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Monday, May 21, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Note to Jurgen: Go for it!

— Oh say did you see?

Did you see the United States score way early and way late in its World Cup soccer opener and hold off dreaded Ghana, 2-1? Did you see the winning header by substitute John Brooks, who saved our bacon off a corner kick by substitute Graham Zusi in the 86th minute?


I’m telling you, we come at you in waves.

We’re in like our 2,400th minute of national soccer pride. The lads are off and running in steamy Brazil, except maybe U.S. player Jozy Altidore, who strained his hamstring in Monday’s game, reminding us that Landon Donovan being left off might haunt this team yet. By the way, they left off Marty St. Louis, too.

U.S. stalwart Clint Dempsey scored 30 seconds into this game. You might have missed it. I was looking in the fridge, trying to decide between onion dip or salsa. Some of us can watch soccer for hours, days, months and never see a goal.

Anyway, Dempsey also had his face smashed by a Ghana leg. He fell to the grass bleeding from his apparently broken nose. He gave us the red, and across the country we chipped in with the white and blue.

Yes, American soccer is big again.

But let’s not dedicate John Brooks Middle School just yet.

At least until we see what happens when the U.S. plays Portugal on Sunday night in another group-stage throwdown. Beyond that lies mighty Germany, which systematically devoured Portugal, 4-0.

This would be a fine time for our German U.S. coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, to loosen up.

Go for it, dude, say we can win it all.

Klinsmann showed he was capable of that kind of emotion, jumping for joy at Dempsey and Brooks’ goals and when stoppage time expired. Not that we knew exactly when stoppage time would expire, since it is kept on the field and there is clearly no technology, on earth, that allows time to be kept on a stadium clock that starts and stops as play is interrupted ... and about those medical crews with their little red tub stretchers that look as if they could hold both beer and ice …

I know, I know. I don’t understand the game.

Back to Jurgen.

Klinsmann, on the eve of the Cup, said it was “unrealistic” to think the U.S. had any shot at winning soccer’s grand prize.

He was right, too.

Look, when you need a win to get from under Ghana’s shadow, that says it all.

Klinsmann is building for the next World Cup and the one after that, too, which is why youngsters like Brooks, 21, are in Brazil and Donovan is not.

Winning the Cup is unrealistic.

But some things are left unsaid.

Zip it up, Jurgen, or think big.

It’s the American way to dream, to think the impossible is possible. Someone should show Klinsmann Armstrong on the moon, or the U.S. hockey team at Lake Placid.

Monday was a chance to think “Why not us?”

Sure, some team will tell us why not soon enough. Maybe it will be Portugal.

Monday was for USA. Conga lines.

Today Ghana, tomorrow the world!

Let’s celebrate a good old-fashioned American success story, John Anthony Brooks — who has never lived in the United States. Brooks was born in Germany, where his father was stationed with our military. On one elbow, Brooks has a tattoo of Berlin. On the other is a tattoo of Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, his father’s home state.

As you might have guessed, both Germany and the United States recruited Brooks for their national teams.

Honest John chose us.

Guess he isn’t very realistic. Neither was his late goal. It happened just that same.

Jurgen, you hearing all this?

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