It looks like ESPN is now “on board” with soccer in America. Here’s today’s piece by Bill Simmons, it has an interesting comparison between Jozy Altidore and the NBA’s Dwight Howard.
We scored five goals in four games: two on hustle goals off second chances, one on a penalty kick, one on a brain fart by England’s goalie, and Donovan’s goal against Slovenia, which came with the help of a mistimed defensive play. Not a single “WOW!!!!!!!!!” play among them.
…We reached a certain plateau in 2010, a little like a 47-win NBA team that everyone knows can’t make the Finals. Watch how those crafty Germans bang home scoring chances, or the blinding speed of their young stud Mesut Ozil on the wing. Rewatch that “WOW!!!!!!!!!” goal scored by Uruguay’s striker to beat Korea Republic, or the one by Tevez in the Argentina-Mexico game. Team USA never made you scream “WOW!!!!!!!!!” for a really good reason: We don’t have a player with that kind of chops. This was a team of grinders and overachievers. We didn’t have enough speed without Charlie Davies, and we certainly don’t have a world-class striker who creates scoring chances out of thin air. In four Cup games, our forwards scored zero goals. That’s why we went home over everything else.
By 2014, maybe young Jozy Altidore (only 20) will get there; he certainly has the physical gifts, although it’s unclear whether he has any scoring touch. (It’s the difference between Dwight Howard’s low-post game and Pau Gasol’s low-post game; you can work at it all you want, but you’ll never be as good as the guys who are born to put it into the net. A guy like Germany’s Miroslav Klose could find the far post falling out of a wheelchair when he’s 60. It’s a DNA thing. I am convinced. So the worry is that Jozy has too much Howard in him and not enough Gasol.) Maybe Davies and Fast Young Guy X will provide that missing burst on the wing. Maybe Teenage Prodigy X is four years from saving us and we don’t even know his name. But you can’t advance to the semifinals without the “WOW!!!!!!!!!” factor. Impossible.
I’m rooting for Altidore to make The Leap, but I’m definitely concerned that he has too much Dwight Howard in him. The U.S. Soccer Team needs more guys with the physicality and athleticism of Terrell Owens and Allen Iverson — if those guys were “heady” soccer players.
I just named three headcases for my desired athlete(?)
(2-1/2, at least.)
Maybe that’s the reason U.S. soccer has yet to win big on the world stage — all of the headcases gravitate to the “big three” sports — if only because that’s where they’re tolerated.
Check out Simmon’s piece — it’s 20 bullet points about the World Cup and soccer in America in general.