We've trimmed the field again, and gutting as it is to see the US go out again, there's some absolutely thrilling futbol to appreciate.
ON: Extra Time--5 Matches went to extra time and three ended there, all in thrilling fashion with glittering goals and tremendous excitement. When announcers say that these matches are "dripping with drama" they aren't just making things up.
OFF: Penalty Kicks--2 Matches did go to PKs (with Brazil and Costa Rica finally surviving), but neither one was terribly satisfying. It's a little like letting a home run derby decide a game that's gone 16 innings, or having a free throw shooting contest in lieu of a third overtime. We don't know how to end it but, we know there has to be something better than this.
ON: James Martinez--For whatever reason, I haven't been able to see every little bit of Colombia's play, but it's plainly obvious that he's in another class when it comes to the game of football. Brazil may well knock out the youthful Colombia from the world cup, but it's hard to imagine any player of any nation getting the better of Martinez.
OFF: Any Goalie With Minimal Job Security--Say you play goalkeeper for a strong team in the big leagues of the world. You probably feel pretty good about yourself, nice paycheck, minimal hours, must be nice. Sure you may let in the odd howler, but come on...it's not like there are a bunch of better options out there right? Maybe not...but maybe the tonnage of superlative performances in the last 16 should have you edgy: Kaylor Navas, Guillermo Ochoa, Vincent Enyema, (Montanan Hooligan BFF) Tim Howard...there's a plethora of strong keepers who showed up big time when their defenses are MIA, and maybe your management will keep you on and trust their money in defense...or maybe you should hit the practice fields.
ON: US Soccer Culture--20 years ago, I had to bug my dad endlessly until he turned to the US matches. Now I have to calm him down, and we're equally in agony as the games go on. 20 years ago, you'd be hard pressed to find another fan within 10 blocks. Now, we swarm all around the big screens in parks and bars and city squares. 20 years ago a draw was greeted with confusion, now it's greeted with fury at our specific failures. We've come so far, and are so excited, and while we may well move on from it for another four years--we'll all be back, riding a bandwagon maybe, but excited? Indubitably
OFF: Soccer Haters--I don't even know what to say to people like this anymore. There are still, somehow, stupefyingly, people (assuming blog trolls and radio announcers count as people) who poopoo and snidely snark on every aspect of the game. Someone wrote on a blog I whipped up for another website that he was upset yet another place had succumbed to the game. What do you say? "Sorry, we all like something you don't"?; "Sorry, you can't appreciate something that brings such joy to so many"?; "Have fun hanging out with your most prominent celebrity ally...Anne Coulter"? "Shut the f*** up"? Hey...I like that one.