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Spirit of US team should whet your soccer appetite

I’ve always thought that soccer was boring. I played it for one year in 8th grade. In high school, even as cross country runners, we made fun of our soccer team (go figure). We could get away with it because we thought soccer was even more boring than running.

I don’t think that way anymore.

After watching much of the 2014 World Cup, I get it. I get why millions upon millions, if not billions, of people around the world watch the game they call football.

My impressions of this sport were wrong. Most of the games are fast-paced and incredibly tense. Every goal matters. Entire countries hopes and dreams live and die with those goals.

Some countries have had their dreams extended this year during magical runs. Costa Rica has reached the quarterfinals. So has Colombia. There, these underdog teams will match up with some of the world greats. And who doesn’t love a good underdog story?

Colombia will play host country Brazil later this week. Brazil has been a soccer giant for decades, with five World Cup titles. Costa Rica has to play Netherlands, the 2010 World Cup runners up.

Sadly, the US World Cup dreams ended after a tough 2-1 loss to Belgium. But this group of guys is an easy team to route for. They are everything American: hard-working, scrappy and always fighting until the end.

The epitome of all that is seen in goalkeeper Tim Howard.

His 16 saves against in the losing effort against Belgium were the most since the 1966 World Cup. Those saves single-handedly kept the American side in the game. He kept hope alive until the very end.

That’s what there is to love about this game. Hope. It’s the tenacity of it. The matches are thrilling (mostly) and it really is an incredible, if not underappreciated, sport. Maybe this World Cup will help more Americans finally admit that it’s perfectly alright to like soccer.

Here’s what won’t stand anymore. People saying soccer is boring. If you don’t think soccer is exciting, you weren’t watching the US-Belgium game.

After the US lost that game, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann called it “a bummer.” The loss is sure. But the American team can be proud of how they played. They can be proud that more people watched them play in the World Cup than watched the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals.

They can also be proud for possibly awakening an entire country to the wonders of this strange game called soccer. They held tough with some of the world’s best teams against their best athletes. There’s something very American about that.

The only unfortunate thing is we have to wait until 2018 to watch an American team in the next World Cup.