With the sting of this World Cup-less summer still fresh, some American soccer fans are having trouble figuring out how to feel about their team as it now begins the long road to the 2022 tournament in Qatar.
First off: This is normal! Change is hard, even when it comes with the realization that Clint Dempsey will now have more time to work on his rap career. So, in an attempt to assist these fans in unravelling their pent-up emotions, here is a Mad Libs-style worksheet to help unlock what truly exists in the languishing U.S. supporter's soul.
The rules are simple: fill in the blanks with the requested parts of speech. Then read the completed text and let the feelings flow!
Hello, and welcome to the start of a new World Cup cycle. Soccer, the world's most historic and [adjective] game, has started anew. Hope is everywhere.
And why not? The American team's [very bad word] last year, which really did feel like being [active verb] in the [body part] with a [noun], is fully in the past. The focus now is on the future, particularly this group of young American players who are so good at [-ing verb] and [-ing verb], and bring so much [noun] to the team it seems as if they'll [verb] all night if it means they can represent their country. Pretty tough not to root for guys who can do that, right?
Of course, everyone knows about Christian Pulisic. In the universe of U.S. Soccer, he's basically the sun, with everything else [-ing verb] around him. But the reasons to be excited about the U.S. team run deeper than the [adjective] wunderkind from Pennsylvania: there's Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, Josh Sargent and Tim Weah, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain and can produce goals the way a French bakery churns out those decadent, flaky [plural noun].
Not all those on-the-rise stars are in camp for these friendlies, but, of the 25 players on the American roster, 15 are 23 or younger. This is good. The roster for a similar exhibition four years ago also had a slew of fresh-faced, [adjective] youngsters, but they knew they were only stopgaps; when it came to crunch time, Jurgen Klinsmann was going to say to them, "[Exclamation]! Thanks, but we're going back to the veterans."
That has changed. Pretty much every spot on the roster is open for competition, and those mainstays upon whom American fans came to rely are largely out of the conversation.
Jermaine Jones? No more [adjective] tackles, and no more [adverb] getting inexplicable yellow cards. Michael Bradley? Gone, too. Tim Howard? The game against Belgium in 2014, when he played like an octopus [-ing verb] against the ocean's waves, was truly [adjective] ... and that's how his World Cup career will end.
Does that make you feel [adjective]? You're not alone. But this is the beginning of a new phase for the U.S. program, a long, steep climb up a mountain that reaches its [adjective] first plateau in 2022 before finishing with a [adjective] climax in 2026, when North America finally hosts the men's World Cup again.
Could the Americans -- gasp -- hope to win that tournament? History would show that just making a semifinal would be like finding a [noun] in a haystack, but expectations will be high. Still, let's not put the [noun] before the proverbial [noun]. First the U.S. team needs a coach, a job that Earnie Stewart, the federation's new general manager, is trying to fill sooner than later.
Opinions vary on what Stewart should be looking for in his candidates. Most fans, though, know that the most important qualities are [noun] and an ability to [adverb] build chemistry. And while it's been much-discussed by outsiders, it's unclear whether Stewart thinks it's important that the coach be from [name of a country].
News on the coach will come in due course. For the moment, it's time to focus on this pair of friendlies, against Brazil and Mexico, for what they are: the start of a [adjective] journey that American fans hope will have a rewarding [noun] waiting at the end.