By Ken Fletcher — American Outlaws, Lexington, KY (Special to KSR)
We’re only a month away from the World Cup and in June, everyone around you will claim to be an expert on soccer, and the only thing most of us know about the sport is that you’re supposed to give the kids orange slices and juice boxes at half time. Most people embrace the World Cup like the Olympics. It may not be something you follow all the time, but for a few months, you’re the go to person in your office for our best hopes to medal in rhythmic gymnastics. We’re here to help you sound knowledgeable before the first kickoff.
The Team: Started from the Bottom…
The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) has come a long way in terms of talent since the 1994 team whose best player (Alexi Lalas) was better thought of as the lead singer for the Spin Doctors.
Now you can probably name the “two princes” of US Soccer, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, but the US team’s success and failure will be determined by the play of two other players: Michael Bradley and Tim Howard. To be fair Dempsey will still be a major factor as he’s now playing a new role for this world cup as team captain, but Donovan’s been cast as the world cup version of Jalen Whitlow, as he’s no longer even part of the team.
So please welcome to the stage Michael Bradley, as he once thought of as only in the squad because he was the coach’s son, is no Saul Smith. He may look like Lex Luthor but he plays like Superman.
He’s the puppet master of the US attack and the USMNT’s performance will hinge on the service he will provide.
In the past, the US team could credit any World Cup success to their defensive prowess. However, the stalwart back line members have since retired from international soccer, along with the USMNT’s Tubby-style defensive philosophy often referred to as “parking the bus” in front of the goal. So any hopes of keeping the ball out of our own net will be contingent on the play of Goalkeeper Tim Howard. His resume includes playing at some of the best clubs in Europe, and the ability to grow a beard that strikes fear in the heart of men.
With his experience, skillset, and power drawn from his beard, he’s put himself in the conversation for one of the best keepers in the world. With an inexperienced centre-back pairing (Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez) and an aging DeMarcus Beasley and a “pocket full of kryptonite” to be named later as his defense, Tim Howard’s bus now looks more and more like Willie Cauley-Stein’s moped.
The Coach: JÃ¼rgen Klinsmann is the German Mark Stoops
Following in the footsteps of American born coaches Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena, JÃ¼rgen Klinsmann took over as the USMNT coach. Klinsmann “ain’t exactly from around here” as he had no real ties to the American team, but brought a whole new philosophy to US Soccer and while it’s too early to really tell what sort of impact he’s had in terms of results, the interest in the team is at an all-time high. Just like we can’t expect a National Championship in football in Lexington this year, we’re still going to drink a lot in the parking lot. Most importantly we should still expect the results from the upcoming games to put us in the conversation as a team to look out for.
The Group of Death: Kentucky’s 2014 NCAA Tournament Draw
The USMNT’s placement in the the World Cup is the same as Kentucky’s seeding in the NCAA basketball tournament. It’s a tall order.
Germany = Wichita State. They are one of the best teams in the tournament, they play beautifully as a cohesive unit and have underated star-power. The big difference here is that this version of Wichita State comes from a power conference. Our coach and a few of our players are from there, so this game will mean more to us than it does to them. Expect the pre-game speech to include “Clear Eyes Full Hearts” in German.
Portugal = Louisville. This team is always regarded as a powerhouse, due to the play of one special player. Only in this case, Cristiano Ronaldo is light years better than Russ Smith. But if you run into someone wearing a Ronaldo jersey, chances are, they currently, or at some point have had a line beard. The good news is that just like Louisville we beat them the last time we faced off.
Ghana = UCONN. Just like UCONN no one would ever pick them to win the tournament, however they are a talented team that’s been a thorn in our side recently, as they’ve put us out of the world cup the last two times we’ve played them.
American Outlaws: Red White & Blue Nation
The American Outlaws are a US Men’s National Team supporters group with chapters all across the nation. Think of it as an organized eRUPPtion Zone. Our mission is to support the United States National Soccer Team through a unified and dedicated group of supporters. Whether it’s in the stadium or in a nearby bar, you’ll hear this group singing and chanting inbetween beers. Here in Lexington we host viewing parties for all USMNT games at West Sixth Brewing Company.
The USMNT has 3 friendly matchups coming up to help them warm up for the tournament.
Tuesday May 27th at 7pm vs Azerbaijan
Sunday June 1st at 2pm vs Turkey
Saturday June 7th at 6pm vs Nigeria
Come join us at West Sixth for all three friendlies, where you can party like Billy Gillispie, and familiarize yourself with the team before the tournament starts and help get the mojo going.