Things have been dark lately, to be sure.
Let’s review what’s happened in the US Soccer world since we launched USfanTV in early October:
- we won a crap friendly on a bumpy pitch in Cuba
- we drew with New Zealand in a sleepy friendly at RFK–a game so boring, I had to go double check the score just now because I couldn’t remember
- we lost in Columbus to Mexico on a last minute header by a guy who’s in my top-two most hated players of all time, Rafa Marquez (Diego Costa occupies the other spot, if you’re wondering), ending 16 years of Dos a Ceros in that match
- we played our worst game in decades, a 4-0 loss to Costa Rica, where we quit trying
- we dragged things out for a week, and then fired the guy who was supposed to take US Soccer to the next level, Jurgen Klinsmann
- and, we hired Bruce Arena to repair the damage.
So, things haven’t been good, to say the least. But you know what? Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and we really do have a lot to be thankful for in the soccer world.
I can think of quite a few things:
Copa America: Due respect to the Gold Cup, but we actually got to see a real men’s soccer tournament hosted in this country for the first time since 1994. It was glorious. I took my then-five-year-old son Finn to his first US match–the USA’s 4-0 win over Costa Rica at Soldier Field. Then, a few days later, Chris and I watched Leo Messi score a hat trick for Argentina after coming on for the final 30 minutes, then literally sprinted to my car, and drove from Chicago to Philadelphia to watch the “Wall of Brooks” game–the USA’s 1-0 win over Paraguay the next day. One of the best soccer weeks of my life, and I’m still burning off all that cheesesteak.
Meeting heroes part one: At that first Copa America match, Finn and I snagged the last spot in a closed line to meet Landon Donovan at a promotional appearance. He couldn’t have been cooler–he signed my centennial jersey (now on my wall), and a photo for Finn, and then posed for a photo with both of us–which is now on my desk to my right as I write this. We chatted about Talon, his son who was only a few months old at the time. I’ve met a lot of cool and really famous people in my life–Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Michael Jordan, Ron Swanson (okay, Nick Offerman)–this moment was up there with any of them. I still feel bad for Chris, though, who was denied a chance to get in line because he didn’t have a cute little kid with him.
Meeting heroes part two: We met Carli Lloyd at a book signing outside Chicago. Carli was exactly like you’d expect. She started signing books 45 minutes early, gave Finn a fist-pound, and was very cordial but quick. Friendly, but businesslike. Cool moment.
Visiting the Emirates: I know we write about US Soccer here, but as an Arsenal fan, I couldn’t leave out the moment where I got to see my favorite Premier League team play in person. I dragged my wife to North London where we toured the Emirates Stadium on a Friday, and then the next day I returned to watch Arsenal smash Watford 4-0.
It’s not just moments I have to be thankful for, but some other things and people, too:
Good American soccer reporters: Ever follow the transfer window drama in Europe? More than 90 percent of the reporting is sloppy, or worse, completely fictional. It’s absolute garbage and a nightmare to follow. Who do you trust? Luckily, we don’t have that problem in America. When Steven Goff and Grant Wahl threw out Bruce Arena’s name not long after the Costa Rica loss, and when Wahl said last week there was a 70-80 percent chance Jurgen Klinsmann would be fired, I knew I could trust that information. Remember Brian Strauss’ excellent investigative piece into problems in Klinsmann’s locker room a few years ago? Sure seems like he was dead on, doesn’t it? In an age where people believe fake news, it’s more important than ever we have reporters we can trust, even in soccer.
Christian Pulisic: Is he the guy? Will an American finally be among the best player on the planet? If anyone can do it, he can. Even if he doesn’t reach that level, I’m just glad to have him. Christian is a thrilling young player to watch, and he seems like a really level-headed guy. I’m thankful we’ll get the chance to watch him grow.
Jurgen Klinsmann: Really. I know we were hard on him, especially in the end, but I really do believe Jurgen cared greatly about making things better for soccer in the US. He had good ideas about fixing youth soccer, the college game, and pushing guys to play in Europe. I always enjoyed his Facebook Live chats with fans, and how he’d post interesting articles about non-soccer topics on Facebook. His goodbye video was classy. I was ready for change, but I’ll miss the guy.
Landon came back!: That may be it, but I was thankful we got the chance to see Landon Donovan play a few more matches with the LA Galaxy. I was nervous, kind of like when Michael Jordan returned to the Washington Wizards, that he’d be horrible. But he wasn’t. He was a solid contributor, and that goal against KC was pretty sweet. Even if he doesn’t carry on next season, it was fun.
You: Chris and I had no idea what to expect when we launched USfanTV. We really just did it to have fun,and in the beginning, we were afraid we’d be talking to ourselves. But the response has been great. Our Twitter account is picking up steam, our last few YouTube Live videos had a ton of participation from you guys, and for that, we’re very thankful.