May 30, 2012
By Charles Cuttone
U.S. celebrates its past, dreams about the future
LANDOVER, Md.---While those of us who have been big supporters of the Soccer Hall of Fame mourn the loss of the campus and museum in Oneonta, NY, one of the nice things about combining the annual Hall of Fame inductions with a U.S. National Team game is that it provides the opportunity to not only reminisce about the rich past of the sport, but also look at the present, and perhaps even a little ahead to the future.
No doubt, the past is a very rich one. Look at the people who were inducted into the Hall of Fame on Wednesday: Tony DiCicco, who led the U.S. Women’s National Team to Gold in 1996 at the Atlanta Olympics and to the glorious moment in 1999 when women’s soccer truly hit the map; Derek Armstrong, Claudio Reyna and Tony Meola, part of a special group of players who got the United States back to the World Cup in 1990 after a 40-year absence, and of course my esteemed colleague and friend Grahame L. Jones, the great former soccer writer for the LA Times.
That might be as good a class as the Hall has ever had.
The poignant and sometimes moving speeches were special, and unique to each Hall of Famer. You had Jones, who covered soccer for some 40 years, talk about the lifetime of memories in soccer, many of them symbolized by some collected artifact currently residing in his garage.
You had DiCicco talking about players like Mia Hamm, Carin Jennings Gabarra and Michelle Akers, saying “You guys did special things because you are special people and that’s why I am up here.”
You had Desmond Armstrong prefacing his remarks with the admission that they might be a little politically incorrect talking about starting to play soccer after his family became the only Black one in an all-white suburb of Washington DC.
And you had Tony Meola, breaking down when talking about how special a person the late Lamar Hunt, whom many consider the patron saint of soccer in America, was.
The acceptance speeches segued into remarks by U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, who has undoubtedly presided over the most prosperous era in American soccer, talking about the foundation built by those Hall of Famers.
“Today we’re dreaming things,” Gulati said. We’re dreaming about Brazil, not just tonight, but in 2014. Today we’re not dreaming to just keep the game close.”
In the past, keeping the game close against world powers was all that could be hoped for. But the dreams and the expectations have gone beyond that.
“We can dream about Brazil in 2014 and dream about accomplishing something.”
Unfortunately, dreams don’t always turn into reality.
Drawing 67,619 to a midweek meaningless exhibition against what is essentially Brazil’s Olympic team shows how far the sport has come.
But losing the game 4-1 proved the U.S. is still not among the elite teams in the world. Yes, they played a game four days ago, beating Scotland 5-1. But Scotland are not Brazil. Neymar, Thiago Silva, Marcelo and Alexandre Pato proved that as they easily danced around the United States and put on an enjoyable if not brilliant performance on their way to a 4-1 win.
The U.S. may be able to dream about World Cup glory, but until the team can regularly stack up against the Brazils, Spains, Argentinas and Germanys, it’s still just a dream, and one that is maybe still a ways away.
But at least we can dare to dream.