By Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet 7-25-15 - US vs. Panama - Third Place 2-3 Penalty Kicks During a reported 110 degree day in Philadelphia, the US lost in penalty kicks to a bitter and determined Panama, led by their number eleven, Cooper, who plays second division in Germany, who was the star of the day. How did the US lose the last match to Jamaica, and this one to Panama? Lineup is the key word. “Back four” to be more specific… Chandler-Gonzalez-Brooks-Ream. There are a million things that can be analyzed, and should, but at this moment, the lineup stands above anything. To this point, Klinsmann, with all his wisdom, passion, and IQ, has made great efforts to successfully instill a swagger in the team (despite outright predicting there was no chance the US team could win World Cup Brazil). This was an odd choice for the back four, to say the least. The US loses with new faces, a new look. This back lineup won’t win a World Cup, much less get into the Second Round. The outside backs are too gawky, the inside backs aren’t skilled enough to lead the attack. My ideas go out of fashion – five minutes ago, if you ask me – when we win the World Cup; at that point I’ll quietly take credit or get shunned. Either way, I hope we can aggressively change things with a new look that will work. We’ve won every other competition in the world, literally. Soccer is our last athletic frontier. We’re not going to branch out and expand successfully – Manifest Destiny – with a back line like this. Defeat is inevitable. Klinsmann has taken this team to new heights, utilizing many arguments I’ve made in my book. He’s used Shea and Yedlin – two pure attackers – as outside backs, yet it oscillates back and forth. Shea-Bradley-Ream-Yedlin This is a “World Cup winning” back four. This skillful back four would, could and should win it all. (Soccer fans need to wake up and see that Bradley is the best center defender the US has never had. Implement him.) With one important condition: They must be encouraged to attack, particularly with Bradley acting as the Beckenbauer role, moving up and down as the Queen in chess, presenting a passing and dribbling option for his teammates, getting shots on goal for his teammates and for himself. Likewise, Shea and Yedlin would attack ala Cafu, Jorginho, Alves. Ream is imperative. He is, without question, the most skilled center back we have, outside of Bradley (our soon to be center back). His skill, touch, anticipation, technique, vision is by far superior to any other. Ream is an outright keeper; do not bench him. He, Bradley, Yedlin and Shea will take possession from the back four to the highest standard the US has ever known, raising everyone else to the highest level possible. Whoever’s in front of this back four is practically superfluous. Klinsmann, of all people, should embrace this. Bradley/Beckenbauer, Zusi/Breitner, Dempsey/Voller, Diskerud/Hessler-ish. I think Zusi has some Breitner in him; let it loose. So does Zardes; unleash the dribble. They’ll get it done. With Yedlin and Shea coasting down their flank it will be a lot of fun trying. At this point, losing the Gold Cup, showing the same result in World Cup competition for three tries, it’s all we’ve got…a little fun. And, bring back Freddy Adu. Just mentioning it has become a joke. I, for one, don’t think it’s very funny. Sure, he was just playing in Finland and Serbia. And hey, that’s cool. No problem here. We’re the underdog. Embrace the role. If you would like more great posts from Shane, follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook, and go to his website at http://www.shanestay.com/
By Diana Catt You can read Diana's stories: Photo Finish in the mystery anthology Racing Can Be Murder, Boneyard Busted in the mystery anthology Bedlam at the Brickyard, and The Art of the Game in the mystery anthology Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks It was a dark and stormy month…and we’ll end it with A Day of Mystery! Speed City Indiana Sisters in Crime will host A Day of Mystery at Barnes and Noble, 8675 River Crossing Rd, Indianapolis, on Sunday July 26th with events scheduled throughout the day. SCISinC will have four anthologies available for sale: Racing Can Be Murder, Bedlam at the Brickyard, Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks, and their newest release, Decades of Dirt. Author signings will be from 11-5. Andrea Smith, Claudia Pfeiffer, Elaine Orr, Cheryl Shore, Norman Campbell, Diana Catt, Brenda Stewart, Judy Broderick, Michelle May, Bridgett Kephart, Michael Dabney, Ashley Couts, Crystal Evans, Lilly Rhodes, and Tony Perona will be available for signing their books. There will be a treasure hunt and game table active throughout the day with prizes, snacks and giveaways. Michael Dabney and Ashley Couts will give a presentation on NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month) at 2 pm and we will have author readings on the hour. Barnes and Noble will donate a percentage of all sales on Sunday to SCISinC, so this is a great day to start your holiday shopping: books make wonderful gifts but there’s so much more in the store, for example you could order that holiday cheesecake early and pick it up when you need it. In addition, it is also James Patterson Day with deals galore. Sisters in Crime is a national organization for writers and readers. Our chapter meets the 4th Saturday of the month at this Barnes and Noble and we bring in excellent guest speakers. Both the meeting and the speaker session are open to the public. SCISinC also hosts workshops, retreats, a critique group, networking, and publication opportunities for aspiring writers. Please visit our display on Sunday, July 26th to learn more about our chapter.
