USA vs. Argentina isn’t the biggest match in USMNT history, but may be the most impactful

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER.

by DENY GALLAGHER

OP-ED: The United States is set to take on number one Argentina in the semifinals of the Copa America Centenario. But according to the Internet, Messi and Argentina have already punched their ticket to the final at MetLife Stadium.

While I’m sure Jurgen Klinsmann and company will enjoy the rare front row ticket to the Messi Show, the side has a different script in mind for Tuesday night.

The initial disdain of reading headlines like “This Is The Biggest Match in U.S. Soccer History” and “If the U.S. is Going to Get Blown Out, They Might As Well Do It With Fun Players” has subsided. It does, however, pose the question: hasn’t this side earned more respect than a flashy, quick dig on the current state of U.S. Soccer and its lineage?

Tuesday night’s match is not the biggest or most significant in USMNT history; even if the side emerges victorious. To be honest, that sentiment discredits the importance of the original “Dos A Cero” match at the 2002 World Cup, or beating Spain at the 2009 Confederations Cup.

Let’s keep things in perspective here. This isn’t a World Cup. This isn’t a traditional Copa America. Heck, it’s not even the Gold Cup. There isn’t a spot at the 2018 World Cup or 2017 Confederations Cup on the line. To put it mildly, this tournament is a celebration of soccer in the Americas under the Copa America umbrella.

But there is a recent moment in the program’s history that a win against Argentina could be in the same ballpark, if not the exact same level. That moment was not a championship, but a cultural moment – Landon Donovan’s wonder-goal against Algeria at the 2010 World Cup.

While winning the tournament would be monumental, the most significant result to come out of this tournament is in the extended mainstream media coverage, the significant television ratings and the effect it will have on the minds of sports fans throughout the country. The semifinal against Argentina has an opportunity to be a landmark moment in terms of soccer being at the forefront of the news cycle. With a win, images of bars going into a frenzy and large viewing parties will be immortalized on the internet. From a soccer perspective, a win can allow new heroes to etch their names into history or active legends like Clint Dempsey to put the finishing touches on an already impressive legacy.

Make no mistake about it; this game is important. But is it the biggest match ever? Not by a long shot.

Just don’t tell that to the little kid around the corner who may kick a soccer ball for the first time because of it.