Are you ready for some futbol

May 30 2010 - 6:20pm

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Traffic? We know traffic. And successful Super Bowl bids? Got a sturdy opinion on them.

Yet all this futbol traffic that buzzed through Connecticut the past few days, bids for final roster spots on the U.S. World Cup team, bids to do something special in South Africa, bids to land the World Cup itself in 2018 or 2022 . . . it's a little overwhelming.

Admission: I am not a soccer aficionado. There is nothing beautiful about my game. Interested in the World Cup quadrennial, to be sure, but overwhelmed by so many players, so many countries, so many pretentious soccer know-it-alls. And, yes, also happy Herculez Gomez and Edson Buddle, two bolts from the blue and two of the great names in sport, have plane tickets to Jo-burg.

Like we said, we do know traffic, and getting stuck for an hour in that mess Tuesday at Rentschler Field for the USA-Czech Republic friendly was a brutal experience. Anybody who argues differently either was not there or liar, liar, your pants full of Benjamins are on fire. Yes, folks were warned to show up early, but when parking for 36,218 seems more like parking for 81,263 maybe somebody ought to address logistical shortcomings.

Anyway, the atmosphere was terrific, evidence of the great pull of the World Cup season and a nice omen for folks who dream of major league soccer some day at the Rent. And even if many of the American starters were held out during the 4-2 Czech win, the two-day USA soccer experience in our state certainly was compelling. On Wednesday, after a long night of roster paring at the hotel, Bob Bradley's 30 became the 23 introduced on the lawn of ESPN in Bristol. Bob Ley looked like Bob Hope when he used to introduce the college All-America team on his Christmas special.

Gomez, Buddle and speedy Robbie Findley were in. Brian Ching and Eddie Johnson were out. Message boards lit up.

"I've done everything I can," Herculez, who scored a goal against the Czechs, had said at the Rent. "It's out of my hands. It would mean the world to me to make it. I don't know if I'll be able to sleep."

Sleep easy, Mighty Herculez.

Gomez and Buddle weren't even in the picture a year ago. Wayne Coffey of the New York Daily News compared Buddle, who is leading the MLS in scoring for the L.A. Galaxy and grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y., to Kurt Warner or Mario Elie. A late bloomer. Gomez, who led the Mexican Primera Division in scoring, is like Vinnie Johnson. Instant offense. Together they are the most delicious of commodities: hot strikers.

The thought of Herculez coming off the bench to score a huge goal against England in the second half on June 12 is so, so juicy.

International sport is joyful chaos. Wildly divergent opinions, disguised as stone-cold fact, reign. Decisions fry the mind. Prevailing wisdom is often no more than a guess. The sports world really is nuts. That's why I've always loved covering the Olympics. We're so tame in North America.

The alleged argument over the NFL owners giving New York the 2014 Super Bowl, of course, is no sports argument at all. It's whining by fat cats and sports media who want their week when the sun is warm and their drinks are cold. Yes, it would be nice if the weather cooperates, but let's be real. The chances of a foot of snow and 10 degrees in the Meadowlands are low and the chances of 30 and blah are high. Yes, it's better to have the Super Bowl decided on a nice field, but it is football, football braves the elements and chances are just as good the conference championships will be played in worse weather. Good grief, let the greatest city in the world have its football fun one time. What? You think the Super Bowl parties in Manhattan will be lousy?

Debates over international soccer, meanwhile, aren't nearly as tidy. It's a free-for-all. Apparently, I'm the only one who has no real idea how the Americans will do in South Africa, although I suspect a lot of people, posing otherwise, don't either. My eye Tuesday night told me that the back line is shaky and Oguchi Onyewu, coming off knee surgery, is rusty and still not jumping well. My ears tell me Bradley is cooked as coach if the U.S. doesn't advance past the first round.

"A lot comes down to three games," U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said. "If we don't get out of the first round, I'm going to be disappointed, Bob is going to be disappointed, the players are going to be disappointed. We are at the level now where we expect to pass out of the first round and do something special."

Gulati was born in India, but grew up in Connecticut, went to elementary school in Mansfield, junior high school and high school in Cheshire. He went on to Bucknell and Columbia and remains a member of the economics faculty at Columbia.

"But Connecticut is where I developed my passion for the game," Galati said. "My parents still live here. They were at the game."

So was Jurgen Klinsmann, who will do World Cup analysis for ESPN, and visited the Bristol campus for the first time, revealing to the Associated Press the reason he didn't take the USA coaching job. He didn't believe he'd get enough permissions to use MLS players for the 2007 Copa America and Gold Cup. Like we said, the futbol traffic through our little slice of the world was heavy this week. The 23 moved on to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

Clinton is the honorary chairman of the bid to bring the World Cup to the USA for the first time since 1994. Gulati said he doesn't take much from Chicago's failed Olympic bid because the FIFA executive committee has 24 people, IOC has over 120, and U.S. Soccer knows the FIFA people.

"A different process," Gulati said. "I'm confident in our bid."

That could mean futbol with warm weather and cold drinks at the New Meadowlands Stadium in 2018, which would be good for all.

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