There’s No Weah In Hell I’m Going To Get Too Bummed About The USMNT’s Draw
12:27 PM EST on November 22, 2022
We all can agree that Patrick is ultimately right. The USMNT could have won—should have won, even—and the draw, while not a death knell, felt like shit. I don't dispute any of that. However, I would like to take this opportunity to make a case for some optimism. It's not even my case really, it's the one Tim Weah himself made when he did this:
My lord, do you see that shit? That finish?? Like, oh my FUCKING god. That shit is crazy. I want to kiss this goal. That stab with his foot? And not merely "with his foot," but with the outside of his foot—or, as they say more beautifully in Spanish, with his "three toes"? And that run? The smoothness of his stride, interrupted only by that quick little spasm from which he generates all the power he injects into the ball to send it over the goalkeeper's leg and into the net? Ooooh man, that little spasm has me feeling things. So much technique and class! So much swagger! So much (as Luis's dad correctly noted) Romário-esque flair! DAMMIT, GOAL, BECOME HUMAN, OR AT LEAST A CUTE KITTEN, SO I CAN KISS YOU!
And it's not only Weah. Christian Pulisic is exquisite here, too. Just flying straight into the teeth of the defense as if it were no bother at all. Timing his pass and weighing it exactly right while in a dead sprint, getting the ball to move as it might in a relaxing game of lawn bowling instead of in the middle of a counter attack at the World fucking Cup. Then comes that finish again and—Jesus Christ, man, I am obsessed!!
That Weah goal was for me of a piece with that glorious Gio Reyna run against Mexico earlier this year. Both are markers of American soccer history. There was a long time when the U.S. did not have players capable of such technical feats in competitive games against top opposition. Now, we do have players who can do such things, and the promise of this incredibly youthful USMNT is that the future should only increase the frequency and number of talents who can legitimately amaze.
In order for the USMNT to achieve things they never have before, they first must do things we've never seen before. In other words, if the U.S. is ever to become a true candidate to make deep runs into the World Cup knockout rounds, it first must produce and develop players who can do the types of things your traditional World Cup contenders do. And we're getting there. Through his paternal grandparents, Reyna could've represented Argentina internationally. Because he has now lived in France for eight years, Weah could've chosen to play for the French national team. Both of those countries would've loved seeing what Reyna and Weah can do had they performed those same feats in more prestigious colors—a testament to how exciting those two plays really were.
And if you zoom out a little, you can see even more evidence of the USMNT's potential future across the pitch in the Wales match, at least in the first half. I can't remember a performance by the American men as impressive as that first 45 minutes. The U.S. looked better coached, more energetic, and flat-out more talented than a European opponent at the World Cup. That is not normal! Even when the U.S. has gotten good results in past tournaments, they didn't do so by dominating the way they did against Wales. The traditional successful USMNT match is admirable and determined; it isn't dominating or cool. The Wales match was dominant and so very cool, at least for a half. It didn't last, and adding some of that archetypical American doggedness and commitment very much needs to be on the menu for this group going forward in Qatar. But even the glimpse of what this team could be, as seen in the first half as a whole and Weah's goal in microcosm, should be enough to get American fans' tongues wagging about what might come next, be it in a few days or in four years or beyond.
All of that is to say, as an American soccer fan I have happily cheered for some absolute jobbers over the years, and have been thrilled watching my boys get clubbed in the run of play while admirably, determinedly resisting a loss. I didn't go through all of that just to watch the USMNT play maybe the best half of soccer I've ever seen from them, and witness a goal so pretty that I'm out here in public wishing for it to transform into something I can lay my lips on, just to get bent out of shape when the second half is weaker and the team gives up a dumb penalty.
Fandom is principally emotional, which is why I have and will continue to root for the U.S. regardless of the team's objective quality of play. But soccer is also an aesthetic game, and I appreciate being freed from the tyranny of the result, even if only for a moment, so that I can bask in the splendor of a ball well kicked. So I'm choosing to trust these guys until they give me a reason not to, and I look forward to seeing what they can do from here on out.