An American’s goal helped Liverpool win the Premier League title for the first time in 30 years.
That’s where the linkage between the United States and Liverpool’s crown pretty much ends.
We’re no strangers to epic droughts and even more epic catharses over here. And yet, while it rings of soccer snobbery, it’s hard to find an expedient comparison.
In the time between this title and Liverpool’s next most recent, its bitter rival Manchester United became the winningest team in the sport. That’s Red Sox-ian. (They even share an owner.)
The volume of press that Liverpool’s drought has received, from websites and newspapers and TV stations across the globe, has been immense. That’s Cubs-ian.
The length of the drought — the Premier League hadn’t even been formed yet the last time Liverpool raised the trophy — belies the fact it’s only 30 years. That’s Cleveland-ian.
Still, nothing quite fits. Liverpool has bore the brunt of brutal jokes for a long time, after winning the old First Division 18 times by 1990. Some might even say Liverpool earned the scorn, as a chunk of their fans marred the game through dangerous and unruly hooliganism. The mighty fell, and they fell harder and further than any of the giant franchises of American sports.
Then there’s the specific context. Seasonal objectives in soccer fluctuate depending on your club’s stature and spending, but most clubs at Liverpool’s level (which is to say, the highest) would prioritize a Champions League title over their domestic league. That option isn’t really available in sports beside soccer in the United States, so in some ways, it’s like saying Liverpool wanted to win its conference title more than the Super Bowl.
But this is Liverpool’s Super Bowl. Before club soccer truly turned into an ethnic mosaic in the 1990s, leagues were incredibly provincial in part by restriction. That means Liverpool’s star players and managers were predominantly from the British isles. They were Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush, Bob Paisley and Bill Shankly.
Those men gave way to Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, Rafa Benitez and Brendan Rodgers. One by one, they all took their shots at ending Liverpool’s increasingly prolific title drought, never mind the other trophies (including the Champions League in 2005) they all brought to Anfield.
It frequently ended in heartbreak. Several American sports teams can empathize with that. Liverpool smoked eventual champion Man United twice in 2008-09, but a clump of midseason draws cost them the title. In 2013-14, Gerrard’s cruel and undeserving slip encapsulated the Reds’ collapse over the home stretch and helped clear the way for Manchester City. Last season’s Liverpool totaled a staggering 97 points — which turned out to be the most points ever for a runner-up, as City hoarded 98.
This season, the Reds did everything in their power to slam the door on disappointment. Jürgen Klopp’s side made mincemeat of the Premier League, winning 26 of its first 27 games (a record across Europe’s top five leagues) and clinching the title with seven games to go, and English record.
Liverpool’s play has been spellbinding and relentless, controlling fury in a way few teams, if any, have managed. The only thing anticlimactic is the fact they clinched the title without playing.
You wouldn’t see that in American sports. The champion would be right there on the same field or court or diamond.
Perhaps it’s fitting, then, because this edition of Liverpool set itself so thoroughly apart.
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