After 21-year-old John Brooks scored the second goal against Ghana in the eighty-sixth minute, he was in a state of disbelief. He threw himself on the grounds. It took him a couple of minutes to recover. It looked as if he was crying. It was a moving moment, fitting for the Little League team the U.S. showed to be at the World Cup in yesterday’s game in Natal, Brazil.
With its embarrassing display of ineptitude and lack of imagination, it was the best worse game of the tournament. I say best because it kept viewers at the edge of their seats for 90 minutes, like a fun Hollywood thriller. Yet the moment it ends, you feel dissatisfied.
Years of investment, of media pump-up—for what? The U.S. team might be the worst in the tournament. Clint Dempsey’s score made the Americans retrench, hoping the stars would align themselves in its favor. And they did, in spite of Jozy Altidore's exit from the field on a stretcher. It wasn’t an injury caused by Ghana, which remained inventive, shooting mercilessly at goalie Tim Howard. The Americans looked disoriented, thirsty, ready for a nap.
Joe Biden was at the Estádio das Dunas. While other political leaders—Lula, Angela Merkel, the Pope—are genuine followers, he looked as disoriented as the American players did on the field. The vice president witnessed, like the rest of us, the extent to which U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann uses the exact same type of non-interventionist tactics President Obama is known for in American foreign policy: don’t bother with an attack; the best strategy is to wait while protecting the home-base; dress up for the occasion, close your eyes, and hope for the best.
Of course, reality doesn’t have an obligation to be fair and neither does soccer. Millions of Americans cheered with the final score of 2-1, knowing well it reflects an unbalanced meeting of power. Ghana was by far the better team: It showed craftsmanship.
I am told that half of the globe’s population is watching the World Cup. Facebook, text, Twitter keep us all together. I have made new friends in South Africa, Uruguay, and Japan. The games are being closely scrutinized even at the Vatican. In other words, there is nowhere to hide. The performance by the U.S. is evidence—yet again—of the degree to which, on the international scene, American soccer is second-tier, with no resourcefulness to speak of.