U.S. soccer headed in the right direction

For a team accustomed to hearing its own people root against it, even at home, the U.S. national soccer team has now embarked on a new course: listening to 40,000 of its own fans chant “USA, USA,” and absolutely annihilating its opponent, 3-0.

Its rarified air-seriously, it is at 4,500 feet above sea level-but it’s even more pristine for the Americans to have packed in 40,000 for a home game. More on that later.

The 3-0 score in a World Cup qualifier was due in large part to a bald U.S. veteran of three World Cups named Kasey Keller, who there, but for the grace of God, made save after save of howitzers the Costa Rican forwards kept launching his way.

Sound ridiculous? Well, it was, until Saturday.

That’s when the other part of the equation, as in E=David Checketts+40,000 Utahns ,took hold of a decades-old problem in U.S. soccer and waved, cajoled and bleated until the fan base on which it once stood-turncoat U.S. fans pretending not to care about their team-gave way to unbridled fan support for the HOME team.

Finally, American pride overcame the U.S. fair-weather fans who would have once told you that never in a million years would the U.S. national team be able to play a home World Cup qualifier in which a) there were more than 30,000 fans, b) half of the 30,000 were not rooting for the opponent and c) Landon Donovan would score two goals.

Before now, someone would have had to travel to cold, dreary places like Columbus or Portland to get a fan base ALMOST pro-American. Even so, places like Crew Stadium or PGE Park pack in 25,000-on a good day.

Still not convinced? Two weeks ago, in Chicago, I’d estimate the crowd ratio for United States-England at about 2:1 for the U.K. By those figures, is it any surprise the final was 2-1 for England? The announced attendance was more than 60,000.

In fact, most in attendance would have given any U.S. cheer a nice boot smack, courtesy of about several thousand transplanted hooligans who like the English Premier League for its beauty (yeah, right).

If someone had told me two weeks ago that 40,000 fans would show up at Rice-Eccles and that most would be rooting for the United States, I would have thought he or she was crazy.

Oh, and breaking news: Utah’s two biggest newspapers ran U.S. soccer stories on page A1. I can’t say the last time that happened, because it hasn’t, not even for the World Cup this country hosted in 1994.

Even still, I don’t know if this match was a fluke, but 40,000 screaming fans told me that Utahns may be on to something.

I say let’s have the next qualifier match in Provo, in front of 60,000 rabid U.S. fans in LaVell Edwards Stadium-mostly a dry crowd-and give Mexico a taste of their own medicine.

Let’s make LaVell Edwards Stadium a buzzing, noisy cauldron so hostile and sobering that our fans give the U.S. national team what it has always dreamed of: definitive home-field advantage during a crucial World Cup qualifying match.

Who knows? Perhaps we’ll defeat Mexico.

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