ROME -- This might be apocryphal, but it's how I remember it. Sometime around the 1994 World Cup, then-U.S. head coach
Then he reminded everyone that soccer was still the fourth or fifth choice for American athletes. Elsewhere, the grade-A athletes are dreaming about soccer before they've even left the incubator. But in the U.S., the blue chips -- the guys who can jump out of the gym and run 40 yards in 4.2 seconds and handle the pressure when the game is on the line and improvise brilliance from hopeless situations -- go into football, basketball, baseball and, to a lesser extent, individual games like tennis, skiing and track and field.
"Imagine if I had
Now, in truth, I have no idea if Bora ever said this -- honestly, Google needs to devise a search engine that finds things the way you remember them rather than how they might actually be -- but it's a poignant argument that has shut up more than a few loudmouth critics of U.S. soccer I've encountered around the world -- like, say, here in Rome.
Usually, a glimmer of hesitation enters their eyes when they stop to contemplate what the U.S. soccer team could look like. Which leads inevitably to a few more shots of grappa and an hour-long conversation about a possible starting XI for the U.S. team in 2010, if soccer were the No. 1 sport in the country. Bora wouldn't even have to coach this team: