Team USA took its first step in the march back to World Cup supremacy on Tuesday, beating Korea 2-0.
The US Women, as previously noted, have had a comparatively rough time of it lately in the World Cup; after winning the inaugural competition in 1991, taking third place in 1995 and winning it all again in 1999, with the memorable finish from Brandi Chastain, we've been stuck in third place since. (This, of course, discounts the success the women's national team has had in the Olympics: winning gold in 2004 and 2008 makes it hard for anyone to feel like we've not been performing.)
But before thinking about winning it all once again, the team had its hands full with the first round of pool play. Korea proved a capable opponent, despite being ranked only eighth in the FIFA World Rankings to Team USA's first. The first half of action was a sloppy affair, as neither side was able to connect for a goal.
In the second half, the big story got its traction. Lauren Cheney put the ball in the back of the net with a header from an Abby Wambach cross. Cheney was not a normal starter for Team USA, but got the nod for this game from coach Pia Sundhage over Megan Rapinoe. As the Women's World Cup was still being built up to, there were whispers among many soccer fans about the inconsistencies of this squad. Coach Sundhage knew that something had to change and took a bold risk in inserting the more-recently experienced Cheney over Rapinoe. She also demonstrated the kind of leadership that recognizes Rapinoe as the type of player to overcome what some might see as an insult. The gambit obviously paid off, and Team USA now has something positive to focus on, instead of subliminally addressing those whispers.
Team USA has plenty more ground to cover in order to be mentioned with some of the classic teams that came before them, but what we saw on Tuesday (in the second half, at least) is a positive sign of things to come. The women get their next chance to prove their mettle on Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPN 2 at 10 a.m. local time, and will be simulcast on ESPN3.com.
2011 Gold Cup Soccer has gained more mainstream coverage within American sports the last couple of years—Team U.S.A. had relative success in the 2010 World Cup and there's been a growing interest in Major League Soccer. So when the United States faced Mexico in the finals of the Gold Cup, the U.S. was poised to give American soccer some much needed creditability. 93,420 fans filled the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., to witness the U.S gain a quick two goal lead. But Mexico turned up the pressure and overwhelmed the U.S with four unanswered goals to capture the title, 4-2. Along with the loss, many of the fans were rooting for Mexico, jeering the Americans with insults throughout the match. While Mexico earned a birth in the 2013 Confederations Cup, the U.S will look for answers to improve in time for the 2012 Olympic Games.
UFC on Versus There was little excitement surrounding the original main event of Nate Marquardt versus Rick Story. And on Saturday afternoon the main event fell apart after Maquardt failed his medical tests. Then UFC President Dana White fired him and named Charlie Brenneman as the last second replacement. Despite all the troubles with this card, the fights delivered some awesome finishes. Former NFL standout Matt Mitrione KO'd Christian Morecraft and Brenneman pulled off the upset by earning the decision against Story. Pat Berry and Cheick Kongo moved into the main event and delivered one of the best comebacks in the history of MMA. Berry caught Kongo with a series of punches and almost finished him, but the referee didn't stop the fight. Eventually Kongo gained his composure just enough to nail Berry and win the fight. The comeback victory could give Kongo some momentum to make one more run at the heavyweight title.
Late June to early August has always been a tough time. There are years when we have the Summer Olympics to get us by. There's a brief respite for the Tour de France, although it's lost some of its luster recently. And yes, I am excited about both the upcoming Women's World Cup as well as the 15th WNBA Season. But there's no denying these are dark times.
The NBA, NFL and NHL are all done with their seasons. MLB, for those who care, hasn't really picked up any steam yet by this point in the season. But most importantly, for now, the two behemoths of American sports, basketball and football, seem to be on a collision course with no righting in sight.
The NFL is already locked out and the NBA appears to be heading in that direction. As though sports fans weren't already mired in what is traditionally the worst time of the year, that slog is now compounded by the fact that it might stretch on even longer.
There's already been extensive coverage of why this is happening in both of these leagues, so for now, let's focus on the positive: There are reports that the NFL sides might be close to reconciliation. The NBA can learn from this NFL experience and perhaps avoid actually locking out.
But even more importantly, we can shift our focus from those leagues to the alternatives. The aforementioned Women's World Cup features not just a strong U.S. team, but a hungry one. The Tour de France, free from those Americans that some claim the French love to hate, might have a chance to stand on its own, as opposed to being hounded by the WADA for violations; focusing on the actual sport and its real winner could prove to be a successful formula. And the WNBA is becoming a refined product on its own, not merely the little-sister-league of the NBA.
