wherein DF travels to Deutschland for the 2006 world cup to follow the US men's national soccer team

Friday, March 10, 2006

DVD Review: Journey to Germany

Let me get the initial Ebert-style verdict out of the way: this DVD absolutely rocks. (The DVD at issue, by the way, is Journey to Germany, a US Soccer product.) Let me also give a disclaimer: I’m a US Soccer addict who often re-watches TiVo’d friendlies between the Nats and Concacaf weaklings or European U-21 sides.

Still, I think I possess decent judgment in this regard, and I don’t like just any US Soccer-themed DVD. For example, one of the worst purchases I made was Reedswain-produced number “Team USA: Coming of Age,” which consisted largely of basic highlights of the USA’s WC02 games that you could see just as easily on Reedswain’s other (truly excellent) DVD recapping the entire tournament. OK, in the "Team USA" vid you get to see LD’s called-back goal against Poland, or Sanneh hitting the side netting against Germany, or Reyna’s attempted 50-yard chip against same Teutons—but I don’t really need to see any of those.

So why is “Journey to Germany” a DVD that I already see myself re-watching an embarrassing number of times? First, completeness. There’s footage of all the US goals scored in qualifying for the 06 WC, including even the early home-and-away tie against Grenada (much of which I missed because I was watching some Euro04 game involving Portugal at the time). For a compulsive observer like me, this is a gold mine. Three different camera angles of the strange goal in the rain Josh Wolff scored to put us up 5-0 on aggregate on a minefield of a pitch in the Carribbean? Priceless! To be fair, the main feature focuses only on the hex, so you have to go to the extras to see all the goals, but that’s hardly a terrible burden.

Second, sweet sweet memories. I remember being in Foxboro for the game v. El Salvador in the semis, just after we had barely managed to tie Jamaica at the Office (hard to believe we almost started off a virtually flawless campaign with an embarrassing loss) and El Salvador had thumped Panama to go top of the group: the early Ching header, the second-half LD solo goal, and we were rolling. I was in DC for the Panama game too, when Eddie Johnson scored a hat trick as a sub in like ten minutes. I’ve never seen the US beat up on a foe like that, but it made me consider the notion that goals mean so much in soccer because they’re rare. Based on that game, it’s a lie. I savored each one of the six we hung on the Istmeños. Then there was the queen mother of all qualifiers: going to C-bus to see the US play Mexico. It was one of the great fortunate moves of my life as a sports fan to sneak into the supporter’s section at halftime and be behind the goal for the the Ralston and Beasely tallies that sent us to Germany.

And for someone like me whose view of life closely approaches Nick Hornby’s autobiographical protagonist in Fever Pitch, where major personal events are invariably tied up with soccer, these games trigger not only thoughts of the contests themselves, but also of what was happening at the time. The best example is the 2005 Gold Cup. It was a strange time: just back from a great extended trip in Central Europe, about to move to Chicago, in the process of a breakup with a longtime girlfriend. I flew to Boston for that weekend in a strange state, but it was a great day nonetheless. Good friends, the holy triumvirate (grillin’, chillin’, and swillin’), and a decisive US victory in the quarters against Jamaica (3-1, Wolff and a brace from Beasely, with Kasey saving a penalty and LD missing one).

Third, this video should remind even the bitterest hater of what a great year 2005 was to be a US Soccer fan. Of course, 2002 is the gold standard—a continental championship and a quarterfinal appearance in the World Cup is a tough act to follow. But in 2005, the US won the Gold Cup and took an unprecedented step by winning the Concacaf World Cup qualifying group as well. Admittedly, the latter does not result in silverware, but it means bragging rights over Mexico, and it’s an important reflection of how dominant we were in qualifying. We were up 5-0 on Grenada on agg before letting up a tad late in that game. We ended up getting through the semis with a game to spare (while we needed a dodgy win in our last semi game in 2000 against Barbados even to make it to the hex). Then we qualified—against the Mexicans, in fine form, at home—with three games to go. That’s domination, punctuated by our finally getting great results on the road. We got points from all but two of our road games: the loss to Mexico at Azteca, and the 3-0 loss to Costa Rica at Saprissa, after we qualified and were using a second-string team. Our overall record was 13-3-3 in 2005, and it was a true pleasure to watch the US play. A great year by any standard.

Just go buy the video. It’s great and you’ll be supporting US Soccer in the process. Now I’m going to rewatch the whole damn thing.


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