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U.S. soccer trajectory looks positive

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (BP)–“The atmosphere was incredible,” said U.S. soccer fan Michael Williams from San Diego, “and that made it worth coming over, even with the loss.”

Williams was among thousands of U.S. fans at the match that knocked the Americans out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament. Ghana defeated the U.S. 2-1 in a must-win game to advance to the quarterfinals.

Team USA. finished their World Cup showing with a 1-1-2 record in four matches, scoring five times and allowing five goals.

“Of course we’re proud and disappointed,” said U.S. goalie Tim Howard, an outspoken Christian. “We’ll have to go back to the drawing board and try to figure things out.”

In spite of the disappointing loss, Howard believes that U.S. soccer has moved to a new level. “We were certainly right in the thick of it,” he said, “and I think that’s the next level for U.S. soccer. Before, it was always being the underdog, and I think if you look at the last four games we were right in the thick of them.”

U.S. coach Bob Bradley said Team USA understands “the responsibility we have as a national team to show how far the game has come in the United States, to fight for respect. … All we can do is look hard at ourselves and continue to try to move the game forward.”

This was the sixth consecutive World Cup appearance for the U.S. men’s team. They have advanced to the knockout stages in three of those tournaments, including a run to the quarterfinals in 2002.

Ticket purchases by Americans for World Cup matches, along with record U.S. television audiences and Internet usage related to the games, show that the sport’s popularity is increasing in the States.

Americans purchased more tickets to the 2010 games than any other country except the host nation, South Africa.

Williams, an avid fan of U.S. soccer since 1990, has seen interest in soccer grow over the past ten years, and he thinks it will continue to grow. “But I don’t think we should continue to look for a holy grail, for that moment that it’s going to explode,” he said. “It’s just going to continue to grow as people become more familiar with it.”

Bradley, voicing appreciation for U.S. fan support in South Africa, said, “… we know that people across the United States have been behind our team. At the moment, it’s a feeling of disappointment for the team and for all our fans that we couldn’t go forward.”

While losses, especially in the World Cup, are disappointing for both fans and teams, some of the U.S. players don’t see them as devastating.

“I am blessed to be living a dream,” Howard had said in an earlier statement. “And yet, if it all went away tomorrow, I know I would still have peace. That probably sounds crazy to most people, but that’s the kind of peace Christ gives.”

Clarence Goodson, defender on the U.S. team, agreed. “For me,” he said in a recent interview, “there’s definitely a calm and a peace in knowing that there’s Someone else who is in control.”
Charles Braddix is a writer with the International Mission Board, currently in South Africa as part of a media team providing sports and ministry coverage during the FIFA World Cup tournament.

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  • Charles Braddix