We love you, we love you, we love you / and where you go we’ll follow, we’ll follow, we’ll follow / ’cause we support the U.S., the U.S., the U.S. / and that’s the way we like it, we like it, we like it/ Whoa-o-o-o-o, whoa-o-o-o-o. Whoa-o-o-o-o, whoa-o-o-o-o.
That was the most prevalent chant heard at Alley Katz on September 6, despite the United States men’s national soccer team losing 3-to-1 to Costa Rica on September 6—bringing a 12-game win streak to an end. I was there, wearing my white United States soccer jersey, witnessing exactly what supporters’ groups like the Sacramento chapter of the American Outlaws are supposed to do: Have fun and cheer loudly even when the team is losing.
Thankfully, the team bounced back and earned 2014 World Cup qualification four days later after defeating Mexico, and Panama and Honduras playing to a 2-2 tie. Now, the United States can play around with its lineup and test out a few young players during its last two World Cup-qualifying matches against Jamaica (3:30 p.m. on Friday, October 11) and Panama (6 p.m. on Tuesday, October 15)—both of which will feature viewing parties with the Outlaws at Alley Katz, 2019 O Street.
These are some of the last matches of the year for the team, before we head into 2014, the year of the World Cup. Some key questions that could be answered in the upcoming months (if we’re lucky) include:
1. Can Jozy Altidore keep up his international scoring form? He’s scored in five of his last six games for the United States men’s national team. But he’s still not scored this season for his club team Sunderland in the English Premier League, and that team is in last place in the league. He’s not received the type of attacking support that leads to goals, and other teams are pouncing on Sunderland, possessing the ball for a longer time than they should be allowed to.
2. Will Aron Johannsson start getting some more playing time and scoring goals with the national team? He’s doing great on his Dutch team Alkmaar Zaanstreek, having scored eight goals in 13 games for the team. He seems to be the future of the United States men’s national team attack (plus he looks eerily like Kevin Bacon, always a bonus in my book).
3. Clint Dempsey’s prime is passing. After his trade from Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League to the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer, he’s played in only four games, and hasn’t scored a goal. Now he has a strained hamstring and won’t play in the two October World Cup qualifiers (nor will Michael Bradley, who’s out with a sprained ankle). Can he regain his goal-scoring form?
4. The United States has had a solid goalkeeping lineup for the last 30 years with Tony Meola, Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller anchoring the United States defense. We’re still solid with Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando. But who will end up in the No. 1 spot? Right now, it’s between Guzan and Howard. Guzan performed a bit better last year in the English Premier League than Howard did. But it’s still a toss-up between the two keepers for the 2016 World Cup.
5. Landon Donovan is old. And he’s arguably the best United States men’s soccer player ever. He’s a great goal-scorer and passer, and no one else seems to have the kind of attacking prowess he does. This will definitely be his last World Cup. Can he take on a clear leadership role and help lead the U.S. to at least a World Cup semifinal?