the game!

I’ve had enough of seeing games decided on PK’s and free kicks because players fall over easily. Get up and play the game!

Posted by Joe McFarley | Report as abusive

u.s. is close. but keeping “talent” like sascha and casey wastes spots and time that SHOULD be going to better players. somehow it is hard to see through the delusional eyes of those who think some of these guys are national team quality.

gabe

also, i thought it would be fun to add an interview with Marcelo Balboa where he talks about his childhood and his desire to grow soccer through the company Calle Street Soccer.

http://www.captainu.com/buzz/273-marcelo -balboa-the-interview-on-role-models/?ut m_source=CaptainU&utm_medium=email&utm_c ampaign=marcelo_balboa

The 95 Copa America game was a big-big victory for the US, but it was a one-tooth Argentine squad that year. It was also the third match, with Argentina resting their starters… http://www.greatecs.com

Posted by Wynn | Report as abusive

Nothing to be surprised by. It is said that we have to work for the place that we occupy in this world and make everything to deserve it, every second of our life. In football, things happen exactly the same. You don`t need a fortunate past to stay on top of the charts, you just need to keep on proving your value. Some championship!
Manchester United tickets

Posted by evagrainy | Report as abusive