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July 29, 2014

U.S. soccer team easy to root for

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Posted: Monday, June 23, 2014 11:10 pm | Updated: 11:13 pm, Mon Jun 23, 2014.

Jurgen Klinsmann has soccer fans excited about the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT). While the outcome of Sunday’s game against Portugal was disappointing, most fans were merely hoping for a draw as the team went to halftime facing a 0-1 deficit. 

The Americans managed to come back to tie the game and eventually take a 2-1 lead before Portugal scored a last-gasp equalizer during stoppage time. Take away a careless Geoff Cameron blunder and the Americans would be headed on to the knockout stage. 

Still, give credit to this team. They are playing an exciting brand of soccer rarely seen from a country often derided for its lack of ability in soccer. But the U.S. has added Major League Soccer (MLS) and attracted a number of high-quality players to the league in a short time since drawing criticism in 1990 after winning the right to host the 1994 World Cup. The U.S.-Portugal game was the most-watched soccer game in ESPN’s history. 

Not only does the U.S. team have talent, but they’re also a young team. Maybe that’s part of what makes them so likable. John Brooks headed in a goal and was completely overwhelmed by the moment. DeAndre Yedlin didn’t look fazed at all to be 20 years old and making his World Cup debut. His raw speed is a huge asset to the U.S. defense. Jermaine Jones scored easily the most impressive goal for the team in Sunday’s game, blasting a shot from well beyond the penalty area. Many questioned why Klinsmann gave spots to Jones, Yedlin and Brooks. All were considered too young and too inexperienced. But Klinsmann has proven the critics wrong and provided fans with a fun band of tough underdogs. Clint Dempsey broke his nose against Ghana, but Klinsmann mentioned he had broken his nose three or four times during his career and it should be no big deal. Dempsey played through the injury, even though he had difficulty breathing. A fan can’t help admiring Dempsey’s ability to play on. 

With fellow Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) members Costa Rica and Mexico advancing to the knockout stage, there is hope for the USMNT. Mexico managed to come away with a scoreless draw against third-ranked host Brazil. Some gave the U.S. little chance of advancing, much less of nearly being the first team in the group to advance. They had a strong showing against fourth-ranked Portugal Sunday. While it might have been laughable prior to the tournament, there is good reason to believe the U.S. has a legitimate chance to walk away with a draw against Germany on Thursday. It will be interesting to see what strategies Klinsmann employs (does he use Dempsey as the lone striker again, or will he give Wondo or Johannsson a shot?), but he has at least earned the benefit of the doubt. Whatever the outcome, it’s a safe bet ESPN will have a strong audience waiting to see whether a youthful U.S. squad can somehow defeat the powerhouse German team.

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