Gold Cup 2015 - Semi Finals - US vs. Jamaica 7-22-15, by Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet Line up, line up, line up…What else can be said? Howard/Guzan Yedlin Tim Ream Bradley Shea Zardes Diskerud M. Adu Zusi Dempsey F. Adu A variation of this line up was displayed by Klinsmann earlier this year and it was a rock solid group, ready for a World Cup title run. I’m not sure what’s been going on with the defensive line lately. There seems to have been a lot of changes; new looks; new outside backs; different inside backs. If you want the US to win, face reality and accept that Bradley is a perfect central defender, ala Beckenbauer, as the Queen on the chessboard who is allowed – and encouraged – to drift upward, joining the attack, stringing together the attack. He starts from that deep anyway; he’s a good defender; he’s six feet tall; he’s the guy. And, yes, I think bringing back Freddy Adu is the right move. He’s only “nineteen.” There’s a lot of room for growth, the potential is there, just give it a chance. Jamaica, throughout their whole history with their passion for soccer, should be better than they are. They go through cycles. With them, you have to catch the right generation with the right talent, at the right moment, a little like the 1954 magical ride of Bobby Plump, AKA Jimmy Chitwood and Hoosiers. Yet, they remain a relatively flat team, with enough potential to beat anyone from CONCACAF, Africa, Asia and some South American sides. So many people assume since the US and Jamaica dominate the 100 yard dash in world competitions, they should be able to transcend that expertise to soccer. But, as most should know: Fast doesn’t always make the best team. So many coaches have said over the years, “I’ll take technically sound over fast any day.” Pure speed isn’t the key to winning the Gold Cup, Confederations Cup or World Cup. It helps. But you must first have the skill and technical ability. On this night neither team in the first half dominated the skill. It was an all out battle for midfield with high tempo at virtually every moment. The first goal came from a backwards header off a long throw that tinkered off the far post, lingering over the line before hitting the “other” post, trickling in. Guzan may have been caught out of position but it was a weird goal that was practically meant to go in, on some level. For the second Jamaican goal, Guzan was penalized for a play that occurs regularly…when goalies punt the ball they tend to cross the goal-box line. It never gets called. In this case, Guzan crossed the goal-box line with a throw, not a punt. The free kick at the edge of the box was brilliantly slotted in from Jamaica as they celebrated like mad. Back in 1990, when the US made the World Cup for the first time in forty years, Meola and company were considered the “Hoosiers underdog.” Now, with twenty years gone, we’ve crept past that stigma, lurching closer and closer to elite status, as we’re currently a solid medium-grade team. For the moment, Jamaica is going for their first Gold Cup title, seeking out that big victory which has eluded them for so long. They were lucky in the second half, giving up an early goal. For the remainder of the match they played terrible defense – not marking, looking lazy, reacting not anticipating, lunging. You name it. They were fortunate to win 2-1, advancing to the finals to play Mexico (who, in turn, was lucky to get past Costa Rica and Panama). The World Cup qualifiers begin shortly in the fall. The US will have a lot to think about until then, with plenty to reflect on. First, they can look forward to the Third Place match with Panama this weekend. (To see more on the outlandish, out of control Semi Final between Panama and Mexico, click here.) You can follow Shane on Twitter and like him on Facebook. To get great updates from Cardinal Publishers Group, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook, we can also be found on Linked In and Pinterest.
