Select Soccer Silliness Part Deux

There are, admittedly, worse people in the world than George Vecsey (Tom DeLay, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Conor Oberst) but he has now incurred my wrath for the second straight day. (Go here for the first installment of Roth vs. Vecsey.) In part, it's because he has been unfortunate enough, in today's dispatch from Leipzig [NYT Select subscription required, but you don't need to read it, I've pasted the relevant parts below], to stumble unwittingly onto the topic of a heated e-argument i've been carrying on for the last 24 hours with my friend Mike, to wit: Does the US have any reason to complain about not being a number 1 seed in today's World Cup Finals draw?

GV never actually works up the bollox to mount an actual explicit argument in America's favor, but he clearly wants to. So instead, he just makes vague, whiningly aggrieved observations like:

"The Yanks were quarterfinalists last time. That is no small thing. Yet the masters of world soccer saw fit to slip Mexico into the top group of eight in this year's World Cup seedings, and delegate the Americans to steerage, where they have been before."

Yeah, and South Korea were semi-finalists, which is an even less small thing, but you don't see GV arguing that they should have been in the top 8. And let's unpack this myth of American accomplishment in 2002: They beat a highly-regarded but, as it turned out, deeply-flawed Portugal team (a good win, admittedly), they drew with South Korea (not a good team in anyone's book, despite their fortunate finish) then lost 3-1(!) to Poland (a loss which Mike, whose mother is Polish, claims was only allowed to happen as "a favor" to him: "I got to 'have my cake and eat it too,'" he argues, "because I got to watch my land of heritage finish on a high note, while at the same time I got to watch my underdog homeland make it to the second round.") Then they beat an impotent Mexican team 1-0 (a win which GV hilariously calls a "drubbing") before losing 1-0 to a mediocre German team, in a game in which, for all their dominance of possession, they generated only two clear-cut chances. Color me unimpressed.

Also, we get:

"The experience of 2002 must be worth something, even if the seeding committee tended to overlook it. The United States had its fun for three years, qualifying for the World Cup easily, sometimes rated above the older powers in the monthly world rankings. But at this World Cup draw, reality (or politics) intruded."

Huh? Is there anyone who doesn't understand that the only reason the US qualified "easily" is because they play in the CONCACAF region, against the likes of Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, et al? Try putting them in an average European qualifying group, composed of, say, Italy, Norway, Romania, and two weak teams, and see how they do.

And what "politics" is he talking about? If GV thinks the US got stiffed because the world hates America he should say it. But he'd still be wrong.

In response to the good showing in 2002, GV tells us, "a player like DaMarcus Beasley had viability with PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands."

Ah yes, DaMarcus Beasley (or a player like him, anyway.) Striking fear into the hearts of defenders from Anderlecht to Feyenoord.

I'll grant that Mexico doesn't scare anyone, and the US outplayed them in 2002. But the ones who really should be aggrieved are the Dutch. Compare Keller, Donovan, Reyna, and Beasley, to Dutch players like Van der Saar, Van Nistelrooy, Davids, and Cocu. With the exception of Keller, the Americans just aren't in the same league.

I have a theory, as yet not very well thought-thru, that there is something deeply and structurally, even conceptually, wrong with American soccer, which will prevent it from ever realizing the potential offered by its vast talent pool. Which would be fine by me.