…And Justice For All

Rarely have I seen a more just result to a sporting event than in the USA v. Uruguay game yesterday.

Hereward warned me that Uruguay was a chippy team, relying on gamesmanship and shady play more than their skill. Unfortunately, he was very correct. Uruguay had a goodly amount of skill, and when they used it, they were impressive, but….

At least four times, they hit or kicked a US player during dead ball situations while the ref wasn’t looking. They obviously aimed at hurting Josie Altidore, the best scorer on the US team, and they did so. One particular trick they have down is leading with a knee on a high ball while opponents are going after it with their head. After the collision, they try to get a yellow card because their knee is in pain after colliding with the other guy’s head. Essentially they play like Ty Cobb at his meanest.

But they don’t even have the honor that Cobb had. They whined about every call, even some of the ones that went their way. They flopped dozens of times. They would make an obvious foul in a relatively unimportant place, and it would be a huge deal. After they got up a goal, they started stalling, obviously stalling, ridiculously obviously stalling. Then, when the US went up a goal late, they whined and complained about the US playing deliberately, except all the US was doing was playing at average speed, not stalling. Hereward says this kind of chippiness and gamesmanship is the standard from South American soccer, which is too bad, because they’re such good players.

The Uruguayans had a ton of skill last night, but they spent their time being chippy. For those who run the game who want to see it become more popular in the US, stopping the whining, stopping the acting, stopping the sleazy gamesmanship, and stopping the dirty play would be the place to start.

But this post is about justice. The US team handled all of the crap very well. They didn’t retaliate, they just plugged on. They didn’t really get into their game until late, because Uruguay did a good job of taking the US strategy away from them, but they never got discouraged.

Uruguay got a goal fairly late in the match, and it seemed like they would knock the States out. This is when the Uruguayans started stalling and wasting time blatantly. However, with about 5 minutes left, the US put a goal in more with luck and pluckiness than skill.

The game went to extra time and with about 10 minutes left, the US put in another goal from hard work. At this point, the game changed quite a bit. The Uruguayans started attacking, but the US had some great counter-attacks. Justice was served when the ref blew the final whistle.

The excitement, unfortunately, was not over. Apparently, the Uruguayans were so incensed at losing to the US that one of them spit into an American’s face and one launched a karate kick at a US player. A brawl ensued, not surprisingly, if these initial reports are true.

The US faces some tough challenges ahead. What’s the injury status of Altidore and Zizzo from this game? The ref gave the US 5 yellow cards (ridiculous actually, he gave out like 7 yellows in a 10 minute stretch) and with the brawl after the game, will the US have a full squad against Austria on Saturday?

But it was a great result. I was really impressed with the US team’s poise and courage and grit. They deserve a ton of praise and respect.

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