A glorious evening of big time soccer

I went to a big time soccer game last night, of which there are not, alas, many on a regular basis in America. I was there, at FedEx Field where the Washington Redskins usually rule, with 67,000 other people, including an American friend, who had not seen much soccer before last night, but who came home a fan.

How could he not be? The evening was soft, the atmosphere exciting, joyous and friendly. In the stands were Americans, Brazilians, Latinos, soccer moms and soccer dads with their sons and daughters, coaches with their young players. In 90 minutes, it was all done — not an eternally long, and constantly interrupted game, like in baseball or American football.

Yes, Brazil beat the United States, 4 -1, what else is new? Brazil is just the best, and the American side was never close to winning. It seemed, in fact, that in spite of all their big game experience with the national team around the world, and with their clubs in Britain, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Holland, the Americans were intimidated by their opponents, at least in the first half. They lacked resoluteness, speed, toughness, even energy.

But it was a glorious evening anyway, a big night for American soccer. As this sport continues to grow in this country, I have no doubt that the United States will be a true power house in the world’s biggest sport.

Want to read more? Here is Sam Borden’s excellent piece in today’s New York Times.


Klinsmann takes over U.S. soccer team

Tonight is friendly game of soccer, but it’s not any friendly, and maybe it won’t be very friendly … that is at least what the 82,000 in sold-out FedEx Field just outside Washington DC are hoping.

Barcelona against Manchester United. The world’s two soccer clubs meet again after the final of the Champions League in May, when Barcelona was clearly the superior team. Maybe Manchester is thirsting for revenge, and perhaps there is a chance now when Lionel Messi — “The Boy Genius” — still has the summer off after a busy international match schedule.

The sold-out FedEx Field underscores the huge business interests of both clubs here in the United States, where they have millions of fans which they want to retain and build upon, as soccer continues to grow in interest and importance even though American football, baseball, basketball, and ice hockey all are still more popular.

The big soccer news here is otherwise that former German star player and coach, Juergen Klinsmann, has been put in charge of the U.S. national soccer team. He is taking over from Bob Bradley, who was fired last week after two big disappointments: the U.S. loss to Ghana in last year’s World Cup and this year’s loss in the Gold Cup final against Mexico by 2-4, after leading 2-0.

America’s soccer federation has tried several times before to land the now 47-year-old Klinsmann, who lives in Southern California and is married to an American. George Vecsey gives a good insight in today’s New York Times as to what challenges Klinsmann will be facing in his new job.


New York Times on “Boy Genius” — best in the world

We all know that the international version of football, which Americans call soccer, is steadily gaining popularity in America, not least women’s soccer, where the U.S. has been one of the top teams for many years — I still recall the wonderful experience from the World Cup finals in Los Angeles in 1999 with 100,000 spectators all around me in the Rose Bowl, watching the U.S. defeated China after penalty kicks.

But it seems that it is only then, every four years with the World Cup, that America  wakes up and realizes that something big is happening, something that the rest of the world follows intently and passionately.  Major League Soccer (MLS) has pretty good crowds at the games, but true passion is limited to a rather narrow audience, often to be found among the large immigrant communities from Latin America, Europe or Africa.

The current playoffs in basketball (NBA) and ice hockey (NHL) as well as the first months of the baseball season completely dominate the sports coverage.

Huge tournaments, like the European Champions League, is attracting very little interest. The final is played on Saturday at Wembley Stadium in London between Barcelona of Spain and Manchester United of England, and hundreds of millions of people, maybe one billion or even more, will watch the game, all over the world.

Therefore, today’s New York Times should be noted. Better late than never for an American audience to read about this great athleete! The paper’s sports section contains three pages on the “Boy Genius” – Lionel Messi — from Barcelona and Argentina. If you are a follower of soccer, or if you just want to catch up and get ready for Saturday’s game, you should read this article about this fantastic little soccer player – best in the world.  Enjoy!