View From the Bandwagon: Team USA’s Victory May Be Defining or it May Mean Nothing

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John Brooks is T.J. Oshie, and Tim Howard is something akin to Tim Thomas, but not Jimmy Howard.

Am I doing this right?

This is a big deal, so they say (don’t you see the italics noting as such?), the United States’s 2-1 win over Ghana in the 2014 World Cup Monday, a victory so improbable that it probably did little for head coach Jürgen (can’t play, can’t win, when’s lunch?) Klinsmann’s claim that there is little chance that the US can capture the FIFA Trophy this year in Brazil. The US had eight shots the entire match. Eight. Either Adam Larsen Kwarasey is quite simply the worst goalie in the world, or the US got a couple of breaks en route to three points in the World Cup standings.


Look, I’m no soccer aficionado, but even those with even a shred of football IQ could see that the US was having the sort of day the Buffalo Bills were used to in the early ’90s. And, frankly, every day since, I suppose.

But it was thrilling (italics, people), even for someone with only a passing interest in soccer, a sport best served live, in person, or with orange fruit slices for the ride home. When Brooks scored what turned out to be the game-winner off a corner kick, I elicited a “wow” loud enough that my wife, in the other room, probably, almost asked me what happened.

That’s not a dig on soccer or the people who thirst for it, mind you (tune to 98.5 The Sports Hub, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. for those takes), but more my own, admitted ignorance. Still, despite the fact that my soccer background consists of attending a ’94 World Cup match and a few Revolution games in Foxborough, my son’s youth league, and the movie “Ladybugs,” I’m all in on the World Cup. Just don’t expect my analysis to be comprehensive, which…yes, I sort of walked into that one, didn’t I then?


“I was still convinced we were going to win this game even after the equalizer,” Klinsmann said after the win. “I had the feeling that another two, three opportunities would come. And we just need to use one of those.”
Well, well, look at ol’ Mr. Optimistic all of a sudden. Klinsmann is either playing evil genius or he really does care about as much as a brick wall about what the general US thinks about his declaration that there’s no way the US can win the World Cup. Playing in spite, after all, can be a powerful tool. Now Brooks gets to peel off Klinsmann’s knickers, a la the cutout of Rachel Phelps in “Major League.”
So, I’m not really sure where to stand on the US leading Group G with a showdown against Germany looming after Portugal. Can the US actually beat Germany, a team some consider the best in the world, or was Brooks’ moment indeed akin to Oshie’s in the Olympics in Sochi? That was the high point for Team USA which had to settle for bronze in the wake of its shootout thriller against the Russians during the Olympics last February. Oshie’s shootout goal was indeed an electric unifier, as was Brooks’ header on Monday. Nifty, neat moments, best served with beer. But defining? Maybe. At best.
Still, just as Oshie sent the Russians to defeat on their home soil, there is a savory revenge factor in the US getting past Ghana, which knocked the Americans out of the last two World Cups in 2006 and ‘10. But if, according to FIFA rankings, we only just watched the 13th-best team outplayed by the 37th-best, only to dramatically escape doom, are we putting too much importance on it all? With Portugal (fourth, and embarrassed yesterday by the Germans, 4-0) and Germany (second) laying in wait, this could be a short party.
According to FiveThirtyEight, the probabilities of advancing from Group G, the “Group of Death,” are now:


Essentially, the dream is somehow, someway, still alive thanks to the slimmest of margins. The scenarios can be found here. It comes down to: win both matches against Portugal and Germany, you’re in. Duh. But lose both and you still may be able to find a miracle. Draw against Germany, but beat Portugal and the US is in. Draw against Portugal but lose to Germany and the US may still advance, but it’s no guarantee. Tie both games; hey, that’s good enough, too.
Thus, the view is sweet, even from the bandwagon cheap seats. The US won’t play again until Sunday, which gives us five whole days to bask in the victory over Ghana, five more days to revel in Klinsmann’s dark cloud being lifted. Even Eeyore never sang show tunes.
John Brooks, Herb Brooks, Brooks was here. There’s always room for miracles and stories of redemption, no matter your level of knowledge of the game.
Also, giraffes don’t live in Ghana. C’mon, Delta, every “precious” soccer fan knows that.

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