how the world sees america

U.S. Soccer Lacks 'Sacred Fire'

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MEXICO CITY - "Now it's time for revenge," Erubiel says as the national soccer teams of Mexico and the United States jog onto the field at Houston's Reliant stadium. Revenge for what? I ask. Seizing California in 1848? Their answer is more modest: "We haven't beaten the U.S. [in an away match] in nine years." (At home, altitude gives Mexico the advantage, since they're accustomed to thinner air.)

"Mexico faces a mental hurdle," says PostGlobal panelist Leon Krauze, when it comes to defeating the U.S. Leon greeted me here in Mexico after my too-short press visa to Venezuela expired the other day. "Football (soccer) is the only thing left that Mexico is better at than the Americans, and it devastated this country when the U.S. beat us in the 2002 World Cup."

I head to the Salon Corona, the spot to watch soccer downtown, wondering if this is the year that "Mexico's psychological anxiety of losing" will be overcome.

Salon Corona is packed: seventy-five people sitting, another fifty standing. Waiters trip over one another, dropping a wide variety of Mexican beers and tacos onto congested tables, already filled with pickled peppers and overflowing ashtrays. Rich, poor, young, old, men, women, all crowd together.

I end up sitting beside the only other solitary guy in the bar: an Argentine philosophy student named Juan who rubs his beard against his black shirt and cleans his narrow bamboo-rimmed glasses often. He wants Mexico to win like the others, but has a different reason: "Americans play soccer like machines; but we Latins play with passion."

"The [American soccer team] is boring," Juan continues. They study their opponents, develop offensive and defensive strategies, and play by the textbook. "It's like playing against a machine...against a PlayStation team."

In contrast, he says, Latin Americat teams learn soccer "on the streets," and pride themselves on instinct. "Latin American teams don't care who they are playing, because on the field they are geniuses...they create things -- geometrical patters, new tactics. They just know they are better."

A few Mexican teenagers sitting at the next table over join the conversation, including one named Erubiel. He agrees that, "the Americans are bigger," and play a solid game, but the Mexican players have on-the-field creativity.

They talk proudly at half time, but well into the second half the mood grows subdued. The clock runs down, the score remains the same, the ball bounces aimlessly around the field, and then the game is over. The U.S. and Mexico tied, 2-2.

Relatively quietly, this crowd pays its bills and packs up. "We deserved to win," Erubiel mutters, noting how Mexico controlled the ball. "But we didn't perform at the moments we had to."

Is this a "mental hurdle," I ask? "Worse," one teen says, and then quips in Spanish: Our team is not the "selection of the nation...it's the deception of the nation."

The Argentine leans over and whispers philosophically, "Neither Mexico nor the United States have the Sacred Fire." Then he gets up and goes.

I remain behind, brainstorming ideas with despondent teenagers for what to explore over the next month. To vent some angst, one suggests, we could visit a Lucha Libre (wrestling) fight this weekend. That sounds like a great-plan.

How about a visit to Cancun on the off-season to see what U.S. Spring Break leaves behind? A look at the northern border to see what hopeful illegal migrants expect in the U.S., and whether they are eager to "assimilate" like many U.S. nativists fear they aren't?

Mexico, America's neighbor, is the last country on my year-long tour. I'll be here for the month; let's not hold back. What do you want me to look into?

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Comments (45)

Kenneth:

Reading a few of the comments above that go out of their way to bash soccer is mind-numbing. Why do you traditional american sports fans feels do damn threatened by soccer? Why do you go out of your way to tell us you "really, really dont care and soccer sucks"?

Are you threatened by the fact that more americans watched the last World Cup final than watched the NBA and NHL finals (and about equal to the baseball world series?)

Are you threatened that there are 3 24-hour soccer channels that have millions of viewers and show Premiership, La Liga, Seria A matches while no one in Europe watches the NFL and MLB?

Are you threatened by the fact that soccer has an established and growing fanbase (MLS average attendance is about the same as the NBA and NHL) fanbase?

Why do you see soccer as such a threat to american culture?

