Barcelona: Kasey Keller
Like any good American, I have been glued to the television over the past week, watching the World Cup. It has been amazing to see everything, all over the country, come to a complete halt during the matches, and I’ve enjoyed getting into impassioned arguments with strangers over the relative merits of Croatia and Costa Rica. Or the tactical arguments over whether it is better to play a 4-3-3, or a 4-3-2-1. And whether using a false 9 really ever works.
When you come from a country with as proud and successful a soccer tradition as the United States, it is hard to decide what our greatest World Cup moment was. (Note—I’m focusing here on our men’s team. The women’s tradition, is, if anything, even better.) Was it our third place finish back in 1930? Or the victory over England in 1950, which made Joe Gaetjens a household name? Or was it something more recent, like our victory in 1994 (despite some of the ugliest uniforms ever) over Columbia (thanks, in part, to the tragic own goal from poor Andres Escobar)?
I mean, who could forget our incredible 2002 tournament, where we beat both Portugal and Mexico (of course, by the score of dos a cero, which has become a national chant) and only lost to Germany because of Torsten Frings’ dastardly cheating?
Or maybe it was our magnificent draw with the Italian thugs in 2006, despite ending the game with only 9 players? You could argue that our best moment was topping the group in South Africa in 2010, what with the stirring draw with England, the amazing comeback against Slovenia (and getting cheated by the referee’s awful offside call), and Landon Donovan’s incredible game winner against Algeria, which shook the world?
We’ve also had some big moments away from the World Cup, like beating Mexico at Azteca, or Paul Caligiuri’s game winner over powerful Trinidad and Tobago to clinch a berth in the 1990 World Cup? Or the Snow Game?
And, with all of that incredible history, there may be only one American soccer victory that has become so embedded in the national psyche that it inspired a song. Of course, I don’t have to tell you that I am talking about the 1-0 victory against Brazil at the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Who can forget the legendary Kasey Keller, whose exploits that day in Los Angeles allowed the great Preki’s 65th minute goal to hold up? To this day, Americans remember where they were watching the match, and who they were with. We tell the story of Keller’s 10 saves to our kids, and sing this tribute to Keller, by the Washington D.C. area band Barcelona, whenever American soccer fans gather. (Although as a passionate Gooner, I do have to overlook Keller's tenure with Sp*rs, but country before club, right?)
Hey, look, an American soccer fan can dream, right? (And I'm not discussing last night's draw with Portugal. Because I. Believe. That. We. Will. Win.)