THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Exercise in futility: US World Cup chances hopeless


The new 69,000-capacity stadium in Cape Town
Flickr/warrenski

The sports section of last Sunday's New York Times carried the following headline: "United States Leaves for World Cup with Win, but also with Worry." 

To which I say, sing it again, sister. On second thought, I say the only way the words "United States" and "World Cup" should be in the same sentence is if the phrase "will lose in the first round of the" is sandwiched between. With South Africa about to become the center of the universe, the U.S. of A. is all set to undergo yet another exercise in humiliation.

Before we go any further, let me assure you– no matter for what team your six-year-old plays, and what kind of sticker you slap on the back of your minivan– you're American, and you live in the sole country in which football requires a gridiron and pigskin. America may have a national soccer team, but that team is about as un-American as it gets. 

It may be unsportsmanlike to adopt the "Don't play if you can't win" philosophy, but whenever the World Cup rolls around, even American soccer enthusiasts must wonder whether there should be a "Don't play if you can't bring it, even a just little bit" school of thought. 

If the sporting gods were just, there would be no World Cup, or at least not one we had to know about. The greatest sporting event in the world, and it's like America is wearing L.L. Bean in a roomful of Armani—we're totally and completely out of our league. 

Be honest, if you had to wear duck boots and flannel amid a sea of haute couture, wouldn't you just as soon not show up?

Somehow, some way, 2010 will mark the sixth consecutive World Cup appearance for the United States (like the Olympics, the World Cup takes place every four years), which may seems like a feat in itself until we realize what the U.S. did to qualify. 

Mexico kicked our butts, Costa Rica humiliated us, and we won against El Salvador, Trinidad, and Tobago, and Honduras– are you kidding? Are we supposed to play on the same pitch as Brazil, Portugal, France, and Spain? And what about England? Yes, England, our first round opponent.

If you go to the English team's official blog, you'll either want to fight or hang your head in shame. The user comments there are brutal.

"Am I the only one who sees that a bunch of Americans seem to be under the delusion that the USA national team is good? ...a lot of Americans have really turned into supporters of ... the USA national team– without having watched the rest of the world's leagues and national teams." – Finnegan

"I watched an MLS game yesterday... what a horror show! If that's the type of quality the USA national team is built on, then I'm not worried in the slightest." – Johnny b Bad

...and simply...

"I think it will be easier against the USA than it was against either Mexico or Japan." – SoccerLimey

While it's difficult to take seriously someone called "Johnny b Bad," he does make a good point: Major League Soccer is not Premier League Soccer, and anyone who has seen Manchester United play Arsenal knows it. 

As far as the big picture goes, there's nothing wrong with that. After all, neither England nor any of the other World Cup teams have the MLB, the NFL or the NBA, but therein lies the problem. While American athletes are busy spreading the wealth, the rest of world is focused on soccer, a fact that will no doubt be painfully obvious in South Africa.

The U.S. team did reach the quarterfinals in 2002, but considering it was our best performance since 1930, it might not be reasonable to expect success so soon again.  

So what should we expect?  It's no fun crushing someone's dream, but when the best we can hope for is not to finish 32nd in a field of 32 (it's happened before), should we just throw in the towel? Realistically there's every reason in the world (Brazil, Spain, Portugal, France) for the U.S. team not to show up in South Africa. 

But since we have, we'd better bring it– even if it's just a little bit. 

~

Juanita Giles lives in Keysville where she makes videos and updates her Sports Doctor site.

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44 comments

"On second thought, I say the only way the words "United States" and "World Cup" should be in the same sentence is if the phrase "will lose in the first round of the" is sandwiched between."

Soooo, she knows nothing about the World Cup? Why do you tolerate this drivel in The Hook?

"While it's difficult to take seriously someone called "Johnny b Bad," he does make a good point: Major League Soccer is not Premier League Soccer, and anyone who has seen Manchester United play Arsenal knows it. "

UNMNT players play in the Premier League. The play in La Liga. They play in Serie A. They play in Bundesliga. And yes, they play in MLS.