Westerner:

The way the US team approaches soccer and the way latin americans approach soccer is of course reflective of the cultures. The US team think about strategy, wait for opportunity, then execution. That to me is a lot more interesting than watching somebody wing it like they do in latin american countries. And the US approach also involves passion - it takes passion to sustain that desire to win till the end of the game - but it's focused and not scattered like the latins. It also takes creativity to come up with winning strategies -- most latins don't get that.

RPW:

RKS: I am still confused. Lots of people in the DC area follow soccer and appreciate an occasional discussion about it. The subtleties of the discussion are not lost on those of us that follow the game.

You posted on a comment board associated with an interest piece about soccer. Surely you had more of a point than to say that those people who aren't interested in soccer wont be interested in this piece, right?

If your point is that the piece is "wasted" because the majority of readers aren't interested, then that's just silly (in my opinion). Most pieces of this nature appeal to only a subset of readers. Surely we can agree that there's enough interest in soccer to warrant an occasional discussion in the newspaper about it (in PostGLOBAL, especially).

Personally, I don't care whether the majority of Americans "take seriously". I don't understand why I should care. Soccer maintains sufficient interest for the sport to be played, watched, and discussed. That doesn't require anything close to a majority.

RKS:

"But I AM still genuinely puzzled about your point: These debates are lost on you so we shouldn't have them? How can you be interested enough in the topic to chime in and say that you aren't interested?"

I have lived overseas for more than 10 years so I understand the obsession with the game. I hear all the debates about different styles of play etc. all the time. My point is that although others think soccer is important enough to debate how different nationalities play, such a debate is lost on most Americans. Of course they are welcome to discuss the game to their hearts content. However, when they include Americans they are pretty much wasting their time. Besides some diehards like you few Americans can tell the difference in styles between say the Brazilians or Germans. Its all the same in the eyes of the average American, a bunch of guys running up and down the field, kicking a little white ball for an interminable 90 minutes and above, often ending in anti-climactic tie scores The game simply does not resonate within the American sports culture. I'm sure you remember high-school when the football players would wear their jerseys on game day to be swooned over by women and adulated by all. But not too many Americans remember soccer players wearing their jerseys to school. Not too many movies about soccer coming out of Hollywood; the phrase "wow, he's the captain of the soccer team" is not often uttered. I don't mean to belittle the sport, but it just does not excite America like 1. fotball, 2. baseball, 3. basketball, 4. hockey, 5. golf, 6. tennis or 7. NASCAR. (maybe you could rank soccer 8th in popularity). It is and will always remain an "also ran" sport in the US on the same level as ping pong or badminton; played by large numbers of people, but not taken all that seriously.

RPW:

RKS: Many Americans love and follow soccer, and interest in the sport in this country is increasing, not decreasing. I have no idea what the future of the MLS has in store (nor do you), but I'm not vexed.

But I AM still genuinely puzzled about your point: These debates are lost on you so we shouldn't have them? How can you be interested enough in the topic to chime in and say that you aren't interested?

There is no cultural hegemony, no composite American. I see no utility in your generalization.


As to the topic: I think there is a sense in which the US team takes fewer risks and tolerates less individualism on the field than many latin teams, but we are also better than many latin teams. Some teams have both technical proficiency and aesthetically pleasing, high(er)-risk play (e.g., Brazil). We don't have that, and we aren't as good as those teams.

But I agree with Reza S. ... when they are in top form, the US team wants to win just as badly as any team does. Moreover, when they are in top form, the US is fun to watch. I agree with Jordan, above, my real problem with the US team has nothing to do with 'fire' but consistency.

Human:

hjs742: They do not "care to stay in Mexico and try to make their country better" for the same reasons your forefathers did not care to stay in their country.

Reza S:

I agree with Michael O and other readers who point out that the stereotype that "American's play soccer like machines" is completely false. Although American soccer spectators might be less rabid than their latin counterparts, on the pitch we're just as determined to win as any team.

RKS:

RPW. You and your friends are clearly exceptions. The point me and some of the others are making is that although people play soccer in the US, it is generally not thought of as an important sport within our culture. So debates like the Europeans and others have about the merits or styles of different soccer teams is lost on us. Generally Americans don't care. So I hope you and your friends record as many of the MLS games as you can because its only a matter of time before the league folds up from lack of interest.

