26 June 2010

Recap and US-Ghana Preview: Soccer Gods Must Be Crazy

The US face Ghana in the Round of 16 at 2:30 PM EDT, Saturday.

Who says America doesn't care about soccer?! Americans have been watching in record numbers, shattering ratings records. Even Twitter crashed upon the conclusion of the heart-thumping game. Meanwhile, in front of a house packed with Americans (including one very high profile citizen), the Yanks battled Algeria for their World Cup lives as they fought to overcome yet another stolen go-ahead goal.

Once England took an early 1-0 lead during their concurrent match it became clear that the US faced a win-or-go-home scenario. With their backs once again against the wall, the American squad demonstrated their trademark never-say-die attitude. For the second game in a row, it was Landon Donovan coming to the rescue in dramatic fashion. Against Slovenia, he sparked a furious rally when he started the 2nd Half with a soul-crushing goal. This time, he created the initial scoring opportunity and then drilled the rebound into the back of the net late in stoppage time.

In a shock to many around the world, the United States won their group for the first time in 80 years. This was important: had they finished second in the group, they would have had to go through Germany and Argentina en route to the semifinals. Instead, they get a chance to exorcise a demon of World Cup past as they face Ghana. If successful, they will then face the winner of Uruguay-South Korea.

This American team is the epitome of what Americans love. They show grit, determination, hustle, heart, and desire. They are erasing the black eye soccer has in America. With each passing game, fans are buying into their brand of play and forgetting the diva tactics of now eliminated teams such as France and Italy. We have players bloodied, needing stitches to battle through the game, rather than fake injuries and rolling around on the ground.

They will need every ounce of their grit as they take on the Black Stars at 2:30 EDT this Saturday. This will be a much anticipated opportunity for redemption from when they came up short 4 years ago. Ghana's physicality has been partially sapped having lost their best player. However, as the last African team left, expect them to play as if an entire continent is riding on this--it is. That said, look for a very motivated American effort looking for redemption.

The United States could not ask for a better draw to the semifinals. If there was ever a year they had a chance at going deep, this would be it. If there was ever a US squad capable of contending, this would be them. A fluke goal helped to peak some interest. A now infamous blown call captured this nation's attention. Where in the past they have failed, this time the Stars and Stripes overcame adversity and responded in dramatic fashion. Now it's time to take the next step and keep the bandwagon growing. See you in the quarterfinals. Go USA!

(Photo Credit: Telegraph)

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