It's the big game -- their last game, if the United States team can't pull it out.
Lose today, and it's pack and go home. The fact that the United States is still in the World Cup competition, after playing Italy to a tie, is because an Italian guy scored the Americans' only goal.
Win today, and the U.S. could advance in the championship. It would do so by beating Ghana. Ghana, from whose dungeons so many thousands of Africans were sent off to slavery in the New World.
In the U.S., soccer ranks somewhere behind golf and shopping as grownups' favorite pursuits. If the U.S. were to take home the World Cup, the trophy might wind up as a doorstop in some gym.
In Ghana -- playing for the first time in the World Cup -- the entire nation was given a half-day national holiday today just to watch. If Ghana were to win the World Cup, the whole population would probably happily wait in line for days just to lay eyes on it.
Outside the Nuremberg stadium venue for today's game, the U.S. is already a long way from popular, what with the Iraq war and the Bush Administration's pushiness at the U.N. and big-footing on treaties and whatnot. Running the table in a sport that leaves most of the world breathless with passion but leaves most Americans indifferent would delight the comparatively few American fans but piss off the other several billion people on the planet.
So, a word to Coach Bruce Arena: lose.
Make it look good. Heck, maybe you won't have to fake it; maybe we're not good enough to beat Ghana. But for the sake of this country, for the sake of world peace -- and I'm not being entirely metaphorical -- please do what you can to see to it that America's team comes home as good sports and even better losers. I don't want to get all Zen, but losing here would really be winning. You and your team would be bigger men than some of those who wear the title "leader" in this country. Be PeeWee Reese, not Ty Cobb.
There may not be a Medal of Freedom in it. But you'd have the eventual thanks of a grateful nation.