RPW:

Clearly many Americans care about soccer, while many more do not. RKS's comment that "Americans don't care about soccer" is a silly and childish overgeneralization.

I'm an American, and I care about soccer ... as do many of my friends. We get together and watch matches with beer and junk food scattering the coffee tables, we holler and scold the TV, our wives roll their eyes and hope for no overtime ... much the same experiences as fans of American football.

During the last world cup, I went to a pub in Silver Spring to watch matches ... not only did they broadcast every match in the pub, not only was the pub well attended by people keeping their eyes on the screens, but matches with the US in them had the place packed.

Soccer is not as popular as the "big four" in the US, sure. But so what? Those of us who do like to talk about soccer. If you don't like it, why join the conversation at all? What is your point, anyway?

As to Truf's comments: Your failure to appreciate what is interesting about soccer in no way diminishes its appeal to me. Who are you trying to convince of what? I personally find basketball very boring ... a sport where I can wander to the kitchen a grab a beer, miss half a dozen scoring situations and return without ever feeling like I missed much of the game isn't that gripping to me. But if you like it ... please watch it, and talk about it, etc.

But I'll watch MLS, thank you (when the season kicks back into gear).

RKS:

AMERICAN SPORTS FAN SAID:

"Does it really trouble you that soccer is the #1 participatory sport in the US?"

You make a good point but no it does not trouble me at all, and you may be right. Lots of Americans play soccer recreationally. But thats it, RECREATIONALLY!. It is not taken seriously like the other sports (football, baseball etc.. The best athletes do not often choose to pursue soccer over other sports (no future in it). Few soccer players in America are considered "jocks or popular at their school because they play soccer. It is for the most part a game that kids play in great numbers when they are young, but when its time for the talented athletes to get serious about a sport (about high school), they almost always leave soccer behind (hence the poor performance of the American Team year after year). For example, my nephew is an excellent soccer player and he loves the game. But as he turns 11 this year, he will begin to play baseball and football and soccer will be a forgotten childhood interest. As you know and seem pretty bitter about, in America, Soccer is a casual, hobby type of sport, fun, but not really that important, and never taken seriously.

As an experiment, walk down the street and ask the average American which team won the last American Soccer league championship, or ask them to name their favorite soccer player, or which is the best team in the English Premier League. You are bound to get puzzled looks or outright laughter because not only will the average American not know the answer to any of these questions, he/she would wonder why you would be asking questions about such an unimportant topic.

Regardless of how much the rest of the world loves the game, Americans will always be more interested in its homegrown sports. Thus journalists will continue to write articles about US soccer lacking "sacred fire", and Americans will continue not to care.

The Truf:

It's hard to take soccer seriously.

They kick the ball around. Great.

As soon as they touch each other, the guys fall down in pain like it's a convention of effeminate men.

Compare that to American football where guys run into each other as hard and fast as they can trying to knock the snot out of each other. John Madden said it best... this is a man's game.

And then you have hockey. From canada. Guys skate hard and knock the crap out of each other into the boards. They skate hard, hit hard, and fight hard. That's a man's game.

If you want a relaxing sport, you've got baseball. Not really a tough-guy sport, but it has pitching, which is the most difficult thing to do in all of sports.

And for good athletic competition, there's basketball.

So why would anybody consider soccer? It's like the Formula-1 thing. I like Formula-1, but it's not going to catch on as long as the U.S. has NASCAR. I'm not a big fan, but the appeal is obvious. It's a kick-ass kind of sport. In Formula-1, the "men" have gotten soft, constantly complaining like women to the press. In NASCAR, you have a problem with somebody, you go over and kick the other guy's *ss, just like a man does.

American Sports Fan:

RKS, you said:
"Americans in general simply don't care about soccer."
--------------------------------------
Wow, is your insecurity about soccer that great, in that it compelled you to post your opinion on a sport that supposedly you "don't care about" ??

Does it really trouble you that soccer is the #1 participatory sport in the US?
Are you really bitter that soccer, and not one of our precious American football or baseball or basketball, is the most popular sport on the planet?

Come on dude, get over it already.

rks:

Americans in general simply don't care about soccer. In fact, even putting effort into this story was a waste of energy because Americans could care less whether its team beats Mexico or not. If by some miracle the US team one day wins the World Cup, its unlikely that anyone would even notice. Don't expect any tickertape parades like the one awarded to the American version of football champions.

