In its relatively young soccer history, the claim that the next game for the United States’ national side is “the most important game it’s ever played” has grown a bit tired. When referring to tomorrow’s match against Algeria, however, such a proclamation may just be accurate.
The American team seems to have finally captured the attention of the country it is proudly representing in South Africa, first with a stirring draw with England that featured the now infamous Clint Dempsey goal <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxspfInbLV8> that will burn in the memory of goalkeeper Robert Green forever, and second with the furious comeback turned robbery at the whistle of referee Koman Coulibaly against a feisty Slovenian side.
Yet with England’s head-scratcher of a tie against Algeria last week, the United States faces an enviable position in tomorrow’s game, which airs on ESPN at 7 a.m. PST: win, and they’re through.
While the current FIFA World Rankings <http://www.fifa.com/worldfootball/ranking/lastranking/gender=m/fullranking.html> suggest that the United States (ranked 14th in the world) should easily advance with a victory over Algeria (ranked 30th), the Americans’ susceptibility to giving up early goals and having to regularly come from behind has reveals an obvious achilles heal. A loss tomorrow would likely send American soccer back into relative obscurity for four long years.
John Matich, owner of the Kicking System, knows a thing or two about soccer at the international level. Matich played for both the U-17 and U-20 American national teams before turning his full attention to football, starting for Boston College for four consecutive years. Today, Matich delivers his expertise to young athletes looking to progress in the specialized practice of kicking.
The connections between football kickers and futbol players are obvious. The most common field goal kicking technique is commonly referred to as “soccer style” and virtually every Division I and NFL kicker has a background rooted in the Beautiful Game. Kickers around the country will be turning on their televisions tomorrow morning in hopes of witnessing the first victory for the United States in the 2010 World Cup.
If NFL kickers feel the pressure under the spotlight of the Super Bowl every year, imagine the intensity of emotion facing the American players tomorrow as they kick off what could be their final game in the world’s greatest sporting event. While the Super Bowl is played every year, these athletes have trained for four years to reach this stage and surely have no intention of leaving South Africa after failing to escape the group stage.
The Americans will play with passion tomorrow and should show similar tenacity to that which the world saw in the second half comeback against Slovenia last week. These players will be working against history – the United States is 0-7 in World Cup game three’s – but should deliver superior ability on the field to send them into the round of 16.
One thing is certain, however. The country, and its kickers, will be watching.