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U.S. enters World Cup with newfound swagger
Journal Gazette ^ | 6/4/06 | Ronald Blum

Posted on 06/04/2006 12:02:58 PM PDT by freedom44

HAMBURG, Germany – American soccer players finally are larger than life.

A 70 1/2 -foot billboard in New York this spring showed Eddie Johnson, Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, proclaiming in huge yellow letters: “THE WORLD NO LONGER WANTS TO PLAY US.” In May, a new sign was put up with American players and the inscription: “BEWARE,” an ad that also overlooked San Francisco’s Union Square.

Faster, fearless and filled with desire to earn respect, the U.S. team is confident it will advance from a difficult first-round World Cup group that includes the Czech Republic, Italy and Ghana.

“Beas and I always have this confidence,” Donovan said. “We’re pretty fearless when we play. I think we both really believe that when we’re playing, we’re better than the other people on the other team, and we’re going to beat the other team.”

Four years ago, Donovan and Beasley, a Fort Wayne native, were brash 20-year-olds who ignited the United States to a surprising run to the quarterfinals, when the Americans lost 1-0 to Germany. They’re back along with veterans Claudio Reyna, Kasey Keller, Brian McBride and Eddie Pope, mixed in with talented newcomers such as Oguchi Onyewu, Eddie Johnson, Bobby Convey and Clint Dempsey.

This time, a whole lot more people will be watching in the United States, where games are on in the middle of the day, not the middle of the night. Expectations have soared – boys replica jerseys were sold out at the Niketown store in New York more than a month before the tournament.

“The success of the team at the last World Cup has given people more hope, optimism,” new U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said. “I think we’ll have more fans that are cheering for the U.S. at these games, having traveled from the U.S. ... than we’ve had essentially combined in the history of the World Cup, leaving aside 1994.”

After qualifying for the first time in 40 years, the Americans were routed 5-1 by Czechoslovakia in their 1990 opener, looking like the post-college all-star team that they were. Then they lost 1-0 to Italy and 2-1 to Austria, and headed home knowing they had a lot to learn.

Four years later, when the tournament was played in the United States for the first time, the Americans were knocked out with a 1-0 defeat against Brazil in the second round.

In 1998, the United States went 0-3 and finished last in the 32-nation field. Bruce Arena took over from Steve Sampson as coach after that debacle and he’s still in charge, the longest-tenured coach at the tournament. His team enters ranked fifth in the world by FIFA, trailing only defending champion Brazil, the Czechs, the Netherlands and Mexico. But rankings in soccer mean as much as they do in a park pickup game.

“We’ve played about I guess 60 games since the last World Cup, and that’s no indication of where you are on the world stage,” Arena said last weekend.

“The only indication is a World Cup. So we’re really going to find out where we are in the World Cup. That’s the only way you can analyze any country in the world. The true test comes June 12, 17 and 22.”

Twelve of this year’s players are holdovers from the 2002 roster, and the squad is evenly split between players based in the United States and Europe, with 11 from Major League Soccer and the rest from clubs in England (seven), Germany (three), Belgium (one) and the Netherlands (one).

Just like four years ago, the goal is to get to the second round. And if the United States advances, there’s a good chance the Americans would face Brazil in the second round.

“Would I bet that nine times out of 10 we’re going to beat Brazil? Probably not,” Donovan said. “Could we beat Brazil? Absolutely. So you have to be a little bit realistic, but we want to put ourselves in that situation. And if we’re in that situation, I would still be confident.”

Arena’s defense appears set with Keller in goal, Eddie Lewis at left back, the 6-foot-4 Onyewu and Pope in the center and Steve Cherundolo at right back. Reyna, trying to overcome a strained right hamstring, is the top choice at defensive midfield, where he is the playmaker.

Beasley could be shifted across the midfield to the right flank against the Czechs, creating a spot on the left that could be filled by Convey or John O’Brien.

Donovan, returning to Germany after two unhappy stays with Bayer Leverkusen, could be an attacking midfielder or paired at forward with Brian McBride. If Donovan is in the midfield, Johnson or Josh Wolff could start with McBride up front.

Reyna and Keller are among only seven players in this year’s tournament appearing on a World Cup roster for a fourth time. Reyna is an even rarer species, captaining his nation in two World Cups.

“This is special. There’s nothing like this,” Reyna said. “There’s really nobody – not even the best players in the world – can really say they’re prepared for this, because it’s a unique situation, and that’s what makes it something so great.”

Arena usually tries to put the task in perspective, describing the World Cup title as the toughest trophy to win in professional sports. He is combative and sarcastic, an edge that carries over to his players, and he sends them out on the field each game with a patriotic refrain, reminding them to win for the red, white and blue.