Gold Cup US vs. Cuba - July 18, 2015 By Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet A strange thing happened a day before the US quarterfinal match against Cuba: Five Cuban players defected. That’s right; they disappeared from their hotel, to be seen…no more. Just like that, they were gone. On the eve of playing the US, in the US, they defected to the US. No formal announcement, no letter; just gone and out of sight, leaving their teammates with an uphill battle against the heavily favored US side. Baltimore, Maryland was extremely hot, somewhere around ninety-five degrees. There was even a water break in the first half, a measure implemented by FIFA to ensure safety. They base the need for a water break on temperature, humidity, angle of the sun, wind speed and cloud cover. The water break tactic was utilized in Brazil last summer during some of the hotter matches around the Amazon. It only lasts a minute or so and then everything picks up again. By the time the close of the first half came around, the US was in the lead by four goals. Even with relations improving between the US and Cuba in the past few months, the defectors threw a monkey wrench into the chemistry of their team, leaving them vulnerable to multiple attacks at goal, with few chances of their own. Although, the Cubans were crafty, showing good possession, they were heavily outmatched by the more experienced Americans. Dempsey scored a hat trick, on his quest to passing Donovan for the all-time US leader in goals. He’s looking more and more like Rudy Voller, the West German forward, a former teammate of Klinsmann. Voller was never fast, but fast enough. He wasn’t the quickest, but quick enough. He was crafty, always with an eye for goal. That’s a knack you can’t teach. Dempsey is the same in many regards. He has a knack for goal and he’s never been the fastest or the quickest, but he has enough of both. Years ago, he started out playing more in the style of Cristiano Ronaldo, on the wing, using moves, showing some flair. Nowadays he still has the flair of Ronaldo combined with the guile of Voller – that pesky sense around net that puts pressure on other teams. Cuba sat back with no answer and a befuddled goalie. The US hopes to bring the same tempo to the semifinals this week. The result may not be 6-0 but they are looking poised to make a good showing on route to the finals. You can follow Shane on Twitter or like him on Facebook. You can also visit his website: http://www.shanestay.com/
There are hiking trails throughout some of the most beautiful places in the world. When people set out on a trip, they get to experience nature and enjoy sights and sounds around them. Sometimes when people look beyond the trail and see the amazing natural world just outside its borders, they might want to slip from the path and explore a whole new realm of nature. Michael Gurnow, author of Nature’s Housekeeper, answers a few questions about staying on the trail versus going off the beaten path. 1. Some nature lovers might find it more fun to divert from the hiking trail and blaze a new path. What are some key points to keep in mind when going off-trail? Proceed with caution. Know—or at least get a fair idea—of what you’re literally getting into and, for God’s sake, watch where you’re going. In my neck of the woods, to step off the beaten path means a person is voluntarily wading through waves upon waves of poison ivy. For novices, this might not seem like a huge concern until five days later, when you’ve got a massive rash even though you don’t remember having touched anything when you went hiking. And you might not have, at least not directly: People forget about cross-contamination. When the person got home and pulled off the ol’ hiking boots, the individual unknowingly coated himself in urushiol, the active ingredient in poison oak, ivy, and sumac. While he was untying his shoes, he slapped at a mosquito on his arm and rubbed the back of his neck. He then picked a scab on his calf before mindlessly taking care of an itch on his elbow. . . and now, a week later, he looks like a sunburned leper but has no idea why. Bear in mind that ticks are like cockleburs; they crawl to the edge of foliage and wait to hitch a ride. The greater the amount of vegetation a person brushes up against, the greater the number of ticks a hiker’s going to collect. These are the things you can bank on by going off-trail. But you also have to remember that when you step off a cleared trail and enter a forest’s uncut understory, you’re depriving yourself of a clear line of sight. A person’s more likely to spot a rattler sitting in the middle of a trail than one that’s curled up beside a tree trunk that’s fallen in the middle of the woods. Watch where you’re going and tread lightly. 