US of Olé
Shots fired. Good guys win.
America—land of the free. And the Whopper. And Johnny Manziel’s girlfriend. Home of the brave. And football. And Marky Mark in Lone Survivor. Soccer is un-American you say? I say you’re a raving idiot. What happened today in the jungles of Brazil was as American as any of those other things. It was so American that when Jurgen Klinsmann subbed out an injured Matt Besler at half with the U.S. up 1-0, he might’ve inserted a bald freakin’ eagle wearing those silly high-top Nike cleats singing the National Anthem while texting a selfie to the ghost of Tony Gwynn. Instead he put in John Brooks.
You might’ve thought when home-grown MLS product Clint Dempsey scored 33 seconds into the game that it was over. But was it over when we toppled Saddam Hussein’s statue 33 seconds into whatever war that was? No. It was not our way eleven (or however many it was—I’m too amped up to Google crap right now) years ago, and it was not our way today.
Instead, for the next 90 minutes we did what we’ve done countless times before—allow the bad guys to think they’re winning. In the 23rd minute, U.S. striker Jozy Altidore even decided to give Ghana a fair shot. His marauding runs were clearly tipping the scales too far in our favor, so he mercilessly strained a hamstring* to give the Ghanaian’s a fighting chance. Ten minutes later Clint Dempsey allowed Ghana’s John Boye to bloody his face with a stiff kick to the nose. The game was, as they say, afoot.
For the next hour midfield General Michael Bradley led his troops in what can only be described as a mercy mission. We gave them the entire middle of the field. We gave them the flanks. In a brilliant move we even gave them their run of the penalty box. Why? Two words: Tim Howard. Much like the Army Corps of Engineers wasn’t during Hurricane Katrina, Tim Howard was there when we needed him—a wall, holding back the on-rushing African flood.
Before Bradley and his men decided it was time to end it all, they gave the Ghanaians the cruelest gift of all: hope. In the 82nd minute Andre Ayew finished a devious give and go with chief Ghanaian antagonist Asamoah Gyan on the left side of the penalty box. His shot sent their fans to bliss. But not for long.
You might remember John Brooks from…well nothing. He has done almost nothing of note for the U.S. This was only his sixth appearance ever for the national team. He was a surprise inclusion in the roster to begin with, and only came into the game because the U.S. team was dropping like those guys in that video in the boat with the Lil’ John song. Altidore—down. Matt Besler—out, also with a pulled hammy. Alejandro Bedoya—iffy. Dempsey—bloody ‘til the final whistle.
In the 86th minute, after allowing the entire country of Ghana to hope for just four minutes, Brooks did what no other American substitute had ever done in a World Cup: He scored. His goal came from a corner kick from fellow substitute Graham Zusi. Before his header had even finished rippling the net the Ghanaians knew what so many American opponents in war and sport and international eating competitions had known before: there is no quit in the Americans. We give no quarter to our enemies (except when we do) and we ask none in return (except when they offer). ‘Merica.
Ten minutes later, after an inexplicable five minutes of extra time that can only be explained by the FIFAluminati continuing to plot our demise, it was over. It was beautiful.
So rejoice with me, new soccer fan. You’re one of us now. If you watched today’s game you’ve seen the beauty of the sport. You’ve tasted the sweetest fruit the beautiful game has to offer. You’ve danced with me down the high wire line of tension and madness and seen the Promised Land that is waiting for those who make it to the other side. This is a game of tension and release. Today America wins. And we all win with them.
This Sunday there is all to play for. Earlier today, just as I predicted, Portugal got ‘Schafted. A win for us against Cristiano Ronaldo and company and we are through to the knockout stage. Portugal will be without at least one starter (and possibly three.) And Das Nats will be energized. Any tournament has some ugly wins. Today we got ours out of our system. Sunday is coming. America will be ready.
God bless the U.S. of Olé.
*Altidore has scans on his hamstring tomorrow—hold your breath because we are a different (worse) team without him.