Lure of the local | Passionate postmortems for the USA

Even socked in by a tropical storm, scores still trickle in to be duly posted on the BBC wall chart.

Englewood, Florida | On holiday, near the one-time home of the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League and Tampa Bay Mutiny of Major League Soccer, soccer and, specifically, the 2006 World Cup finals did not seem misplaced. Wait staff at a Tampa International Airport tavern did not object to tuning to the U.S.–Czech Republic in the first round, as long as you were stuffing your face with mahi-mahi. Others waiting for a lull in Tropical Storm Alberto set up camp, murmuring as the goals rained into the U.S. net.

Of course, no one wants to hear about a vacation that they have not taken themselves, so fast-forward to this afternoon, when, 10 days later, the Americans had been routinely dispatched from Group E. This represented a return to normal service, but freshly minted ESPN soccer pundits Eric Wynalda and Marcelo Balboa—he of the 1970s-vintage heavy-metal hair, according to the July issue of When Saturday Comes—were up in arms. “Let me be the first to say it,” Wynalda mentioned, trying to keep his blood pressure down, “[U.S. coach] Bruce Arena screwed up this World Cup for the U.S.” Replacements for Arena were bandied: Carlos Queiroz, Frank Yallop, Jí¼rgen Klinsmann. Can Sven-Göran Eriksson‘s name be far behind? On and on it went, for one hour, the debating over tactics and team selection, who must be sacrificed, would the sport ever recover …

Has the U.S. finally joined the world? We were giddy. Surely this is more affirming testimony concerning the state of U.S. soccer than winning the World Cup. Grousing and discontent—this is the natural state of a soccer fan, of club or country. In our view—since our interest in the World Cup is seeing Arsenal players score as many goals as possible (and TomáÅ¡ Rosickí½‘s brace against the U.S. put two more in our satchel)—the Americans’ “Project 2010″ has been completed, four years ahead of schedule.

The extent of World Cup fever, in our ZIP code: A banner is placed outside a Decatur, Georgia, bistro.

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