2. In your book trailer, you see a snake and run. Is this something you advise hikers to do when they come across a snake on the trail? No. I did that for comedic value. It was a harmless Greensnake. One of the first things I was taught when I did my wilderness survival training was that the only time it’s permissible to run in the woods is if you’re hunting or being hunted. It’s sound advice because by hopping, skipping, and jumping on uneven terrain—which is the definition of a trail—you risk twisting, or even breaking, an ankle. If you encounter a snake and aren’t versed in identifying venomous predators, give it slow, wide berth. If you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s not dangerous, admire it, point at it, talk to it, take pictures, then be on your way. 3. When face-to-face with a wild animal, what is the best way to react? First of all, most people tramp, heavy-footed, along the trail and talk as they’re trucking along. Then, when they get off the trail, they complain that they didn’t see anything interesting. This is because all the noise and incessant vibration spooked the animals before the hikers had a chance to catch a glimpse of them. You’ll see a lot more if you’re quiet and walk with a light step. As for how to react when you encounter a wild animal: It depends on the animal. I don’t have to worry about bears, cougars, or alligators at the park where I work. For me, the worst of the worst is venomous snakes. However, they’re pretty rare. I’ll put it this way: We’ll have graduate students in biology spend years hiking trails deliberately trying to spot a rattler or copperhead but never do. Instead, it’s the little things—ticks, chiggers, and poison ivy—that I have to be mindful of on a daily basis. That said, if you happen to stumble across something intriguing that you know, not think, know to be safe, by all means, revel in the glory of the natural world. A luna moth is one of the most beautiful things in nature and there’s no fear that it’ll bite your ear off if you get too close. But if you’re on the fence as to what kind of creature it is, however small and innocent-looking, keep a healthy distance. For example, rose and saddleback caterpillars are colorful and alluring . . . but they sting. As a general rule, bright colors that stand out from their surroundings indicate danger; otherwise the owner would be trying to hide its lack of defenses through camouflage, not bragging about them. Any veteran wilderness trekker will tell you, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially if you’re several miles from civilization. 4. Is it okay to feed the wildlife that we meet while hiking? Good luck with that. Ninety-nine percent of critters in the wild don’t want anything to do with people. It’s simple survival instinct: Since there’s not a lot of us roaming around the woods on a regular basis, animals tend to play it safe by darting away once they catch sight, sound, or smell of such a large, foreign creature. The prime example is squirrels. City squirrels are acclimated to humans, so they aren’t nearly as skittish as their woodland brothers. But, regardless whether you’re able to coax wildlife to come up to you, the forest isn’t a petting zoo. Not only is it risky to feed a feral animal, it offsets the natural equilibrium of things. Remember, Nature got along just fine before you came along. Follow the wilderness mantra of “Leave no trace.” Feed yourself, other hikers and, by being out in the woods, the ticks and mosquitoes but leave everything else alone. Interview by Ginger Bock You can follow Michael on Twitter and like him on Facebook You can visit his website at: http://primitivarum.weebly.com/
Baseball is one of America’s favorite past times. We have enjoyed the sport for many years. The New York Yankees have been around a long time too, and fans know, you don’t have to be from New York to be a Yankees fan. This day in Yankee history, July 15, 1921, the all-time home-run record belonging to Roger Connor was broken by none other than Babe Ruth…the following are excerpts from Bronx Bomber: New York Yankee Home Run History by Lew Freedman: To that point in baseball history the all-time home-run record belonged to Roger Connor. Connor, who played first base for a number of teams between 1880 and 1897, retired with 138 home runs. During the middle of the 1921 season, when Ruth was still just 26, he matched and surpassed Connor. Ruth tied Connor in a July 15 Yankees triumph over the St. Louis Browns. He claimed the record with his 36th homer of the season in a win over the Detroit Tigers on July 18. Most of his career lay ahead of him. Babe Ruth really was not literally the Thomas Edison of the home run. Many Yankees fans would like to think he drew it up on a piece of paper and filed a patent claim in Washington, of course. He might as well have. There is no question that Ruth, playing mostly right field for the Yankees during the 1920s, popularized it. The home run was part of the game from the beginning, when the National League formed in 1876, the start of the major leagues as we know them. But the home run was not a big deal at the time. The home run was just one facet of the sport, considered no more special than a single, double or triple. A key reason for that was that home runs weren’t all that common.
