A monthly column about the State of U.S. Soccer that takes a hard look at everything from the performance of the U.S. National Teams to pro soccer in the good ‘ole U-S-of-A . If you're looking for a viewpoint that you won't see in a generic, nuts-and-bolts U.S. Soccer press release, you've come to the right place.
This month, the Armchair Midfielder will take a look at the stunning new Nike gear designed specifically for the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan this summer.
Leave it to the hipper-than-thou marketing wizards over at Nike to come up with product names like: a) "Cool Motion", b) "Mercurial Vapor", and c) "Geo Merlin Vapor". Although sounding like the name of: a) a new not-available-in-stores exercise infomercial product, b) a rare scientific gas, and c) the secret weapon of the wizard in "Dungeons & Dragons," Nike is actually introducing the new double-knit U.S. jersey, the revolutionary new lightweight cleat and the quick new match ball.
Anytime you introduce a new jersey and full kit, despite its typical design superiority (in this case, a two-layered system including a Dri-FIT inner layer and a hydrophobic outer layer), it's impossible not to compare it to look and style of the outgoing uniform and other past kits. In that regard, I'm all but sold on the new style, which features a small collar and red and blue prisms under each arm. Actually, I'm sure the jersey will grow even more on me, but when it's paired with the blue shorts for the home kit, it just looks a little odd. Maybe I'm just used to the U.S. always wearing all-white at home, which I love in the most recent uniforms for their simple, classic look. Although I always liked the most recent red jersey and blue short version of the away uniform, I dig the blue top with white under-arm panel paired with the white shorts and blue socks. All in all, change is good. I'm sure that a year from now when the color combos have had a chance to settle in, I'll be swearing they're the best kits we've ever had.
Aside from the initial so-so reaction to the jerseys, the rest of the gear (from the goalkeeper jersey to sleeveless training top to the fleece sweatshirts to the presentation warm-up pullover) is very cool, especially how Nike has worked a silver color (okay, it's more like grey) into the training top and some of the warm-up suits. All in all, the kit is a very modern and somewhat funky look for our boys in red, white and blue (and now grey).
The soccer boot that Nike has unveiled is about as unique and ground-breaking as they come, featuring an incredibly lightweight, yet extra-durable "skin" of the "Mercurial Vapor." Seem improbable? Well, it's one of those things that won't believed until you see and feel it. Already drawing jaw-dropping responses and rave reviews by some of the top players in the world who have been testing and helping Nike develop the shoe, it looks to be the class of cleats for the 2002 World Cup. Say it with me: "Mercurial Vapor, Mercurial Vapor, Mercurial Vapor ... you are getting sleepy ... you will buy this product ... Mercurial Vapor ..."
The "Geo Merlin Vapor" match ball is an upgrade on what top teams like the USA and Brazil and top leagues like the English Premier League have been using for a few years now. The new ball is sleeker both in design and function, with Nike claiming that the ball travels "faster, farther and more accurately" based on its patented DART (Dynamic Acceleration Response and Touch) system and Geo Balanced Technology. If you're wondering what exactly all of this means, you're asking the wrong guy. Stuffed or pumped--who knows?
So, enough of the product showcase. As U.S. Men's National Team head coach Bruce Arena said at the display and R&D-heavy press conference, "I didn't understand what the hell was just said up here. All I know is that these products are incredible, and apparently my players should have no problem scoring goals. If Nike could only make a coach, everything would be perfect."
The bottom line is that these products represent the culmination of lengthy research and development, as well as a cutting edge technology and design that other National Team rograms don't have the luxury of with some of their sponsors. While the "Cool Motion" and "Mercurial Vapor" won't win any games for the USA, we'll gladly accept any edge that the gear might provide for the conditions at the 2002 World Cup in the monsoon season in Korea in June.
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (A look at the new Nike U.S. World Cup jerseys)
2) Word Association (w/ MNT forward Brian McBride)
3) At the Oscars (w/ U-21 WNT/WNT forward Aly Wagner)
4) Queries and Anecdotes (w/ U-20 MNT midfielder Jordan Stone)
5) Life as a Soccer Mom (w/ WNT defender Joy Fawcett)
6) Superstar!!! (w/ U-23 MNT/MNT forward Landon Donovan)
7) Mark That Calendar (MNT vs. Ecuador, Germany -- March 10, 27)
8) "You Don’t Know Jack (Marshall)" (MNT's "European Vacation" Trivia)
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