Let's talk about soccer for a while...
Watched the U-20 game between the USA and Brazil last night and I have a bunch of thoughts.
First, I absolutely LOVED the coverage. The feed was clearly destined for overseas consumption, and there was no American crew interrupting the feed from Bristol, constantly interjecting googled facts that had little to do with the on-field action. The announcers actually seemed to follow the flow of the game and, God forbid!, kept quiet for large portions of the match. They actually sensed the game and didn't feel it necessary to fill every single second with an inane rambling. Also, there were limited commercials! It was amazing! Normally in soccer matches, pregame festivities aren't covered on TV here at all, and halftime is 15 minutes of straight commercials. For some reason, ESPN didn't cut in and fill every second that the clock wasn't running with DiTech, esurance and "The Bronx is Burning" commercials. They actually showed the national anthems and spent some time announcing the players and formations. It was great, and I'm quite certain that ESPN won't ever let it happen again.
Second, the Canadian crowd was awesome. Sure, the stadium wasn't massive, but it was totally full. And let's not kid ourselves, U-20 tournaments aren't anywhere near as big a deal as full internationals. Compare the attendance of these matches in Canada to the attendance of the Under 21 European Championships in Holland this year: not a single match in that entire tournament, including those with home team and the title game, had as many fans in attendance as last night's USA-Brazil game. Add in the excitement of MLS's Toronto FC, and there's a soccer crazed nation to the north. That's not exactly good for US Soccer - as the next time it's CONCACAF's turn to host the World Cup, they might not choose the massive stadia of the USA and instead opt for better summer weather in Canada. Canada could probably put up very good bids to host the Gold Cup too.
Now, about the game itself... The future's bright for the USA. The Brazil squad wasn't exactly their optimal U-20, but there was definitely talent on that team. But at the same time, it seemed to me like the USA had as much, if not more talent out there. I actually thought Adu was the best player on the field, when he stayed upright. The American defense appeared confident and quick against very skilled and athletic strikers. The result last night wasn't luck. In fact, I'd say that the only lucky thing of the night was that Brazil scored at all - their goal could've been handled by Seitz or been cleared off the line. The game was really enjoyable to watch, and it makes me think the future of the USMNT can't come soon enough. The core of Adu, Altidore, Zizzo and Szetela is something to get excited about. Adu draws som much attention that he frees others up (see the second goal last night), and his skill is world class. Altidore is right now as good a pure finisher has anyone wearing the US uniform. Zizzo looks like the kind of speed and skill, and most importantly an ability not to get blown off the ball with a faint breeze, we've needed on the wing forever. With the talent out on the field, almost as important is the fearlessness. After the match, the players seemed excited and happy - like they knew that their last 2 matches were a big deal. But it was also the look of a group of kids not afraid to do something great.
Now the draw comes up pretty good for the USA. Their next match is Wednesday, probably against the winner of Costa Rica-Scotland, but possibly North Korea, Zambia or Jordan. If the win that one, they'd get probably Portugal or Austria. There's a decent chance that the USA could avoid Argentina, Nigeria, and maybe Brazil again until the Finals. Spain looks to be the biggest threat on the USA's side of the draw.
Back on the TV coverage thing... I think it's very cool that ESPN showed last night's game. I wonder how much the surprise ratings the Gold Cup final got for Univision and the YouTube excitement about Adu's hat trick against Poland had to do with it. I don't think ESPN had intended on showing last night's match until just the other day (my cable guide had "NFL Live" and the Hot Dog Eating Contest supposed to air). That's a good sign for people who like watching soccer, like me. Adu's star power and on-field success for the team can only lead to more coverage, and more interest.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Let's talk about soccer for a while...