U.S. soccer bandwagon filling up fast

Sports commentary

All aboard!

Sorry, too late. The U.S. soccer bandwagon is nearing capacity. After last week’s improbable run to the World Cup quarterfinals — a stage that was set with a historic 2-0 win over rival Mexico — bandwagon reservations are already being taken for Germany 2006.

But don’t hesitate. Get your seats now. It’s only a matter of time before the U.S. takes the whole kit and kaboodle. And believe me, soccer fans, you won’t want to miss it.

Friday’s 1-0 loss to soccer superpower, Germany, proved not only that U.S. soccer has arrived; it’s here to stay. Give the Americans four more years of training together and playing on an international stage, and they could be one of the favorites.

They already handed Portugal its lunch, defiled Mexico and played a rambunctious South Korean side to a draw in this year’s tournament. Forget about the 3-1 loss to Poland in round one, because when this team is truly on its game — not the case that day — it can play with anyone.

The gringos have finally learned how to play with the rest of the world, and instead of being an afterthought to win anything other than the U.S. Cup, they’re ready to surpass the competition. If it hasn’t already happened, the nation that “doesn’t care” is about to give the rest of the world a wake-up call.

Bruce Arena is the ideal fit as coach. Claudio Reyna and Brian McBride are remarkable team leaders. Defenders Eddie Pope and Tony Sanneh have reached all-world potential. And 20-something players like Damarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan demonstrate a brilliant — not to mention, lightning-fast — future.

But even beyond the players on the field in Korea/Japan this summer, it’s becoming apparent that this country could become a soccer nation. Somewhere, deep down, our collective conscience is ready to let us admit that soccer is fun to watch!

Even the sports radio hacks who belittled the Cup for months were right there watching the quarterfinals at 4:30 a.m. last Friday. What’s up, bandwagon?

The signs of growth are everywhere. Major League Soccer is beginning to earn international respect in its eighth year. Youth programs are continuing to grow at unprecedented rates, with participation nationwide now rivaling that of little league baseball.

More and more athletes are realizing that their skills and body builds may be better utilized on a soccer pitch instead of a basketball court or football field. More and more coaches are recruiting players and grooming them with proven soccer methodology.

All the pieces are in place. There is no reason the U.S. shouldn’t shoot itself to the top of the soccer world within a few short years. And while I prefer to stay away from predictions, I can confidently say that this team is finished going backward.

The U.S. is on the doorstep. Next up, the hoisting of sports’ most coveted trophy.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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