Unlike everyone else who has a voice in sports media, I will not be talking about what the United States’ men’s soccer team should do in light of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Not yet at least.
Instead, I will reflect.
I am Costa Rican-American, as my parents are from Costa Rica but I was born and grew up in New Jersey. Despite being born in the United States, I developed a love for the Costa Rican national soccer team through my father. However, I would still root for the US against anyone else. That is, until 2009.
Heading into the final stage of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, the United States had already booked their trip to South Africa. In the last round of fixtures, Costa Rica and the US faced off at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. I travelled down to Washington with my dad and five other extended family members, ready to celebrate.
With a win, Costa Rica would also be flying directly to the World Cup. Any other result would leave them in the intercontinental playoff. Unlike in the past two World Cup cycles that have seen CONCACAF teams take on manageable teams like New Zealand and Australia in the playoff, in 2010 the playoff was against Uruguay, a team that would go on to finish fourth in the tournament.
At halftime, Costa Rica was up 2-0 off of two Bryan Ruiz goals, and Costa Rica was all but in. But coming back from halftime, the tide turned and the US was attacking a lot more. In the 71st minute, Michael Bradley pulled one back for the Stars and Stripes. After the 90th minute, referee Benito Archundia gave four minutes of stoppage time–an eternity.
Let me reemphasize that at this point, the United States was not playing for anything but pride.
In the 95th minute of play, Jonathan Bornstein tied the game for the US off a corner, breaking a whole country’s heart. I stormed out of the stadium in tears.
As a result of this, over the last eight years I developed a hatred for the United States’ soccer team. I would watch all of their matches hoping they would lose. Friends would criticize me for rooting against where I was born, but I did not care.
Heading into Tuesday’s final round of fixtures, I wanted the US to fail to qualify so people could feel what I did in 2009.
In the end, the US didn’t make it, but I am still not sure how I feel about that. I do not think that what happened on Tuesday has sunk in yet, but I think in the end I will not be happy about it. On the other hand, I am very happy that Panama made it. The United States did the same thing to Panama before the 2014 World Cup with a late goal in the final game of qualifying.
Since 2010, Costa Rica has gone on to qualify and have a very successful 2014 World Cup, reaching the quarterfinal stage. This cycle, Costa Rica once again had a strong campaign and qualified for the World Cup before the final fixture. Costa Rica’s success since 2009 has forced me to forgive the United States.
Moving forward, I will once again root for the United States as my second national team as they welcome a new generation of players.
Antonio Salazar is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.