The Game of a Lifetime
Earlier, my fellow blogger usasoccerfan16 said that Tuesday’s World Cup game between the US U-20 squad and Poland’s U-20 squad could be one of the biggest games in the lives of several of the US players. Well, usasoccerfan16 was right and the players as well as Coach Thomas Rongen knew how big it was and gave one of the most impressive efforts in the history of US Soccer, winning 6 to 1 over a very good Poland squad.
My last sentence may seem like an overstatement, but given the performance of a player like Freddy Adu who has been written off by many in the US Soccer community and the media as well as the continued development of Danny Szetela (who has been linked with several European clubs), Robbie Rogers, Jozy Altidore and Tony Beltran, the future of US Soccer seems like it could be as bright as has ever been. Even though the United States has advanced into the knock out phase of the last five FIFA World Youth Championships (the forerunner of the FIFA U-20 World Cup), never has the US been so dominant in a single match or even dominant in group play. For example, in 2003 despite winning the group, the US suffered a 3-1 first round loss to Germany. In 1999, the US followed up an opening game victory over England with a crushing defeat against Japan. In the last World Youth Championship, the euphoria of the opening day win over Argentina (the eventual champions) gave way to poor play the rest of the event including a loss in the round of 16.
The bottom line is since the revival of US Soccer in the late 1980s, I cannot recall a single match in FIFA Tournament where the US played opposition of this caliber and looked so dominant. Even during the previous tournaments where the US has advanced to the knock out phases (the past five world youth championships, the 1994 and 2002 World Cups) it has been a struggle to get to that point. Never has the US played respectable opposition and shown the flair and dominant nature we have come to expect from Brazil or Argentina. Besides, rarely before has an American player looked as impressive at any level as Freddy Adu did today. What I cannot understand is why Adu needs to feel besieged at the same time as the bright lights are shining on him to perform. This sort of thing has happened before as every time a European team of some standing came to the USA to either face DC United or the MLS All Stars, Adu has raised his game to a new level. Then when the lights dimmed and MLS action returned, Adu has been missing in action.
The hope of all US Soccer fans should be that today’s game of a lifetime for Freddy Adu and his teammates is a proper indicator as to where US Soccer is heading. We should also hope it’s the breakthrough game for Freddy Adu whose disappointing career now becomes what people have imagined it would: the first legitimate world superstar to be bred on American soil.