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

Monday, March 13, 2006

US releases send-off series schedule

So US Soccer has finalized the traditional three-game series that will precede the team's departure for the World Cup in Germany. We've got:
  • US v. Morocco in Nashville, TN 5/23
  • US v. Venezuela in Cleveland, OH 5/26
  • US v. Latvia in Hartford, CT 5/28
I've got to say this is a disappointment. First off, the teams are hardly exciting or challenging foes. None of these teams have qualified for the World Cup. In fact, Venezuela and Latvia have never qualified for any World Cup, while Morocco occasionally have a pretty respectable team in there (they were unlucky not to get out of a tricky group including Norway and Brazil back in 1998, the last time they made it to the finals). As I mentioned earlier, Latvia had a brief, surprising moment of glory back in 2003/2004 when they qualified for Euro2004, but that moment has since faded and now they're back to mid-level European mediocrity. As for Venezuela, they've improved in recent years as a soccer nation (their main sport being baseball), but they're not exactly Brazil. The US played them in a friendly back in 2003, winning comfortably, 2-0 (Kirovski, Donovan).

There are constraints, of course; we can't play against anyone we want, and this time is busy as all teams are trying to arrange friendlies to prepare for the World Cup or to get some practice. But still, last time out we managed to get Holland, Uruguay (then a WC qualified team), and Jamaica--a much more challenging and varied set of opponents. Even the 1998 trio (Scotland/Macedonia/Kuwait) included one team headed to the World Cup. But I don't think US Soccer made these choices out of laziness or ignorance; they were likely trying to get the best slate of teams possible under the circumstances, and this was it.

However, US Soccer did have control over where the friendlies were scheduled, and this is another reason I'm disappointed. Cleveland, Nashville, and Hartford seem to be designed to draw fans from the Midwest, South, and Eastern Seaboard respectively, but why pick three B-list cities? I'm biased but what about Atlanta, Chicago, and New York/Boston? These cities have larger populations and are bigger draws and better travel hubs. Last time around, I hosted a big group in DC, including people who drove in from out of town to see US v. Uruguay; I then flew up to Boston the next weekend to see friends there and to attend US v. Holland. I really don't see traveling to any of these matches; I don't know anyone in those cities and they're not attractive destinations independently of the games themselves (cue Nashville and Cleveland denizens outraged at my dismissing their great hometowns).

I suspect it might be related to the US decision to stage friendlies in cities without large populations of immigrants who will turn a home game into an away game with a show of support for the other team. But given the opponents, this can't be right. I really doubt that there are enough Moroccans, Venezuelans, or Latvians in any of the major US cities to take over the stadium. It's not like we're playing Mexico, where Tri supporters will travel from all over to pack in and boo the Yanks. And even if that were a risk, these are just exhibitions. The results don't really matter, and if anything it might be helpful for the US to get used to playing in front of a hostile crowd (since it's a safe bet that at least the Czechs and Italians will outnumber us in Germany).

But it is what it is. Morocco/Venezuela/Latvia in Nashville/Cleveland/Hartford. Get psyched.


Blogger mirarchi said...

This is indeed a disappointment -- three mediocre opponents in three mediocre cities. Couldn't they have at least gotten us one team that qualified for the WC? :-/

3:53 PM, March 14, 2006


Post a Comment

<< Home