U.S. World Cup worries grow, draw with Saudis in last tuneup
Published October 27, 2013
Updated December 17, 2014 9:50 AM
Saudi Arabia’s last World Cup tuneup was on Sunday in Washington, drawing a crowd as large as the one that greeted the team’s first match in 1930.
By all accounts, the atmosphere at the White House correspondents’ dinner turned out to be just as raucous as the one for the team’s first match, against Panama in a rain-drenched and mud-soaked opening match in the United States in 1930.
The match, which ended with a 4-3 defeat for Panama and a 2-1 victory for the Americans, was hardly the most memorable moment at the dinner, which was scheduled for Oct. 18, a few days after the conclusion of this week’s USA-Canada dual match between the teams in Toronto.
Afterward, former U.S. President George W. Bush said he was “thrilled” to meet the team. It was Bush’s first visit to the White House since taking office in 2001.
The highlight, apparently, was President Barack Obama’s invitation to the team — he met with the players in the Oval Office and then had a meeting that lasted more than an hour with the players on the field, including U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, who had just celebrated his 25th birthday.
It was the second time the team has visited the White House, but the first since the death in office of former president George H.W. Bush in 2004.
Bush has become a regular visitor to the White House, but the U.S. hasn’t had a World Cup participant there since 1990, when Canada beat Germany, 3-1, in the U.S. match.
This visit may be part of U.S. soccer’s effort to find a new direction, in terms of how it approaches the game’s biggest event.
“This visit is part of us growing up. It’s the first time we’ve really had a World Cup, and it’s going to become more and more significant to us,” United States captain Clint Dempsey, 30, said in the wake of the dinner,