The United States men’s national team has one of the great choirs in the sport (poached by the United States Naval Academy and Naval Academy Prep before it).
It begins with a single fan yelling “I” and then “I believe” and so on until the entire six-word sentence is repeatedly shouted to a bobbing, dancing, and increasingly frantic group of supporters.
“I think we will win.”
That’s great, except that the USMNT almost never wins, at least not when it matters.
Friday was the latest example, a 0-0 draw against England in the Americans’ second World Cup match. There was a lot to like about the USMNT’s performance and hardcore fans can find some pride in the fact that they shut out a powerful European team and had many stretches where they looked like the superior team.
However, it was a draw, not a win. And this draw achieved absolutely nothing for the United States, who needed a win, either against England or in next Tuesday’s group stage final against Iran, to advance to the round of 16.
When winning is all that matters, then a draw doesn’t matter.
Fun game, but this didn’t make sense. This was useless. This was a missed opportunity.
The belief that a victory will come, that one day the United States will win, is a powerful emotion, not just a chant. And he drove America’s boundless passion for its soccer team. There was plenty of U.S. support in the stands half a world away, watching parties from living rooms to bars to downtown plazas at home.
There are many people who are hoping and dreaming that the United States will get really good, really start winning.
Yet the USMNT is now only 2-7-6 in World Cup play in the past two decades. That’s it, two measly victories. They came against Algeria (2010) and Ghana (2014). That’s all.
On the bigger stage, it just exists. There’s a lot of talk about the time they almost won or how Landon Donovan pulled off a late draw or who knows what.
The good news on Friday was that the core of young players who make up this squad expressed disappointment at not beating England. There was not much talk of moral victory. Yes, Christian Pulisic hit a crossbar, but you can hit 100 and it doesn’t matter. That shot missed.
So now it’s about actually winning a game he has to win. It’s about proving that he can do something in which he’s famous singing of him is rooted.
Beat Iran, which ranks 20th in the world (the US is 16th). Beat Iran, who lost 6-2 to the same English team on Monday.
The challenge: Iran doesn’t need to win on Tuesday. Due to the 2-0 win over Wales (which the Americans drew 1-1), all the Iranians need is a draw. They can pack it up, especially at the end of a close game, and play for a draw.
Either way, if the USMNT isn’t up for that challenge, if they can’t get up to beat a beatable team in a game they need to win, then it’s once again back to the drawing board, because simply believing isn’t enough.