The World Cup continues with the USA bowing out earlier than desired but still providing thrills for the sport's fans here in the States. It's amazing really that a nation that treats soccer like a colicky redheaded stepchild was treated to such a fine showing on the sport's biggest stage. This is on par with a pick-up team from Bangladesh facing the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
Well, not exactly, but it's still pretty surprising.
Since Landon Donovan's goal that shocked Algeria sent the USA into the knockout round, I have read a lot about how the excitement for soccer in the USA that we just witnessed won't last. Writers were quick to point out that soccer will never be a dominate sport in this country.
With all due respect to those who think that way, you are missing the point.
Soccer doesn't have to be mentioned in the same breath as baseball, basketball or football.
The sport would do well--and I believe its governing body here knows this--if it is on par with hockey, America's colicky Moosehead-drinking Canadian cousin.
Heck, if I were in charge of USA soccer, I would set as a realistic goal overtaking hockey in popularity by 2014.
Talk about an achievable goal!
"Give 'em Halos: World Cup Edition, Part Two" represents my attempt to inch soccer closer to that goal.
Watch your backs, blue liners!
Pretend Injury Award
As exciting as the World Cup games have been to watch, there is no doubt the biggest knock most Americans have with the sport is the ridiculous acting. A gentle nudge is treated like a anesthesia-free amputation. Players go down after a bump that my 9-year-old would barely feel.
It's embarrassing, but sadly, its part of the game.
The Angels Pretend Injury Award goes to . . .
The Angels placed their infielder on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left forearm. The odd thing about Izturis' injury is he has no idea how it happened. There is no Mark Teixeira hit at home plate like the one that knocked Bobby Wilson out. No Casey McGehee slide into a leg like what sent Erick Aybra to the DL.
Nope, for Izturis . . . well . . . he just hurts.
Sucks getting old.
Ties are supposed to be like kissing your sister. Ew. Brazil and Portugal just battled to a 0-0 tie and the sports haters laughed. Sure, they can appreciate the thrill of a baseball game that's tied at 0 going into the 10th inning or a defensive battle between two basketball teams, but a 0-0 soccer game draws yawns.
Of course, the main reason for the apathy is because in soccer, a winner is never decided in the early World Cup rounds. Ties are accepted.
Even hockey had the wherewithal to not let their teams tie.
A tie is a good thing for the team that earned it; as in a 1-1 tie. The team that scored the last goal can walk away feeling better about themselves. The team that gave up the tieing goal, well, they are mad. Either way, a tie represents mediocracy. You didn't win, you didn't lose. Pucker up, sis.
The Angels "Tie" Award for Mediocracy goes to . . .
Angels hitters are improving. There has certainly been some upswing, but rankings of 15th in batting average, 7th in homeruns, 6th in runs batted in and 9th in hits reeks of mediocracy.
Landon Donovan Goal at 91st Minute
The intensity of the moment was amazing. The USA was within a minute or two of being sent home. A 0-0 tie against Algeria wouldn't be enough to send them onto the next round.
When France returned home after their fiasco in South Africa, police had to protect the team from angry fans and media. If the USA would have returned home after a tie or loss to Algeria, not even a single mall cop on a Segway would have been needed to thwart the "throngs" who would have awaited the team's arrival. Their arrival would have been throng-free.
Instead of heading home, the team won their bracket and avoided facing powerhouses Argentina, England or Germany in the next round. All on the power of one kick.
What a nice surprise.
The Angels Nice Surprise Thus Far is . . .
Who is this kid? He came in and did what Brandon Wood was supposed to do: hit.
In addition, he has brought some attitude to the Halos that is best described by bench coach Ron Roenicke: "He's been great, he has a personality, he's cocky and confident, and he knows how to play the game. He's not scared of anything. He's picked everything hit to him, and he's gotten some huge hits for us."
It's not on par with Landon Donovan potentially saving soccer in the USA, but Kevin Frandsen sure did his best impersonation of Donovan saving the Angels season thus far.
What a nice surprise.
The crowning glory of any soccer team is its goal scorers. Soccer analysts tout the play of the midfielders, defenders and keepers, but its goal scorers set the team in motion.
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Chicks love the goal scorers.
No one jumps on the defender like they do a player after he or she scores a goal. It's the same in every sport--quarterbacks in football, power hitters in baseball and high scorers in basketball are all treated differently than the other players.
In soccer, it comes down to the GOAL! It is the ultimate prize.
Who Scores the Angels GOAL Thus Far in 2010 is . . .
No, this isn't a cop-out. The team earned it. From the GM, to the manager to the players, there was never any panic when panic would have been justified. There was never any in-fighting when in-fighting on losing teams is not unexpected. There were no shoot-from-the hips player movements to try and salvage the season. No, the Angels did what the Angels do, they stayed the course until their fortunes changed.
This team is good enough to know that, over time, things would work out. They waited patiently until that happened.
For that, the Angels organization scored a GOALLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!