On Wednesday, June 16, I woke up antsy and nervous. The U.S. Men’s National Team would match up against Ghana later that day. Ghana: a team who has had our number for two World Cups now. Ghana: who dealt the final blow in 2006, and knocked us out once again in the round of 16 in 2010. Ghana: our kryptonite.
I went on a run to get the jitters out, but as game-time approached, my nerves were long gone. As a relatively young soccer nation, the U.S. has made great strides. We finished first in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, and have recently looked less like a team with something to prove and more like a nation that’s confident in its ability to compete with any team in the world.
As our national anthem played, I stood and sang my heart out at Arena das Dunas with 22,000 of my new American friends. I had no idea that the next 90 minutes might be some of the proudest of my life.
If you’re reading this, you probably watched the game, so I don’t need to give you a play-by-play. What struck me weren't the statistics; stats won’t win you games, let alone the World Cup. Last night, Ghana was the better team on paper. But while they won the possession battle; we came to win the war.
With veterans like Tim Howard, Damarcus Beasley and Clint Dempsey on our roster, the U.S. had a leadership core working on field to implement Jurgen Klinnsman’s style of play. But to me, the fiercest competitors in the game were Jermain Jones and Kyle Beckerman. These two battled with heart and lead the team with discipline, playing as if this was the championship game. Jones seemed to be all over the field, involved in every big play. There were stretches where he looked like the only player who belonged out there. Beckerman never lost the ball and connected the field with his passing, staying composed when others weren’t.
The U.S. went into the match 13th in FIFA rankings and came out no longer the underdogs. We looked every bit like a team deserving of a top spot. Americans should be proud and confident— each game is just one step closer to the goal, and I, for one, am looking forward to the next step against Portugal.
Join D.C. United at Reston Town Center on Sunday, 6/22 to watch USA take on Portugal! Admission is FREE, details here.