- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Soccer asks that you appreciate the nuances of 1-0.
That is asking a lot in America.
One nuance-filled sport is enough, especially one on steroids that is readying to have another strike.
At least Bob Costas is not the self-appointed conscience of soccer, no small advantage for a sport forever in search of full U.S. support. Soccer also has the good sense to keep the clock running.
No Costas. A running clock. Now if only soccer would tweak its offsides rule and limit the acting designed to sway official opinion.
They fall down after every other stride in soccer, which is almost as frequently as Vlade Divac.
Now we know where Divac learned to writhe in agony, rubbing this or that body part to make the imaginary hurt go away.
A yellow card is bad, a red card is worse, both distinct from a green card. The INS hands out the latter to anyone, no questions asked.
To be accurate, FIFA is not the name of a Westminster show poodle, just another governing body with an unfortunate acronym.
FIFA is not to be confused with Figo, Luis, FIFA's Player of the Year in 2001. Figo is a midfielder with Portugal, one of the World Cup favorites and the first obligation before the U.S.
The red, white and blue is not a contender, as usual, despite the sense of purpose from coach Bruce Arena.
Arena and the U.S. players found a modicum of perspective last week while visiting Panmunjom, the South Korean village that abuts the cold-war eyes of North Korea. They then returned to their previously scheduled anxieties and veil of secrecy.
The World Cup is believed to be under way, although it is sometimes hard to tell on this side of the International Date Line.
One result already has jarred the globe. That was Germany 8, Saudi Arabia 0, akin to Bears 73, Redskins 0 in 1940. It probably was enough to make Osama bin Laden turn over in his grave or cave or safe house. It certainly begged the following question: Were the Saudis required to play in the flowing robes favored by the royal family?
A tie in soccer is like kissing a hooligan. No wonder they have so many rumbles. If you can't beat them, then you beat them up. Why can't they burn cars and loot stores like we do?
Washington has given soccer one heck of a try, going back to the Whips in 1967. Then came the Darts of the departed North American Soccer League in 1970. The Darts subsequently become the Miami Gatos, the Miami Toros, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and the Minnesota Strikers before succumbing to a massive identity complex in 1984. Forget the NASL players, with the exception of Pele. You couldn't even tell the teams without a scorecard.
The Diplomats lasted longer than the Darts as the precursor to D.C. United and the Spanish-language dispatches in the city's other English-language daily newspaper.
Soccer insists the world is right and the U.S. is wrong, the first volley in the them-against-us mentality. That assumes the U.S. is culturally biased against soccer. It isn't. It is just an awfully crowded marketplace, what with the NFL, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, baseball and Vince McMahon. A generation's worth of youth league soccer adherents have not grown up to be cash-carrying supporters in sufficient numbers. It could happen one of these decades, assuming the cash-starved Major League Soccer or the league that follows it can wait that long.
The chip on soccer's shoulder remains fairly impressive, the American newcomers to the sport not unlike vegetarians in dispensing the depth of their preachy convictions. They know something you don't, 1-0 notwithstanding, and likewise, if it counts to be a recovering soccer chronicler, still thawing out from those nippy days of yesteryear in early spring.
Sorry to see Colombia is not among the 32-team field. We miss Carlos Valderrama. He always gave great hair to the cause, no matter what anyone says.
Did catch part of a game the other day, and just in time to hear the Univision guy go, "Gooooaaaallll."
It's a good thing he works in soccer. He would pass out in the first quarter of a basketball game.

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