My computer has been in the shop for the past week, which is why I'm not exactly up to the minute here. Pretend you've been organizing a boycott of my insensitivity and ignorance (well, more so than usual), because I had a real problem with having this game held on September 11 to begin with, and I had a real problem with how some of the people involved handled the juxtaposition. I suppose Sunil could have asked Jamaica and FIFA to move the game one day or the other, but FIFA and Jamaica probably would have said no - international days are difficult to come by, and even one day to the left or right screws up a lot of people. Every other game was held that day, and since in retrospect there were probably no realistic alternatives, our team and fans had to adjust as best they could.
Which, a week out, was as good or better than expected, I suppose. But at the time, I didn't think much of this at all. What if Jamaica had been the ones to score between minute 9 and minute 11? What if we have a national tragedy on New Year's Eve - will future in-stadium demonstrations have to take place for 19 minutes? Should a 9/11 memorial really perform the same function as "MAKE SOME NOISE!" on the Jumbotron at a Clippers game?
Fortunately, Herculez Gomez made the discussion irrelevant...at least until Ian Darke said "the number 9 scores on 9/11!"
I love Ian Darke. He, even more than John Harkes, are the overriding exceptions to my "American announcers for American soccer" jingo platform, and I look forward to Darke's commentary throughout qualifying and in 2014. But boy, was that crass.
But what else could I expect? Have the moment of silence, then go on as if nothing had happened? The phrase is "Never forget," not "Okay, forget for a couple of hours." The alternatives were to remember in the awkward context of a soccer game, or forfeit the match entirely. And forfeiting would have done about as much to honor the dead and help the survivors as...I don't know, a sanctimonious blog post. I still don't like it...but gee, maybe I should save some of that disapproval for the terrorists.
Oh, there was a game? So there was! Hey, you guys know who's really good? Steve Cherundolo. If an American player had spent nearly a decade and a half in the Premiership, let alone with the same club, let alone as captain - well, look how much we got excited over a couple of Landon Donovan loan spells. Clearly, American fans are racist against Germans. Well, that, and it probably wasn't smart of Cherundolo to be injured for the 2002 World Cup and the 2009 Confederations Cup, since he's not associated with a couple of the program's high-water marks.
I was a little surprised that Jamaica wasn't a little more willing to attack - viz., at all - but if Jamaica had to lose on the road to the group bully, and Guatemala had to beat the group cupcake, then 1-0 all around suits Jamaica fine. They might fall further behind in Guatemala City, but they have Antigua at home to make up for it. Barring a disaster on the 12th - a multi-goal loss - Jamaica should be in control.
Oh, us? In October, Landon Donovan will be back, and Clint Dempsey will be in full-season form. We're through to the Hexagonal, bet the world.
Wait, you need more than that? No, you don't. So what if there's no way we can clinch the group before the all-important, all-dangerous match against Guatemala. Fine, Guatemala is probably the biggest pain in the ass in the world, when you compare how difficult it is to do anything productive against them to their comparative standing in world football. Fine, so there's an outside chance we turn six points into two, and bring the sport to a screeching halt in this country. (I'm assuming Canada, who by my quick math are in TERRIBLE trouble despite the standings, will not survive to carry the flag of MLS to Brazil.) And fine, so we've already bungled a never-happened-before scenario when we lost to Jamaica.
Okay, and yes, the "if we can't do this, we don't deserve to go" sort of rings a little more flat when you consider Mexico won an Olympic gold medal in a tournament we, er, boycotted.
But enough manic-depression. We're fine. We're going to win. Let's roll. (Too soon?)