Gold Cup 2015 Game 3: US vs. Panama Panama had an uphill struggle trying to beat the US in order to qualify for the next round. It was a must win. The US, on the other hand, was already clear into the next phase of the tournament, and US moves on to the next round, on route for the final destination: the final game, and hopefully the Confederations Cup in 2017. There's something about CONCACAF uniforms that keep getting better and better. Panama is sponsored by New Balance. Who is sponsored by New Balance? I think it's the coolest thing in the world, just as Reebok sponsoring NFL teams is awesome. It's so nice to see teams wearing something other than the traditional monopoly of Adidas, Nike and Puma (to a lessor extent). Why not bust out some Diadora sponsorship, or maybe Lotto? Possibly, Saucony? The US home uniform is looking as good as it can get. All white, simple, classy. However, there's a slight discrepancy with the buttons on the collar. Some players button all the way up, looking as though they're gasping for air, while others leave the top button undone. It looks awkward to have the stark difference. Follow France's route: they have the top button naturally undone, leaving all the players looking the same. Onward with Panama! The first half looked like absolute rubbish from the US; looking like days of old, with passes not connecting, no harmony and "bad tempo" as Brad Freidel pointed out. Panama got their much needed one goal lead but in the second half the US changed the lineup a bit, handing over a much better performance, taking it to the Panamanians in the sweltering ninety degree Kansas City heat; a stifling nighttime humidity that can be beautiful and annoying at the same time. There was never a moment of "No mas" from the Panama side, even when the US tied the game in the second half and it became clear that they were on the way out. Prior to the game, the Panamanian side complained of a previous referee and insisted on having a new one, which came to fruition at the last moment, unbeknownst to the US. The Mexican ref did a good job, letting the game flow, allowing the players to bump and grind, calling things fairly with the exception of a horrible oversight on a Bedoya breakaway as his heel was clearly clipped from behind. Yet, no foul was called, giving Panama a clear pass. Guzan was strong in goal, making a case to stay on board instead of the experienced Tim Howard. As the lineup continues to be tinkered with, Klinsmann and staff are finding "the way" the best they can, discovering many things along the journey. ~ Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet Follow Shane on Twitter and like him on Facebook http://www.shanestay.com/
Hiking is a great way to escape from the hub-bub of a busy life, connect with nature, and get exercise. Before stepping onto the trail, some considerations should be made to ensure safety. We asked Michael Gurnow, author of Nature’s Housekeeper, some questions on how to stay cool while hiking in summer's heat. *The following are suggestions. Before undertaking a hike of any kind, refer to your physician. 1. When you are walking on a trail, you don’t want to be bogged down by a lot of cumbersome equipment. What are the necessary items that should be taken on a hike that is 2 – 5 miles long? First and foremost is water. As to how much depends on several factors: What is the challenge rating of the trail you plan to go on? What kind of shape are you in? How hot is it and, more importantly, what’s the heat index? For any novice hiker, the best advice is “Better safe than sorry” because a 2-mile hike might sound easy, but once you factor in physical exertion, climate, and the mental and emotional stress of being in a foreign environment that’s more than likely plagued by flying insects and other alien creepy-crawlies, it can take a toll on a person pretty quick. The day before I bring volunteers out on the trail, I hand them a copy of the “Work/Rest and Water Consumption Table” by the U.S. Army. A pair of comfortable, broken-in shoes is a must. Nothing will ruin your hiking experience faster than a heel blister midway through a trail. The rookie mistake is assuming you need to rush out and buy a pair of hiking boots just to go over the hills and through the woods. The rule of thumb is not to go hiking in shoes that don’t have at least 75 miles on them. If you want to play it safe, grab a blister pack—which is a type of medicated, gel-like