This just about covers it:
What made this team different? Longtime fans of the national team will remember our past painful efforts to string together possession. Or the times when our defense consisted of spasmodic clearances. Or the moment we coupled poor quality with poor character, staging our own disgraceful mutiny. This was a fine team in every respect. It should be said that they played several atrocious halves, the kind that reminded one of the most shambolic chapters of our soccer history. But they were able to put those behind them. They were a team that had mythic aspirations and seemed prone to shatter the ceiling that held the U.S. in the second rank of soccer nations. And so now we return to that strangely familiar feeling of finding proxy identities for ourselves, that great empathic act of championing nationalist armies of foreign countries. Of course, what makes the loss so painful is the sense that the U.S. felt like it was on the brink of the cultural transformation that every fan wants—even when professing to care less. The great tipping point was imminent. Was it a coincidence that there were so many "Yes We Can" signs in the stadiums? This felt like the sport's Barack Obama moment. What makes the World Cup such wonderful spectacle, and makes exits from it so pungent, is the simple fact of the four year interval between occurrences. There's no next year.
Ignore the Obama bit if your politics don't roll that way. You get the idea. As elation-inducing as World Cup success is, elimination has a finality that doesn't translate from other sporting events.
As we ponder what might have been if Charlie Davies and Oguchi Onyewu hadn't been injured, or Bob Bradley had just gone with Maurice Edu and Benny Feilhaber from the opening whistle on Saturday, the World Cup rolls on. (Even more so than pulling Clark before halftime--which you could at least chalk up to the yellow card situation--the Feilhaber substitution was an admission of his own bad judgment by Bradley. What does it say if pulling a forward makes you a better offensive team--the implicit aim of any halftime substitution by a team down by a goal?)
As it happens, my foreign nationalist army of choice is Brazil. (Excuse: I have friends and family that live there--I even speak um pouco Portuguese. But, yeah, I know, it's like being a Yankees fan.) O Seleção plays Chile at 2:30. The Netherlands takes on Slovakia at 10:00 this morning.