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An American Fanís Journal

June 22, 1998: Politics reigned in stands of U.S.-Iran match.

June 21, 1998: Free tickets provide Cupís best treat.

June 19, 1998: French cabbies and waiters know the truth.

June 16, 1998: The Great Paris Umbrella Riot.

June 14, 1998: A crowning moment for Nigeria.

June 13, 1998: Let the World Cup debate begin.

June 10, 1998: World Cup off to good start.

An American Fan's Journal: U.S. fans remain loyal to their team.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes Correspondent

ON THE TGV TO NANTES, France (Tuesday, June 23, 1998) -- As the French countryside flashes by at 110 MPH the conversation in the train car is almost entirely in English, and the single subject is the fate so far in this World Cup of the United States national team. Here are fans from San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles, Boston and Washington, D.C. even a couple from El Paso, Texas who are simply on vacation here in France and now know more about Steve Sampson's problems then they ever wanted, or needed to know.

I would guess the two dozen Americans on their way to Nantes represent the bedrock of support for U.S. soccer. All strangers before this four hour trip began, this is a group of kindred souls have who followed the U.S. through the two years of qualifying and now on to France.

The collective mood here is one of resignation. People are not really angry over the U.S. failure, nor are they particularly saddened. It seems no one expected much more.

There is blame though. That blame falls directly on Steve Sampson. If a vote were taken among these two dozens hard core fans, Sampson would already have been sacked, and assistant coach Clive Charles should be the man in charge Thursday night against Yugoslavia. John Harkes also should know he has a lot of fans on this train to Nantes. To a person this group of the most knowledgeable fans of U.S. Soccer believes that Harkes should have been on the field in Lyon against Iran.

It seems to me that people running U.S. Soccer have a problem. It is not just a question of proving to the world that we are serious about becoming competitive on the pitch. U.S. Soccer must prove to its most ardent supporters that it understands the depth of this debacle and that it is moving to see that it will never happen again.

Marylandís Bob Wagman wrote a nationally syndicated political column for Scripps-Howard for many years. At the same time he has covered soccer in North America for British and South African newspapers since the days of the North American Soccer League. His "Football In America" column now appears regularly in British newspapers. He can be e-mailed at MobileWag@aol.com.