Will soccer take off in the US and reach a status comparable to its status in the rest of the world? Probably not in the near future. But last night's thrilling MLS Cup win by the Los Angeles Galaxy should help soccer's progress. Without a doubt, most US sports fans were on Sunday focused on our version of professional "football." Lots of southern US sports fans were surely watching auto racing. My hope is that US sports fans at least got a glimmer of the MLS Cup highlights.
My appreciation for soccer came relatively late in my life when in my mid 30s I really watched the sport for the first time. Soccer is a game of nuances. It's about probing and testing and looking for opportunities to exploit even the smallest of mistakes. People in the US have criticized soccer because of "lack of scoring" and "too many ties" (or draws). Los Angeles beat Houston by the score of 1-0. Many US sports fans are likely to think that that score indicates a "boring" game. That would have been my opinion ten years ago. Landon Donovan's goal in the 72nd minute was great all by itself. But the goal was even greater when one appreciates the fancy footwork of Robbie Keane that made the Houston defense look lost. It was Keane that fed the ball to Donovan. Keane was able to shine because of a well-placed header by David Beckham. Precision passing and fancy footwork propelled the Galaxy to the Cup win.
Keep in mind that Beckham had been probing the Houston defense all game long. The Galaxy kept pecking away until a goal was possible. Sure, LA missed a couple of golden opportunities earlier in the game, but that's part of the game, too. Despite just a single goal, I saw a great deal of athleticism, heart, determination, passion, precision passing, fancy footwork, and good defense. Why is it so hard to enjoy a great attack on goal when no goal is scored? Hey, that's a question I couldn't answer ten years ago!
Thanks to DVR, I was lucky to be able to watch most of yesterday's Liverpool win over Chelsea. That game ended 2-1, and it was exciting watching much of the second half while the score was 1-1. Each attack on goal had me on the edge of my seat. Chelsea dominated the possession time, but could not find the go-ahead goal. And then, in the 87th minute, Glen Johnson found the back of the net for Liverpool.
No longer do I need to see a bunch of goals to enjoy soccer. Seeing great athletes performing amazing feats in the "beautiful game" is thrilling for me. The ball sometimes moves in amazing ways, but always within the constraints of the laws of physics. Having a good understanding of the "why" behind athletes at the pinnacle of their métier makes watching soccer a lot of fun!