Soccerstoriesbook's Blog


KEEP COOL, BRA’

The U.S. put its hopes of reaching the 2014 World Cup in doubt when it was upset by Jamaica, 2-1, in a CONCACAF semifinal-round qualifier in Kingston, the Jamaicans’ first-ever victory over the Americans.

With three rounds remaining, Jamaica led the four-nation group with seven points, followed by the U.S. and Guatemala with four apiece and Antigua and Barbuda with one.  [September 7]

Comment:  There has been much hand wringing among fans and in the media heading into the U.S.-Jamaica return leg on September 11 in Columbus, and indeed the Americans have made things unnecessarily interesting.  However, while there is no need for Juergen Klinsmann and his players to be complacent, it should be remembered that the USA’s last loss in a home World Cup qualifier was more than a decade ago to an impressive Honduran side (3-2 at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC, on September 1, 2001).

Advertisements


A GOLDEN CHALLENGE

CONCACAF unveiled its schedule for the 12-nation 2011 Gold Cup, which will be staged in an unprecedented 11 metro U.S. areas beginning June 5.  The regional championship, which was first held 20 years ago with eight nations in two stadiums (the Rose Bowl and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum), will be played at Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX; Ford Field in Detroit; Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC; Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL; Soldier Field in Chicago; KC Soccer Stadium in Kansas City; RFK Stadium in Washington, DC; Reliant Stadium in Houston; FIU Stadium in Miami; Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, and New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ; and, outside Los Angeles, the Home Depot Center and Rose Bowl, site of the June 25 final.

Defending champion Mexico, host U.S. and Canada qualify automatically and will be joined by Caribbean champion Jamaica and area rivals Greneda, Cuba and Guadeloupe.  The remaining five teams will be determined next month at the Copa Centroamericana in Panama.  [December 16]

Comment:  If America’s interest in its World Cup team has any legs, we will find out during this Gold Cup.  This tournament marks the U.S. National Team’s first appearance on a major stage since it drew record television ratings for its four matches at South Africa ’10.  Will a significant number of those same Americans who crowded around TVs last June vote with their feet this June and buy tickets to see some old favorites and new faces playing against lesser teams for lesser stakes?

We’ll see. Provided the U.S. reaches the final and faces the auld enemy, Mexico, perhaps the support for the home team will be better than in 2007, when the Americans beat the Mexicans on a Benny Feilhaber golasso.  That was witnessed by a loud pro-Mexico crowd of 60,000 at Soldier Field.  Or last year, when Mexico humiliated an experimental U.S. side, 5-0, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, in front of an overwhelmingly partisan Mexico crowd of 79,156.  

Will a corner be turned in ’11, or will the U.S. players continue to find that an American stadium is just a home away from home?



WHAT THE U.S. NATIONAL OPEN CUP COULD BE

Tonight, the Seattle Sounders will play host to the Columbus Crew in the 97th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final before a sellout crowd of nearly 33,000 at Qwest Field.  Seattle and Columbus outlasted a 40-team field that ranged from dreamers from the U.S. Amateur Soccer Association and fourth-division Premier Development League to eight entries from Major League Soccer.  [October 5].

Comment:  The match will mark another milestone in American soccer history regardless of whether the Sounders become the first club since the 1982-83 New York Pancyprian-Freedoms, a semipro side, to successfully defend the cup.  The turnout at Qwest Field will break the previous attendance record for an open cup final, set in 1929 when 21,583 watched New York Hakoah blank the Madison Kennel Club of St. Louis, 3-0 at Brooklyn’s Dexter Field.  (That year’s final was played on a home and home basis; 15,000 fans were on hand a week earlier at St. Louis’ Sportsman Park to see Hakoah take the first leg, 2-0.)

No surprise that it would be Sounder fans who would be the ones to break this mark, but this green-and-blue-clad throng suggests that the nation’s oldest knockout sports competition has some potential in the modern age after all.  The attendance of 17,329 at RFK Stadium for last year’s final, when Seattle topped DC United, 2-1, was very good.  Thirty-three thousand is great.

It is doubtful that the competition originally known as the U.S. National Challenge Cup will ever approach the fervor of the granddaddy of them all, the English F.A. Cup.  But with better promotion and a more serious approach on the part of MLS clubs, who routinely schedule cup matches at secondary (read: bush league) venues and start second-tier players, perhaps there will be some extra luster to the cup by the time the 100th edition kicks off in 2013.  For soccer fans treated to a less-than-meaningful MLS regular season, a truly high-profile, win-or-go-home competition would be most welcome.