The WNBA is trying to make summer–the ironic winter of sports–its time to shine: By celebrating 15 years of existence, the league gets to simultaneously advertise its product as well as remind viewers that this league is no longer an experiment. Love it or hate it, the WNBA appears to be here to stay. The human aspect of sports is really what captivates people, and the inclusion of fan voting on the top 30 WNBA players of all time seems a great place to start.
Bicycling Magazine says that of the 200-plus riders who will take place in this year's Tour de France, Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer, two Americans, are some of the most worthy riders to watch. Perhaps America will once again have riders come from seemingly out of nowhere to challenge for the yellow jersey, enabling us to focus on the sport and the will of those who participate.
The Women's World Cup, taking place in Germany, presents a similar opportunity for the American women to take on the shadow that's been hanging over their program–in this case, for the last twelve years. In 1999, Brandi Chastain sealed a victory for America with her iconic penalty kick and celebration, but Team USA has been mired in mediocrity since then. The U.S. is ranked first in the world currently but needs to perform in order to maintain the enthusiasm that is beginning to dwindle.
So while the millionaires of the NBA and NFL fight with their billionaire owners, take some time in this traditionally dark period to try to get back to the great storylines that make us truly care about sports.
Who would have thought when this thing began, America would care even after the United States was eliminated. Apparently, soccer took hold here, and the World Cup concluded on Sunday with Spain versus the Netherlands.
Most of match was a parade of yellow cards and physical play, and Spain had most of the clean score chances. But 90 minutes was not enough; the fate of both squads was determined in extra time. In the 116th minute, Andres Iniesta kicked in the deciding goal giving Spain its first World Cup Final victory.
The Cup slowly converted this causal styptic to a soccer believer. Don't get me wrong. Touchdowns, dunks, and knockouts will always be first on my list, but there's always room for something new. Only time will tell if Major League Soccer can use the popularity of the World Cup down the road in the U.S.
Finally, the Chosen One made a decision during a live television special on ESPN. Picking Miami over Cleveland turned LeBron James from King to villain in a matter of seconds.
Through this entire process, James put his ego on full display. He’s ignored the Cavaliers and promised multiple titles for the Heat. Its unknown whether the self-proclaimed greatest trio in NBA history will produce a dynasty or even a profit for the organization.
One thing is for certain: The Heat took all the pressure off the defending champion L.A Lakers and painted a big bullseye on their own back instead.
It's no easy trick to write about the World Cup soccer tournament while it's happening. When you're not watching one of the 64 games, you're busy bantering about missed calls and poor coaching decisions, or you're emotionally spent from two hours of shouting at tiny men bopping a ball around your television screen.
As the 2010 World Cup builds toward its finale, one fact has stood head and shoulders above the rest: Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) must institute some kind of goal-line technology (if not instant replay) and/or referee accountability. This obviously means different things to different sports in America—challenges from a coach in football, reviewing whether a ball is fair or foul in baseball, the aforementioned goal-line technology in hockey, and out-of-bounds calls in basketball —and it’s hard to predict how it would ultimately occur in soccer. The need, however, is not difficult to see.
This is far from a homer issue, as Team USA, viciously robbed of two separate goals in two separate games, ultimately won their group in the first stage of World Cup play. Those goals, amazingly, turned out to be superfluous. However, in the Round of 16, Team USA was one of the teams that wasn’t a victim of poor officiating changing the course of those games and, perhaps, the rest of the Tournament. (Brazil dominated Chile and Paraguay defeated Japan on penalty kicks, in the only real snoozers of the Round of 16.) England lost its match 4-1, but lost a goal that would have made the game 2-2 and could have affected momentum. On the other hand, Argentina’s first goal over Mexico was scored by Carlos Tevez, who clearly appeared to be offside. With these mistakes being made in crystal-clear HD and being analyzed over and over on ESPN, it might seem as though FIFA has no choice but to revisit these issues. But Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, made it clear that the only thing that would be discussed in the aftermath of the World Cup would be goal-line technology. This is a good start, but it’s not good enough.
The bottom line is that, as long as the world is watching, as long as soccer is the most popular sport in the world, there will be a need for change. FIFA can start with the promised look at goal-line tech, but there needs to be more transparency in the officiating process, and some kind of checks-and-balances in place for blatant rule-breaking that isn’t seen in the first place.
