They Wam Me Bach: How the US Women Stole My Heart [VIDEOS]

I tuned in somewhere around the 70th minute.  An online stream from what I assumed to be Scotland, based on the brilliance of the accents, featured a pair of commentators outraged by what had just transpired on the pitch.  A misguided foul call in the box against the United States.  A red card unfairly awarded to Rachel Buehler.  After a brilliant penalty save by Hope Solo, a phantom off-line call on the American keeper allowing a second attempt for the Brazilians and an equalizer.  From that point forward the Scots took every opportunity available to dissect every moment of the referee’s match.  Seeing the video later, they were right to do so.

I didn’t turn the match on with any expectation of emotional involvement.  Outside of Grant Wahl’s now-seminal Twitter feed, I can’t say I know much of anything about the women on the US national side.  Being that the team has very little exposure outside the World Cup, I can’t entirely blame myself.  Having watched each of their group stage matches, I found the entire WC enterprise to be lacking in those things that make top-tier international soccer so wonderful.  There was no fluidity to the match.  There was no consistency in the attack.  There was no control from the host of subpar referees.  And almost strikingly worse, there was no atmosphere inside the stadiums to inspire.  That atmosphere that elevates World Cup football from every other sporting event in creation.  The whole production seemed sloppy.

But then the US women went a “man” down to Brazil.  When you come from where I come from, disliking Brazilian soccer is as common as eating and breathing.  During the 1998 World Cup final, my buddy and I called a local Brazilian restaurant after each of the three French goals, punctuating our douchebaggery with an extended “goooooooooooooooooooooooool”.  And why not?  After Brazil beat the US in the ’94 knockouts, we had to endure a caravan of Pintos floating green and yellow out their windows down Kearny Avenue, honking celebratory horns.

So I started to get into each Megan Rapinoe run up the left flank.  I started to curse every unlucky bounce of the ball inside the Brazilian box.  I started to shake my head and walk around the room nervously each time a Brazilian women decided it was nap time and laid out on the pitch in a time-killing maneuver.  If this were Sweden or France or Japan on the other side, who knows?  But this was Brazil.  The US and Brazil.  And it occurred to me that it doesn’t matter what sex the individual in the kit happens to be.  When the kit features the letters U and S, I’m in.

And then it happened.  Extra time.  Stoppage time.

I’m hooked.  This kind of guts deserves to be celebrated by anyone who loves the game in this country.  I follow the USMNT and its players round the clock, four years after four years, and live and die with their World Cup efforts.  The women will never equal that.  But they have earned a respect that I thrilled to give them.  A respect that most likely means nothing to Solo and Wambach and Boxx but it does mean something to me.  They’ve guaranteed another pair of passionate eyes on their semifinal with France Wednesday.

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