Whenever it knocks off a highly-regarded opponent, the United States tends to draw hyperbolic responses from the press. Every major win — hell, even a notable tie — is greeted with an almost unparalleled optimism for the future of the game. This one will impact the country's appreciation of soccer, aficionados claim, citing all the same reasons. You just watch.
And yes, maybe the Yanks' win over Spain will be The One, especially if they couple it with another Greatest Win Ever against Brazil tomorrow. But if history is any indication, then this unbridled glee will disappear soon, at least until the U.S. returns to South Africa next year. And then, if it advances past the round robin stage, we'll hear the same echoes of hope, just as we have in the past:
1994 World Cup: U.S. 2, Colombia 1
"This game is going to have a permanent effect" on soccer in America, said Alan Rothenberg, president of the United States Soccer Federation. "It's the biggest so far in history."
1995 Copa America: U.S. 3, Argentina 0
The United States defeated Argentina, 3-0, in the Copa America tournament tonight, and in the process engineered one of the most significant victories in American soccer history. For Argentina — a two-time World Cup champion and the two-time defending champion of this South American tournament — the game was supposed to be a warmup for the quarterfinals, as it already had clinched a berth. The United States, however, refused to play the role of sparring partner and scored two goals in the first half to quickly knock out one of the best teams in the world.
"I think this is the first step . . . to become a major soccer power," said midfielder Cobi Jones, who played brilliantly.
1998 Gold Cup: U.S. 1, Brazil 0
"It states we can play with anyone in the world, and on occasion, beat the best in the world," U.S. coach Steve Sampson said. "I think a lot of people are going to pay a lot more respect to the United States. ... We've made enormous strides. Is it like winning a Super Bowl? No, not yet. It's just not that way in this country. But we hope the sport will continue to grow."
2002 World Cup: U.S. 3, Portugal 2
There is little question there is a significant appetite for top-level soccer in the United States. The 1994 World Cup and 1999 Women's World Cups were successes, and World Cup qualifiers and marquee foreign opposition continue to draw fans in the tens of thousands. The problem that still plagues MLS, however, is convincing those fans that its product is worth sampling on a regular basis.
"What you saw today was the beginning of the emergence of our league. It establishes our credibility within the soccer audience that exists in this country," Gazidis said.
But if the U.S. shocks Brazil tomorrow? Forget I even mentioned this. We'll be too busy celebrating in the streets with vuvuzelas.