USA, Revs and Burpo Offer A New Perspective

I would typically sum up a US Men’s National Team game with a glass half-full vs. half-empty review.   Often, I’ll offer thoughts on New England Revolution games as well, focusing on what went right or wrong.  However, this time I’ll be taking a different direction.

Today, it’s all about perspective, both soccer-wise and otherwise.

For the US game, fans could talk about how José Torres was a revelation.  Or how Clint Dempsey can at times appear to coast along, but still come up with a clutch goal out of nowhere.  Or how the rust of inactivity was so thick on some of our players that they appeared not to see each other in midfield for the first 45 minutes.   Or how Robbie Findley, however imperfect, might just belong on this team.

But that isn’t what I am focused on.

The United States vs. Turkey game was a tale of two halves.   To keep it simple, from the US perspective the first half was a complete mess.  The second half was pretty good.  

At the end of the first half, fans are left wondering how badly the USA will be abused by England on July 12th in our first World Cup game.

At the end of the second half, fans are left with hope and excitement that with some more time to gel, a few lineup modifications and some luck, we might have a good tournament.

Quite a change in perspectives 45 minutes can make.

Fans watched the USA’s “best eleven” look very ordinary.  But then, with the addition of some substitutions that fans either didn’t think belonged (Robbie Findley), didn’t think their coach would ever play (José Torres) or thought were riddled by injury/fitness problems (Oguchi Onyewu), we suddenly look like a team to be taken seriously.

Quite a change in perspectives created by a few substitutions.

US fans still wonder how such an up-and-down team will compete against our World Cup group, and especially England, the “world beaters” that they are.   Then we learn that during this very same weekend it took two own-goals for England to beat Japan, a good – but not stellar – team.

All of a sudden, the US chances are put back in perspective, and fans remember that on any given day the USA can beat (or lose to) any given team.

The New England Revolution’s win over the New York Red Bulls also offered lessons in perspective that were bigger, broader and more poignant than those from the US game, even if the soccer-specific ones are a lot less important.

Fans could focus on the unmistakable fact that when Shalrie Joseph is on his game he is one of the best midfielders in MLS.   Fans could worry that despite the presence of a local “rival,” and decent weather, only about 12,000 fans could be bothered to show up at Gillette Stadium.   Much surprise could be found in the idea that a makeshift backline of Pat Phelan and Joseph Niouky actually held things together. Revs fans could rejoice that a much needed victory was finally found and that perhaps the team would start to find its rhythm.   

But toward the end of the first half, a horrific injury to Revolution goalkeeper Preston Burpo made all of those topics seem very much secondary.   There were 22 men on the field who make their living by putting on this athletic show for us that we get to enjoy, talk about, complain about and yes, blog about.

When you watch one of their careers get jeopardized in an instant, obvious and violent (even if accidental) way it changes the way to feel about the connection to “your” team.  When you watch the reaction of some of the injured player’s on-field family react by falling into a sobbing heap, you realize that there’s more than tactics, questionable calls and a few points at stake.

Suddenly, you realize that a weekend full of soccer needs to be put back into perspective. 

Get well soon Preston.

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