The disallowed goal = Best thing for American soccer?

American readers, you may want to sit this one out.

I totally understand that the “indescribable rage” is still freshly boiling, a mere two hours after the 2-2 draw with Slovenia. With complete honesty, let me say that if I were you, I would not be interested in looking at the big picture or dispassionately analyzing the game. I’d want to hurl objects at other objects. Or people. Hell, I’d probably be actually doing it.

But here’s the kicker anyway.

Maurice Edu’s disallowed goal may actually be a good thing for American soccer.

The referee’s inexplicable decision (well, I have a pretty good explanation, and it involves shadowy gamblers in some smoke-filled den in southeast Asia) may have cost the USA a potential three points. Nothing is assured. Even if Edu’s goal stood, Slovenia could have got one back (they came close in the 89th minute). And if the linesman had flagged Slovenia’s second goal for offside (even though he was correct in not doing so), it would have changed the complexion of the game. And if, if, if…

As it is, the States look decent going into the final game of the group stages. England/Algeria hasn’t happened yet as of this writing, but presuming the Three Lions take it, an American victory over Algeria next week should be enough to see them through to the Round of 16. So this disallowed goal has not singularly turfed the team from the World Cup.

What it has done, however, is given American sports fans a galvanizing moment.

Sports fans love huddling together under the pretense that they’re connected with their fellow fan by virtue of the shared emotions: joy, grief and — quite often — victimization. It’s why robotic officials, immune to error, would be terrible for sports. When people talk about the “human element” of officiating, they’re not glorifying the inevitable mistakes that officials make — they’re glorifying the part of sports that brings fans together with each other, gets them to call into radio shows and gives media folks plenty to write about: the idea that their team “got screwed”.

And that’s what the narrative of this game will be, I hope. The USA did its best to mount a memorable comeback and “deserved” to win, but they got screwed. Oh, that damned ref! some American who’s never seen a soccer game in their life will say, There wasn’t anything there? Why did he disallow the goal? That’s bullshit! We got screwed!

Now, you could make the case that this moment — which will be discussed by millions of folks with no knowledge of the Laws of the Game, in the same way Robert Green’s gaffe was analyzed by millions who’ve never donned a set of goalkeeping gloves — will actually increase cynicism among Americans, both supporters and detractors of the game. They’ll use it as fodder for their tired arguments that soccer is full of diving and BS calls and is just some communist bullshit for European fairies.

But I’d like to think — I really would, and maybe it’s silly idealism on my part — that if the game is framed as “the US got cocky and gave up two early goals, but they mounted a valorous comeback and were denied their deserved victory by a shitty ref”, the average fan might gain some interest in the team. Maybe even be willing to cheer them. Sure, that framing I just described isn’t totally accurate, but that doesn’t matter. Perception, as always, trumps reality.

If Edu’s goal had stood, and the US beat Slovenia 3-2, I get the impression that the reaction by many would have been “so what? we beat Slovenia? and we had to come back to do it. is Slovenia even a country?”

As it is, maybe Americans (even those who aren’t yet footie converts) will rally around this supposed injustice. Maybe this could be a turning point at which fans of an under-followed national team unite around a common cause: our team got screwed, we’re pissed off, so let’s get together and support this team in their future fights.

Hey, it worked for us.

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5 Responses to “The disallowed goal = Best thing for American soccer?”

  1. […] The disallowed goal = Best thing for American soccer? « some canadian guys writing about socce… […]

  2. Even soccer haters in America will have a very hard time dousing water on the fire of such a stirring, late comeback. See you in the round of 16 folks!

  3. Kevin Smith Says:

    They still have to beat Algeria, and while it shouldn’t be a problem, England certainly had a hard time doing it!

    But ya, my prediction of England 1, Slovenia 2 needs a tie between Algeria and the US, coupled with an England win. But frankly, like most predictions, mine have been bad. I’m 14 for 29, which isn’t terrible, but certainly won’t be winning me any prizes.

  4. […] wrote last week that the disallowed goal against Slovenia may have been a good thing for American soccer, as it […]

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