Soccer just might snatch the first highlight of SportsCenter tonight. A World Cup might not have been played, but the United States MNT played their own—and won. Drawn against Spain in the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup, the U.S. MNT snatched their biggest victory in history, beating the number-one ranked team in the world.
Just last summer, the Spaniards were crowned the champions of Europe, continuing on a 35-game unbeaten streak since. Italy down. Russia down. Germany down. England down. (Azerbaijan, too.) Everyone. Even in club ball, Barcelona claimed continental supremacy with an easy win against Manchester in May, fielding a strong Spanish contingent itself.
Today’s matchup with the U.S. was a forgone conclusion—a warm-up for a potential encounter with Brazil in the Final. 25 minutes in, bulldozing striker Jozy Altidore was the difference. The 19 year-old was able to hold off Joan Capdevila and his weak defending, and smack a shot towards goal, as Spain keeper Iker Casillas guessed wrong.
Altidore was supposed to do this kind of thing. Since making his debut in the MLS at 16, he was destined to play overseas, eventually making the switch to La Liga side Villareal last year. As the story goes with most American field players who go overseas (Landycakes, Beasley), he failed to impress.
One of the few exceptions to that rule, Fulham’s Clint Dempsey netted the insurance policy later on in the game, effectively killing off Spain who threw everything at goal. It was Tim Howard that had preserved the lead up to that point, but the US has always produced world-class goalkeeping talent. Blame it on baseball or b-ball or something.
For the Americans, win, lose, or draw in the next game, they have taken a massive step towards actually putting up a fight in next year’s World Cup. Granted they’ll now have a target on their backs, but the real problem is that their next trip to South Africa may come just a bit too soon. Again, Altidore is just 19. Influential midfielder Michael Bradley might need a bit more seasoning in Germany, as well.
2010 might not be the year. But there’s always 2014. Charles Renken, the LeBron James of soccer will be able to see R-rated flicks alone by then. But he could just end up being another Freddy Adu—which might not be a bad thing if Freddy finds his footing. He’ll be 24.