With the England national team on their way home from Brazil after three abject performances in the group stage, the intense coverage of the World Cup has been turned down a notch on this side of the Atlantic.
There’s still plenty of excitement as we stand on the brink of the knockout stages of the tournament, but the wide-ranging hyperbole and unyieldingly immersive focus that accompanies the tournament when the Three Lions are involved has fizzled out.
But it means the English people can sit back and enjoy the rest of this competition without enduring the tortuous experience of a knockout stage exit. It also gives the nation a chance to focus a little more intently on a few other sides that have caught the imagination in this competition with some excellent displays — teams such as the United States.
Watching the USMNT is something I imagine the majority of soccer nuts on this side of the pond would love to do a lot more of. But time differences, England fixtures and a lack of television coverage are difficult obstacles to conquer when it comes to checking out Jurgen Klinsmann’s side’s progression on a regular basis.
So for those engrossed in the World Cup experience on this side of the pond, the United States are a team that have been watched closely. How will they cope without Landon Donovan? How is the game developing over there? Can this squad of admittedly modest names compete with the likes of Ghana, Portugal and Germany?
The response to all these questions has been hugely positive, and while the exploits of the team have naturally captured the imagination of the American public, there’s a growing support and a huge appreciation for what the USMNT are doing in the UK too. After all, what’s not to love about this United States team?
The unashamed passion that poured out of Clint Dempsey was exhilarating after he netted against Ghana with just 30 seconds on the clock, as was the humbling disbelief etched on the face of John Brooks when he scored the winner in the same match.
The unrelenting resolve showcased against Portugal after a falling a goal behind was also massively admirable. The Americans were nonplussed by Cristiano Ronaldo and co, unshakeable in their belief that they could get back into the game and they did exactly that with two fine goals.
When the Portuguese equalized late on, the reaction on social media from those in the UK was one of immediate dejection but a little later, huge appreciation. After all, four points from the opening two games of the World Cup is a great return for any side, even if it was agonizingly close to being six.
The same applies, of course to the United States supporters, who have been absolutely phenomenal throughout this World Cup. Recent reports suggest that there are more supporters from the States at the Brazil showpiece than any other nation, which is pretty stunning feat for a country in which the game is still superseded by three other sports.
But the thrilling games this team is being involved in can only serve to change that, and there’s a burgeoning consensus in the UK that the United States are fast becoming one of the must-watch teams remaining in the competition.
They are a side that will be willed on by plenty in the absence of Roy Hodgson’s men. They’re unified, cohesive, passionate and aggressive; the players bellow out the national anthem with pride and everything action they take is bristling with raw patriotism.
They are, in many respects, the antithesis of the England team that let their World Cup chances slip so nonchalantly through their fingers. And aside from the unconquerable human nature to will on the underdog, perhaps that’s exactly why so many English supporters are willing on the United States; they wear their heart on their sleeve and that has made for magnificently encapsulating viewing.
Granted, Americans have always been a little more extroverted in their displays of patriotism, but there’s nothing flashy about the team Klinsmann has assembled. In fact, it’s bursting with what you might consider typically English attributes. And then some.
The United States may not be confirmed in the last-16 yet, but they’re clinging onto their World Cup dream as tight as they possibly can. They will be expected to lose against a stellar Germany side, but given the manner in which they’ve approached their two games previously, you certainly would put it past Klinsmann to mastermind another positive result.
Nonetheless, they’ve shown England the way to tackle a World Cup and a tough group; all founded on a solid team-ethic and a pair performances greater than the sum of their parts.
So expect this vibrant United States outfit to receive plenty of backing from the vast majority of soccer supporters from across the pond. But given the sheer numbers of fans in attendance in South America and the proud push they’ll be afforded from those watching back in the States, Klinsmann and his team probably won’t even need it.