USA 2, Jamaica 1: A Patriotic Night

Thoughts while watching the U.S. beat Jamaica in the Gold Cup final

Pre-Match Thoughts on Nationalism:

American soccer fans are non-threatening nationalists; a non-threatening nationalist is a hard thing to find nowadays. There: beating drums, waving flags, chanting, clapping, drinking, yelling at the camera overhead. Are they here for their country, this diverse and passionate crew? All those Wonder Women—are they cheering for country? Those diverse and smiling patriots—are they cheering for America? Aren’t we all experiencing varying degrees of patriotic doubt? Why are their cheers so loud, so red and white and blue? Aren’t we all angry? Isn’t this a house divided, crumbling?

Or, as fans, when we put on our flags and shed a tear when the anthem crescendos—is it a smaller love that consumes us? Is it for the love of Howard, Bradley, Jozy, Deuce, The Beautiful Game? Are these smaller loves more important, more personal?

Do we all need this right now: something to cheer for?

Kickoff

Alternate Realities: In another world, Jordan Morris starts at halfback for the United States Naval Academy.

Fouls in the Middle Third: 1

Fouls in the Middle Third: 2

Technology: A frustrating and buffering live stream. Who knows how many fouls in the middle third I’ve missed. Upstairs, Someone I Love is watching Real Housewives of Somewhere Loud and Drunk.

Fouls in the Middle Third: 3, I think.

Bruce Arena Emotion Tracker: Mild annoyance.

Fouls in the Middle Third: 4

Questions on Muscle Memory: Is it possible for America to keep the ball in the middle of the field, execute some tight passing around the box? Or, in their heads, do they hear the words “wide, cross, wide, cross” on repeat?

Jozy, Jozy, Jozy, Jozy: What a rip.

Andre, Andre, Andre, Andre: What a save.

On injuries: There is nothing fair about a goalkeeper with an injured hand. Or a fallen captain. Cruel.

Fouls in the Middle Third: 5

New Realities: This is first full soccer game I’ve watched since getting married. It still feels the same.

Fouls in the Middle Third: 6

Fouls in the Middle Third: 7

Thoughts on Muscle Memory: See? Zusi stared down yards of green and decided to pass, out wide, to a covered Arriola.

Bruce Arena Emotion Tracker: Leaned-Back Sigh.

Thoughts on Muscle Memory: Beauty is spontaneous.

On Christian Pulisic: I heard Christian Pulisic once dribbled through a hedge of rose bushes without getting cut. I heard he made the roses bloom.

Fouls in the Middle Third: 8

Thoughts on Muscle Memory: If you lunge around midfield, Kellyn—what’s going to stop you from lunging in the box?

Fouls in the middle third: 9

Jozy, Jozy, Jozy, Jozy: Of course. Maybe not all beauty is unpredictable. Of course it was you. Gorgeous.

Bruce Arena Emotion Tracker: All right, pretty good.

Thoughts on CONCACAF: When you have a tournament comprised of scrappy set-piece specialists—What’s not to love?

On Injuries: Andre Blake might have saved that free kick.

Halftime Viewing:

Pre-Second-Half Thoughts: I predict a fair amount of fouls in the middle third.

Second Half

Bruce Arena Emotion Tracker: Fine, just fine.

On Marking: Between your man and the ball, Jordan Morris. When your man is that strong though—what can you do?

Alternate Realities: In another world, Jordan Morris is a bouncer at your least-favorite bar on campus.

Future Realities: Your time will come soon enough, Kellyn, if you stop lunging. If not, you’ll spend your life looking up to Jermaine Jones. You could look up to Patrick Vieira.

Present Realities: Deuce is loose.

Fouls in the middle third: 103

On Paul Arriola: Why do I call him Jake? He looks like a Jake. He was a star at Mater Dei High School, I assume. I know his name is Paul. I can’t stop calling him Jake. It’s the haircut, I think.

Bruce Arena Emotion Tracker: Game time.

Fouls in the middle third: 104

Fouls in the middle third: 105

On Christian Pulisic: I heard Christian Pulisic is in a helicopter, hovering over the stadium, just in case, parachute locked and loaded.

On Gyasi Zardes: Someone I Love loves Gyasi’s hair.

Bruce Arena Emotion Tracker: Hey, Mike. Over there.

Thoughts on Muscle Memory: Seventy percent possession doesn’t get you a 1-1 tie, a lack of attacking imagination does.

Bruce Arena Emotion Tracker: You’re kidding me.

Fouls in the middle third: 240

On Game-Winners: To slip that ball between all those bodies, with that much power, off balance, with that placement, that control—what can Dwayne Miller do?

On Game-Winners, pt.2: Imagination is overrated.

Bruce Arena Emotion Tracker: Good.

Alternate Realities: In another world, Jordan Morris will remain a child forever and this moment will never end. And the crowd will never leave. And we’re best friends. And we’re detectives. And each time we solve a case, he runs around the police station screaming and beating his chest. And I chase after him, always.

Fouls in the middle third: 1,001

Bruce Arena Emotion Tracker: Hell yeah.

Post-Match Thoughts on Nationalism:

It’s nice to know that I love America, my home. I need reminding nowadays. This country might not produce beautiful politics or soccer—all this Healthcare business, Russia, Tweets, Tweets, Tweets, Angry Tweets; all those fouls in the middle third and all those predictable balls out wide, all those crosses to no one.

And then there’s Wonder Woman, in the stands, next to a man-sized bald eagle, cheering at a group of men smiling like children.


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