Hope can be a dangerous thing in the world of sports. Oftentimes, it leads to disappointment.
The United States came into this year’s World Cup ranked fifth, a ranking that many experts and athletes had zero respect for.
But it was a ranking that gave U.S. soccer fans something to hope for.
“Maybe we can be that good,” were the dreams of U.S. supporters.
After outplaying Germany in the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, only to have the game snatched from them by the eventual runners up, it seemed possible that the Yanks could live up to some of the hype.
Well, the boys in blue proved otherwise today, dropping their opener to the Czech Republic 3-0.
For those who didn’t see the game, the score was a very accurate representation of the play.
The hope that U.S. fans may have had coming into the cup quickly slipped away as the U.S. showed its typical unimaginative and unemotional play.
While the Czechs looked strong, with fairly fluid play and consistent confidence, the United States gave them little to contend with.
The U.S. seemed as if it had nothing to prove, taking their time swinging the ball around the back and showing no real urgency at all ” a catastrophe on a stage as big as this one.
It was as if some boys had found their way onto a field of men, thumping the ball up field and praying it might find its way into the net, while the Czechs pinged the ball around sharply, taking advantage of precise runs with well-timed passes.
The United States, led by head coach Bruce Arena, who looked disappointed but not surprised from the bench, showed once again that it does not seem to care about those things that the rest of the world craves.
There were two major things lacking in the U.S. game. The first, which was clear on every inch of the Gelsenkirchen pitch, was heart.
From Kasey Keller to Eddie Johnson there was no fire, no passion from the squad in the navy blue kits.
Luckily for U.S. supporters, heart is something that can be remedied and often is after a thumping like the Americans took on Monday.
The second thing, which perhaps is more of a problem, is the style in which the U.S. plays.
There is no imagination. A midfielder gets the ball and his attacking players can be seen turning and running away from him towards the goal. It’s like football players running for the Hail Mary.
Well, the long pass simply does not work as a style, especially in the World Cup. High caliber players and teams have developed a more sophisticated style of play, one in which all players on the field are always moving and always supporting (going towards) the player with the ball.
The Czechs showed that style of play in Gelsenkirchen. The United States showed a stubborn, unimaginatively primitive style that, if continued, will make this a very short tournament for the Yanks.
Some hope still remains, as it is possible that the American players were nervous. With hesitant play and lots of poor touches and passes, especially in the opening minutes of the match, nerves are a distinct possibility. Perhaps Arena’s squad will bring some fire and flair to the table against Italy on Saturday.
U.S. fans can always hope.
But beware, hope can be a dangerous thing.