Saturday, December 25, 2004

It was funny for a while, but the joke's over. All of this business about you coming back to the United States to play in Utah is just plain old silly.

Ha ha ha. I get it. Very funny.

Now, just tell me which offer from which German team you're going to accept.

Do you want to go down to Freiburg, a town full of more beautiful young German co-eds than you can shake a stick at? While you're there, help save the club from relegation and become a local hero.

How about Mainz? Conor Casey's there and they were looking pretty sharp for a while. I've seen them play and you'd fit in perfectly.

Or why not head over to the fußbal capital of Germany, play across the road from your one time suitors Bayern Munich and help 1860 regain their rightful place in 1 Bundesliga?

Just not MLS.

I knew you were going to be a force the day Captain America and Bake both went down in a must win game against Mexico and Bruce Arena was forced to put you on the field. It didn't take long, but you made sure it was a decision he wouldn't regret.

That day, you changed the way the U.S. played the game.

But I was still late to jump on the bandwagon.

It was against Honduras in Seattle in one of your first games back after the ACL injury that I finally got on and I realized that Sports Illustrated would treat you with a respect previously reserved only for Kyle Rote Jr. (Do they still make those posters, and if so where's yours?)

I fell faster than Dorothy did for Jerry watching you score two goals while working up top with Landon. 67 minutes was all you needed. Your work was done that day. (Even Landon's going to be in Germany soon, Clint...)

Then, against Ecuador, there wasn't a US Soccer fan alive who wasn't proud of you when you kicked that dirty little cheat in the cojones, got a red card, and cursed the ref on national television as you walked off the field. (Bruce Arena is not a fan - he's the anti-Clint - though I'm sure he was secretly proud, like all of us and Dee Snider that an American had finally decided we weren't gonna take it anymore.)

Next was Mexico in Denver and this time we just needed an ugly goal and you showed you could put them in by any means necessary. "Brian Mc-who?" I remember thinking.

My favorite though, had to have come in a losing cause against Germany in Rostock.

We had just given up four unanswered goals and I could just see you were pissed off. You took the ball and fired a shot right at the German keeper that seemed to say, "Try and stop this you *%#!! piece of *&%#@" and like that you made the score respectable.

Well, a couple more World Cup tune-ups, a couple more shots to write home about (Ireland from midfield comes to mind) - it was all becoming too routine and most of us Mathis-ites weren't wondering how many games you would start, but rather, how many goals you would score.

Who do you think's going to win the World Cup, Clint?

You're bleeping hell right we are, Clint.

The gall of that American who plays soccer, saying that his team was going to win the tournament. I guess you just have to be American to know that the only answer to that question is the one you gave.

Oh yeah, the World Cup. Who else can claim to have silenced entire nation?

For a while, had a download of that goal against South Korea when you searched out "sublime". Only JOB could've made that pass, for sure, but there's wasn't another player on that team who could've converted it.

Over the shoulder. Right foot trap. Bounce. Left foot hammer. Goal.

It might have been the best goal of the whole tournament if you hadn't made it look so easy.

Well, the World Cup came and went and you disappeared for a while - but I didn't hold it against you.

If my employer wouldn't give me the promotion I deserved, I sure as hell wouldn't give them 100% anymore either. And, Lord knows I wouldn't have done it for the 2002 or 2003 MetroStars.

I'll admit, I was a bit worried that no one was going to take you on when you finally went to Europe last year. It had been so long since we'd seen you do anything, I wondered if you were still in there.

Were you really good enough for Mighty Europe?

Of course you were.

Just ask Pal Dardai at Hertha Berlin. All he could do was stick out a weak leg when you juked the living crap out of him and proceeded to launch a bomb into the upper 90. Or Jens Novotny and Diego Placente at Leverkusen as they both did a twist that would've made Chubby Checker proud on a box-to-box run and score.

One Hannover fan videoed your goals from his television so we could see them, while another one made a website just for us. We even salivated over the goal you didn't score - more people emailed me and asked me for the mpeg of your ricochet off the cross bar than your actual goals.

And finally, what would forever be known as the watch-tapping incident. That day, a friend sent me a texto on my cell phone saying, "Clint came on in the 80th minute and scored 30 seconds later."

Of course you did.

And you let Ewald know that 80 minutes was too long to sit on the bench.

I thought it was a hell of a lot cooler than Ewald did obviously, but you and he never really saw eye to eye anyway. It happens.

You'd surely pick up with another German team in January, though. Or somewhere else not named MLS - I mean, that wouldn't even be an option, right?

Real Betis? Ok. Real Vallecano? Ok. Real Madrid? Even I wouldn't have believed that one. But ReAL Salt Lake?

Yeah, that is some funny junk. You almost had me for a second.

So, anyway, I'm sitting here, Christmas Day, watching your goals from last year, showing my seven year old nephew (he just told me he's seven and a half!) how it's done - man, you were a bad ass - to tell you the truth, I'm feeling a little verklempt. And I'm hoping against hope that you're not going back to the United States to play for Utah.

It just doesn't fit in with the rest of the story.