But they don't ALL play in the MLS. That's why this is an absurd statement. Is the MLS as good as the Premiership? No. Is that relevant? In this case, not really.

Dear Clueless Twit:

Why not stick to topics you know something about and leave soccer to those who have some rudimentary knowledge of what the deal is?

Your pointless, dishwater dull screed, littered with exaggerations, inaccuracies and ignorance, is identical to 10,000 other articles and commentaries written each year by other brainless fools.

This is ridiculous. If she knew anything about world football, and been to other countries recently and heard them talk about football, she would know other countries actually think more highly of our team than we do. Most Americans think we are worse than we really are.

We are ranked 13th in the world....they don't just hand out those rankings. We are not great, but we are not bad by any stretch. I mean, taking comments from a message board of a team we are about to play? Wow, hilarious and insightful.

Just 12 months ago we were beating Brazil, the number 1 team in the nation, by 2 in the 2nd half.

50/50 whether we advance

Having personally watched the Stars and Stripes destroy Mexico in Korea a few years back - after beating 3rd. ranked Portugal in the first round, I don't share your views on this. The German team that beat us in the round of 8 said it was their toughest game of the cup also.

Columbia has never recovered from us beating them in 1994 either. Brazil barely beat us with a late goal that year in the round of 16, and went on to win the Cup. Oh, and we beat England in 1950, last time we played them in the Cup.

You obviously are so ignorant of this sport, and our national team history - that you really embarrass yourself here.

In qualifying (do you even know what that is?), we beat Mexico 2-0 here, and they beat us 2-1 in Mexico City. This means that "Mexico kicked our butts" ?!?!? Are YOU kidding me?

The USA did not make the finals of any of the World Baseball Classics recently either. Does that mean we should just find another sport people are interested in?

I could go on and on, but why bother? You really fell flat on your face here, Juanita.

JJ, I think it's more like 70/30 for us to advance. England and the US will most likely be coming out of Group C. I can't see Slovenia or Algeria knocking either out. It could happen, but I give us a better than 50/50 shot.

And everyone knows I'm important because I'm posting on the internet. Maybe someone can quote me in an article. :-D

I thought I would never find a sport more boring than curling and bowling. Then along came televised soccer. I will say that when the fans fight it gets pretty interesting.

England and US should make it out of the group easily. Getting past Germany, which is the likely opponent in the 2nd round, is another question.

I believe that before writing an article you should know at least something about what you're actually writing.
This is just an absurd rant completely pointless an uninformed.

The truth hurts sometimes.

I'll try not to repeat what others have said:
1) Fair weather fans are fun. They jump on the bandwagon right before the World Cup to root for their home team. People who disparage their own team with little or no knowledge of the game or the actual team (except what they glean off the 'net) should keep quiet.

2) I welcome other women who write and comment about football/soccer. If the piece is ill-informed and demonstrates ignorance of the sport, it's not helping any of us.

What is the point of this article? To tell Americans their team is bad? What is the point of that!?

The US can still be considered a "young" team at soccer given how little of the population follow it professionally. If every weak team did as this author suggests and "not show up" there would be no competition in the world today.

Anything is possible but even most english fans think USA will make it out of group play after losing to england. Juanita seems to have based her conclusion on wrong info. 1) USA only has to beat Slovenia and Algeria to advance 2) most of the usa players don't play in MLS - LOL 3) if usa plays brazil, spain, etc. then that means usa has advanced far out of group play 4) usa just beat spain and almost beat brazil in confed cup. I'm guessing this article was written strictly to get a rise out of usa soccer fans. It worked. :o)

MlS only has 3 players on the USA team. One of which, Landon Donavan, played in the premiership for Everton, who beat Man U AND Chelsea when he was there. So the mls argument really isn't valid. Also we are the second best team in the group. Algeria and Slovenia are not good. I think Juanita didn't do her research.

