USA vs. England: In Search of a Team, In Search of a Bar

06/14/2010 8:33 AM |

usa vs. england, 1950

I had no idea where to go. England was about to face the USA in a hugely anticipated opening round World Cup game—it got the New Yorker treatment, no less—and I found myself wandering around Williamsburg in the midst of a spiritual crisis. I saw young men in cargo shorts and flip-flops, American flags draped across their backs, screaming drunkenly into their phones. I saw young men in cargo shorts and flip-flops, the Union Jack splayed across their chests, screaming drunkenly at each other.

To the extent that both groups inspired in me an ecumenical disgust for mob-ratified loutnishness, the prospect of wedging myself into a packed bar—be it English or American—was an unpleasant one. To further complicate my dilemma, I hadn’t yet even figured out who to root for (or against, as is often the case in international sports). You see, I’m a Canadian of Irish heritage (with a little Scots thrown in), so I tend to root against the dominant empires of the 19th and 20th centuries, respectively. Even the standard “underdog rule” didn’t seem to apply, as no one outside of the US can ever really bring themselves to think of any American team as “the underdog” (even if it’s hockey, or cricket, or netball).

I was having a very hard time explaining all of this to the man behind the bar at my eventual destination, Cariño (though at five minutes before kick-off I had his undivided attention in an empty restaurant). Yes, Cariño, the not-yet-licensed Mexican restaurant at which only a few days earlier I’d enjoyed the best rajas tacos of my life. It was perfect: no booze meant no young men in cargo shorts getting drunk, no diehard fans shouting obscenities at the screen, no singing of God Save the Queen or chants of “U-S-A!” (which at one point I heard coming from the nearby South 4th Street bar, an otherwise charming little spot). And instead of jostling through endless Alan Shearer or Alexi Lalas jerseys to get a drink, I was able to take the best seat in the house, by the TV, and let the full crazy of the Univision announcers wash over me.

Alone at the start of the game, by the time Steven Gerrard scored from a lovely slip of a pass from the oft-maligned Emile Heskey, a few others had joined me at the bar (though I’m not sure if they were actually watching). And by the time the deeply unlikable American Clint Dempsey (“Cleentonnedempsee” per the Univision announcers) had scored a shockingly bad goal on the unfortunate Robert Green, the restaurant had filled up, with about half the patrons paying attention to the game.

Oh, the game? The English looked good for the first 20 minutes but soon reverted to their classic international tournament form: a collection of uncertain stars running around the pitch waiting for Steven Gerrard to make something happen. However, despite all the panic in the English press, if Robert Green doesn’t let in that absolutely atrocious high-school sophomore goal, things don’t look so bad.

(As for me, I have no idea where I’ll be for the next game, and I think I kind of like it that way…)

6 Comment

  • I disagree with the Gerrard appraisal Mister Diamond. I disagree, I disagree, I disagree…

    Gerrard did the usual Steven Gerrard dance, and even before the plaudits on BBC tried to salvage some dignity from an otherwise dysfunctional performance I said knowingly to my better half. “They’ll show the goal and the three tackles”. Which they did. Why? Because that’s all there was to his entire 90 minute performance.

    England are crying out for a calm intelligent midfielder in the Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Wesley Schneider, Iniesta, Xavi, Alonso, Vieira or…MIKE BRADLEY mould. Unfortunately the Steven Gerrard/ Frank Lampard morphed midfielder is the epitomy of everything that’s wrong with English football. Head down, run around, aimless dumb stupid.

    It got so bad in midfield after an hour the england team totally bypassed the non firing engine and started launching long balls towards the front two. At one stage Ashley Cole didn’t een look before he launched an 80. Yes, 80. yard high ball which I believe is known as a hail mary in your parlance.

    England were awful for the last 86 minutes.

    Awful.

    USA are underdogs. Rank underdogs. But the behaviour of the media could turn them into England II. And you don’t want that…

  • @Derek
    Oh, I should clarify that by “watching Steven Gerrard run around and waiting for him to make something happen” I didn’t actually mean to praise his performance… And I kid you not, I was walking the dogs this morning and thinking to myself that England need one of those smart, tough midfielders (though I was thinking more of the fierce stabilizers like, well yes Keane, but also Makelele, Gattuso or Mascherano

  • I agree, I agree, I agree, Jonny, that there are certain unforeseeable joys to watching these games on Univision. While the field day had with Clint Dempsey’s name was quite notable, also notable was what happened once Crouch came in toward the end of the game. Did you catch this as well?

    Keeeeeeeeeeerouch! Keeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrouch! Keeeerrrrrouch, krrrrcouch! Khhhhhrrrrrouch! Khhrouch!

    All with the most splendidly and somehow gutturally rolled ‘r’s I’ve ever heard. It was momentous. They hollered his name at least a few times when he was not even part of a play, and a couple times it was followed by laughter. So there were various reasons to be laughing by the end of the USA-England match. (Yesterday, they had a blast with Deutschland’s Cacau, and I can’t wait to hear which of the Italian players’ last names will become fodder for pronunciation hyperbole today.)

    Speaking of having a laugh about a soccer match, I’d sum up that game by merging the relative endurances of currencies over the past year or so with goalie-specific blocks, injuries, overall performances, results and the like:

    Howard = the American dollar
    Green = the British pound

    I feel this works on many levels, but feel free to disagree, disagree, disagree.

    Now, if only there were a good blog post about a quaint French soccer blog written by and for football-fanatical literati… Wouldn’t that be interesting?

    Siempre no puedo que reirme!

  • Re: The Univision announcers, I’ve always been especially partial to their emphatic pronunciation of Dutch names. Every time Van Persie or Van Der Vaart carries the ball upfield for multiple syllables, it’s an orgy of rising and falling tussenvoegsels in the broadcast booth.

  • I think it’s worth mentioning what a terrible job ABC director did on the Dempsey goal. What the hell are they doing cutting to Capello with his shock look, and then cutting to English team walking around dejected? We were like “is it a goal or not”? Did we even see USA/Dempsey reaction or celebration? And way too many slow mo close-up shots, period.

    As for the game, I was surprised to the extent England dominated that game at times. I was expecting more of an even match but USA getting outplayed all over the pitch. I was was expecting more like the game vs Portugal in 02, or Italy in 06. But come on the goal was Euphoria, and we were lucky bounce off the post from a 2-1 second half lead. That is the big story. USA will have to be better, semi-finals or bust!

  • Did anyone else feel that the US was playing for a tie after the 40th minute? Dempsey’s goal sucked, but they’d been pressing the attack since the 5th minute. In the 2nd half England didn’t play well, but at least they tried to control the ball and manage the pace of the game, while the US seemed content with the brief adrenaline spurt of some hard-nosed tackles. At no point in the 2nd half did the US have a sustained offensive presence. Lovely athleticism from Altidore on that chance, though.