Thursday, July 3, 2014

Jersey Strong

'Round here we may need to introduce a new series of promotional bumper stickers.  Something perhaps to honor North Brunswick's Man of Steel, USMNT Goalkeeper Tim Howard.  On Tuesday afternoon in the Round of 16 game that the United States played against Belgium, Howard singlehandedly kept his teammates alive through 90+ minutes of regulation time.  He made save after incredible save.  Sixteen in all, which was the most saves recorded by one goalkeeper in a World Cup game in fifty years.  Fifty years.  At day's end however Howard's best simply was not enough to carry the United States to victory.  Belgium 2, United States 1.  Thus endeth the 2014 World Cup for the Red, White and Blue.  It was a result that Howard - in a nice display of understatement - described simply as "heartbreak".

Much has been written - and shall be written - about Howard's Herculean effort.  It was nothing short of extraordinary.  Spend a moment or two - and do it with the volume up on your computer so you can hear Ian Darke's wonderful narrative - watching all sixteen of his saves.  Truly an epic performance.  Howard is thirty-five years old.   I for one hope that Tuesday's performance was not the last one we shall see from him in a World Cup game for the USMNT.  Four years, however, can feel like a lifetime in the career of a professional athlete.  Russia 2018 is indeed a lifetime away.

Soccer is of course a team sport and is contested by teams comprised of eleven players per side.   On Tuesday, the single-best player on the pitch was in the American goal.  He simply did not get enough support from his teammates on the field to carry the day.  We lost - not from lack of effort - but from lack of execution.  We played hard.  We simply did not play well enough.  Not well enough to win.  At day's end, our best effort simply was not good enough. 

It is from such results that heartbreak is born...

...and a heroic performance is too.


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