Obviously, you have no idea what you're talking about. Go back to baseball, or whatever other sport you try to write about.

I assume that this article was written in 1990.

I read this piece and thought, "Hold on a minute, I don't expect the USA to compete in the finals, but I think they stand a good shot of getting out of group play, and they certainly shouldn't embarrass themselves or the USA!" It's not like we sneaked into World Cup play... So I did a little searching to see what sports journalist who actually know something about the sport are saying, and all I can conclude is that the doc was obviously PMS'ing when she wrote this nasty little rant. Here is what Tom Bellwood of the Daily Mail in the UK says about team USA in his review of Group C, in which, incidentally, he predicts that we will make it out of group play along with England: "A hard-working, well organized side who will fancy their chances in the knockout phase." Quite a different take from "the best we can hope for is not to finish 32nd in a field of 32." I know that sports journalists are supposed to be opinionated because it makes good copy, but are they supposed to be ignorant too?

You are, with out doubt, one of the biggest "insert insult here" I have ever seen write anything about the MNT. Most people would try and do a little research before writing anything down for fear of being torn apart after it was read. I'll give you this, you have no fear, that's why little kids drown in pools. Just as you have. Are you sure your name isn't Sarah Palin?

Dross garbage yet I clicked and read. Who's to blame? You'll not match Shakespeare but how can you when all you do is organize trash for those who'll devour what is most inline with their beliefs concerning US soccer, still though you should take you're own advice and never write another word, you spew poison. Consider your OWN beliefs for I cannot.

Quite an embarrassing article from someone who actually knows little about what they write about. Hook must be very desperate indeed to give this writer space to write on.

This is also a freaking "sports journalist" who 18 months ago said something to the effect that Al Groh was only winning games because the economy sucked and he didn't want to look for another job.

What a joke. The only way that "The Sports Doctor" and "Juanita Giles" should ever be combined in print are with the words "presents another cluesless and inept column by" in between.

Sorry... there are lots of sports the US doesn't dominate the world in. But we still compete. You are lame. I guess you think the 16 seeds in the NCAA basketball tourney should just decline their ticket since its futile too? You should just quit your job because you'll never be Mike Lupica. How about that?

What a silly article. Firstly, as someone pointed out, this reads like it was written in 1990. Your team has improved considerably since then, and most people would expect the USA to get out of the group stage. No your not a first rank team, but there isn't any shame in that, and the USA has got some respect over recent years for some very good wins.

Secondly, your playing us in the first game... Come on, there's enough history between us to make it interesting isn't there? And with England firm favourites you have the possibility of a glorious upset.

Make no mistake, we expect to win this game. But if we don't... I'll be crying into my warm beer, I kid you not (well apart from the warm part) and so will millions of my countrymen. You have the chance to humiliate England in a way that we simply cannot argue with. If we do lose this game, we know that it will be decades, rather than years, before we will be allowed to forget it. If you can't take pleasure in that possibility then I think there is probably no hope for you :)

While the article was clearly not written by someone with soccer knowledge, this will not be the World Cup that bestows respect on the national team.

Defensive lapses will kill the US in the first game against England, and if Robbie Findley plays, his lack of experience will misuse his speed to get trapped in the corners, wasting scoring chances. Assuming Wayne Rooney does not injure anyone, we will squeak through Algeria and Slovenia (both underrated teams) with small wins or ties, and make it out of the first round 2nd in our group, only to be crushed by Germany who will win their group to play us.

That is my prediction and I'm sticking to it!

lol at the comments. If it helps anyone, my journalism teacher assigned me this article for a "what not to do" assignment.

Yikes, this is perhaps the worst article I have ever read on any news source. Perhaps the author should've done some fact checking before she went on this ill-informed diatribe. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the US beat Mexico and Costa Rica. And just because no one expects the US team to win the Cup doesn't mean that there's any reason to believe that our national team won't make us proud. Go home, Juanita.

