US Soccer Still Searches for Passion

By Jeff Kassouf

The United States National Team will begin its quest for a formidable showing in the Copa America tonight against Argentina. While the roster will be quite different from the one fresh off of a Gold Cup Championship, the emphasis will still be on gaining experience and winning.

Last Sunday, a crowd of over 50,000 packed into Soldier Field in Chicago to witness yet another border clash, the second game of the year pitting Mexico against the United States, this time for significant hardware. The boisterous crowd witnessed the U.S. win 2-1 for the Gold Cup in another intense game between the rivals, but something was missing.

That’s right – it was any type of noise from United States supporters. The U.S. National Team has been well supported over the years, with every recent game drawing at least 20,000 people regardless of opponent. The members of “Sam’s Army,” the traveling supporters group, also deserve a great deal of credit.

However, the problem is that this avid group of supporters takes up only one section behind the goal, and is the only group who makes any real noise for the United States consistently. Many of the U.S. fans in attendance at these games are informed about the game, but remain very reserved at a time when they should be chanting and encouraging their team

As hard as it is for a U.S. supporter to hear, the Mexican fans are simply more passionate. Yet again, they outnumbered U.S. fans by at least 2 to 1 at Soldier Field on Sunday, and were the only one’s that could really be heard.

Yes, I realize that there is a large Mexican population in this country, especially the major cities that these games take place in. But, why is it that United States supporters can’t turn out in larger numbers, or at least in a louder presence for these games?

Mexico beat Brazil in the Copa America last night. That’s great, but I guarantee you that Sunday still lays bitterly in their mouth, as they have not been able to beat their northern rivals for quite some time now. If there is one team on the “To Beat” list, it is surely the United States. Mexico will be happy with a good performance in Venezuela in the coming weeks, but the recent history of loses to the United States will continue to push their patience.

So, why can’t U.S. supporters get more excited for games like these? Even if it is just the Mexico games that they get excited about, at least it is something. Mexico is our biggest rival, and the Gold Cup is not a laugher of a tournament anymore. With the win, the U.S. is now in the 2009 Confederation’s Cup, which brings quality competition.

My apologies go out to those who do regularly attend U.S. Soccer games (don’t forget the women), but it is clear that more support is needed. The United States is the only country in the world that can feel like they are in a hostile road environment when they are actually playing a game on their own soil. I have no problem with the diversity of the country, but I live for the day when American supporters actually make their team feel at home, and Sam’s Army packs a stadium, not just a section.

Jeff Kassouf is a staff writer for The New Paltz Times and a freelance writer who covers soccer, and can be reached at: jeffkassouf@yahoo.com

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