About the Author
Tony Cirino, the author of U.S. Soccer vs the World, has covered soccer in his native Italy and in the United States. He was soccer writer and sports editor for Il Progresso Italo-Americano and America Oggi, daily newspapers. A charter member of the Professional Soccer Writers Association, he was also a correspondent from the U.S. for La Gazzetta dello Sport of Milan, the leading Italian sports daily.
In 1983, the year that U.S. Soccer vs the World was first published, Tony Cirino wrote in the Preface:
All over the world, wherever organized soccer is played, the national team is the primary focus of interest. The ultimate goal of professionals and amateurs alike, the dream of every child is to play for their country.
Things are quite different in the United States where soccer has grown without emphasis on international play. The task of preparing a competitive national team has been complicated and thwarted by the limited financial resources of the U.S. Soccer Federation and the lack of cooperation from professional and amateur teams. The country's vast proportions created an obstacle to scouting players and holding tryouts; teams could not assemble and have sufficient training periods, many selectees could not make it to the games because of job responsibilities.
Yet the USSF has coped with these difficulties, adjusting to handicaps. It always kept its commitments to FIFA by fielding a national team for the most prestigious international competitions, such as the Olympics and the World Cup.
An analysis of 100 years of soccer in the United States reveals a pattern to which there are few exceptions: a group of players (not always the best, perhaps, but the best available) hurriedly collected and sent onto the field against foreign teams without preparation or technical assistance. Many American National Teams were born and dissolved so quickly that countless players could not even remember the names of their teammates.
Not surprisingly, therefore, the history of the United States team is riddled with defeats, a long chain of humiliations interrupted here and there by a win. This disappointing record did not enhance the reputation of the American national team: it has been ignored by the media; it has not received widespread public support; it has actually been ridiculed by its own fans. Some players have refused to join it if they did not want to visit the countries included on foreign tours: U.S. games abroad were sometimes considered tourist excursions.
The leagues have kept their distance. Club owners have been reluctant to lend their best players to the national team, regarding international competition simply as an annoying intrusion, rather than a necessary part of a process that would give soccer a solid foundation. A strong national team will eventually benefit the leagues themselves.
In recent years, the attitude toward the national team has somewhat improved, even if not all problems have been eliminated. The appointment of full-time coaches, emphasis on youth soccer, an intensified relationship with foreign countries, the creation of Team America and the unity behind efforts to host the World Cup show clearly that the U.S. federation and other interested parties want to depart from the old pattern.
This book offers a new perspective of the American national team, a look at the distant and recent past. It chronicles what lies behind the scores, the defeats and the triumphs. It is dedicated to the players who wore the uniform of the U.S. national team and to all those who will be part of it in the future.
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