Ahead of the Curve
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While disappointed to see USA soccer had lost to host Mexico 2-1 in their World Cup qualifier last Wednesday, what stood out in my mind was the vile treatment the USA players and their fans received from the stadium crowd. 

Team USA's performance?  I'm not as disappointed as are the experts.  I see substance. 

Clearly, this group is "not our father's US soccer" (Grant Wahl / SI.com).  Anytime USA takes the field I sense a real chance at victory.  This is a new feeling.  These guys are contenders.  They really believe they can beat anyone, anywhere.  Sometimes they do.   

As to the Mexican's bad behavior: this is not a new feeling.  At a 2005 match the home crowd hurled shouts of "Osama Osama" at the Yanks like verbal hand grenades.

Team USA and their fans, mostly family and friends, are not INS agents, money men or troops of General Winfield Scott.  Donovan & Co. are as innocent as the victims of  9-11.  The mocking reference to that tragic day makes me wonder what became of the proud nation which shaped men like Emiliano Zapata, Jose Orozco and Diego Rivera.

Sadly, it's not much different from our own brand of verbal terrorism being carried-out by Republican mob-sters working for the healthcare industry at recent town hall meets.   

I congratulate Charlie Davies on his thrilling goal early in the match.  I only wish more athletes would act like they'd been there / done that before, when celebrating.  I guess it could've been worse.  Davies could've taken off his shirt and run around flexing. 

Mr. Wahl raises a good issue with Donovan about holding a lead.  It's sometimes said the best defense is a good offense.  That means more time of possession.

But until the USA learns to close the deal ("slam the door"), they may not be our father's team but they won't be America's Team either.  Unlike some franchises where progress creates intense pressure (Cubs / Packers / Bruins), USA soccer may benefit from the anonymity.      

Mexico would do best to forget about Santa Ana, Zachary Taylor and anything else that's put a bee in their sombreros.  Consider themselves lucky that the Yanks aren't yet nearly as passionate about futbol when they go visiting their heroes in the Colossus to the North

For the USA's part: forget about history, too.  Keep playing with heart, dodging the trash and a Champion's Cup may come.  You're competing against nations that have played soccer devotedly for a century.  Reaching the promised land is a long and apparently dangerous journey, something our neighbors to the south know about all too well. 

Steven Keys

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