Written By Evan Kamikow
Winning one gold medal at the Maccabiah is hard, winning two is almost 10 times as hard. But winning three gold medals in a row for a chance at history is something the US open men’s soccer team can achieve in the upcoming days.
After a dominating opening match win over Belgium 7-0 with a hat-trick from Yoni Sorokine, the United States starts this campaign 1-0 in pool play. But to truly understand how historic this medal can be, one must take a trip down memory lane.
Led by now-former head coach Preston Goldfarb, the American’s in 2013 were defeated by Uruguay in the opening match. However, they were able to win crucial games against Mexico, Denmark to end pool play 2-1.
The ‘13 team won its quarterfinal and semifinal games against Germany and Canada respectively. Only to set up a date with the defending gold medalists Argentina. While up 2-1, the US starting center back got ejected due to a red card with 30 minutes remaining in the match and the Argentinians scored the equalizer with time running out.
It took an extra 15 minutes and penalty kicks, but the US delegation was able to capture its first ever open men’s soccer gold medal.
“Winning the gold in ‘13 was unbelievable,” former head coach Preston Goldfarb said. “It was just the first time in the 76 year history of the games that a US team had ever won a gold medal.”
A majority of Maccabiah athletes can’t say that they have won a gold medal. However, coach Goldfarb’s team was able to climb to the top of the men’s open soccer mountain. But time doesn’t stop and after four years, another Maccabiah approaches.
“And so you know, how do you duplicate that?” Goldfarb posed the question. “You don’t really. It’s very difficult to win the first one, much less a second one and I wasn’t going back to be honest.”
But Goldfarb wound up going back yet he was almost six months behind schedule in the recruitment of players. While he was able to bring back five members of his 2013 squad, Goldfarb now knew there would be a target on his back.
After being given a tough draw with pool members including Venezuela, Great Britain and Australia, the Americans went 2-1 which was enough to advance to the knockout stage. The US would beat Uruguay and Israel, who sent their U-21 team, to advance to the finals with a rematch against Great Britain.
This time, the gold was won without an issue as the Stars and Stripes took down the UK 3-0 to capture a second straight gold medal.
“It was a great way for me to end my career, to be honest,” Goldfarb added. “Not many coaches get the opportunity to end their careers with a win or gold medal. And you know, I did but, you know, we went over there, and I felt like less was more.”
Thus, bringing us back to the 21st Maccabiah. With a new head coach and a brand new team, repeating won’t be easy. However, current head coach Michael Erush knows the challenge ahead will be daunting.
“The challenge of three-peat in any competition is difficult, but I’m excited for the challenge,” Erush said. “I mean, there’s no pressure, I just want the boys to have a good experience and compete at the highest level and have an opportunity to expose themselves to professional scouts, and get ready for the college season.”
After an opening match win, the United States will finish up pool play against Uruguay on July 17th and Sweden on the 18th. With an even bigger target on their backs and a favorable remaining schedule, only time will tell if the US tastes glory once again with a third gold medal.