If you think I'm going to wait until the United States has safely beaten Belize for mocking Mexico and Canada for their opening night Gold Cup pratfalls, you're absolutely right. I'm not cracking a single smile until around ten o'clock tonight. If and when I do, though, I'll be in the wrong. Panama has historically been terrific in the Gold Cup, and I remember distinctly people calling for Bob Bradley to be fired after we lost to them in the opening game two years ago. And everything turned out oh, dear.
We only beat Martinique 2-0 in the 2003 Gold Cup, too, and that was when the US team was pretty darned solid. Yes, it would be nice when we're complainint about Caribbean pirate hideouts outvoting sovereign nations in CONCACAF if said sovereign nations would deign to beat said pirate hideouts, but Martinique has a soccer history that certainly outstrips its FIFA and UN status.
So let's talk about Jozy Altidore going back to the Premiership, since that became official today. Interesting that someone named Kate Smith did the Sunderland site writeup.
You know - God Bless America? Oh, forget it.
Longtime American fans who have picked their favorite English teams based on American players will have a chance to reacquaint themselves with Sunderland, one of Claudio Reyna's former employers. Sunderland, named after the region's bright sunny climate, wear red and white stripes in honor of Chivas USA, and are called the "Black Cats" because English teams think nicknames are beneath them.
Oh, and their coach is a Fascist. Capital F.
For those of you unfamiliar with Paolo di Canio - interesting guy. I mean that sincerely. I read his English-language autobiography (well, within a given definition of "autobiography), and highly recommend this Graham Parker article. Di Canio is the source of the legendary "I'm a fascist, not a racist," quote. Your fellow posters have discussed him at length, and I even weighed in with a not-terribly-interesting post. He also performed one of the great acts of sportsmanship in English history, catching the ball in front of a prone opposing goalkeeper rather than scoring an easy goal.
And of course, Sunderland AFC has taken a non-trivial amount of pushback over hiring him. Something about fascism just rubs the English the wrong way, for some wacky reason. But they're sticking with him. Which maybe doesn't speak that much for his character. If it meant winning games, Premiership teams would hire Dracula - provided they played enough night games. (I wish I could remember who had this line first, so I apologize for the unattributed plagiarism, but it definitely fits.)
Di Canio was also a deadly forward, and were it not for his politics, would be the ideal mentor for a player like Altidore. One is sorely tempted to take di Canio at his non-racist word, and not merely for Altidore's sake. Why spend that kind of money if you think he's genetically inferior, for heaven's sake? (Oh, plantation owners did all the time? Oops.) If di Canio isn't completely crazy...and there's plenty of room for reasoned debate on that topic...then Altidore may have finally found himself at a club that can really help him (sorry, Red Bull).
The other reason I'm optimistic is because of Altidore himself. It's nice to talk about an athlete whose charitable foundation actually does something, of course. But - and this is where I apologize for being wrong, at least for now - Altidore has also been destroying people on both club and country level, for the first time since he was younger than Freddy Adu. Even though he's been on the national team for twenty years, Altidore is still only 23. It would certainly be nice to have one of the forward spots settled for the next couple of World Cup cycles. No one will ever live up to the hype that teenaged American soccer players get from American fans, but Jozy might live up to 0.01 percent of that - and that would be enough for a first ballot Hall of Fame election.
So Altidore's career is in the hands of di Canio now, at least for the near future. The people soccer makes you cheer for.
EDIT - Maybe I know the difference between single quotes and double quotes, and maybe I don't.