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And Another Thing

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1-Nil: An appreciation

I hear it all the time, especially these days, from the naysayers who make it a badge of honor to diss soccer. It's boring. There's too many ties. There's too many 1-0 ga--

Oops.

Well, I guess we can't say that anymore.

Not after the U.S.' 1-0 victory over Algeria yesterday, which launched the Americans into the knockout round and sent viewers into an exultant frenzy all over the country. If watching it didn't make your heart pound and your palms sweat ... well, let me check your pulse.

Just as I thought. You don't have one.

Listen up, Blobophiles: As I no doubt have said before, everything is context. And so I'm frequently amused at people who point to a 1-0 game in soccer and complain about the lack of scoring ... but then will gnaw their fingernails to the quick over a 1-0 Stanley Cup game in which the goalies make 100 saves between them, or a 1-0 baseball game that goes down to the last pitch.

That's what we got last Saturday night between Carroll and Indianapolis Cathedral in the 4A state championship baseball game, after all. Carroll won, 1-0, in nine innings. And I didn't hear anyone afterward complaining about the lack of scoring.

What I heard, rather, was a lot of people saying it might have been the best state championship game in IHSAA history.

Here's the thing, see: When people indict soccer for a lack of scoring, what they're really indicting it for is a lack of scoring opportunities. That's a valid point sometimes, especially in World Cup pool play. Because it's all about accruing enough points to advance out of your group, a tie's often as good as a win. So you see teams playing for ties.

That wasn't the case Wednesday. The U.S. needed a win to advance. And it had plenty of opportunities -- plenty of near-misses -- as did Algeria. That's what kept you riveted to the very end, when Landon Donovan's goal with extra time running out launched celebrations all over the country.

There are 1-0 games, see, and there are 1-0 games. It's not the score that bores.

Ben Smith's blog.

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