Jim Powers:

Luis V: The entire "Osama, Osama" thing aside- how about Oswaldo Sanchez trying to slide tackle Eddie Johnson after the whistle? If you missed it, it's all over YouTube. How about LaVolpe's pathetic excuses about "his grandmother" being better than the US team...after they lost 2-0 (dos a cero) in Columbus?

Americans who don't like soccer: Hey, you know what, tough. I don't like NASCAR but everytime I turn on ESPN there it is. You don't realize how big the sport is (and I mean the professional game) because the dinos at ESPN HQ won't cover it on SportsCenter- so thusly you don't think it's out there. Soccer-specific stadium after soccer-specific stadium goes up in North America. Chicago, LA's two teams, Columbus, Toronto, Dallas, Colorado...all play in their own homes. More are in the works. New York's opens up in the near future. If you don't like the sport, that's fine. But don't think it's not a big deal. It's not a "soccer vs. 'Merican sports" thing either. 99% of the fans I know are fans of the other big sports. I'm a Patriots season's ticket holder, for example. Don't get all up in arms because you think soccer is threatening "your" sports. There's room for everyone.

Mexican fans: Wow, if the US team plays like robots how much must that hurt to not defeat us on our soil year after year? That must hurt. Call whatever you want, amigos, we'll just sit and shine up our Gold Cup. We'll send you postcards from the Confederations Cup in South Africa next year.

Millster from Sydney:

Hi to all Wash Post readers,

Coming from Australia, I find this debate fascinating. Our professional soccer league is a whole 3-years old and stems from massive reform of the game in Australia which was previously currupt, mismanaged, and mired in old ethnic tensions (and even at times violence). Further, similarly to the US, soccer here is #4 - in our case behind Aussie rules Football, Cricket, Rugby League and Rugby Union.

We have the 'creativity' vs 'discipline' debate going strongly here as the game develops. On the one hand a faction wants us to play just like say the Italians or Spanish do with their 150+ year soccer traditions. On the other, we need results in order for the game to gain more exposure and credibility (though I should note that average crowds for our domestic games have grown to over 15000, with big games getting 35-50000 attendances - unheard of for the game here). Our compromise is to adopt the Dutch philosophy, disciplined but also emphasising the total role of all players.

May the game continue to grow in both our countries. Oh, and by the way, one of our leading clubs - Sydney FC - plays your LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo in a mini-comp in Hawaii. Forget the Mexicans, lets see which nation's clubs come out on top over there! Ole Ole Ole...

Millster from Sydney:

Hi to all Wash Post readers,

Coming from Australia, I find this debate fascinating. Our professional soccer league is a whole 3-years old and stems from massive reform of the game in Australia which was previously currupt, mismanaged, and mired in old ethnic tensions (and even at times violence). Further, similarly to the US, soccer here is #4 - in our case behind Aussie rules Football, Cricket, Rugby League and Rugby Union.

We have the 'creativity' vs 'discipline' debate going strongly here as the game develops. On the one hand a faction wants us to play just like say the Italians or Spanish do with their 150+ year soccer traditions. On the other, we need results in order for the game to gain more exposure and credibility (though I should note that average crowds for our domestic games have grown to over 15000, with big games getting 35-50000 attendances - unheard of for the game here). Our compromise is to adopt the Dutch philosophy, disciplined but also emphasising the total role of all players.

May the game continue to grow in both our countries. Oh, and by the way, one of our leading clubs - Sydney FC - plays your LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo in a mini-comp in Hawaii. Forget the Mexicans, lets see which nation's clubs come out on top over there! Ole Ole Ole...

FOOD, MAN, FOOD:

Write about the food. Real tacos vs. taco bell junk. & on & on. FOOD.

George:

Wow, look at all these posts, American and foreign. Nice to see futs striking a nerve here. Keep debating. Way to go Wash Post.

Luis V:

"Michael O" don't misinform. I was at that game. Mexican players did not celebrate by chanting "Osama, Osama". Sadly a section of the crowd did. A small section of the crowd.
Speaking of vendettas you seem to have a bit of venom to spew toward Mexican soccer.

