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My World Cup Vacation: Germany Ices Ronaldo, German-Americans Bolster Team USA

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - 05:00 PM

Jurgen Klinsmann coach of US Men's National Team signs soccer balls and soccer jersey after training at The Home Depot Center on August 31, 2011 in Carson, California. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty)

Wow. Yesterday featured some pretty memorable games. Both in the USA's so-called Group of Death. Germany looked every inch a threat for the the trophy while strolling past Portugal, holding the world's best player, Cristiano Ronaldo, to a couple of fairly tame efforts and easing up in the second half while Portugal was down a man. (What was Pepe thinking when he head-butted Thomas Müller? While Müller was sitting on the ground? Oh, right - he wasn't thinking.) Because of his red card, Pepe will be suspended for the US game, and it looks like two other Portugal starters will be missing through injury too, so the aftershocks of the German victory could help the Americans. Of course, we'll be without Jozy Altidore after what looked like a hamstring injury against Ghana, but the rest of the news from last night was pretty good.

I turned on the game and barely had time to decide "beer or bourbon?" when Clint Dempsey skipped around the Ghana defense and slid home a left-footed shot. (I then decided not to decide - I had both.) Neither defender nor keeper covered themselves in glory, but the goal, 30 seconds in, was huge for the Americans. Then it was a matter of holding on for dear life against a team full of quality players. When Ghana finally tied the score near the end of the game, you couldn't really say they didn't deserve it.

But what happened next was like the USA/Algeria game during the last World Cup in 2010. Remember when Landon Donovan scored on almost the last play of the game to put the US through to the knockout stages? That's what John Brooks' goal late in the USA/Ghana game was like last night. Of course, Landon Donovan is not in the team this year, and some experts are howling. But right now coach Jürgen Klinsmann is looking like a genius to me. He brought in Graham Zusi as a sub, and his pinpoint cross set up the winning goal. And Brooks is one of a coterie of German players who have American servicemen fathers, and are thus eligible to play for the USA. Klinsmann has actively recruited these German-born players, like Jermaine Jones and Fabian Johnson, who have both caught the eye. Teenager Julian Green, another with dual nationality, could be a force in the next World Cup.

But while this version of the American team has a distinctly international cast (Aron Jóhannsson is Icelandic, Mix Diskerud from Norway, and Timmy Chandler another German), Klinsmann is not the first to think of this. I remember when the USA was preparing for the World Cup that we hosted in 1994, someone at US Soccer realized that the German defender Thomas Dooley was in fact half American. And willing to play for us. So despite the fact that he spoke no English, he was brought in to solidify the back line, and eventually became captain of the team.So I was thinking of ol' Tom Dooley when Brooks headed that winning goal into the net.

And that, of course, leads me to today's song. It's the old Appalachian murder ballad "Tom Dooley," in the doleful version by The Kingston Trio that somehow became a hit song in 1958. Of course, this Tom Dooley hangs down his head and cries, but I'm guessing our Tom Dooley (actually, he now coaches the Philippines team) is feeling pretty good about the current crop of German-American players.

 

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