Perhaps the author should really just say that soccer fandom hasn't really made inroads in Keysville and the greater Charlotte County area.

Juanita,

What is that statement about "America may have a national soccer team, but that team is about as un-American as it gets."? That's almost a racist statement. What exactly about our US team is un-american? That fact that US soccer fans don't tailgate?

When I read this piece I asked the same question as many people who have commented above--what the hell was the point? Besides the fact that your weak arguments don't even hold up, should we send off our team hoping for the worst? The greatest thing about sport is that it provides something for societies to hope for. What if a journalist wrote an un-hopeful prediction for the 1980 US hockey Dream Team. Do you think that would have helped them beat the Russians and win the gold?

The fact that the US team made it to the quarter finals in 2002--our greatest feat since 1930--is the very proof that we have been IMPROVING since then. You have obviously been mislead by some source of soccer news that the rest of us are still trying to figure out.

I personally can't wait to see the US beat England in its first game. You can count on me to comment on this site again. Heck, even if they don't win, I'm sure they will play one hell of a game that will leave me proud in a nation that has seriously advanced its soccer game in the past century.

This is perhaps the dumbest article I have ever written. This author clearly doesn't know anything about football. Pretty sure the US just beat Spain (The number one team in the world might I add) in the Confederations Cup and almost beat Brazil. Pretty sure we are ranked in the top 20 in the world and have been for more than 5 years. Pretty sure no true soccer fan in this country is simply praying that we don't finish last in the world cup. "Mexico kicked our butts, Costa Rica humiliated us, and we won against El Salvador, Trinidad, and Tobago, and Honduras-- are you kidding?" Actually Juanita, are you kidding? We finished first in the qualifying group. Keep hiding in your ignorant little bubble where soccer isn't growing in this country and where your national team isn't getting better every year.

I hate soccer, but these world cup games are incredibly exciting and powerful tv. I would never watchva college game or MLS game, but a world cup is a high quality event.

It's people like you who talk before they think that keep this game down in America. I wonder if you have ever watched a soccer game in your life or are you just a part of this ignorant class of people who refer only to wikipedia for their information. It's amazing that anyone would allow you to write such an article and this just shows how ignorant you must be. Using big words doesn't make you a writer, research does. Portugal, Spain, Turkey, England, Mexico, Brazil all World Cup contenders, all beaten by the United States and o yeah we tied Italy 1-1 last world cup. I think my wikipedia page told me that they won the whole World Cup that year. Stop writing about soccer please

Juanita. This is the most uneducated sports article that I have ever read. You make generalizations that are so unfounded that I wondered if this article was written for "The Onion." Do you even do any research before the diarrhea rolls on to your lap top? Since I only have 500 word and re-reading this garbage would be a waste of my time I'll tell you this. I'm glad you are not a US soccer fan. Most US soccer fans I know love all sports in the USA. And who does not support their own team. So why don't you and this horrible fish wrap and your "fans" just go to your "American Sports only" bars and go away. By-the-way, we have bought more tickets and are sending more fans than any other country for this cup. I'm sure when we start winning (didn't you do some research on the Confederations Cup?) you will jump on board. You are a hack and a twit.

Juanita is so inept, she thinks Trinidad and Tobago were 2 different games. Did u even watch the confederation cup? USA beat Spain(ranked #1 in the world) and gave Brazil all they could handle in the first half. I guess only the top 16 seeds from the NCAA tourney should show up? I guess Buster Douglas has no chance against Tyson. The only time Juanita and football should be mentioned in the same sentence is when she finishes changing my soiled sheets and I punt her into the hall. Stick to things you know something about like doing peoples nails or mopping the floor!

"Major League Soccer is not Premier League Soccer"

Check out the US roster. Of the 23 players on the US team, 4 play in the MLS (Donovan, Bornstein, Buddle & Findley.) 7 play in England, 3 in Germany, 2 in Scotland, 2 in Mexico and 1 each in France, Spain, Denmark, Italy, and Norway.