Antonio Mitchell:

35 years ago, I saw a soccer match in Chicago between a local University team and the Brazilian Santos (with Pelé). It was like a fight between Robocop and Speedy Gonzales (and sacrilegiously played on astroturf). Things have changed, of course, but soccer in the U.S. will never be a hugely popular sport because it is really not suited to Jocks or Cheerleaders. Maybe the reason why primary school children take to soccer in the U.S. is because at that age they have not developed into one of the above categories. It has also a lot to do with the Latino temperament. I am bored to death by American football, whereas I love Rugby. Is it a question of beeing less organized?. Then why the Scandinavians and the Germans are such soccer fans?. Anyway, maybe you should try eliminating the goalie, the offside rule, giving 5 points for each goal and punishing tied scores. Henry Kissinger should have thought of that.

RPW:

John: By the way, I ran cross country AND played soccer, and was neither rich nor lazy.

In fact, in my HS nearly all the guys on the cross country team where using cross country to stay in shape for soccer. And that was nearly twenty years ago.

It's a silly (and false) generalization.

RPW:

John: Why do people who find soccer boring feel the desperate need to insist to soccer enthusiasts that this is so? We obviously don't find it boring.

I find American football about as interesting as watching paint dry. I've had more entertaining (and shorter) dental procedures than most football matches I've seen. I find basketball only marginally more interesting. So I don't watch them anymore, and I don't have any opinion about those that do. Have at it ... more power to you. I find soccer interesting and exciting. You don't -- so don't watch. But don't try to convince me it is boring.

RPW:

Mike: I like the offsides rules. For me, the game is about control and creating/capitalizing on opportunities. The anxiety of the game is generated precisely BECAUSE of the constraints. The offsides rule helps foster this, and I (for one) would find soccer far less interesting without it.

As to latin soccer having more "fire" than US soccer ... perhaps. It IS fun to watch many of the latin teams play. Still, the US has not been "lucky" against Mexico ... we've consistently out played them for several years now. By any reasonably objective measure, we have the better team. Fire will come as the US gains confidence and spirit. In the mean time, it is sufficient that we have steadily built a world-class team, which admittedly has a ways to go.

Vic Van Meter: The US team has done well in past world cups, and many people do "tune in". Moreover, many of us don't know anything about who played in the Super Bowl or who won ... or care. The US is a large country with diverse interests, just because soccer isn't nearly as popular as football doesn't mean that there aren't a lot of people following it or caring about it. And what was your point anyway?

DC United alone gets an average attendance of nearly 20k for regular season matches ... and while that pales next to the "big four", it's still quite a lot of people who watch soccer ... more than 3% of those that live in DC. If 3% of the US pays attention to soccer, that's close to 9 million people who follow the game ... or nearly the entire country of Bolivia, three times as many people as live it Uraguay, or about a third the size of Argentina.

(And, by the way, if you care, the US has one of the best women's soccer teams in the world .. we've won two women's world cup of the five that have been held, and placed third in the other three.)

I'm not saying that the US enjoys the kind of soccer enthusiasm as in other countries, but I am trying to suggest that the a little perspective might be useful. Lots of people in the US like soccer and follow it very closely. It warrants discussion for those interested. Feel free to ignore the discussion if you don't care.

Why not try the following experiment: Stop 10 random kids between the age of 5 and 13 and ask them what sport they play. See how well "football" measures up on that popularity scale.

John:

American soccer is boring because....soccer is boring.
I actually saw an olympic game once where two teams played for two hours, then the game was decided by guys lining up and taking shots at the goal, with the goalie standing there.
About as exciting as watching paint dry.
Also, in america, the only high school guys who play soccer, are the kids that are too lazy to run cross country.
If you go to any soccer game, there are SUV driving soccer mommies all over the place.
Not so, in cross country or the other sports.
In america, it is still a game for the "trendy".
The lazy rich boys play it...except at a few schools where it may be taken seriously.

