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U.S. Men's Soccer Team Kicks Off Military World Games in China

Oct. 22, 2019 | BY Joe Lacdan

The U.S. Armed Forces men's soccer team kicked off the 2019 CISM Military World Games in Wuhan, China, with a match against the heavily favored team from the country of Qatar.

CISM, or the International Military Sports  Council, holds the games every four years, with more than 100 nations participating in 32 sports. The council is referred to by its French acronym, CISM, because French is its founding language.

A U.S. Army soccer player and a Qatari soccer player leap in the air while facing each other on a field..
Wuhan Leap
Army 1st Lt. Alexander Clark, right, of the Armed Forces men’s soccer team, competes for the ball during a preliminary round match with Qatar for the 2019 Military World Games in Wuhan, China, Oct. 16, 2019.
Photo By: EJ Hersom, DOD
VIRIN: 191016-D-DB155-016

Under a blanket of gray clouds and intermittent rain showers last week, the U.S. men's team took the field saying they felt like the "Miracle on Ice" U.S. men's ice hockey team in the 1980 Winter Olympics, which stunned a heavily favored Soviet Union team — a feeling made all the more believable by the 1980 Team USA hockey jersey hanging in the team's locker room for inspiration.

It has been a blessing to be here, and it is something every kid dreams of."
Jerry "Rocky" Reynard, Assistant Coach

Yet, even with what could seem like insurmountable odds against his team, assistant coach Jerry "Rocky" Reynard seemed to be more concerned with what it means to wear the nation's colors and represent the country.

Blue-clad soccer goalie slides while making a save.
Soccer Save
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Dylan Meeker of the U.S. armed forces men’s soccer team makes a save during a preliminary round match with Qatar at the CISM 2019 Military World Games in Wuhan, China Oct. 16, 2019.
Photo By: EJ Hersom, DOD
VIRIN: 191016-D-DB155-011

"It has been a blessing to be here, and it is something every kid dreams of — to play in a world-class stadium against world-class teams." He also mentioned how the rain can be the great equalizer on the field.

The team spent its entire practice time leading up to CISM, in Everett, Washington, where it has been similar weather to what it was experiencing in China.

One soccer player jumps on top of another player as they compete for the ball.
Tangled Up
Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Haug gets tangled up with another player during a preliminary round soccer match with Qatar in the Military World Games in Wuhan, China, Oct. 16, 2019.
Photo By: EJ Hersom, DOD
VIRIN: 191016-D-DB155-014

This team understood the immense challenge to be able to win this entire event, so the Qatar match would act as a barometer for how they stack up against the competition. A win or a close match would let the rest of the teams know the U.S. team is not to be overlooked.

Throughout most of the first half of play, the U.S. team was in lockstep with everything Qatar could kick at them. The U.S. team maintained a 0-0 score until a free kick in the 27th minute allowed Qatar to take a 1-0 lead. And that is when the U.S. team lost its way for the next 10 minutes. Ten minutes is all it took for Qatar to score two more goals and go up 3-0 before the half.

Two soccer players try to control the ball with their heads.
Heady Move
Army 1st Lt. Alexander Clark, right, of the U.S. armed forces men’s soccer team heads a ball during a preliminary round match with Qatar at the CISM 2019 Military World Games in Wuhan, China, Oct. 16, 2019.
Photo By: EJ Hersom, DOD
VIRIN: 191016-D-DB155-012

Whatever speech was given to the U.S. players in the locker room during halftime must have struck a chord, as they came out strong and put consistent pressure on the Qatar team, but USA was still not able to find the back of the net. Both teams traded haymakers, but neither was able to land a decisive shot until the 90th minute of regulation play, when Marine Corps Cpl. Nicholas Heath was able to finish off a drive and put one on the board for the U.S. team to make it 3-1. The U.S. team continued to put as much pressure as they could muster on Qatar, but it was not to be as the final whistle blew, signaling the end of a hard-fought match for both teams.

Even with the loss, the U.S. team left the stadium with a sense of encouragement, knowing they had done more than just play Qatar — they played them pretty well. This team is fully aware of how simple breakdowns for a few minutes ultimately made the difference in this match.

"We made a couple of unfortunate errors that are simple things — simple things we need to fix in the next 48 hours until our next match," Heath said.

Military soccer players stand in a row and salute on a field.
Team Salute
Armed Forces men’s soccer team members salute at the start of a preliminary round match with Qatar for the Council of International Sports for Military 2019 Military World Games in Wuhan, China, Oct. 16, 2019.
Photo By: EJ Hersom, DOD
VIRIN: 191016-D-DB155-005

Attending the match was Steve Dinote, U.S. chief of delegation, who said, "I couldn't be prouder. They faced one of the top teams in the world and they seemed to control most of the match. Our guys played a highly professional match and represented us proudly."

(Joe Lacdan is assigned to Army News Service.)