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

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The myth of Morocco

Yesterday during the Fire-Dynamo match Waldo was pimping the Send-Off Series, and in so doing repeated one of the most irritating misconceptions about Morocco as an opponent. The Morocco game would be useful, he claimed, because playing an African opponent would help us prepare for Ghana.

I've heard this more than once, and I can't believe people continue to try to sell this line. The mere fact of Morocco's location on the same continent at Ghana doesn't mean squat about their similarities in playing style. Historically and culturally, the two nations have very little in common with one another since they're separated by the Sahara desert. Perhaps if our opponent were Cameroon Waldo's claim would have made more sense, but even then it's not at all clear that teams from proximate countries have similar soccer styles. Can you imagine how lame it would sound if someone said "We're playing a warm-up against France to prepare us for our game against Holland"?

The truth about the Send-Off Series is that these were the best opponents the USSF could come up with under the circumstances. One can safely assume that there wasn't much choice, since most of the top teams are in the WC and it's a rough time for a friendly now that the club season has just ended. Nor are we the only country with a tough time lining up opponents. To take one example, Portugal's pre-World Cup friendlies are against the Cape Verde Islands and Luxembourg. Our SOS looks positively all-star by comparison.

So at the end of the day, the Morocco/Venezuela/Latvia trio may not seem that impressive, but it's not bad either, it'll be good practice, and I'm basically OK with it (except for the choice of venues--still baffled by that). But let's not pull a Waldo and try to make anything more out of the opponents than necessary.


Blogger ian said...

I thought you might be interested to read this article on the US' preparation and the fans' reaction from the BBC


6:53 AM, May 22, 2006

Blogger DF said...

Nice article. Thanks for the tip, ian. I think that writer basically has it right that the sense of excitement for the WC in the US simply doesn't compare to that in other countries. He's also got the atmosphere right--MLS games are a strange mix of soccer moms/dads, foreign-born fans of the game, and an assortment of soccer obsessives.

But the author's vaguely disparaging tone seems to me a bit unfair. Soccer and MLS are still in their infancy in the US, and are beset with competition from many other better-established sports as well as widespread skepticism from AM radio hosts and others who think that the game is for sissies and commies.

I'm not sure if soccer will ever be more than a niche sport in the US, but for now it's going well and basically growing, so as a stateside fan of the game I'm happy for both of those things.

11:37 AM, May 22, 2006

Blogger ian said...

Yes, well deep down we still regard other countries playing the game as something of a curiosity :)

3:58 PM, May 22, 2006


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