Cup final shows U.S. for real

GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

Brazil's second-half comeback that ruined America's dream of international soccer supremacy at the Confederations Cup was more about Brazil's superiority than an indictment on U.S. soccer.

The U.S. stayed with the master tacticians in yellow every step of the way in yesterday's final.

Lacking the pedigree and experience of the Brazilians, the Americans did themselves proud, showing yet again they are no pushovers.

This current group of American players has much more genuine talent and ability than the Alexi Lalas and Cobi Jones teams of the past -- known more for their hair and flair than being true contenders internationally.

It's time we call the United States a world soccer power -- and it's been coming for a while.

Recent U.S. dominance over Mexico has been brushed aside as being a by-product of an uncompetitive CONCACAF region rather than legitimate victories over a soccer power.

Their 2002 World Cup victory over Portugal was seen more as a Portuguese failure than a sign of American progression.

Their 2006 World Cup letdown in the Group of Death was used as an example of American mediocrity, but the U.S. was the only team to beat Italy during the tournament.

To the soccer snob or purist, there is no way the American style of play should be spoken about in the same breath as the creme de la creme. Under-educated and ignorant observers have been wrong in suggesting the United States has been coddled by FIFA by being given a top-15 ranking.

But it's time for those short-sighted attitudes to change.

Their performance in the Confederations Cup is a clear indication that the Americans not only are on the rise, but also are a team that should be considered a true threat to hoist next year's World Cup.

Before thrashing African champion Egypt and shocking Spain in the semifinals, seemingly ugly losses to Italy and Brazil were grossly exaggerated by American red cards.

There's no doubt about it, this group of Americans can play. And looking back, it's safe to say they are the direct result of 15 years of development, stemming back to the establishment of Major League Soccer in 1993 and subsequently hosting the World Cup in 1994.

Financial investment and infrastructure development are at the heart of the rise of U.S. soccer. Fields and facilities are one thing, but superior organization in talent evaluation has been just as important.

Bringing players up through the various ranks to the national level has been an important element to the rise of U.S. soccer. The result has been a more complete player. American players always have been athletic and fit, but now add heady, composed and organized to that list.

Though widespread interest in the American brand of soccer may be lacking, American interest in the world's game is all too apparent.

The continued growth of MLS, the commitment to building more soccer-specific stadiums, and ESPN recognizing the diehard interest and profitability in the game, bodes well for the rise of the American player.

The rest of the world better get used to it -- U.S. soccer is here to stay.

Goal-line technology

The fact that FIFA hasn't fully embraced goal-line technology is disgraceful. With the game sitting at 2-1, Kaka's second-half header clearly crossed the goal line before Tim Howard punched the ball off the crossbar.

Goal-line technology would clearly have determined it to be a goal.

Road woes for TFC

Toronto FC's 3-0 loss at Real Salt Lake on Saturday should sober up what had been an inflated high for the Reds.

A pair of wins over the MLS-worst New York Red Bulls and a victory over essentially a make-shift Montreal Impact side looked better on paper than in reality.

Although TFC sits tied for second place in the tight East, a whopping 10 of its 16 games have been at home. With a glut of road games ahead, superior possession soccer and much better defensive organization is needed.

TFC has been brutal on the road, notching only one win while conceding a whopping 15 goals.


Videos

Photos