The United States men's soccer team won its group in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa thanks to a dramatic 1-0 victory over Algeria. After a scoreless regulation game with plenty of chances on both sides, Landon Donovan was able to find the back of the net in the 91st minute off a rebound from the Algerian goalkeeper resulting from a great run by Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.
With this win, the team accomplishes one of its goals for this World Cup: advancing beyond the pool play stage. When the group was revealed, many critics said that if the United States did not advance, it would be seen as a failure on our national team's part. Mission accomplished.
This team did not lose a game in pool play. The U.S. overcame two disallowed goals in two consecutive games that have roundly been proclaimed by announcers from multiple countries to have been fair goals. The team went down early in both of the first two games against England and Slovenia and narrowly avoided doing the same in the last game. The players continued to fight when other teams would have given up and when other teams, historically, have done so.
With this victory, the USA finishes pool play with five points, the same total as England. However, because of the goal differential, Team USA wins the group. This is the first time our team has won the group since 1930, when the first World Cup took place. The 1930 World Cup was also Team USA's best finish, when we captured third place. Worth noting, though, is that only 13 teams competed in that World Cup, as opposed to the 32 that compete in the modern tournament.
Team USA now awaits the runner-up from Group D, which could be either Ghana, Germany, Australia or Serbia.
When the World Cup began, my curiosity led me to give soccer a chance. I’m a causal American sports fan, so soccer wasn't on my must-see list. The United States isn't exactly a dominate power in the sport and with Major League Soccer (MLS) being considered an inferior league, catching the soccer bug hasn't been easy.
But in 2010 the United States was fielding a team with high expectations, and my attention has been squarely focused on the Cup. So far when getting my first real taste of soccer action, the lack of scoring made it a struggle to keep my eyes open. But then boredom turned into tense excitement—one move could change the balance of a match. Each match has the atmosphere of the NCAA tournament and the Olympics put together, which makes even Chile versus Honduras awesome to watch. From the vuvuzelas to stadiums covered in banners and flags, the environment makes the event unlike anything else in sports.
But when the dust settles in South Africa, will casual sports fans give soccer a minute more than its 15 of fame? Even if the U.S. team pulls off one of the greatest runs in the history of sports by winning the World Cup, there's no guarantee the soccer will enjoy a popularity explosion.
If soccer wants to matter, viewers need to watch the best the league the sport has to offer and not just MLS. Even though ESPN shows English Premier League matches throughout the year, there is still no program equal to “NFL Live” for soccer. It's a bummer because the future relies squarely on ESPN jumping in with both feet and pushing the sport.
For now, here's to the United States losing wallflower status and becoming just like any other nation in the soccer party.
The globe is currently caught up in football fever courtesy of the World Cup. Go Slovenia! But here in America, football (which we properly call soccer) is ... how can I put this? Strictly weaksauce. I figured it was proper to post a little tribute to the sport, but videogame soccer is even more boring than the real thing. So instead, here's Pinball Soccer Stars, a soccer-themed pinball game that's actually pretty clever. It's basically a two-sided pinball machine mined with crazy physics. You're competing against the player on the other side of the field (either DENmark or DENver), trying to knock the ball into his goal. Five goals wins the game. Good luck!
There is no sporting event more revered worldwide than the World Cup, the once-every-four-years soccer championship. While ad revenue people love to brag over the Super Bowl's viewership (just less than 100 million last year) the widely quoted figure for the 2006 World Cup was 715 million. This is something the world cares about.
But in America, we've struggled with soccer. Despite hosting the tournament in 1994 and making the field every year since then, the best we've ever done is finish third ... in 1930. This was, of course, before a 40-year run of failing to qualify. USA!
None of that matters now, though, because we'll be in South Africa competing in the 2010 World Cup. Our team looks strong (not too strong—Vegas puts our odds of winning the Cup at 60:1). We have a devastatingly powerful opponent in the first match of the round robin pool play: England.
A little backstory: In 1950, when the United States was near the bottom of the world's totem pole of soccer rankings, our team somehow triumphed over the English, 1-0. Add to this how highly regarded England was at the time, our shared colonial past and that the two teams haven't met in a World Cup match since then. It's easy to see why this is one of the most anticipated games in the first round.
The World Cup begins tomorrow, and the England-USA match occurs on Saturday, June 12, at 12:30 p.m. local time. The World Cup lasts one month, and almost all of the matches will be broadcast on either ESPN or ABC. Join the rest of the world in watching some great soccer—715 million people can't be wrong.