The World 1, the United States 0.
If there had been a scoreboard tallying moral victories at the World Cup in France in 1998, it would have shown the rest of the planet rejoicing in the red, white and blue's rare lack of effort, skill and poise.
The Americans were embarrassed in France; they barely showed up to the games.
Well, the team did, and considering the U.S. is still the newborn infant of international soccer, qualifying for the biggest and baddest sporting event the world has ever seen was quite an accomplishment.
It was the American citizens that embarrassed themselves four years ago (myself included) - not the players.
While every other team played with the support, dedication and allegiance of an entire nation, the United States peaked its tiny head out of the locker room and quietly snuck out onto the field. Following the beating/game, the U.S. returned to the showers as the rest of the world pointed and laughed.
However, the ones dedicated to making a competitive international soccer team in the States - all four of 'em - returned from France excited about Korea/Japan in 2002.
They built a soccer team the way it's supposed to be built. First, they grabbed a couple of old-timers who had been there before - Cobi Jones, Joe Max Moore and Tony Meola, to name a few. Next, they made sure the top talent was ready to go - Brian McBride, Claudio Reyna and Brad Friedel. Then, they picked up a few young studs who are the future of U.S.A. soccer: Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and Josh Wolff.
And one more thing you need to win a World Cup - a guy with a mohawk.
When Clint Mathis' universal futbol 'do started its historic trip to South Korea though, it was no different than France four years earlier.
Our boys are goin' to Korea? We fightin' them again?
The Americans were prepared for that. They were the only ones that knew something special was about to happen.
So, they shocked Portugal.
Then, they went out and played against 68,014 South Koreans in a stadium that made Smokey change his pants.
At that moment, the number of supporters of American soccer multiplied exponentially.
That's right, there were 12 of us.
That number quickly exploded into the millions as people flooded into moonlit stadiums across the country to watch their nation on the jumbotron.
Work tomorrow - who cares? Honey, have you seen our American flag?
Now, we're a soccer country ... almost.
About an hour and a half before watching the U.S. stun Mexico, I took my nightly spin on AOL. Of the people on my buddy list with away messages at the time, half of them read something like this: "Taking a nap so that I can watch the game. USA! USA! USA!!!"
You can almost feel a shiver going down the back of every other country in the world.
The nations that once celebrated the one sport that the Americans could never take away from them are now terrified of seeing the Cup draped in an American flag.
Regardless of what happened early this morning when the United States met stronger, faster and more talented Germany, the moral scoreboard has certainly shifted in four years.
The World 1, the United States 1.
U.S. soccer fever is spreading
Published: Fri Jun 21, 2002 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 04:19 p.m.