Kick in the Head


The most embarrassing failure in U.S. Soccer history was consummated on Tuesday night in a near-empty stadium in the Caribbean tropics, culminating in a soul-crushing 2-1 defeat to a last-place opponent in which the U.S. men’s national team had only needed a win or a tie to qualify for World Cup 2018.

Sports Illustrated, October 11, 2017


Upon learning the US wouldn’t be in the World Cup, I remember wondering how a population of three hundred twenty-six million could not field a successful soccer team. My conviction that this was indisputable evidence of American decline was tempered only by the comfort that it was soccer, so who cares.

It’s state testing season, which has put my schedule in the paint mixer. One day last week – one of those eighty degree days – it worked out that I had the same class for three periods. I could not help but sense some feeling among students that the third was gilding the lily. So I took them outside.

The boys started playing soccer. It was like watching them suddenly break into a choreographed routine. These kids – from Brazil, Central America, Haiti, and the Middle East – had obviously been kicking a ball since they could stand. I began to grasp how the US could be defeated by a country one two-hundred-thirty-thirds its size.