1. I know there are many Redskins fans and Hogs Haven readers who will gladly say goodbye to the World Cup and all of the space I have given it here. There are plenty more that are hungry for it to continue, but even I am ready for the NFL season to begin in earnest and turn all of our heads from the topics and issues that dominate slow NFL summers.
2. You didn't think I was going to waste the opportunity to make one more World Cup-related post though, did you? You just don't me at all. I have written at length already about how being a Redskins fan shaped the way I watched the United States team in Brazil, so need to go there again. What we haven't talked about yet is how the United States Men's National Team can provide hope for Redskins Nation. You have to really want to see it, but it's there.
3. As most of you know, the USMNT was kind of...terrible for quite some time. The '90's will not go down as one of our best decades. While we did manage to qualify for the World Cup, our quick dismissal was generally always accepted as a foregone conclusion. The roster was old, the talent level was insufficient and the coaches were at least slightly out of their element on the world stage. Remind you of a certain football franchise? After the Redskins won the Super Bowl at the end of the '91 season, we spiraled into one of the most mediocre teams in the league. It strikes me as hilariously ironic that in this article with a soccer twist, it bears mentioning that if Norv Turner had a good kicker, he might have enjoyed a lot more success. Suffice to say, both the USMNT and the Redskins suffered through a woeful period in the '90's and into the 2000's.
4. We are seeing signs that both of these teams have gotten a handle on things and are moving back to a place where they can actually compete. The Redskins are likely not as bad as their 3-13 record indicated, but they were also likely not as good as their 10-6 record in 2012. The USMNT also went through prolonged stretches of losing and mediocrity, and made the decision to bring in a new coach with a new style and fresh perspective (sound familiar?). In each of the last three years, the Redskins have increased the talent base through the draft however, and while there is still more work to do, they are looking like a potentially dangerous team. Mike Shanahan deserves some credit, along with Bruce Allen, for changing the kind of player this franchise was bringing in. The Redskins have--when they could--focused on upperclassmen who served as captains on their college teams. I think it would be fair to suggest that the Redskins are built from the inside out a little bit--meaning from the heart and soul out to the physical measurables. We have yet to fully cash in on this to the tune of a Lombardi Trophy, but that does not mean there isn't proof for us to see.
5. When you watch the USMNT, one thing you notice right away is the team's heart--they don't give up. How often did we see teams in the World Cup go down by a goal or two and just start going through the motions? (Cough...BRAZIL...cough.) Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff have installed within these guys the foundation they can lean on in tough times. When the scoreboard says they are down, they focus on fundamentals and keep playing hard. This paid off for them against Ghana and Portugal in the group stage, and I challenge anyone to suggest that there was a single U.S. player that gave up against Belgium. It is more than just the "American spirit." The team is full of character and heart. The Redskins are not so far off if you think about it. In 2012, they had to win seven straight games to make the playoffs, and they had to do it against some pretty tough teams. There were situations where guys could have easily started phoning it in (alright, so I am conveniently overlooking last year's Kansas City game). The point is that the Redskins have a lot of fight in them. They have a core group of men that have experienced that "do or die" stretch of games where they, well...did. In the last few years, we have seen teams fold their tents and check out, most notably Raheem Morris' Tampa Bay team in 2011 when they lost their last ten games and did not seem to be playing with any kind of respect for Morris at all. Like the USMNT, I see the Redskins as a team that is built to fight regardless of the score, always believing that it has a chance to come out on top. (Again, while one would think that every team in the NFL is built this way, we see examples all the time to the contrary.)
6. The Redskins have a new coach and new scheme on offense, but the core group of players seems to be built to withstand that kind of churn. Yes, there is a makeup of talent that is designed to match the systems in place, but more than that, the roster has been infused with guys who are both good teammates and hard workers. Like the USMNT, I don't think this team will lose heart if it gets down. I think this group can come back from multiple scores down and I think this team will never view an opponent as unbeatable. These are things that are the result of the manner in which they have built their roster over the last handful of seasons. After watching the USMNT fight in the 2014 World Cup, I am heartened by the similarities between where they have come from and where this Redskins franchise has come from. I have abbreviated these similarities out of respect for SkinsNJ, who literally is counting the words until the last soccer post is done. All I ask for SkinsNJ, is that you give me this one.
Bonus USMNT words, SkinsNJ: I just wanted to say that for me, U.S. Soccer is not an every four years thing. I watch most of the games we play throughout the year, as many do. I am a proud member of the American Outlaws, the U.S. fan delegation. I scream the national anthem--while standing with my hand over my heart--from my basement floor no matter how big the game is, and I cheer my heart out for every minute we are on the pitch. Some part of me likes to think this helps me in those moments at FedEx, when we are trailing by a score or two. Some part of me likes to think this practice of being a passionate fan benefits me as a Redskins supporter and member of the other greatest fanbase on the planet: Redskins Nation!
With that concludes the World Cup portion of our Redskins coverage. I want to thank everyone for participating.
LET'S TALK FOOTBALL!