Band-Aid—so if you get a blister, you won’t have to limp back to civilization. Although the temptation will be there, don’t wear shorts. Slide into a pair of pants and tuck them into your socks. Although late spring is high tick season, I’ve gotten one of the eight-legged vampires when there was snow on the ground. Tick patrol will be easier if you don solid, light-colored clothes as well. 2. When you begin to feel hot, is that the best time to stop walking and take a break? The human body is an amazing thing. When it gets overworked, it tells you that it’s time for a breather by making you feel tired. When it needs its fluids topped off, it flips on the “thirsty” switch in your brain, which you recognize by your mouth feeling dry. Listen to your body; it’s a smart little machine. 3. What do you do when you feel you are overheating? Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are cunning, malicious beasts. Most hikers that are just starting out aren’t aware they’re suffering from the first two until they get home and realize their head hurts—they’re in the throes of a dehydration headache, which can last for hours. Veteran outdoorsmen and hikers know, “When in doubt, drink it out.” Keep an eye on your urine. If it’s dark, you need to drink more. But even with this, water-guzzling mid-level hikers often complain that they’re experiencing dehydration. It might seem paradoxical, but it’s possible to drink too much water: Water lowers a person’s potassium level, which affects the individual’s ability to process and absorb fluids. When this happens, it doesn’t matter how much you drink, fluids are running through you instead of into you. An insider trick is to take a sports drink and dilute it at a 1:1 ratio with water. Before hitting the trail, I also make sure to give myself a jolt of potassium by eating a banana, sweet potato, or tomato. It goes without saying, if you stop sweating and look down to find you have chill bumps on your arms in the middle of summer, you’re in trouble. This is the tell-tale sign that the person’s in the late stages of heat exhaustion bordering on heat stroke. When this happens, you want to control the temperature of the blood that’s going to your brain: Pour some water on a damp cloth, wrap it around your neck, and lie down. You need to create as much surface area as possible so heat can escape your body. When you’re suffering from severe heat exhaustion, it doesn’t matter if your bed is a field of poison ivy that’s hosting a tick rally: Poison ivy rashes will dry up and ticks can be picked off once you get home alive. Conversely, the effects of heat stroke can last a lifetime, or even end it. 4. For a beginner hiker, what should the length of their hike be in miles? Should the person avoid hilly terrain? Going on a hike isn’t like taking a stroll down level, paved street or power walking through an air conditioned mall. As with any new activity, it’s a good idea to start slow. Most state and national parks host beginner trails specifically designed for novices. These are fairly level treks with shallow inclines that run less than a mile. Once you’ve traversed a few of these and have a better idea of what to expect, start heading out on longer trails, but always consult trailhead signs first. These tell you what you are facing before you launch. Short doesn’t necessarily mean easy. The other thing to bear in mind is that the average rate of speed while hiking is a mile an hour, so give yourself plenty of time while remembering that sunset in the forest takes place much earlier than in the suburbs or countryside because the horizon, due to the hills, is higher and, in the summer, the forest canopy and foliage block even more dwindling sunlight. You can follow Michael on Twitter and like him on Facebook You can visit his website at: http://primitivarum.weebly.com/ Interview by Ginger Bock
By Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn’t There Yet http://www.shanestay.com/ The Gold Cup has people excited, but scratching their heads. “What is this again?” they may ask. Soccer fans are exuberant but often there has been some ambiguity as to what the Gold Cup actually is. It is governed by CONCACAF and it is the main tournament for the region, which determines the champion of North America, Central America and Caribbean islands. For US fans, it’s the equivalent of the European Cup. It is held every two years. As of 2015, the winners of the two successive Gold Cups will face each other in a game to decide who will represent CONCACAF in the next Confederations Cup. (The Confederations Cup is the pre-tournament to the World Cup, taking place one year prior to the World Cup, held on the grounds of the host country, as a practice run for the World Cup. It gives the World Cup exposure while also giving the host nation an opportunity to test everything out from a practical sense with problems like traffic issues to hotel accommodations.) Before 1961, the year CONCACAF formed, there was an attempt at a “Gold Cup” of sorts which was broken into smaller regions in which Costa Rica did quite well dominating the Central America region. In more recent years, the first Gold Cup was in 1991, as the US won the title. Mexico went on to finish the decade winning three consecutive titles in 1993, 1996, 1998. From 1996 to 2003 the rules were broken a little bit as guest nations like Brasil were invited to join the Gold Cup (likely to give it more exposure). Then in 2005, it returned to only CONCACAF members. With the exception of Canada winning in 2000, it has been a back-to-back struggle for supremacy between the US and Mexico. The 2015 groups are: A) US, Haiti, Panama, Honduras B) Costa Rica, El Salvador, Canada, Jamaica C) Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, Cuba The US looks to be the favorite this year around, with Mexico disappointing many fans with recent losses. Costa Rica should turn heads as the second best team in the running, coming off their successful 2014 World Cup run. Currently, Mexico is in the lead with six titles, as the US is knocking on the door with five, giving the American team a lot of motivation to surpass them, one tournament at a time.
By Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet For years, soccer fans have noted how the women’s side is the powerhouse in the world and men’s side is only recently becoming the head of state within CONCACAF. Traditionally, the women’s side didn’t have much competition as the rest of the world did not culturally embrace “girls playing soccer” as much as the US did. Certain countries like Romania and Russia thrived in gymnastics – a very athletic sport – but not soccer. Gradually it came to be, following this trend of the post-90s boom in soccer’s popularity with the girl’s youth club levels. The US has been a big “exporter” of women’s rights around the world, and this has transcended to the inclusion of girls playing more organized team sports such as soccer. Honestly, women’s soccer has been an afterthought around the world up until the 99’ World Cup, with all its excitement and a sold out 90,000 plus Rose Bowl Stadium that erupted on one shot that won the cup. Photo courtesy of Les Jones Covershots, Inc. According to Anson Dorrance, former US national coach, a lot of his top talent got so good because they grew up playing against their brothers and on co-ed teams. Many other countries did not encourage co-ed soccer leagues, which led to early success for the women’s side. The women’s game has also benefited from a long line of collegiate sports, which much of the world lacked. Our men’s team has improved greatly since the inception of the MLS in 1995. From that time on, soccer has grown wildly in popularity at the youth levels. However, traditionally speaking, one major factor concerning the slow progress of the men’s side has been the lack of a secure competitive professional “outdoor” league. The NASL came and went. Other lesser known leagues had ephemeral moments. The indoor league was established in the late 70s and has remained intact all these years. In the 80s and early 90s, largely speaking, the men’s side only had the indoor league to compete in. Indoor is essential in making outdoor players better, but, if you “only have an indoor league” then this will be detrimental for an outdoor team. Up until recently, the men’s game has just plain not been embraced by American society. And frankly, there are huge portions of the population that will never embrace it – in fact, they dismiss it with out-right contempt. That’s a problem. The rest of the world has a hundred-year head start. Soccer tradition is entrenched within their psyche like baseball is to ours. Yet, with boy’s club soccer at its highest point in popularity, it might be just a matter of diligent patience for a new generation to join the women’s side and take home the other World Cup.