World Cup 2018

What to watch for in Russia, from a U.S. national team supporter

It is going to be a rough month for fans of the United States national team as all the attention will be on a World Cup which the U.S. failed to qualify. Everyone will be watching with a different perspective. Here is what ASN's Isaac Heath wants to see from Russia
BY Isaac Heath Posted
June 15, 2018
5:25 AM
I'VE PUT OFF writing this piece largely because I couldn't muster the strength to think about the US not making the World Cup. The wounds of the loss in Trinidad last year for fans, media, and of course players still hurt, and now that Russia 2018 is upon us, whatever wounds remain healing are being ripped open anew.

Despite the disaster of not being in the World Cup, there is still plenty to be excited about this World Cup for the US soccer fan. While it will hurt not to be able to cheer on our nation, reasons abound to tune in constantly to the best sporting event in the world. Below, I list some of the top things to watch for US fans:

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

One day we will look back on the last 10-15 years and truly appreciate how privileged we were to watch two of the best ever. Both have smashed individual records annually to the point where we are desensitized to the greatness.

The Balon de Oro should basically be renamed after them at this point. Yet as great as they still are, this feels like one of the last World Cup's we will see them, especially at this level. For Cristiano he has the chance to hold the Euro, Champions League, and World Cup trophy all at once, while Lionel Messi looks to finally win a major trophy with Argentina and put to bed literally the only negative thing you could say about his accomplishments as a player.


Ok, I admit it, this one is slightly a selfish choice given my family ties to Peru. That said, if you are looking for a surprise team to cling to in this World Cup, the Peruvians are a great option for you. Qualifying in dramatic fashion for the first time since 1982 has the country fired up for Russia this summer. Expect Russia to be filled with red and white as Peruvian fans travel well and certainly will for this historic World Cup appearance.

Also, don't let the long drought make you think their qualification was a fluke. Peru has made it out of the group stage of Copa America in every edition since 1995, finishing in the final four in 2011, 2015, and 2016. They are a good team that has happened to fall short in the most difficult qualifying region for World Cups and now that they are in they will be scary to face in group play.

For the US soccer fan, both Yoshimar Yotun of Orlando City and Andy Polo of the Portland Timbers will be representing MLS in Russia so that is another reason to watch as well. And finally, if all that isn't enough, there is the late edition of captain Paulo Guerrero, who just recently received a pardon from the Swiss courts to play this summer.

Personal connections

While I don't expect most reading this to have similar family situations, one beauty of the diversity of the United States is we surely have friends that are from different countries and backgrounds. This may be an unpopular take, but the old adage of if you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em, can work for the US National team fans this year.

Outside of my family connections to Peru and South Korea, I have a good friend who is Costa Rican, one who is Colombian, and a few good friends who are Mexican. I look forward to watching those games with them and experiencing some of their joy. One thing for certain, in any major city in the US it shouldn't be too difficult to find some viewing parties specific to countries participating in this World Cup. That alone is an experience worth having.

MLS presences

For the US fan who is also a big MLS fan, there are still a number of MLSers playing in Russia despite our absence. There are six Costa Ricans, six Panamanians, three Mexicans, two Peruvians, and one Egyptian and Swede that will be representing MLS clubs.

While the World Cup is more about showcasing individual and team talent than it is bolstering a league reputation, it would still be a great sign of the strength of MLS to have some of its players stand out. In particular success of high profile players still in their primes such as Carlos Vela and the Dos Santos brothers who have experience at top clubs in Europe could at the very least lessen the view of MLS as a retirement league for top players.

Breakout players

One of my favorite things about the World Cup is the stage it provides to unknown or underappreciated talent. While it would ideal to watch a break out US player, seeing an athlete rise to the occasion and then watching the ensuing signing frenzy is of clubs is fun.

Players like Javier Mascherano, Carlos Tevez, Hadji Diouf, Gilberto Silva, Keylor Navas, and many others have seen strong World Cup performances lead to huge club opportunities. While not all of these work out obviously, the excitement a player can generate during 3-4 weeks is a joy to watch.

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