It’s now or never…

Here’s my column from Thursday’s Star:

It’s Thursday morning, and unless you’re on a goofy shift like I am, you’re probably supposed to be at work today.

Apparently, the schedule makers at FIFA didn’t consider the American audience when it put the U.S. team’s final World Cup first-round match with Ghana on the pitch at 9:55 a.m. today on ESPN.

It’s now or never for the home team. We need to beat Ghana and hope that Italy trips up the Czech Republic so we can move on to the second round.

And the team needs your support.

So, cash in a sick day. Tell the boss you’ve got a summer cold. Tell her your allergies are acting up (which for my wife, would be a great excuse.)

You could always go for the appointment ruse. “Well, I need to be home from 9 to noon to let the air conditioner repairman in.” As hot as it’s been lately, you’re sure to get a heathly dose of sympathetic understanding.

If all else fails, go the patriotic route.

“You think they’re working in Accra today?” When you point out that Accra is the capital of Ghana, you score points for a good working knowledge of world geography.

While TV ratings for this year’s World Cup are double what they were in 2002, when all the games were played in Asia and aired here in the middle of the night, we need every viewer we can get.

I guess you didn’t need any excuses to get out of work then. You just needed some coffee.

This year’s version of the good guys needs more than that. They need the hopes and dreams of a nation of fans cheering them on to victory.

The fans who crossed the pond to Germany — better known as “Sam’s Army” — have been loud and raucous in their support of our national team. They’re doing their part. Are you doing yours?

You don’t have to be a soccer fan to get on board with what’s happening today. Even if you don’t know a forward from a midfielder, you can support a team of your countrymen as they play for our nation’s pride.

We’re playing a country that’s slightly smaller than Oregon with our future on the line.

So ditch work, get in front of a TV and watch some soccer.

We have to make sure Landon Donovan stays aggressive, Kasey Keller plays up to his potential and none of our players get sent off for silly red cards.

You don’t think Ghana’s into this game?

“Our roster is 23 strong, and all the guys are ready to die for the nation,” Ghana’s Stephen Appiah said.

Your country needs you. This game is critical to the evolution of American soccer, and … uh, wait a minute. If we make it to the second round, we have to play Brazil?

Oh well. Watch it anyway.

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