David:

Nice story. I wonder how the Mexican fans feel about their team rarely if ever shaking hands after a match with the US, rarely if ever exchanging jerseys, as is tradition after international matches. I get that your focus is on the Mexican view of us, but when it comes to futball, perhaps that view could expand to include the fact that the US team, while playing a more schooled game, is also more professional and has better sportsmanship.

tdf:

A previous poster noted checking into the Guatemalan immigrants. I agree, but suggest you check into the Guatemalan and other Central American emigrating to Mexico. Every complaint Mexico lodges against the U.S. is echoes by the Guatemalans against the Mexicans. The Mexicans have militarized the border, arrest and imprison immigrants (they just build a gigantic new prison in Chiapas; they say it isn't technically a prison but the inmates are locked in, so...), and working conditions for the immigrants are awful.

DJ (Seattle):

Indeed, US football is boring; overly tactical; lacking both passion and spontaneity. I root for America to win, of course, but I do not enjoy watching any match involving them. US football is like a minor league system. Rather depressing.

AA:

If by fire you mean bottles and bodily fluids thrown at players and crooked, dirty play, then you might be right. Otherwise, you are dead wrong. Mexico's fans are a bunch of loud mouthed houligans.

And if the US 3rd goal was allowed to stand as it should have been, Mexico would have been defeated again as they were in all reality.

Mike Fairbanks:

If you want something different, look into Mexican professional surfing. The place to go is Playa Zicatela in the Ouajaca (sp?) state. The nickname of the town is Puerto Escondido. It has some of the biggest, most thrilling surf in the world, and the Mexicans charge with reckless abandon (sometimes in masked hoods for fun). Puerto Escondido is called The Mexican Pipeline, and for a reason: It breaks large and strong like the Hawaiian islands.

Unfortunately, the Mexican professionals don't have the backing of their fellow countrymen in professional surfing. This is too bad, because Mexico could be one of the greatest resources for professionals due to the smaller size of most Mexicans. In professional surfing, most of the top pros are between 5,6 and 5,8 and weigh under 160 pounds. Larger men don't do as well.

Finally, in my opinion, Mexico needs to control corruption at all levels, especially beginning at the bottom. Yes, I said the bottom. The police are notorious for corruption, and as a surfer who used to travel to Mexico frequently, we didn't fear the people of Mexico (Mexicans are people of the sun--ultra friendly). We feared the policia, both local and federale. Many of those guys are killers who will steal from innocent tourists, often at gunpoint.

Mexico has so much potential. Too bad it's teeming with drug lords and corrupt officials and cops. I won't go back until my kids are adults. Too dangerous.

Mike:

I grew up playing soccer, and loved it. It doesn't compare to surfing, but it was fun. There are two problems with professional soccer throughout the world:

1. The offsides rule is rediculous. It limits the scoring dramatically. If this rule were abolished, we would see a much more exciting game. Strategies would change, positions would change, and a bolder game would emerge. Try indoor soccer. A much more active and thrilling sport.

The second problem with pro soccer is the acting on the field. When a player goes down, and is hurt, that is fine. But if he isn't really hurt then he should be penalized for drama-queen antics. These characters (usually the ones with the long mullets), are just trying to play the refs. This isn't Broadway. Leave the script at home.

And, since I mentioned mullets, it's time to get your big heads reduced. All that hair isn't macho, and isn't cool. It's silly. You want to win? Cut the hair, stop juggling the ball, and PASS.

Miramar:

While Mexicans are big fans of "fĂștbol", they have few big-time players, so it is little wonder they have trouble with the US. If you want something to look into, you might want to visit some of the stunning Baroque churches in the older parts of town, such as Tepito and La Merced. Street life may be on the chaotic side, but the churches are a gorgeous oasis of tranquility.

Don't tread on me !:

This is the kind of story that appeals to snooty liberals who casually put down American sports like NFL football (which I too put down for the ridiculously slow pace of play and commercial time) and make comments amongst friends, "Well soccer is the world's sport and everyone else in the world cares about it and..." blah blah blah... Despite their knowledge of the, "world sport" they couldn't name many players besides Beckham or Ronaldinho or any world class player that hasn't been on a nike or reebok commercial. (Thierry Henry was on a Gilette commercial, but I reckon no one knew who he was)

The US team is not the greatest team in the world, no doubt about that. However they are competitive, and are becoming increasingly better on the world stage. The MLS is adding new teams and attracting attention from foreign players. The level of US game play is on the rise and will only continue that way.

