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World Cup: Changing US soccer
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World Cup: Changing US soccer

I wrote Wednesday shortly after Landon Donovan’s game winning goal that it was the greatest sports moment I’ve ever seen. It is a personal opinion that certainly had a lot of build up to vault over all other moments. Looking back on the play it still is there for me. And it could change American soccer forever.

When I say this kid could change Soccer in America, I don’t mean it will make it more popular. I could care less if it is more popular. I just want it to be great. That is the change I want to see. I want other countries to fear the Starred Eagles. I want the World Cup draw to happen and the US is a seeded team that other teams don’t want to be put with. And all it will take is one.

Is there a kid out there in America that watched Donovan score that goal and decided he wants to be the next?

United States Soccer has already tried to anoint that person once. Freddy Adu. We all remember when he was brought onto the scene as a 14-year-old kid and everyone said he was going to be the best player the United States had ever had. Now Adu is playing in a Greek league. He is playing well, and he is only 20-years-old, but by no means is he a top US player.

I hear a lot of people say the United States should be better because we have so many people. It makes sense that you could field an 11-player team with 11 great players from the amount of people in the United States. The problem with that argument is the US Soccer team doesn’t have any top athletes on the field.

The Starred Eagles currently have two of the top hundred athletes in America playing on their team. Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore would both crack the top 100, but even then they wouldn’t crack the top 20, or even the top 50.

Here is who I think are the top 10 American athletes right now. In no particular order:

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Adrian Peterson, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Patrick Willis, Carl Crawford, Rajon Rondo, Chris Johnson, Reggie Bush.

Those ten players are remarkable talents. They have been honing their craft their entire lives. They saw something when they were growing up that made them decide they wanted to play their particular sport for their profession. Now, I am not going to take the stance “what if one of these guys played for the US”. But in 15 years there will be a whole new list of top American athletes.

Take the top 20 five to eight year old athletes (looking into their future and seeing how good they would be) in America. One of them was watching Landon Donovan save the United States. The moment, the excitement and the amount of publicity that goal is getting could set that top 20 American athlete on a path to the top of World Soccer. And that is all the United States would need.

There is no reason the United States needs it’s top 11 athletes on the field at one time like a lot of other countries do. The United States is big enough to have ten amazingly good athletes on the field. Look at this year’s team. There is no debate that the players that play for the USA are amazing athletes. They just need that one top tier player. If the US got one player who could take over the game with his athleticism it would change America’s place in world soccer.

All the great players in the world right now take a good team and make them great. Lionel Messi makes Argentina a legitimate contender to win the World Cup. Ronoldihno does the same thing for Brazil and Robin Van Persie for the Dutch. If the US could get a top American athlete to focus on soccer their entire life it would change the game. Pair up one of those once in a lifetime athletes with 10 really good athletes, and you have yourself a world soccer power.

Now maybe this is already happening and that great player that could take the United States to the next level is 14 or 15 and we won’t have to wait for that preteen to emerge. But just in case that isn’t the case; here is to hoping that Landon Donovan’s late goal will grab some kid’s heart and he changes American Soccer forever.

Please send any comments or questions to gheinrich@ktar.com.