At least for the U.S. it is. Indeed, for them, every single thing they could have hoped for is happening.
Prior to the World Cup, the United States’ fortunes looked bleak, and a trip to the knockout round looked possible only through a complicated sequence of events. Their hopes seemed more like prayers that weren’t likely to be answered.
They needed to see Germany destroyed by Portugal, beat Ghana, draw with the Portuguese, and lose a close game to the Germans so as to advance on goal differential.
It seemed too convoluted to be expected, or, in reality, possible. But then it happened. It all happened. The futbol gods smiled down on them, and their prayers were answered.
And in the process, they even managed to answer some others themselves.
Under the watchful foreign eye of Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. team has been ever-improving, but at no point during his tenure – or any American coach’s tenure for that matter – have they looked like a side worthy of the world’s respect.
Because though Thursday’s effort against Germany was a losing one, it was one in which the missing link finally revealed itself – one in which, at long last, their back-line defensive unit stepped up.
Through the first two games, the U.S. looked alarmingly suspect at the back. They allowed Ghana far too many open opportunities on net – opportunities a more skilled side would have finished and ridden to a win – and against Portugal, a poor clearance gifted the opposition an early goal, and a brutal loss of concentration allowed a late equalizer that robbed the Americans of a win. Without a doubt, they were the anchor threatening to drag the Americans down to the depths.
The American Outlaws may like to chant that they believe the U.S. will win, but, through two games, only the delusional would consider those words little more than foolhardy lip service.
Now, though, there are conviction in those words. Because on Thursday, the U.S. back line was resolute. Rejecting an onslaught of skill and determination, the Americans did their best marking yet against their best opponents yet. They got on the end of every cross, they closed, they cleared. And when they couldn’t, goalie Tim Howard could.
They played defense. Great defense. World Cup defense.
Defense that – when paired with the type of creative, possessive offense they displayed against Portugal – completes the un-finished puzzle that was this American squad.
The United States lost on Thursday. But they showed more in that loss than they did in the win against Ghana that looked like it should have been a loss, or in the draw against Portugal that should have been a win and felt like a loss.
They showed that their weak spot may not be that weak. They showed that they may be better than anyone thought. That they aren’t to be overlooked.
That, while they may not win the World Cup, they truly are a team you can believe in.
Author: Joe Bianchino
Joe Bianchino is a writer, producer, and radio host located in upstate New York. He is a life-long New York sport fan, Chelsea supporter, and Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter @JoeBNTS. Email him at Joe@noticketsports.com.