Therefore it is completely irrelevant if the MLS is not as good the EPL, because most of the US players don't play in it.

Yes, it is likely that England defeats the US in game 1. They are one of the best teams after all. However, a US win over England would be a solid second to the Miracle on Ice for US International Sports. No way I'll miss it.

"Major League Soccer is not Premier League Soccer"; well, duh. Good thing most of our players play in Europe then, isn't it?
This writer obviously knows nothing, is little better than the trolls who pop into chatrooms and threads looking for a fight, and doesn't seem to realize that in the States football (the world's football, not the American gladiatorial variety) is played by a far larger segment of the population than the six-year old mini van passengers she describes.
Where did they find this nutcase, anyway?

Fact checking is an essential part of the journalist trade. It is not enough to simply sit behind a keyboard and vent without proper facts to support your opinions. To write a piece without this support makes the writer come across as uninformed, ignorant, and unprofessional writer.

There are to many errors in your piece to be limited by the 500 word response limit. Suffice it to say at the very least you should have familiarized yourself with the actual qualification process in CONCACAF and the entire World Cup field before writing this piece.

Ah hah! You see, Juanita. The U.S did not play the most beautiful game, but they did hold their own. I'm proud of our team and hope they keep playing well each game. Here's to hoping for a team instead of having no faith in them!

Juanita,

You were right. We should have just stayed at home.

Winner of group C.

B. O. O. Y. A.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Wow I think the "the sports doctor" and solid journalism should only be allowed in the same sentence if there is a "some of the worst representation of" sandwiched in the middle.

I obviously knew she had no business writing this article, considering the US has been on the verge of a breakthrough world cup for years. 2002 a handball away from the semis, 2006 a poor penalty call away from the round of 16.

2010 so far, where we should be. I hope Juanita has the balls, excuse me, the wherewithall to write an article about how poorly informed she was before writing this article, and a promise that she will NEVER write again.

I feel an illustrious career in data entry is the only use of a keyboard the sports wanna be doctor should get.

Let me be the first to give you the bad news, oh prescient one - http://www.comcast.net/worldcup/recap.asp?lg=NATL&g=2010062310188&ref=re...

We win. We are in the second round. Would you like that crow with mustard?

The French legend Zidane says we are a stronger team than England

Hey Juanita,

The USA just won their group. The one England was in. And they did so despite having two goals pulled back on bad calls.

I figure you already knew that, but I couldn't resist rubbing it in. The corner bar I saw the game in was at least as rowdy, loud, and proud when we scored as any I have ever been in all over the world having traveled to the last 5 world cups.

As I'm sure everyone has realized this was honestly the worst article I've ever read. The first time I read this was in the break room at my job. I was honestly furious.

People have already proven how far off base you are on your facts and what you believe has relevance, but I believe I should continue with the trend just to further your demise.

I'm really confused about how Mexico kicked our butts... We beat them 2-0 they beat us 2-1. That to me is a 3-2 aggregate. (Of course by you obvious lack of soccer knowledge I doubt you even know what aggregate is.) And that 2-1 loss against Mexico was at Aztec Stadium, in Mexico City. Please look up how many times Mexico has actually lost there. Please.

Costa Rica embarrassed us? Costa Rica beat us 3-1 in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is a difficult place to play, and in our home game against Costa Rica was one of the most exciting finishes in US Soccer history.

But now, your article full of utter garbage and inaccurate statements the USA has won group C even with being robbed twice by referees.

Obviously I am very protective of these 23 guys who are putting every single one of their emotions into a tournament to fight for respect from the world. They at least deserve respect from their own people that they are trying to do the impossible for.

Please, save some of your dignity and write an apology to the players and all of the people who were forced to read your garbage. Please don't ever write about the beautiful game again