MNT World Cup Qualifying – Oct. 9 & 13
[LIVE on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker]
A stern reminder about an upcoming U.S. Soccer-related event, whether you plan to check it out live and in person, on the “telly” or that wacky world wide web.
WARNING: The title says “Mark That Calendar,” but this issue’s game/s to watch is presented in the form of a fictional debate between a hypothetical incumbent and challenger.
Host: “Today’s first topic deals with whether the U.S. Men’s National Team is on the right track to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Mr. Challenger, it has been determined through a coin toss that you will speak first.”Challenger: “Let’s be frank. The U.S. Men’s National Team is fortunate to have five points after its first three semifinal qualifying matches. Brian Ching bailed us out in Kingston in the 89th minute, Cobi Jones did one better and scored his equalizer in stoppage time, and even playing in a home stadium and up a man for much of the match, we could only muster two goals against an overmatched El Salvador. We’ve been sloppy. We need to be much smarter, much sharper and much more effective, especially in the attacking third. Our normally sound defense has shown definite lapses, and our midfield has been inconsistent in connecting the two ends of the field. I remember the 2002 World Cup, when people had the utmost respect for our great nation, and I think we can bring that level of regard back to the forefront. More of the same is the last thing we want from this team if and when we advance to the final round of qualifying.”
Host: “Your response, Mr. Incumbent?”
Incumbent: “Heh. Ya see, what my opponent fails to grasp is that we are in first place in the standings. Last time I checked, if you finish first, you get the trophy; you win. I’m not sure how we can do better. To fail to acknowledge these achievements is.. is… heck, well, it’s just a darn injustice to the players that worked hard to gut out two very difficult draws in disasterated (sic) conditions. Those players in Jamaica and Panama fought tooth and nail, took a physical beating and survived a hostile crowd. Did they come back to this great land complaining about the atrocities of qualifying? No, they continue to do their duty. They showed that by being firm and resolute, and exhibiting a never-say-die attitude, you can succeed in a foreign, and at times dangerous, environment.”
Host: “Incumbent, you have 20 seconds left.”
Incumbent: “That’s all I got, Jim.”
Host: “Mr. Challenger, your 30-second rebuttal?”
Challenger: “Let me be clear. I absolutely respect the players and their efforts to this point in World Cup Qualifying. But I’m here to give the American soccer fans the truth. We’ve seen it in the papers and on TV; I think the American soccer fans know that we can do a better job. I’ve talked to some of the players myself, and some of them have expressed to me that they feel like things haven’t been going like they thought they would. I’m here to say that we can change that. We can do better.”
Incumbent: “What my opponent doesn’t realize is that qualifying for a World Cup is hard work. It’s hard! It’s not easy to go down and play in a… in a… pond, for 90 minutes and come out with a point. I wake up every day thinking about how we can get better, but I think we’re doing just fine. The results speak for themselves. We will continue to tie on the road and win at home. .We will qualify for the next round and see this through to the World Cup.”
Tune in to see which candidate has the more accurate read on the MNT’s fortunes when Bruce and the Boys face an El Salvador team and stadium full of fans that felt they were wronged by the referee in Foxboro. Follow the match live on Oct. 9 at 9:30 p.m. ET on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics. Check your local listing to find out how you can catch the game live on Pay-per-view.
Four days later, the U.S. will take its second turn as host when they head to the nation’s capital to meet Panama at the storied RFK Stadium on Oct. 13 at 7:30 p.m. ET live on ESPN2, as well as MatchTracker.