USMNT has good history against the world's elite

Matt Sullivan

The USMNT has a knack for playing close games, regardless of the competition, and they tend to bring their best against the best.

When was the last time you saw the United States get blown out, or for that matter, handily beat a team by three or more goals? Without the assistance of Google, I can't think of a recent game where the U.S. was on either side of a game like that against top competition. This year has been exemplary in that regard, as the USMNT has not scored or conceded more than two goals in a single game.

Most people prefer to hear bad news before the good news, so here's the bad news: there have been several times in which our beloved national teamers have underperformed against a team that one would hope would be more roadkill than roadblock. To see evidence of this, we need not look far into the past: on March 5 of this year, Ukraine beat the USMNT by a score of 2-0. If you can recall, there were a number of reasons for this debacle (namely a certain centerback having a terrible game). After games like this, there is a plethora of mutterings like, "It's just a friendly, results don't matter."

While I mostly agree with that statement, the unfortunate fact is this: many of the world's best teams consistently win big against lesser opponents, even in friendlies. Looking at the other teams in Group G, we see that in their World Cup warm-up games, they did just that. Portugal routed Ireland 5-1, Ghana beat South Korea 4-0, and Germany defeated Armenia 6-1. In contrast, the USMNT only managed to beat Azerbaijan 2-0. Granted, these scores do not tell the full story, particularly when speaking of friendlies, but it does illustrate a gap. Perhaps more concerning is that in the last World Cup, the U.S. could only manage to tie Slovenia and beat Algeria by a last-gasp goal from Donovan.

Now on to the good news. While the U.S. may not embarrass low ranked countries, they rarely get embarrassed by the world's elite. Rather than just looking into the recent past, we can take an even larger look into history to see that the U.S. can hold their own against the top teams in the world. I could bring up a few games and give lengthy explanations as to why things went the way they did ... but how about we just look at some results from the past and relish in the score lines and performances of those that represent our country? 1950 World Cup vs. England, 1994 World Cup vs. Colombia, 1995 Copa America vs. Argentina, 2002 World Cup vs. Portugal, 2012 friendly vs. Italy, 2013 friendly vs. Germany, and perhaps the most impressive of them all: 2009 Confederations Cup vs. Spain.

What does this have to do with the World Cup? Well, no matter your devotion to the national team, there is no denying the fact that as far as talent is concerned, the other teams in Group G are, for the most part, at a particular advantage. But to say that America doesn't have a chance because of this would be un-American in and of itself. The United States loves the underdog, and this year we are the underdog. You know what they say: "Anything can happen." That is never more evident than this World Cup, when the Netherlands ousted Spain 5-1.

The USMNT has come up big in the past, and I believe they are more poised than ever to do it again this year. They shocked the world by defeating Spain in 2009, and can we really say that this year's squad is not significantly more talented than the one that pulled off that feat?

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