Underdog U.S. team flags down moment to remember WORLD CUP 1994

June 23, 1994|By Cathy Harasta | Cathy Harasta,Dallas Morning News

PASADENA, Calif. -- At the end, the truly glorious end yesterday, the United States' players appeared as though they might just go ahead and tear down the Rose Bowl goalposts.

The U.S. team was at somewhat of a loss here, on its home soil, but unaccustomed to the altitude this squad had just achieved. In a stadium filled with Old Glory, the American squad got its first taste of new glory.

No one was quite sure what player behavior was required after a U.S. World Cup victory.

The last one was in 1950.

Until this epic Wednesday that closed a wide generation gap. Nothing a U.S. team ever has done in soccer in or out of America, indoor or outdoor meant more than the triumph yesterday.

The United States upset Colombia, 2-1, virtually assuring the home team of its goal of reaching the World Cup's second round.

What developed in a steamy Rose Bowl was an unforgettable picture of a sport enjoying its breakthrough in a long inhospitable DTC land. What developed, with more than half the crowd of 93,194 pro-American, was one clear, parting shot. And that shot was a picture of the United States' brightest soccer moment.

In the seconds following their triumph, the players reached out and caught American flags handed from fans in the stands. The players romped this way and that, their arcs describing capricious victory laps.

Alan Rothenberg, World Cup CEO and U.S. Soccer president, called the game the most important one for the sport in this

country. U.S. midfielder Mike Sorber was more concise: He called it "awesome."

This country's soccer leadership was hopeful that the home team would enjoy some success in Cup competition, success that would translate to a major-league boost for the sport.

Indeed, the global soccer constellation allowed its precious gem of a Cup to come to America because this nation is a final, and potentially fertile, frontier.

The upset of Colombia was a shot heard 'round the States.

"We went to Italia '90 four years ago, and there were 20 American flags," U.S. midfielder John Harkes said. "Today we looked in the stands and there were 65,000. The support was really there."

A voice crackled over a security walkie-talkie outside the Rose Bowl before the start of the game. The walkie-talkie voice relayed a string of procedural details, ending with a reminder that this was "the big enchilada."

THE BIG ENCHILADA!

Though likely randomly selected, the metaphor proved correct for the U.S. team. The unidentified voice proved prophetic.

For American soccer, yesterday's special edition was the big enchilada.

"It was a long time coming," Sorber said. "But this is just the beginning."

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