There has seriously not been a more exciting and intriguing time as a US Soccer supporter in my lifetime (I’m 29). Maybe when the World Cup was here in 1994 since we were hosting and that was totally awesome – but as far as the team and how it has looked, man it is exciting. So as we gear up for the next round of qualifiers, here are the key things you need to know about those games and why you should starting paying attention right bleeping now.
When are the games and what do they mean, exactly?
There are 4 games left in the “Hex” round of the CONCACAF (our region…or “conference” if you will) World Cup Qualifiers. 2 will take place this month, with the final 2 next month. The 2 this month are at Costa Rica (TONIGHT) and against Mexico in Columbus (the 10th).
In order to advance to the World Cup next summer in Brazil, the USA only needs one win and one draw in these next 2 matches to make it official with 2 games to spare. At this point it would take a catastrophe to not qualify, but it is always worth celebrating once it is official. And to make it official at home against rival Mexico would just be fantastic.
After we are done doing all of that, the final qualifiers will take place against Jamaica in Kansas City (the 11th) and at Panama (the 15th).
For your reference, here is when and where to watch, courtesy of US Soccer.
*TONIGHT* September 6th @ Costa Rica ● 10:00 pm EST ● TV: beIN SPORT
September 10th vs. Mexico ● 8:00 pm EST ● TV: ESPN
October 11th vs. Jamaica ● 6:30 pm EST ● TV: ESPN
October 15th @ Panama ● 10:00 pm EST ● TV: beIN SPORT
OK, but why should I be excited? I am not a soccer hipster so I don’t know.
Good question and there are plenty of answers. I’ll name just a few.
1. We are on a 12 game WINNING streak
Not unbeaten streak…WINNING streak. You like jumping on the bandwagon for winners, right? Of course you do!!
Yes some of those games were against Cuba and Belize – but a couple of them also include a limited German team (still good) and a ridiculous comeback 4-3 win on the road against Bosnia and Herzegovina. If you didn’t know any better that may not sound important, but trust me when I tell you that is a quality team (#13 in the world according to FIFA) that you will see next summer in Brazil. The streak is currently the world’s longest active one while including a Gold Cup Championship – the regional tournament that has nothing to do with the World Cup but is still a good trophy to have. So jump on board while the gettin’s good.
2. We are scoring a lot of goals
“I don’t like games with no goals” is an excuse you cannot use for this American team right now. Over the win steak the Stars and Stripes have put home 39 goals which is good for 3.25 per game. They have scored at least 3 in 7 of those games and at least 5 goals in 3.
A big part of this is the national team “birth” of striker Jozy Football – Jozy Altidore. Jozy has accounted for 7 goals including a hat trick against Bosnia-Herzegovina. He has scored in 5 straight national team appearances, which is a first for an American.
Here is the hat trick (sorry about the weird double-audio thing going on):
3. We are winning the recruiting battle
So here is something you college sports fans can relate to. Recruiting. Teams that are doing well on the field also seem to gain more and more momentum with off-field battles. That is true here as well.
In the world of soccer, there are plenty of dual citizens that are one day forced to decide what national team to pledge their allegiance to. For example in Europe where the countries are all geographically close to each other, you have a lot of instances where young players have parents from different nations. You may think that a player simply plays for the country in which he (or she) was born, but dual citizens can actually chose. However once they play for the senior team, no switichies.
Below are 2 examples of Jürgen Klinsmann winning the recruiting battle, both of which happening over the last month or so.
- Aron Jóhannsson (USA vs. Iceland). Everything I know about Iceland I learned in Mighty Ducks 2 – until Aron (nickname Aron Bacon). He has only played one game so far for us, but oh man was it fun to see. If there was one skill I have never really seen an American player possess, it is a striker who can go 1v1 on a defender and make him look silly with cheeky technical skills. In his brief Bosnia appearance, he broke ankles. He didn’t finish those chances but the creativity and creation were just incredible to see from an American. Of course Jozy is the team’s #1 striker, but don’t be surprised if the USA rolls with 2 strikers come next summer. Here are some highlights to whet your appetite (special note to the goal at 1:18). Also know that Iceland is really pissed he chose us, and now we know why.
- John Anthony Brooks (USA vs. Germany). This 6’7” defender plays in the Budesliga; Germany’s top league that is also home to clubs such as Bayern Munich. You might have heard of them. Speaking of Bayern, they actually showed plenty of interest in Brooks back when he was 19, but he signed elsewhere in the league with Hertha Berlin. Now he wasn’t as nationally coveted as Aron, but Brooks was definitely in the plans to play for Germany’s U-21 team and go from there. Instead, Jürgen called him up and he has been named to the roster for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers. Here is a goal the big guy scored last month. Enjoy.
- On the subject of Germany and Bayern Munich, we actually have another prospect and he is in their system. Keep an eye on the name Julian Green, who is one of Bayern’s most talented youth strikers at the age of 18. He, like Brooks, holds passports for both Germany and the United States. Green has played for the U-18 American National Team and the German U-16 team and is still eligible to play for either Germany or the USA senior teams. We are optimistic he is leaning US.
- Sydney Leroux (USA vs. Canada). Ok this is the women’s team, but Sydney is becoming yet another star for the Women’s National Team including a just-silly 4 goal outburst against Mexico this week. So I wanted to give props because she is awesome including in the below highlight where she takes a forearm to a poor defender’s face. It’s a great time to choose the USA all around!
4. Holy depth
Going into previous World Cups, we get the hype train going and we have good reason to be excited about the stars of the team. But never have we had the type of depth that this team currently has (on paper). I’ll put it this way, there is plenty of debate out on the interwebs about whether or not national hero Clint Dempsey should be in the starting 11. Seriously. Those discussions are happening.
Now don’t take that as a “USA Fans are bonkers” comment. My point is that the squad has never shown this much talent, especially in the front half (we are admittedly more nervous about our defending situation). Here are some studs to know: Bradley, Dempsey, Zusi, Jones, Fabian Johnson, Donovan, Altidore, Jóhannsson. That’s already 8 guys between midfield and striker. This doesn’t include depth such as Eddie Johnson, Alejandro Bedoya, Geoff Cameron, Juan Agudelo (OH MY GOD WATCH THIS GOAL), and the dreamy Mix Diskerud. So even of just those first 8 key pieces – well that leaves 2 guys on the outs of the starting lineup assuming we still roll with 4 defenders and a keeper. That is crazy depth for an American team and all of those guys are playing at their peak or, at worst, getting acquainted with new clubs.
So get on board folks! I recommend joining the American Outlaws as soon as humanly possible. The AO’s are 94 city chapters strong (and counting). JOIN NOW.