By Jeffrey Swindoll
The U.S. national soccer team had the decision resting at its feet on whether or not to guarantee Mexico’s elimination from World Cup qualification.
All it had to do was lose against Panama on Tuesday night. Deep into stoppage time, down 2-1, midfielder Graham Zusi and forward Aron Johannsson scored to give the U.S. a comeback 3-2 win.
This win stirred up plenty of controversy among U.S. fans. Should the U.S. have given up so that Mexico wouldn’t qualify?
America is about having a winner’s mentality. Why are the Olympics so popular in America? It’s because we like to watch our country dominate across the tournament every four years.
We are the winners, and Americans want to see winners on their national soccer team as well. We want to be the best.
Many fans, such as myself, were watching the game on Tuesday actually hoping the U.S. would end up losing the Panama game. That way, Mexico would be disqualified.
Surely, U.S. fans should want nothing more than to see Mexico, their arch rivals, suffer the embarrassment of missing out on the World Cup in Brazil next summer.
On the contrary, U.S. fans should want nothing more than the U.S. team to be ruthless in its pursuit to win and get the job done no matter the circumstances.
Say what you want about the U.S. foolishly helping out their long-standing bitter rival across the border in Mexico, but the U.S. got this result for no one but themselves. This result is about Americans stamping their superiority in North American soccer for all to see.
I believe the 3-2 score line on Tuesday night against Panama is a testament to how far the national team has come.
A U.S. team, made up largely of reserve players, went into an incredibly hostile environment in Panama, gave up two goals, faced a team that had every reason to be motivated to beat the U.S., and still managed to fight to solidify the win.
Mexican announcers who were calling the U.S. and Panama game were actually commending the U.S. and criticizing their own national team as the U.S. gifted Mexico with the goal they needed for qualifying.
The announcers said directly to Mexican players on Azteca TV, “You didn’t earn anything to wear our colors. The USA, with subs, with many subs as the visiting team, shows us once again what the USA is all about … how to play this game with dignity, how to approach the sport.”
The announcers went on to call the Mexican team a bunch of “punks” and “arrogant” players. And finally, they said what many Mexicans believed would never be true, “America is better than Mexico in soccer.”
Should Americans be mad that their national team gave Mexico a lifeline to qualify?
I’ll answer with another question: Who cares?
The U.S. team does not operate on anyone else’s terms. This team showed the rest of CONCACAF (North America’s governing soccer confederation) exactly what it takes to be the best in North America — relentlessness, chemistry, belief and pure grit to grind out the tough results.
That’s where the great victory for the U.S. is. We earned our respect from some teams that consider us inferior to theirs, and the other teams that thought they were on the same level as us were reminded of where they really stand.
We showed them that we don’t care what they think or what they say. We want to be the best, and Tuesday showed the rest of the region just that.
We are the best in CONCACAF, without question. We earned it.
Jeffrey Swindoll is a sophomore journalism major from Miami. He is a reporter for the Lariat