Dear USMNT Fans, It’s Not Easy Being a Contender

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[Editor’s Note: In the wake of the US’s late 2-1 victory over World Cup nemesis Ghana, we reach back to 2010 World Cup with an open letter to USMNT fans from SEMAP’s Romeo Guzman, a partisan of the Mexican national team who doles out some advice for dealing with the heartbreak of being supporter of a “mid level” contender.]

In 1994 the US hosted the World Cup, a first for the nation and for many Americans an introduction to what the world calls Futbol. Back then the national team was composed of mediocre players and some decent nationalized foreign players. Getting out of the group stages was desired, but by no means expected and keeping the opposing team to a few goals was a victory.

Times have changed. The MLS has talent from all over world, albeit old and on their way to retirement, and more importantly has joined the world in creating youth teams affiliated with professional teams. These youth players get free passes to MLS games and have more practice sessions than games. In Europe and Latin America, the ratio is about 4 practices per every game. Repetition and quality not quantity of play is emphasized. Americans play in Europe and underprivileged players can now play in competitive leagues without paying.

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Mexico and the U.S. share the frustration of being a “contender” but perhaps not a “Contender”

At the national level this means that the US is now a contender! Not a powerhouse by any means, but a legit contender with high expectations. Dear Fans: expect the US to beat and attacked by most teams. Often they will draw or barely lose to the best of nations. Before you get all excited, a few notes from a life long fan of a contender. Your team will play great. They will dominate the game only to be beaten by one or two lucky counterattacks or a bad call from an official. They will tie and lose to teams they are “suppose to beat.” Yet, they will also no doubt play great against Brasil, Argentina, Germany, etc, etc only to get beat by some talented fool with a wicked shot (I’m thinking of you Carlos Teves [Editor’s note: insert a diving header by Robin Van Persie]). And here comes the heartbreak: your team will have a shot at taking the cup, but will always, yes, always fail. History tells us so.

There are numerous options in coping with defeat. You can sit with friends and family enumerating the numerous errors made by the coach, players, and/or ref. After all YOU played on the Varsity, have expensive shoes, and watch soccer all the time. Surely you know just as much as the national coach. AVOID this at all cost. Instead of reflecting on WHY your team lost, accept it, get a nice cold one and fondly remember all the great moments: the goals, saves, the sweat, sweat moments of victory. After you have spend some quality time romanticizing the past its time to think of the future. Project all your hopes and dreams on to the next world cup. Remember how good the younger generation looked. They play in Europe, are faster, and more talented than generations past. They will surely get your team the CUP. If pessimism starts to creep in get another cold one and either think of the past or the future. Again AVOID the present.

*Note: While romanticizing the past, projecting your dreams on to the future and avoiding the present (read reflection) are great ways to deal with the heartbreak that is being a CONTENDER this might not work out so well in dealing with life.

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