US mens soccer team making progress towards the future

Jurgen Klinsmann made his debut Wednesday as the US Men's National Team head coach.

It’s not very often that I’m excited and anxiously awaiting a soccer game.

Tonight’s US Men’s National Team “international friendly” against Mexico in Philadelphia was a step in the right direction for the Americans.

The game ended in a 1-1 tie.

I guess since the US women’s team made their incredible World Cup run a couple weeks ago, I’ve stayed in the mood–and that’s something the game of soccer should take advantage of. It’s just too bad they lost to Japan in the championship game.

Just over a week ago the US men’s team made a change at the top, firing Bob Bradley as head coach and named Jurgen Klinsmann as the new leader.

Immediately the first changed I noticed was that the US players’ jerseys didn’t have their last names on the back. I like that change. It’s about the US, not the individual player. However from the outside looking in, it is now harder for the casual fan to watch a game with players they don’t know or can’t find.

From “One of the main goals is to make sure that everyone is focused on the most important thing on the uniform – the crest representing the United States.”

Landon Donovan and goalkeeper Tim Howard in fact, were the only two members I recognized from last summer’s World Cup.

From the opening kick, Mexico played the US strong. The Mexican National Team scored early in the first half, dominating the first 45-minutes. But after half, it was all the blue and white.

The Americans had great shots on goal and were getting better touches. They finally found their rhythm together and made great touch passes, holding onto the possession. Robbie Rogers scored the only US goal and they came awful close on a couple more attempts. On one play, a US defender stole the ball away and booted it ahead to the forward who then had a clear path to the goal. The Mexican defender then blatantly pulled the US player’s jersey and was given a yellow card (despite a red card being warranted).

It’s obvious one of the troubles with soccer is that it’s up to interpretation with the referee. Nothing is clear and concise, allowing an official to directly affect a game one way or another. Also, in Wednesday’s game, I noticed the men continue to flop and fake injuries more often compared than the women’s game. Part of why I enjoyed the Women’s World Cup so much was because they didn’t always flop, begging for a call in return.

Fans love excitement and action. That’s why everyone got on their feet when US and Mexico’s players got in each other’s face. If team’s scored more often the game would be more thrilling.

And I also have a difficult time watching a game for over 90 minutes, only to end in a tie. All that for nothing. It’s about winning–so both teams lost. I can’t stand a game ending in a tie.

This is progress for the US men’s team. They are looking to make a run in the 2012 Olympics held in London and to become memorable. In a country so dominated by football and basketball, soccer doesn’t have much of a place. But players like Landon Donovan and Hope Solo are trying to change that imagine and boost interest.

[Note: the coverage got off to a TERRIBLE start. Scheduled to air on ESPN2, a Little League World Series game of about 10 year-olds was running late but ESPN2 instead shifted the soccer game to ESPNews (which I don’t get) before switching over permanently about twenty minutes in). I’m glad the game was televised and with Ian Darke handling the play-by-play duties.]

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