Gooooaaaal!

Longtime soccer fans often have bemoaned U.S. sports culture for belittling that “pass time” even though it is hugely followed by virtually every other nation on the planet.

Though soccer — or if you prefer, futbol — has grown in popularity in recent years, that belittling pretty much continues today.

Do we dislike the sport because we see it as a boring game because few goals are scored? Do we dislike it because the players oftentimes act stupid or just plain silly, such as biting other players or acting as if they’re seriously injured but really aren’t in an attempt to delay a game or draw a penalty against an opposing player?

Or do we as Americans just prefer to invent our own sports as we did with baseball, basketball and football, and then, of course, pretend it’s a “World Series” or “Super Bowl”?

What would it take for soccer to become more popular here?

Well, winning would help.

Later today, the U.S. Men’s National Team has a chance to do just that and determine its own destiny in the 2014 World Cup by defeating, or at least tying, Germany. Doing so would put the team in the knockout round, where 16 teams will compete in sudden-death play.

Thing is, though, that’s tough to do. Germany is a world powerhouse, but currently the U.S. team is tied with Germany in our group.

Still, the U.S. team could, and should, be feeling like it’s payback time.

Remember back in 2002 when Germany denied the American team a chance to advance to the Final Four? Probably not. That was a big year for us.

Although the team has qualified for World Cup play for some years now, 2002 was the first time in history the U.S. team made it that far. A team doing that in any other part of the world likely would have involved some heavy celebrating on the streets and maybe a few overturned cars.

Unfortunately, the team lost 1-0 amid some controversy. The refs (isn’t it always the refs?) denied penalizing a German player who used his hand to block a U.S. shot that would have been in the net.

That’s what they call a handball, and that’s illegal.

One of the U.S. team’s star defenders, Gregg Berhalter, nearly got the ball by the German goalie, Oliver Kahn, who popped it upward and toward the net. The ball hit German player Torsten Frings in the hand and was deflected.

It was an outrageous result. The U.S. team should have been awarded the goal, but despite loud protests, the refs denied it. Where’s instant replay when you need it?

It was an exciting game, and perhaps for the first time, the USA showed the world that despite its lack of public popularity, we can play the game.

So, don’t be surprised when you find yourselves shouting “USA! USA! USA!” during today’s game. That’s the first stage in improving its popularity.

Go USA.


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