What the story failed to mention is the more surprising fact that Mexico, the US team's greatest rivals, and the rest of the world have come to respect the US team's increasing quality of play and know now they are no longer the pushover team from decades past. The US team plays to hostile crowds the world over and especially in what should be their home turf due to the high number of immigrants from South America in the US.

Any real soccer fan would realize that yes, the US is not a superior, top-tier team, but they have improved drastically over the past decade to become competitive team at the world level, have players that play at top levels in top leagues around the world, and play earnestly despite very little support from their home country. Had the right questions been asked, the soccer fans mentioned in the article would have readily agreed.


Estados Unidos es mi Amor:

Its not about AMerican against Latin America, yes there are some players that have a little bit onf flair on the Mexican team, but thats it they are no where near a player like Argentina or brazil that know how to win against any team. They are arrogant and it runs from there fans alll the way down to thier coach and players. No one in south america or central america really likes them for that so please don't let that guy compare mexicans with the rest of south america. To be a footballer you need more than a litle flair, you need to be discuplined and mexico lacks that completly. They will never move on, THe US team could care less about playing mexico anymore, they win all the games there is no competetion.

hjs742:

Amar,

Perhaps you should look in to the disastrous overall condition of Mexico and the resultant mass invasion of the U.S. it's perpetuating. What are the causes? What are the solutions? Or, perhaps you should inquire of Mexican citizens who hope to become illegals aliens in the States why they don't care to stay in Mexico and try to make their country better.

Jordan:

I grew up playing American soccer and I think that the problem is, is that American soccer has not yet managed to understand a "whole-game" strategy. I watched the game, and the US was done by about the 60th minute. They weren't making passes, they weren't challenging. It looked like a bunch of beginners were doing whatever they could do not to lose. I think one problem in the US is that we do not take soccer seriously when we train for it as youth, or we take it too seriously. There is no middle ground, and really good American coaches are still a generation or two away. I had American coaches that thought they knew what they were talking about, but then I had an African coach who knew. The thing is, at this point there are probably very few American coaches that have played at a very high level and can really coach, whereas coaches from other countries played their whole lives, then become coaches. Also, youth in other countries learn soccer from their dads, like we learned baseball or basketball from ours. It will take a while before we have that development. Point blank, American soccer doesn't really know what it's doing. We try different things to win or do well, but the one thing we are not focused on is playing a whole game with every player on the field.

chris:

Correction: in the second paragraph it says that the U.S. beat Mexico in the 2002 World Cup Quarter Finals. This is wrong. The U.S. beat Mexico in the Second Round of the 2002 World Cup, then lost to Germany in the quarters.

RobGreg:

As a father of an American kid learning the game, I tend to agree with the Mexican fans. I think the way the US players are learning to play the game limits our athletic advantages. we are taller, we have speed. yet we play a methodical game cause we lack ball skills. in essence we cater to white suburban athletic levels.

We aren't quick nor creative with the ball like the latin american teams. We aren't sharp with the ball like the Euro teams. I would not say we need to adopt a style and go forward, but when i watch the many american kids play from rec to travel level it's the same style being employed by all the teams. i wonder how the sport can grow in the country with that lone approach. I saw freddy Adu in the recent under 20 do things to beat their opponent and basically the other American kids were so far behind they weren't even in the picture.

Everyone marvels and fears the brazilians each and every tournament. The brazilians play good team offense and all have outstanding individual skills to score. i don't know soccer like I know basketball, but it's like they have a team of people that can create their own shot. While america plays like we always have to have someone set us up to score. just like in basketball you need a solid mixture of both, American soccer is far from that point in my view. We are still 30 years behind in soccer.

USA Fan:

You say passion. I say chippy, dirty play. A silly semantic argument, really.

And when our team goes down to play in Central America, it gets pelted with batteries and bags of urine. Now, that's Latin passion!

I've also seen Hondurans throw bottles at our goalie during a 2001 World Cup qualifier. In the middle of the game. At RFK. In Washington, DC. I'm pretty sure that had less to do with passion than tequila.

