I realize I'm outnumbered.
I'm one of a handful of people in Minnesota, and probably North America, who actually cares about soccer, and probably part of an even lesser number who cares about women's soccer.
Although...with the NBA AND NFL locked out or shutdown...whatever they do...things could change for soccer ratings. You can only watch so much baseball.
People typically don't like "girls' soccer." It's slow. It's less physical than the men's side. They don't score enough goals. They're women. Women playing a men's game.
But after this weekend's showing from the US women in their World Cup quarterfinal match versus Brazil, I'm pretty sure all of the stereotypes about women playing the beautiful game have been shattered.
Red card in the box. Repeat penalty kicks. Yellow-carded keeper. Fake injuries. Abby Wambach scores off a header in the 122nd minute of play — the latest goal in the history of women's soccer.
And a final outcome drawn from a shoot-out.
It was the absolute best of soccer drama.There was a lot of gasping and screaming in my house (mostly at the referee...and long after the game was over because it was not aired live in the US. Go figure).
In my opinion it's safe to say that their match against Brazil was one of the best soccer matches ever played — men or women.
I remember in 1999 when U.S. women's soccer was at its pinnacle. We were coming off a heartbreaking ending in the 1995 world cup. Women's soccer has a mediocre fanbase at best.
And then something magical happened. Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey after scoring the winning penalty kick and the world started paying attention. At least for a little while.
U.S. women's soccer took kind of a hiatus after that. Players who were in their prime in the 90s were retiring and the new roster was growing younger and younger. Well, they were my age.
Now 12 years after the 1999 cup win, they are back. These women are strong and tough and ready to compete. They have become their predecessors. They play with poise and determination. They play to win.
I was 16 in 1999 and going into my last year of high school soccer. Those women — Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly — were my heroes. Now as a coach, it makes me happy to see strong women soccer players pave the way to greatness as my players, who are 15, 16, 17 watch on.
The U.S. plays France today. There are some concerns. France is fast and they play a beautiful game with focus and gorgeous goals and artistic defense as opposed to keeping the ball out of one net and smashing into the other. But our Yankee girls are tough and committed. They are weathered and they are the favorite.
I have a feeling we'll see the U.S. women playing in the final (I'm hoping against Sweden...the heartland vs. my homeland...that would be a sweet match up). And I'm hoping, oh, I'm hoping, for another cup victory.
This is our year.
If the western hemisphere isn't watching now, I'm not sure they'll ever be watching.