World Cup: USA's must win
The phrase "must win" is thrown around a lot in sports these days. Sometimes you even hear it used in situations like a July series between American League East division rivals who will remain nameless because they get talked about enough. I personally like to think the only time you really have a must win is if you don't win the game, you will no longer be playing in that league, tournament, season or playoffs again. Game Seven between the Celtics and Lakers Thursday night, that's a must win. Whoever loses, they won't have another shot to win the 2009/2010 NBA Title.
Friday the United States has a must win. Okay, let's clarify, the United States' game against Slovenia might not be an all out "must win" for the Americans, but it is about as close as you can get. If the US draw against Slovenia they will not be out of the tournament, and they will not be eliminated from advancing to the knockout round. But they will need some help and will have to win their third game against Algeria in order for that to happen. Even if they lose they are not completely out of the running. So it isn't a must win. Let's call it a "better win or you will be in a lot of trouble." I know that sounds a lot like the crazy dad who is leaving vicariously through his kids, but that is what it boils down to.
There have been a lot of expectations put on this US squad. Probably the best team the US has sent to the World Cup, ever. They are a better team than the Slovenians. They should beat them. And for that reason they must win this game against them. There is too much coverage this year. And if you don't think that has anything to do with it you are fooling yourself. ESPN has put more money and more man power into making the World Cup a profit machine, and the USA is front and center. In previous World Cups the US team might underachieve and it would be pushed to the back burner of the sports page. This year, with over 200 people working for ESPN in South Africa and Jeremy Schapp bunking with Landon Donovan, they will not be able to escape criticism if they fail to meet expectations.
The good news for the Starred Eagles is that they seem up to the challenge. (That is right! A nickname for the US team! Thanks to Scott Cook for e-mailing me that one.) The team has approached this entire World Cup knowing the expectations and planning to exceed them. Donovan even said this week that if the US team doesn't beat the Slovenians they don't deserve to be in the knockout round. That is not something previous American teams would say.
I am looking forward to see how the United States comes out of the gates. Will they have a ‘must win' mentality and go for broke early, or will they get caught like they did against England and have to play from behind most of the game? However the game goes for the US, just know that they will have to play this game like it is their last, because if they don't win, their next game will be.
Please send any comments or questions to email@example.com. Also listen to Kyndra de St. Aubin and myself talk a little about the US/Slovenia game .