Almost 24 hours later, and yesterday's results still leave me feeling gutted.
Physically and emotionally I've had it. I feel like I did an all-nighter on the crab-fishing boat the Time Bandit or at least spent a shift monitoring Lindsay Lohan's alcohol levels.
That's what two wrenching soccer games, watched with a few thousand close and personal friends in temperatures in excess of 90 degrees will do to a guy.
Ghana 2, United States 1. New York 3, Kansas City 0.
It's amazing the similarities. Both teams gift-wrapped the winning goals with shocking defensive lapses. Both game-winning goals were scored by Ghanian strikers.
Both games left KC crowds in the thousands frustrated, stunned, angry and depressed.
Strangely, it only felt like one of those teams was really destined to lose yesterday.
But I'll save my postmortem thoughts on the Kansas City Wizards for another day, when I'm not feeling as bitter and depressed. You remember that thing your mom told you about saying something nice? That rule is in effect right now.
Moving beyond my (or your, possibly our) current feelings, when it comes to this World Cup, it has to be considered a success of the USA, right?
After all, they only lost one game, played one of the most memorable games in my international-soccer memory and were a ref's blunder away from the most thrilling comeback victory in World Cup history. They were beaten by a solid Ghana team and really, only have themselves to blame.
Oh yeah, and while we're at it, they managed to inspire 12,000 people in this fair city to come out to the Power Light District and watch it on a big screen. Pretty massive accomplishment if you ask me.
Yeah, that just happened. (Well, it happened Saturday. But could you imagine four years ago seeing that scene in Kansas City and it didn't involve the headline: "Kansas City Chiefs win Super Bowl!"?)
What happens next? For many people, yesterday was the end of a brief flirtation with the sport -- or, most likely, just a flirtation with the U.S. soccer team. For others, it was the culmination of four years of watching and waiting. (For a very select few, it was a chance to get that "I HATE SOCCER!" monkey that comes around every four years off their back.)
But, nonetheless, another four-year process for World Cup qualifying begins now.
First up, the USA must figure out who its coach will be. Bob Bradley is an excellent tactical coach (his mid-game adjustments are amongst the best in the world), but he struggles in the pre-game set-up. Witness the Ricardo Clark situation against Ghana, the Sacha Kljestan debacle in the Confederation's Cup and the constant struggle allowing early goals.
Most likely, Bradley coached his last game. (National team coaches usually are in it for one cycle. The inclusion of his son, Michael, on the team might keep him around longer. Might.)
I think he has to go. It's not because I don't like him (I learned to like him.) It's that I believe the USA has the talent to play at this level internationally and they need a coach that can motivate them and help them reach their potential.
In other words, a foreign coach.**Unless they want Curt Onalfo to take over. I'm kidding, by the way.
ThinkGuus Hiddink (who, sadly, is already contracted to Turkey) or Jurgen Klinsmann
. Some of you probably don't love Jurgen, but I think his loose, attacking style works well in international play, and work very well with this athletic bunch. (See, Germany 2006.)
We've got a nice core of youngsters on this team (Altidore, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden, Jose Francisco Torres) and some new players who should be Cup targets in a few years (Eric Lichaj, Mikkel Diskerud, Omar Gonzalez, Alejandro Bedoya, Bill Hamid). Stalwarts like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Oguchi Onyewu (or, the core of our current team) should -- hopefully -- be up for another Cup.**Also worth monitoring, the recovery of striker Charlie Davies.
A coach that can get the group set-up with the limited time available and manage to show them the way to win at this stage is imperative.
After that, this country needs to to develop a striker. Altidore is young and will only get better (fingers crossed). But the simple fact is that a United States' striker hasn't scored a goal at the World Cup since Brian McBride in 2002.
Then, after that, finding a left-footed left back would be nice. Any long-time follower of the USA will tell you that's like finding a sasquatch or an E! TV show without a Kardashian in it.
And lastly, perhaps most importantly, the U.S. Soccer Federation needs to spread the love around the country for friendlies and World Cup qualifying. There's no better way to get people interested and invested in the team than actually letting them see the team in person. Maybe I'm getting selfish, but I believe the 12,000 people in the P shows KC should be added to the rotation in the next cycle. We'll even have a nice, shiny new stadium to show off soon.
Well... actually, there's one last thing they can do in the future: Do this again (possibly better) in 2014. I know I'm willing to be part of the ride.