Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Hirshey: The Gulf Is Closing, But Not THAT Quickly

Illustration for article titled Hirshey: The Gulf Is Closing, But Not THAT Quickly

David Hirshey is the former soccer expert around these parts and one of the world-famous Soccer Jews. He talked to me, Emeritus, about yesterday's U.S. soccer loss to Brazil.

First off, are you aware that there were a record 2.5 Jews playing for the US (Benny The Yid Feilhaber, Jonathan Spector and half of Jonathan Bornstein)? That in itself would have made yesterday's match historic. But there were so many other reasons to cherish the game.

For one thing, it was one of those rare finals of a major soccer tournament in which both teams came to play. Too often, high stakes mean tight sphincters, and the result is a dour and defensive struggle that can be coma-inducing to the casual fan. But yesterday's game was end-to-end stuff, much of it electrifying. How about that lightning counterattack that led to the US's second goal? That was right out of Brazil's Jogo Bonito playbook. In fact, it was almost a carbon copy of the devastating breakaway Brazil scored against the US in their first matchup — but Donovan's cool finish was even better than Robinho's.


I've never been part of the Landycakes, cult but he made a believer out of me in this tournament. He's always been our most technically skilled player, but it was his work rate that blew me away. He never stopped digging for balls and running at defenders.

That is not to say he's on the same level as Kaka and Robinho, who spread doom and gloom where ever they go on the field. American soccer is simply not built to produce players of that pedigree. These are guys who grew up with the ball Velcroed to their foot from the time they could walk. They played on the sandlots of Brazil where they honed their jaw-dropping moves; most of the American players who are products of college soccer, where the emphasis is on athleticism and physicality.

But after upsetting Spain and leading Brazil for 73 minutes, the gulf in class is closing. The danger, however, is to think that it will disappear any time soon.

Still: I'm actually somewhat relieved that we didn't win. Had we beaten mighty Brazil, can you imagine how hysterical the media would have been, given that, according to the Times, we'd already pulled off The Miracle on Grass against Spain? The last thing the US needs is for people to start predicting we're going to win the next World Cup or even make it to the semis. We've always benefited from the fact that the elite teams don't take us seriously so we can sneak up on them, but once you beat Brazil in a final, even if it's only the Confederations Cup, you lose that element of surprise.


You have a target on your backs that screams "Brazil-killers." I think we can do without that for the time being.

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