I'm an American soccer fan. Those final three words cannot be separated when talking about me. Sure, I'll watch other games once in a while, but I won't care. As a former soldier, I'm American as can be. I love this damn place. I played as a kid, but really fell in love with the game while in Basic Training during World Cup '94. Later, I would sit in Kuwait watching their National Team try to qualify for France '98. They didn't. I enjoyed those two matches, but it reminded me that it wasn't American soccer. It was just soccer. It placed an ember in my heart that would not truly ignite for 10 more years.
It sat and simmered through covering the A-League Sounders at Memorial. It simmered through some USL Sounders at Starfire and CenturyLink. It would burn bright for a month during World Cups, and then it would fade to relight later. Gold Cups didn't really matter. Then there was that announcement here: we'd have a top flight team. The fire took off. It blazed from within and spread to every aspect of my life. Friends and family didn't know what happened to me.
The brightest it burned was not during an Open Cup win, or when Pappa purloined a Shield. No, the brightest flare was in 2013 when my nation made me a whole American soccer fan and valued me, valued my city, enough to have a World Cup Qualifier here. Panama was hosed. Nothing would contain me and the thousands like me (maybe hundreds, maybe dozens, maybe just me).
Dempsey, EJ, Evans, Yedlin, Morris, Mansaray connect me to American soccer. They are Sounders, as am I. They are Americans. They are wonderful.
Today, something is happening within me. It's an odd thing. It's not that passion for club is rising. But my fire for American soccer seems to be going out. This is not an existential crisis. It's not that I strive for pro/rel or open systems. Klinsmann's lies don't douse my flames (at least, not one in particular).
The thing I am surprised to find is I don't care about US soccer. Not the way I used to. It gets in the way of my club; it breaks my players. The coach and technical director is flailing. The American Outlaws are a broken, barely reforming organization.
A few months ago I would take time off work to watch USA, USA, USA. I'd sing Lee Greenwood song (no plural is needed). I would cheer so loud when Landon Donovan scored against Algeria that people thought I hurt myself. Clint Dempsey's goal against Ghana dropped my jaw to the floor. I get giddy thinking of Tim Howard standing on his head against Belgium.
I don't believe.
I don't believe that
I don't believe that we will win.
I won't make time for the red, white and blue and when I have time it isn't fun. Someone took American soccer from me. My fire is going out. If we make the World Cup (I have to say 'if' now) some amount of that passion will be back, but I don't know how much.
The list of names at fault is long - Blatter, Platini, bin Hamman, Putin, Gulati, Klinsmann, the pro/rel jerks (only the jerks). Talking about the United States National Team is only fun those times when a local gets recognition. The rest of it is labor without love.
I'm not the only one. Cynicism has replaced passion for a large amount of the fanbase. Our coach was booed on home soil today. There's no self-help group to fix this. There's no magic switch to flip.
I love America. I love soccer. I no longer love American soccer.
I want it back. I want that thrill back. I want to love American men's soccer again.