This is not the end of Rico

If you saw Cornell Glen's miss and Rico's wonder strike, you saw the game. In fact, I'm jealous of you if that's all you saw.

Nevertheless, yesterday was as good a day to be an American as it was a lousy day to be Argentine or Northern Irish.* Bottom-lining it, the very worst case scenario is needing a draw at home to Costa Rica to go directly to South Africa. A loss gets us a playoff game. That's not an option we'd have been thrilled with when the Hex started, but it's well within the bounds of reason. Especially - and I can't emphasize this enough - because Honduras and El Salvador were better than advertised.

Even more especially because C'MON. That sexy home qualifying record the US is sporting didn't just happen randomly, and it isn't meaningless just because Mexico's is so much better. Our World Cup qualification - our direct WC qualification, I mean, there's even a second chance after the trapdoor, for heaven's sake - is at risk on something that has never happened before. We're FINE, guys.

Now, one might complain that based on this past week's performances, our trip to South Africa will be nasty, brutish and short. Well...yeah, but that's what they said about the last one.

I hate to be a stupid, rosy-cheeked fanboy on this, I really do. You're right, all of you. We were nigh-unwatchable, except for highlights totalling, what, a minute of actual run of play? The nicest thing I can say about the defensive performance is that I loved the way Bocanegra plays left back. We knew Jozy needed playign time, but doesn't AC Milan have, I dunno, some reserve games or something for Gooch? And if Dempsey or Donovan gets themselves marked out of a game next summer, wow, is that going to be doubleplusungood.

All of these things are true, all of these things are worrisome, and fortunately, we have months to work on them. There's not really a correlation between qualifying form and tournament form. I think Simon Kuper's upcoming book touches on that subject, but anyone who's followed Spain or Greece might have suspected. And while Italy did win their qualifying group last time around, they did it while losing to Moldova, which in CONCACAF terms would be like losing a road game to the Empire of Washitaw de Dugdahmoundyah. We lost a home qualifier in 2001 before our terrific 2002 Cup, we won the Hex in 2005 before going one two three kick the next year.

This is the national team that can beat Spain and sweat bullets against Trinidad. That's life as an American soccer fan, and it's actually way better than it was. If you can't handle it when Americans don't win easily, well, there's always NASCAR, the NFL, and old World War II movies.

But let us now praise Ricardo Clark, who brought his World Cup roster spot chances back to life like a white-hot phoenix, Germany Jones be damned. Curmudgeons and killjoys will recall a Gold Cup goal scored by Benny Feilhaber that was equally wonderful, but led to Feilhaber's career going precisely nowhere. There is no such thing as gratitude in World Cup roster spots, and even if there were, both Feilhaber and Michael Smith have been deep mid goalscoring threats in the past.

But none of those guys stomped on Carlos Ruiz. Is it too late to get Josh Wicks a game?

*It must have been so good to be English there for a minute. Sweet, cold revenge for the Euro qualifier on the same day that Argentina loses and Scotland and Northern Ireland crash...except today, Germany crushed them in the Euro finals. England fans also live and die with the women's team, right?