“Obviously our stock has risen over years. However we’re still an outsider looking in,” he said. “To continue to earn respect at the international level, it will require that we have successful World Cups.”

And, unlike most players at the tournament, the Americans know they’ll be able to return home, still relatively unknown, no matter what happens over the next month.

Even with increased visibility, they’re still not as well known as their counterparts in the NFL, baseball and the NBA, and unmet expectations from a World Cup fervor probably wouldn’t stick to them in the same way it would haunt the Italians or English.

“Whether we do really well or not so well,” Reyna said, “in a month it will be forgotten for the most part.”


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: germany; hamburg; soccer; teamusa; usteam; worldcup
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1 posted on 06/04/2006 12:02:59 PM PDT by freedom44
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To: freedom44

Soccer isn't a real sport.


2 posted on 06/04/2006 12:03:46 PM PDT by jimbo123
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To: jimbo123
Soccer isn't a real sport.

It will be when the USA team wins a couple of big games.

3 posted on 06/04/2006 12:11:38 PM PDT by Mike Darancette (Make them go home!!)
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To: jimbo123

It's more of a sport than NASCAR or golf is.


4 posted on 06/04/2006 12:12:53 PM PDT by MissEdie
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To: jimbo123

It's a sport. It's just a really boring sport.


5 posted on 06/04/2006 12:14:30 PM PDT by LdSentinal
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To: Mike Darancette

I'm sure the U.S. vs Ghana match is going to be a thriller...


6 posted on 06/04/2006 12:19:17 PM PDT by jimbo123
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To: freedom44

I just hope they don't allow the opposing goalie to score on them, like the Polish team did against Colombia. Nuttiest thing I've ever seen.


7 posted on 06/04/2006 12:20:26 PM PDT by dfwgator (Florida Gators - 2006 NCAA Men's Basketball Champions)
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To: dfwgator
I just hope they don't allow the opposing goalie to score on them, like the Polish team did against Colombia.

My granddaughter Kayla scores from fullback, the coach calls it Kayla Ball. She is also the league's top scorer.

8 posted on 06/04/2006 12:26:39 PM PDT by Mike Darancette (Make them go home!!)
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To: Mike Darancette

All I know is that the Colombian goalie would make for a heckuva punter in the NFL.


9 posted on 06/04/2006 12:27:44 PM PDT by dfwgator (Florida Gators - 2006 NCAA Men's Basketball Champions)
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To: freedom44

Soccer is to sports as Harry Conic Jr. is to Jazz.


10 posted on 06/04/2006 12:27:54 PM PDT by ChadGore (VISUALIZE 62,041,268 Bush fans. We Vote.)
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To: freedom44

Team USA will not make it of group play.


11 posted on 06/04/2006 12:30:00 PM PDT by 38special (I mean come'on.)
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To: jimbo123

"Soccer isn't a real sport."

You win my vote for most ignorant post of the year. Soccer is a very real sport. It takes tremendous amounts of stamina, quickness, balance, and coordination. It is a lot more demanding than something like baseball or golf.


12 posted on 06/04/2006 12:30:43 PM PDT by SmoothTalker
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To: freedom44

We really got screwed with our draw. It'll be tough to finish in the top two of that group. Italy and the Czech republic both are better than us and Ghana ain't a slouch either.


13 posted on 06/04/2006 12:31:39 PM PDT by SmoothTalker
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To: freedom44

Maybe our soccer fans would be a little better behaved than some.


14 posted on 06/04/2006 12:32:33 PM PDT by badpacifist (The media has our troops surrounded. Someone must break through enemy lines.)
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To: SmoothTalker

I agree soccer is a real sport, but they need some changes to make the game more exciting. My son played from the time he was five through high school. Now, he won't watch soccer if it's not the World Cup ... too boring. Typically if a professional team gets a 2-0 lead, the game is over.

Some good changes would be additional substitutions. It's dumb to carry 22 players and only allow about four substitutions. The game would be much more exciting if there were rested players on the field more of the time.

Also, given modern scoreboards, why not keep official time on the field? It's dumb when only one man actually knows how much time is left.


15 posted on 06/04/2006 12:49:29 PM PDT by BW2221
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To: SmoothTalker
Soccer is a very real sport. It takes tremendous amounts of stamina, quickness, balance, and coordination.

Soccer is a communist game that doesn't let people use their hands - it's un-American. ;-)

16 posted on 06/04/2006 12:51:08 PM PDT by glorgau
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To: jimbo123

No, but it's the only sport on FR where people stop and trumpet their ignorance of it (except possible the NHL, and only lately).


17 posted on 06/04/2006 12:52:31 PM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: BW2221
It's dumb when only one man actually knows how much time is left.

The coaches keep time on the sideline, and let the players know when it's time to start pressing. The duration of injury time is announced to all, and it's been that way for years.