Thanks for all your insights. They were really not very interesting.

the chakman:

Ask the what they think about the current preidential race, and the candidates now running...

Garak:

The US has a soccer, er, football, boom going on. It's youth football boom. The kids have a real passion for the game. Fields, er, pitches, are in short supply. Leagues are full. The players are skilled and enthusiastic. The rest of the world will take notice when they grow up. The spark will be college scholarships. Unfortunately, American football eats all the scholarships, so we may yet nip this in the bud.

As for passion, these complaints are the same leveled against European football, especially the Germans. Suffocating defenses. Low scoring. Players following a specific system and not improvising. Offensive stupor.

But just look how European football dominates.

Michael O.:

"Americans play soccer like machines; but we Latins play with passion." is the kind of meaningless fluff used by sports teams seeking to put a positive spin on a loss, and by sports writers recycling empty stereotypes in an effort to say something colorful. Those sports stereotypes are usually derived from national or racial stereotypes, so Latin soccer is invariably described as "passionate", German soccer is always "precise and well-organized", African soccer is always "powerful but primitive", etc. etc. It's all sheer nonsense.

For instance, Mr. Bakshi could have asked that Argentinian guy how did Argentina do in that 2002 World Cup where Mexico was defeated by the U.S. in the second round. The answer is: Argentina got kicked out in the first round. But I'm sure they did it with a lot of passion and sacred fire, because they were born into it, and it's in their blood, yada yada yada.

And as to the Mexicans, it's high time they got over that 2002 loss and moved on. They already got their "revenge" when they ousted the US team from the qualifiers for the 2004 Olympics, a victory which the Mexican team celebrated after the game by standing together on the field and chanting "Osama, Osama". True sportsmanship.

The 2002 World Cup was not the only time Mexico was ousted in the second round. The same thing happened to them in the 1998 World Cup against Germany and in 2006 against Argentina, but the Mexicans did not react by developing a Captain Ahab obssession about those teams. In fact, I can't recall any World Cup where Mexico advanced beyond the quarter-finals. So what they should do when they lose is the same thing the U.S. team did when it was ousted in the first round of the 2006 games: Go home, learn the lessons and start preparing for the next tournament, without making a fuss, without vendettas and without stupid excuses.

tom pack:

You could do a story on what Guatemalan immigrants from Mexico's southern border think about the United States.

The indigenous communities I've visited were near Tamazunchale, in San Luis Potosi, which borders the states of Hidalgo and Veracruz. They have an interesting perspective on the United States.

There are big expat communities around Lake Chapala near Guadalajara. The folks that live in those communities might be good to talk to -- the Mexicans, not the Americans.

Vic van Meter:

I guess they didn't know that soccer isn't even one of the four big American sports up here (which if I remember the current order is American football, baseball, basketball, and ice hockey). I had no idea the U.S. team was even playing. But hardly a person in this country (and quite a hefty chunk outside it) wasn't aware of the Super Bowl, who won it, and most of the stuff leading up to it. I have a feeling that if the U.S. soccer team gets to somewhere near the finals, some will tune in.

While you're in Mexico, I imagine the border situation is going to be your biggest issue from the vantage of the United States. Is that really the main Mexican dilemma with the United States? I have a feeling their issues with us are not always in line with our issues with them. If you could get us some information on what they think is important, by all means do that!

Jack:

Amar-

If you're still looking for suggestions, might I reccomend a story on Mexico's Indigenous population? Maybe you could ask them how they feel treated by the Mexican Government, or if they think American Indians up north are treated better/worse?

Oh and I assume you'll be asking about the Immigration issue? Well regardless of what you ask about, have fun in Mexico! Stay safe!

Bob:

A survey indicated that a majority of Mexico's adult population, if able, would emigrate to the United States for work.

Head to any university or place of higher learning. Ask the students if they're willing to take on menial US jobs when they've trained themselves to be doctors and lawyers.

For me as an American, the potential answer is depressing. If most of the best and brightest of my southern neighbor say 'yes,' it strongly suggests that Mexico is overwhelmingly looking to the US as the solution to its economic problems.

We can't be that. Remittances are just a band-aid; they won't solve the source of Mexico's internal problems. And with a potential US recession, remittances and job opportunity might shrink away.

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