Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Football/Soccer: A Foreign Game Looks Very American

As the need for a goal increased, Bradley sent in Benny Feilhaber at the half, Edson Buddle at the 64th minute, then Beasley. Now it was the old pro football drill of everybody go long. How American was that? Only instead of Joe Montana sending everybody deep, it was Howard, the American keeper who plays in England, half-Hungarian, half-African-American.
Howard fielded a moderate header at 90 minutes 33 seconds, with four extra minutes having been signaled by the referee. This time Howard threw the ball upfield, and the fleet Donovan caught up with it at midfield in full stride, racing into Algerian territory.
After a few wide-open steps, Donovan flicked the ball to the right to Jozy Altidore, the Haitian-American, who banged it into the center to Clint Dempsey, who grew up playing with his Mexican friends in the dusty fields near the border in Texas. Dempsey tapped the ball at the keeper, who could not hold on to it, and there was Donovan to bang it home at 90:45.
Midway through the second half, while watching Howard rush the ball toward his mates, I thought about something Alexi Lalas told me more than a decade ago when he was playing for Calcio Padova in the Italian Serie A. Some players on that weak team would give up if they fell a goal behind on the road, Lalas said, but American athletes would never give up.
It was an interesting point of view, and I was reminded of it again on Wednesday when Tim Howard sent the ball downfield, and a whole track team of runners sprinted after it for the goal that did, at least for three days, change everything.

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