Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ryan's soccer thoughts

My wife has not posted in a while so I will give this a shot. As most of you know the largest sporting tournament in the world is taking place currently. Though most of us either don't care or can't stand to watch a game that has low scores there is a growing fan base.                                                               

I first got into watching the global sport in 2000 when I was spending 3 weeks in France with a host family during the Eurocup. This tournament is played by European nations between World Cups. During this time I naively got the experience of the excitement and wonder of national team soccer. I have never seen so many people get so enthusiastically behind one team as a nation. Everyone was glued to the TV. When goals were almost scored the whole family was on the edge of their seat. When France won the cup you could hear the neighbors in the suburbs rush outside and start yelling in celebration. Many went to the city and filled the streets in celebration. That's what got me into the game.                                                          

   Soccer, for Americans, is an acquired taste. You can't jump into it and expect it to be exciting. The best way to enjoy the game is to find others that enjoy it and get into it with them. Through that you will learn what makes it so compelling. If I have a foreign friend who likes soccer I will watch his team with him to learn more about his team and be encouraged to enjoy the game and experience.                                                   
From this point I will bore those who are not soccer fans so be warned.                                               

When I was watching the Eurocup in 2000 I had no idea who or what I was watching but it was the atmosphere that made it amazing. Now I know that Thierry Henry was the highest scorer in the history of the soccer club Arsenal. He was super fast and has scored crazy goals, backwards and corner kick goals.

  I was also watching Zinedine Zidane, possibly the best player of his time. His ball handling skills were unmatched. Also one of the best goalies of his time Fabien Barthez. The last game was won in overtime, it was the most memorable and exciting game I have ever watched.

 As I said before, this experience is what got me into soccer. From then on I have been trying to watching matches from MLS, the World Cup and Eurocup. It was 2002 when my second most memorable game was played. It was the US and Germany in the world cup. I didn't think we had a chance but we played so well we almost pulled it off. To watch a US team, just getting back into being competitive enough to enter the tournament, play the world class Germany and hold their own was amazing. If it wasn't for Germany's goal keeper, the greatest at that time, a freak of nature that probably had an IV of steroids off the pitch, Oliver Kahn, and a very bad missed call when the German defender blocked a ball going in the goal with his hand, things may have been different. Even the highlights are exciting, you can see how much larger and taller the Germans are...

                       Kahn to Donovan


This brings me to the current world cup and the US fan base. The most foreign tickets bought at the current cup have been from the US. There is a fast growing supporters club called the "American Outlaws" which uses chapters in different cities so groups can unite locally for the US team. Check this one out for Seattle. It was mistaken for Seahawk support when it was actually a Seattle cultural way of supporting the US team. The 12th man in Seahawk colors is telling the Pacific Northwest to be the 12th man for the US, get loud.              
        But with a closer look, it's the Seattle, American Outlaw chapter.                        
It was a great game, very exciting and it is neat to see that we are growing to enjoy the game as the much of the rest of the world does.

There is nothing like supporting your country in a soccer match with other fans. It almost feels like you scored the goal yourself.  However we don't have what it takes to win this year. Our defense is lacking. Our goal keeper is top notch, very good with many excellent saves but the opposing team keeps breaking through the back line. This cup is about defense. Brazil is very impressive on the defense this year. Holland is also very good along with Germany. I see one of these teams winning the cup but I can't pin down which one. If I had to chose it would be Germany. They have amazing stamina, they run and give it their all the whole time, I was sure they would burn out the second half but they kept moving. Their technical skill is above the rest though Holland is close and has a slightly better offense. Brazil is solid on it's defense but it has trouble up front even with Neymar. Technical skills and keeping to the basics is the best way to be consistent in winning these tournaments. There is only one way to defeat this style but it doesn't seem to be planned, it just seems to come together. It happened with the 2010 Spain World cup team and the Brazil 2002 World Cup team. It's amazing team chemistry among great players. Nothing seems forced they just naturally know what to do because they seem to know each other so well. There is no team like that this year. The best teams have the most solid defense at this Cup.

This year I hope you will find some time and friends to watch US soccer games and support your team and country. It is most exciting when you join a group of supporters to watch the game. Then you'll see what the excitement is about. Get into the game now, you don't want to miss the experience of being part of the greatest day in US sports history. The day the US wins the World Cup.