A Winning Arena

Why the U.S. soccer team is no longer a World Cup punch line

American soccer fans who awakened in the predawn hours to watch the U.S. take on Portugal in the World Cup must have thought they were still dreaming. Before the coffee finished brewing the U.S. had gone up 1-0--excuse us, one-nil--on the stylish Europeans. And the Yanks kept lighting up Portugal like a pachinko table: 2-0 in the 29th minute and 3-0 in the 36th on a beautifully taken header by Brian McBride. Despite a furious Portuguese rally, the U.S. held on to a 3-2 victory for one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.

The success was unexpected, particularly after...

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