Modern History of the US Men's National Football (Soccer) Team
October 13, 2012 9:12 AM   Subscribe

When Alexi Lalas was asked by a woman sitting next to him on a plane what he did for a living, he told her he played soccer. She said: 'That's nice, but what do you do for a living?' Today the US Men's National Soccer Team can be watched on ESPN, has a large traveling fan base and can sometimes beat major teams like Italy or Spain, but back in 1990, no one knew who they were.
posted by BillW (16 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The article ends before reaching the last of the USMNT's great 90s games : 1998, CONCACAF Gold Cup, semifinal against Brazil. Kasey Keller, man of the match.
posted by suckerpunch at 9:47 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

A guy asked me once, at a party, what I did for a living, and I said "I'm a musician". The guy said "That's nice, but what do you do for a living?" This was back in 1990, and he didn't know who I was.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:57 AM on October 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

Kasey Keller, man of the match

A feat that was given proper tribute in the form of an indie-pop song.
posted by mcmile at 10:25 AM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

This was back in 1990, and he didn't know who I was.

Neither did I till I clicked your link. Perhaps you need to carry a clickable link with you at parties.

(Never heard of flapjacks at midnight and to be fair, never heard of the name under the link)
posted by rough ashlar at 10:37 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have such mixed feelings around Alexi Lalas and the rest of the US team of that era and my identity as, well, an American. I remember the '94 World Cup being pushed really hard in things like Sports Illustrated for Kids and by AYSO. The only game of that World Cup I saw was Germany v Bolivia, which my dad had somehow acquired tickets to through someone he knew from work. I remember standing on the seat in Soldier Field in the rain to be able to see and I remember the occurrence of Klinsmann's goal, but not the goal itself. The only memory I have of the US in that World Cup is Tab Ramos coming off injured at some point, so I must have seen one of their matches on TV, though I don't remember watching.

For me, that World Cup was the summer between second and third grade. It hadn't yet occurred to the kids in school that there was a common thread to the things they were mean to me about--that I wasn't a 'real American'. I don't know precisely when that happened, certainly by junior high. My footballing allegiances had been settled in any case at Euro 96, but talk of the US national team still feels like people saying "This is ours and not yours." I have this weird sense of nostalgia about that '94 team because it's from before anyone had told me I couldn't be American and from before I believed them. But at the same time, it almost feels like SI for Kids and whatever else lied to me, telling me about this team that wasn't allowed to be mine.

Getting on 20 years later, I'm torn between feeling like I can't call myself an American and feeling that I can and should call myself American because, damn it, I have as much ownership over and right to that word as anyone else. Recently, I was reading about that '94 team on Wikipedia and discovered that, according to the logic of my schoolmates, many of them weren't American either.* I just wish that when they were pitching the 'No, really, there's a national team and you could play for them' message to kids, they had found a way to say that there are lots of ways to be American and some of them include acknowledging ties to other countries.

*I'm loathe to use that phrasing because I have a big problem with this trend of saying country X is cheating by having players born overseas, especially because these 'foreign' players are inevitably identified by the colour of their skin. But we all have reading comprehension skills.
posted by hoyland at 10:50 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hey guess what! We have a women's national team too! And they actually kick way more ass than the men! Crazy, right?
posted by Brocktoon at 10:53 AM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Qatar based Al Jazeera network channel, beIN Sport, carried the US mens Semi-final qualifier yesterday which was a pleasant surprise. Eddie Johnsons game winning header had the wife and I high fiving and carrying on so loudly we scared the neighbors dog.
posted by vozworth at 10:55 AM on October 13, 2012

The Saga Of Brad Friedel
posted by the painkiller at 11:20 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hey guess what! We have a women's national team too! And they actually kick way more ass than the men! Crazy, right?

While the acronym USMNT drives me batty for some reason, I do appreciate that the US one of few countries that talks about the men's team in such a way that doesn't imply the nonexistence of the women's team.
posted by hoyland at 11:26 AM on October 13, 2012

United States Mutant Ninja Turtles
posted by fullerine at 11:58 AM on October 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

So for those wanting equal history for the US women's national team: here is a comprehensive history, albeit with some sloppy textual edits early on. And here is a NYT article about the most recent team.
posted by leslies at 12:29 PM on October 13, 2012

Brocktoon, they certainly do! I have been to 4 WWC games in Chicago and loved it - 2 in 1999 and 2 in 2003. We regularly watch the Women's National team play on TV. That is why I carefully posted about the Men's National Team, although they also went from "Who?" to athletes that get a lot of attentions.
posted by BillW at 2:05 PM on October 13, 2012

That's nice, but what does he do for a living? It isn't soccer. The closest he gets to soccer is playing on the Cat & Fiddle Drinking Soccer Team. I remember when the Cat & Fiddle moved out of Laurel Canyon. Pretty soon the place was always full of boozy, wheezing geezers in sweaty soccer jerseys. I thought this was a substantial decline in the quality of their clientele, which never was that high to begin with.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:23 PM on October 13, 2012

Yeah I'm sorry for the snark. I'm regularly disappointed by the men's team, they get most of the attention, yet the women's team actually has it's shit together and has been doing so fantastic for so long.
posted by Brocktoon at 5:46 PM on October 13, 2012

Sure he's cleaned up now, but if Alexi Lalas sat down next to me in 1994, I would have just assumed he made his living as a Viking.
posted by gladly at 7:40 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

You have to be fascinated by a team that occasionally competes with and/or beats the likes of Spain and Italy but has to eke out close ones versus Antigua.

Seriously, the USMT has go qualify for the WC by going into these shit-hole/borderline dangerous stadiums and play World Cup level football. That's not easy.

Also, what was it about the 90's that required all sports uniforms to be twice as large as necessary?
posted by bardic at 12:00 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

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