62614_dempseyclint_isi_usmntjt062614155 John Todd/isiphotos.com
When a loss is a win

Winning by Losing, United States National Team Style

The American team might have lost to Germany but it won a larger battle when it comes to the future of the sport in the United States. The squad gets another match to play, and that's huge.
BY Noah Davis Posted
June 26, 2014
4:53 PM
RECIFE, Brazil—United States Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati couldn't overstate how big the match against Germany at Arena Pernambuco was.

"Because the country has paid attention in way the country has never paid attention before, it's the biggest game we've ever played," he said after Thursday's fixture, citing emails he received from corporate employees who stopped work when their bosses put up projection screens at the office and the spontaneous party on 34th street in Manhattan as evidence.

We all know what happened: The Americans lost but advanced into the knockout round courtesy of Portugal's 2-1 defeat of Ghana in Brasilia.

The loss didn't seem to bother Jurgen Klinsmann. While he said that he hoped his team would have more possession in the next round and thought they gave Germany "too much respect" in the opening 20 or 25 minutes, he was pleased to be heading on.

"It's a huge achievement by our team to come through that group and qualify for the knockout round," he said after the match.

The players agreed.

"We're not happy with the result in terms of losing the game but we're excited to go to the next round," Clint Dempsey, broken nose finally healing, said.

Graham Zusi, who put in another strong performance on the wing, added that "it's the first step and a very important step for us. By no means are we satisfied by getting out of the group. We want to keep going and make some history."

So yes, the U.S. went through with a loss, just like they did in 2002. And millions watched Thursday's defeat, millions more than saw that disaster against Poland game 12 years ago. But the truth is that the Americans got through, and that's what people will remember, the casual fans and the diehards alike. If you watched this game, chances are that you won't be turned off by the performance; instead, you'll tune in again next week when the Americans likely take on Belgium. You're not going to want to miss that game, are you?

The point of this game, just this one game, wasn't to win, lose, or draw; it was to advance into the knockout round for the second consecutive World Cup, the first time they have ever done so. And that's what the U.S. did, period hard stop.

"It translates into more fans, more casual fans, more kids who get turned on to the sport and want to play," Gulati said. "Every game we play—I'm not going to say it's a bonus because we want to play a lot of games—but it's a big positive."

"We did exactly what we needed to do to get to the round of 16. Mission accomplished."

The coach Gulati chased for years, finally hiring him and charging him with taking the program to the next level was already looking beyond Thursday's disappointing but essential result.

"Now we really get started," Klinsmann said, smiling into the future.

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