David Cope
Special to the Daily

Vail Daily column: The United States was done, except it wasn’t

Then, it was over.

Romelu Lukaku scored Belgium’s second goal in extra time, and that was that. The U.S. resistance, led by a superhuman effort by Tim Howard, had finally crumbled and now the hope was that overtime wouldn’t get ugly or embarrassing.

It was over, except it wasn’t.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann had brought on the kid, Julian Green, as a nice gesture and to lock him up as a full-fledged American international player for the rest of his career. Once a player has appeared in a competitive match for one country, he or she is tied to that country for life. Here was a chance to improve our chances in 2018, because 2014 was over.

Except it wasn’t.

With his very first touch, in his very first appearance, at his first World Cup, Julian Green scored a goal. A goal, a freakin’ goal! And a legit one at that, a volley, from a chip by the much-maligned Michael Bradley. With a dozen or so minutes left, we were still in business. This was just the start of a historic comeback. We would surely get another, and maybe another, or the great Tim Howard would make five saves in the penalty shootout and this would be the greatest thing ever to hit SportsCenter.

Except it wasn’t.

Clint Dempsey and Chris Wondolowski both had chances to tie or win the game in OT and regulation time respectively. They will both rue that forever as a missed chance to become a legend in American sports lore.

Except it wasn’t.

So now we move on, the game can be exceedingly harsh, even unfair at times. But this game was neither of those. The better team won that day. The team with more possession and more chances won the game. This game was indicative of our failure as a soccer nation, our failure to develop players who can control the ball in attack, who can create chances and can score goals in these, the closest of games. It represented our failure to captivate the nation, generate a TV audience and capture the imagination of the American public, same old, same old.

Except it wasn’t.

QUARTERFINALS

And so now we move onto the quarterfinals on Friday and Saturday. Brazil-Colombia features the best player in the tournament thus far. The question is, has that been James Rodriguez or Neymar? The hosts looked wobbly against Chile and are lucky to still be playing.

France-Germany is a historically significant match, in soccer terms and for 20th-century scholars. Both teams feature culturally-diverse lineups that represent the new Europe while the flags and anthems remind us of the old one.

Saturday features Netherlands-Costa Rica and two of the most dynamic players in Brazil, the Tico’s Joel Campbell and the inside-out Dutch winger, Arjen Robben. Finally, the last quarterfinal is between the great Leonel Messi and Argentina and this Belgium team that beat the U.S. The best is yet to come.

Except it isn’t.

We’ll miss you, U.S.A. You thrilled us and we couldn’t be prouder of you.

David Cope teaches social studies and coaches the boys and girls soccer teams at Battle Mountain High School in Edwards.


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The VailDaily Updated Jul 2, 2014 09:18AM Published Jul 2, 2014 03:56PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.