18 posted on 06/04/2006 12:54:59 PM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: BW2221

"Also, given modern scoreboards, why not keep official time on the field? It's dumb when only one man actually knows how much time is left."

You generally know within a few seconds either way. I personally think it makes things exciting in the last minute or two to not be sure when the last possesion is coming.

"Typically if a professional team gets a 2-0 lead, the game is over. "

While the sport is fairly low scoring, this isn't true. One thing that makes the sport good to watch is that you end up with a lot of games where a team is only one goal up with say five minutes to go. Makes the end more fun than say in the average football or basketball game where you very often know for sure who will win with five minutes to go.


19 posted on 06/04/2006 1:03:23 PM PDT by SmoothTalker
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To: jimbo123

"I'm sure the U.S. vs Ghana match is going to be a thriller..."

It will.
Ghana is one of the most exciting teams to watch in the business.
That match is going to be a scorcher.


20 posted on 06/04/2006 1:05:00 PM PDT by Jameison
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To: SmoothTalker

"We really got screwed with our draw. It'll be tough to finish in the top two of that group. Italy and the Czech republic both are better than us and Ghana ain't a slouch either."

About the worst draw we could have had. Period.


21 posted on 06/04/2006 1:06:08 PM PDT by Jameison
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To: Jameison; jimbo123

If I'm not mistaken, Ghana won the Africa cup. The US is playing in the group of Death. The 3 teams we're facing are *all* excellent. And as for not being a "real" sport??? Constantly running and making plays with no breaks for around an hour and a half? Soccer players are excellent athletes...


22 posted on 06/04/2006 1:11:30 PM PDT by austinTparty
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To: Jameison

Yeah, we had it coming though. The last two World Cups were pretty good draws.


23 posted on 06/04/2006 1:11:49 PM PDT by July 4th (A vacant lot cancelled out my vote for Bush.)
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To: 1rudeboy

Is this the same "sport" where opposing fans regularly chant "Osama! Osama! Osama!" at the U.S. team?


24 posted on 06/04/2006 1:12:02 PM PDT by jimbo123
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To: jimbo123
"Is this the same "sport" where opposing fans regularly chant "Osama! Osama! Osama!" at the U.S. team?"

That usually happens when we play our ever so friendly neighbors Mexico in Mexico.
25 posted on 06/04/2006 1:15:10 PM PDT by Jameison
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To: jimbo123
Irrespective of whether soccer is or is not a real sport, I humbly suggest we skip the actual "soccer" and go directly to "soccer violence", due to it being much more entertaining than the actual event.

Bring on the drunken oafs!

26 posted on 06/04/2006 1:16:03 PM PDT by -=SoylentSquirrel=- (Heston is still my president.)
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To: July 4th

"The last two World Cups were pretty good draws"

True.
And we did get to the quarter finals in Korea in 2002.
Not bad at all.


27 posted on 06/04/2006 1:16:15 PM PDT by Jameison
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To: jimbo123

That's right. Some of our more sensitive FReepers can't handle it.


28 posted on 06/04/2006 1:17:39 PM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: -=SoylentSquirrel=-



29 posted on 06/04/2006 1:19:54 PM PDT by jimbo123
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To: -=SoylentSquirrel=-


30 posted on 06/04/2006 1:22:26 PM PDT by jimbo123
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To: All
These nations put so much national pride on the line with the world cup.

There is no doubt in my mind that if the US was to stop playing American football and switch our focus to Soccer we would win the World Cup 10 zip.
I don't think you can use our Olympic baseball or basketball showings as a standard. If the very best NBA players trained together for 4 years, I don't think the gold medal would be in doubt.
31 posted on 06/04/2006 1:23:23 PM PDT by Jonah Johansen ("Coming soon to a neighborhood near you")
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To: -=SoylentSquirrel=-

32 posted on 06/04/2006 1:23:34 PM PDT by jimbo123
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To: jimbo123
Ah, #32. Wish I was there for that. Here's one of my all-time favorites.


33 posted on 06/04/2006 1:28:53 PM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: jimbo123

I once went to a professional soccer match and almost slit my own wrists.


34 posted on 06/04/2006 1:30:39 PM PDT by maineman
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To: freedom44

New found Swagger... that has Bush's fault written all over it!


35 posted on 06/04/2006 1:31:22 PM PDT by operation clinton cleanup
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To: SmoothTalker; jimbo123
You win my vote for most ignorant post of the year. Soccer is a very real sport. It takes tremendous amounts of stamina, quickness, balance, and coordination. It is a lot more demanding than something like baseball or golf.

You forgot acting....
36 posted on 06/04/2006 1:33:40 PM PDT by MikefromOhio (aka MikeinIraq - WTFO)
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To: 1rudeboy

LOL! That picture is awesome!


