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Bennett: 13 prevailing World Cup memories

Blog - Men In Blazers Jul 12, 2014
Read
Jun 17, 2014

That's how they roll

United States centre-back John Brooks scored a dramatic late header to beat Ghana 2-1.

I thought Clint Dempsey's goal, after 29 seconds, was the single greatest thing I had ever seen from the United States since "Miami Vice" came on English television screens in 1984. Eighty-five and a half minutes later, John Brooks' potent yet poetic winner eclipsed it.

Watching that knockout punch in ESPN's Rio studio was thrilling, but when Alexi Lalas came on television in his inimitable style and claimed, "It wasn't progressive or new, but I don't care. It was American. It was who we are. It was beautiful," a number of non-American pundits in the green room shook their heads.

Does that make Haris Seferovic's 93rd-minute winner for Switzerland in their come-from-behind victory against Ecuador similarly "American," they wondered.

This preoccupation with whether the nation's football is or is not "American" is particularly American. Jurgen Klinsmann has been obsessed with the issue, broaching the question at his first news conference in August 2011 and consistently talking about his bold vision for an all-out attacking, kaleidoscopic style of football in the course of the shoot for "Inside: US Soccer's March to Brazil."

The week before training began he told me, "I believe soccer always describes the culture of its environment. ... American soccer is very international, dynamic, energetic, aggressive, attacking ... and bossy, because you want to be the No. 1 in the world."

Pregame, the president of the United States jumped in on Klinsmann's "connecting the nation to the style of football" act. In a presidential Vine, he commanded, "Go Team USA. Show the world what we are made of."

This is what we are made of then: a tenacious victory in which the back line made 45 clearances, the most by a team in a World Cup match since 1966. The attackers conjured two touches within 20 yards of Ghana's goal (one was Brooks' goal) after Jozy Altidore departed. And a total 90 minutes in which goalkeeper Tim Howard led the team with 61 touches.

Yet they still won.

And what could be more American than that? It's the footballing equivalent of the Battle of the Bulge in which the 101st Airborne was outnumbered and surrounded by Germans in the winter of 1944 with neither supplies nor air cover. The forces held out for seven days until Patton's army relieved them, a tenacity that is at the core of much that is good about this nation.

Ahead of the battle, acting commander Anthony McAuliffe was given the chance to surrender by his German counterpart. His one word reply was "nuts."

Last night, the U.S. channeled that spirit to defy the odds. They withstood everything that was thrown at them. Didn't play pretty football. Dug deep. Scored down the flanks, and with a set piece. And won.

What could be more American than that?