What a day it was yesterday for the US Women's soccer team at the 2011 World Cup in Germany. No matter if you regularly pay attention to the sport or not, the results of the American's penalty-kick win over Brazil yesterday has made its way into Monday's mainstream sports talk, in both print and over the airwaves. Scanning the radio this morning, I heard mention of Sunday's match on both local and national sports talk shows.
While the television ratings have been down in the United States for most of the tournament, Sunday was exactly what soccer fans needed for a boost. Helped by a favorable time slot on a weekend, with baseball winding down towards the All-Star break, the match on Sunday provided many Americans with a feeling of pride in their nation and a match that may springboard soccer more into the American mainstream.
The woman's team has long been a contender on the global stage, winners of two previous World Cups, while the men's team hasn't quite found the same success. To many who follow the sport, it has long been a puzzling question. Simply put, as Americans we expect to always be the best at sports. Our country has the population and the resources to typically be the best, at nearly everything. It is not about egos, it is about facts.
Somewhere along the lines though, that hasn't correlated to soccer, at least on the men's side. While the woman's national team had more than done their part, the men's side has a long history of occasionally rubbing elbows with the top tier countries in soccer, but the furthest the American men have gone in the World Cup a third place finish in 1930. After not having qualified for the World Cup between 1954 and 1986, the stars and stripes have reached each World Cup since 1990, finishing as high as eighth in 2002. For a country that prides ourselves in being the best at nearly any sport we try, the victory by the woman yesterday over Brazil may be the fuel needed to drive our country to want more progress in soccer.
Abby Wambach's goal equalizer yesterday in the 122nd minute was as good as it gets. It was the latest end of match goal in Women's World Cup history, and it showed that never quit attitude that our nation loves to boast about when it comes to athletics. It was on par with a hail mary touchdown in the playoffs, coming back from three down entering the bottom of the ninth to win on a walk-off in the playoffs, or trailing by 10 with three minutes to go in the NBA Finals, only to comeback and win.
Such heroics in sports as witnessed yesterday are what will take soccer to the next level, and as the women's team continues to show their spirit on the pitch, it only should help push the men's national team to want more acceptance on an international stage. More and more we are seeing soccer on television inside the United States, and with outcomes like yesterday, it may just being the turning point for a country that prides ourselves in always being among the best.