The U.S. Women's Soccer team is on a victory lap around the country, celebrating its gold medal from the London Olympics and connecting with the fans of its drama-packed games.
The U.S. Men's team, however, just took another giant step back from relevance.
While it's been an uphill battle for many years to get soccer into prominence in America, the U.S. national team seemed to be making strides in recent years. The team posted relative success in its international games, including advancing beyond the knockout round in the latest World Cup, and is finally seeing its biggest stars find permanent homes in the top-notch foreign leagues.
But even the presence of Clint Dempsey, arguably the biggest name among U.S. players abroad, couldn't salvage the Americans in their qualifying game against Jamaica on Friday night. Dempsey scored in the opening minute, but the high-spirited Jamaicans had the last laugh, winning the CONCACAF matchup 2-1. It was Jamaica's first win against the U.S. in 19 tries.
The loss would appear to be another aberration on the resume of the men's team, which has failed to come through in vital games against lesser opponents before. But this loss was especially dispiriting considering the depths to which the coaching staff reached before the game to fire the players up.
Donnie Moore, a motivational speaker known for his ability to shred phone books with his bare hands, talked with the players before the game. He gave them several thoughts to consider, then rolled an iron skillet up "like a burrito" before ripping a few phone books in half.
Moore, who was quite the image in a getup that harkened back to the bright-colored warm-up pants of the 1980s, told the team what it needed to do for a win.
"If you don't have a goal, someone else is going to use you to reach their goals," Moore said.
Jamaica's goal was to win Friday night, and the challengers certainly used the U.S. team to get there. The Americans will have another chance soon to make a move in the standings, where they are tied for second, with the top two finishers in the group moving on to the next round of World Cup qualifying.
But if Moore's speech failed to push them to victory this time, you have to wonder what will. Check out Moore's exploits below.
Hey, the West Coast trip wasn't all bad for the Red Sox. Aaron Cook contributed this excellent Mohawk.
"No tattoos. I promised my mother. You know if you break a promise, you're not going to be living for the next days. I want to live as long as I can, so I'm not going to break that promise."
– Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics rookie, on going inkless
Deck the halls with some Gronkowski. We'll be watching and live-blogging the Pats tomorrow at 1!
— Jake Boyle (@jakeboyle3434) September 8, 2012
What a crafty double play.