The beautiful goal

Americans are naturally skeptical of soccer. It’s too slow, it’s not physical enough, it’s too simplistic. But for Americans that watched the final U.S. match of Group Play in the 2010 World Cup, the game captured our imagination.

We saw that soccer is the world’s game. The United States, facing elimination, playing the team from Algeria. The fates of England and Slovenia hanging in the balance as well. This doesn’t happen in any other sport.

We saw that the beauty of its simplicity, the basic components of ball and players in infinite combinations as the U.S. pounded away at the Algerian defense trying to get the goal to break the nil-nil tie and allow the U.S. to survive in the tournament.

Finally, we felt the emotion that soccer so readily produces, the building of tension and anticipation for 90 minutes as our team skated ever closer to elimination, and the floodgate of emotions that is released in one amazing moment behind a beautiful goal. The U.S., through sheer perseverance, wins in the last.

Now on to the Knockout round, with lots more work to do for the U.S. team . .

You can check out the game recap, if you missed it.

Update: I like this video compilation of U.S. crowd reactions to the goal, it really captures what I’m talking about. Is there anything better than cheering for your country?

Putting It On Goal

A good friend of mine and co-founder of  CaptainU sent a video along this morning that reminded me of a concept I learned from playing certain sports – most notably soccer and (during a few years in Tulsa) roller hockey.

In those sports, where both sides are shooting at a goal and much of your success is governed by the positioning of players and the angles of the field/rink, you’ll often hear team members encouraging each other to put the ball or the puck “on goal.” Putting it on goal is basically taking a shot at the goal where, if it was unblocked, it would go in, even if there are visible obstructions (like the goalie).

The reason you want to put it on goal a lot is that you really don’t know what will happen. The puck might ricochet, the ball might take a weird bounce, and the goalie might just miss it. The goalie might go to the ground to block your shot and a teammate might get an open look on the rebound. The more attempts you make, the more chances you have that something will break in your favor. But if you dribble the ball or control the puck around the perimeter and never take a shot (because you’re waiting for the perfect look), you have no chance.

As the video shows below, even the most ridiculous attempts lead to success sometimes. But you’ll only know one way or another if you try. And try again. And try again.