37 posted on 06/04/2006 1:33:47 PM PDT by operation clinton cleanup
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To: Jameison
That match is going to be a scorcher.

So someone might score more than one goal?
38 posted on 06/04/2006 1:34:30 PM PDT by MikefromOhio (aka MikeinIraq - WTFO)
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To: maineman

I went to a match in London a few years back. We were about 30 minutes late to our seats and we got the nastiest looks from the fans. I think we offended them by being late. We left early so we could avoid the riots that ended up happening after the match. What a boring waste of time.


39 posted on 06/04/2006 1:34:44 PM PDT by jimbo123
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To: maineman

I felt the same way at Greatful Dead concerts (I've seen four). I would just go outside and party with the rest of the travelling carnival. Why do I bring it up? The World Cup is the same, except on a much larger scale.


40 posted on 06/04/2006 1:35:34 PM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: jimbo123

"I'm sure the U.S. vs Ghana match is going to be a thriller..."

Do you even know who Michael Essien is?

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/players/international?id=9799&league=fifa.world&season=2006&cc=5901

If you are going to come on a World Cup thread and be a hater at least don't be a totally ignorant hater. Ignorant, hateful and obnoxious is no way to go through life son.


41 posted on 06/04/2006 1:35:55 PM PDT by You Dirty Rats (I Love Free Republic!!!)
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To: MikefromOhio

I remember a soccer thread a while back where someone pointed out to you the absurdity of your statement. Can't you get some new material?


42 posted on 06/04/2006 1:36:48 PM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: MikefromOhio
"So someone might score more than one goal?"

Heh Heh!
Now that's funny.
But seriously, its going to be a great match.
And yes, I think there will be more than one goals, maybe even more than one goal by the same player.
I am not going to miss it.
43 posted on 06/04/2006 1:37:53 PM PDT by Jameison
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To: SmoothTalker
You win my vote for most ignorant post of the year. Soccer is a very real sport. It takes tremendous amounts of stamina, quickness, balance, and coordination.

I've always wondered why they would interrupt a perfectly good 10K by putting a ball in the middle of it.

I mean, pick the ball up! You have opposable thumbs, use them! We have evolved, people. Children kick balls around. Real men hit things with sticks and throw things as far and fast as they can. In short, soccer is a perfectly nice game, but a sport requires upper body strength or a proper finish line.

44 posted on 06/04/2006 1:38:56 PM PDT by AmishDude (Everybody loves AmishDude)
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To: freedom44
What is all the fuss I've been hearing about the "World Cup" lately in Germany? Is this something new? Did the United States and Germany make the finals or something? And if so, why is this "World Cup" in Germany? In most professional sports, it is custom to play some games at home and some games away. So maybe the first two games can be held in Germany, the next three in America and then the next two (if necessary) over in Germany. I suppose the German's get home field advantage for some sort of valid reason.

Anyway, hopefully the Americans beat the Germans and win the World Cup. I just don't think I'll be watching because summer is a very busy time for me and I'll most likely be out in the yard doing stuff. I'd be out there now if it wasn't for all the cold and rain. I guess Global warming has not come to New England yet.

45 posted on 06/04/2006 1:39:31 PM PDT by SamAdams76 (I think Randy Travis must be paying his bills on home computer by now)
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To: You Dirty Rats

"Do you even know who Michael Essien is? "

I do.
One of the reasons I am realy excied about the USA-Ghana match.


46 posted on 06/04/2006 1:40:43 PM PDT by Jameison
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To: jimbo123
Soccer isn't a real sport.

Gosh. What an inspired, insightful comment.

jimbo123 isn't a real person.

47 posted on 06/04/2006 1:41:12 PM PDT by TomB ("The terrorist wraps himself in the world's grievances to cloak his true motives." - S. Rushdie)
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To: SamAdams76
In most professional sports, it is custom to play some games at home and some games away.

That's how every nation in the world has participated in qualifying for the past two years (except for host nation Germany).Out of close to 200 nations, 32 play in the actual World Cup.

At least soccer has a legitimate World Championship. The "World Series" is misnamed as every team but one plays in the USA. Some world!

48 posted on 06/04/2006 1:43:37 PM PDT by You Dirty Rats (I Love Free Republic!!!)
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To: 1rudeboy

awwwww

LOL

No.

As long as soccer is still around, I'm still going to make fun of it.


49 posted on 06/04/2006 1:43:43 PM PDT by MikefromOhio (aka MikeinIraq - WTFO)
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To: SmoothTalker

You ever play catcher there pal?
Soccer is very demanding and a great sport but don't think catchers or pitchers aren't out there working.
Try it.


50 posted on 06/04/2006 1:43:50 PM PDT by Joe Boucher (an enemy of islam)
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