I know it's hard in the midst of such disappointment to push away those feelings and recognize that the U.S. team accomplished a great deal in this tournament. There will be plenty of time for analysis and recriminations. The bottom line is that this team earned the respect of the soccer world. I can't tell you how many of my British friends sent messages of support and appreciation for what this U.S. team brought to this tournament. Yes there were embarrassing lapses at the back and yes we repeatedly failed to finish our chances, but gone are the days when the U.S. team is considered a pushover and a U.S. win must be down to good fortune.
No phase of the U.S. team escaped error, from each line of players to the coach, but no other team in this tournament displayed the resiliency, confidence, and toughness to fight through mistakes that would have sent other teams to the showers far earlier than our boys went out. We were, seriously, among the revelations of the tournament. Which other team has provided a quarter of the drama of the United States so far? I know that it's more intense for a supporter, but even the nuetrals have been entranced by each of the four U.S. games. Going behind early and storming back late is hard on the nerves but great for entertainment. The cardiac kids sure did open some minds about U.S. soccer.
The world was watching as Landon Donovan took the game onto his shoulders against Slovenia and scored the deserved winner against Algeria. Clint Demspey was flat out the bravest player in the tournament, constantly throwing himself into dangerous situations and more often than not coming out the winner. Michael Bradley was uneven at times but shows incredible promise at his still remarkable 22 years. Tim Howard will lose sleep over Ghana's opener but should be comforted with his numerous tournament saving stops against England. Bob Bradley showed the courage to both admit erroneous decisions and gamble for the necessary victories even though he will rue the failure to get the team ready to play from the opening whistle.
This one really hurts because we were the better side today against Ghana and had a real chance to make it to the semis against the reputable but not terrifying Uruguayans. It will be a long time until the United States has an easy a path deep into a tournament as this one. But perhaps this tournament will be the last when that is required. We can ask the question of what would our side have looked like with Charlie Davies or a fully fit Oguchi Onyewu. We can hope that Jozy Altidore adds some polish to his remarkable phsyical gifts. But we can also say with confidence that all of the most important contributors to this squad should still be able to compete for a place in the team for the next World Cup and there is genuine hope that the next generation of American players will be even more talented.
I am sad that we lost. I am despondent that it will be another four years until these same emotions will be stirred in me again. But I am grateful that this team pushed through the barriers that had held U.S. soccer back both in this country and around the world and I, for one, am proud to be an American soccer fan today.
Follow Ken Gude on Twitter: www.twitter.com/assocfootball