(The following blog by Dan Genzler of Sioux Falls, S.D. Genzler writes The Genz blog. Here is a blog about USA women’s soccer and its conversion of a naysayer – me.).
In full disclosure, I am not a die-hard soccer fan. Not even close.

I love football (both college and NFL) and baseball with a little college hoops mixed in. I have lost my passion for the NBA. I will watch the women’s softball World Series and occasionally turn on tennis when the U.S. Open or Wimbledon are underway.

It is rare that I will watch a soccer match at all. But, a revelation here, I have now watched both of the USA’s heart-thumping wins in the 2011 Women’s FIFA World Cup.

It wasn’t planned.

Being kind of a sports nut, I was watching ESPN when the highlights of the USA’s loss to Sweden a few days ago flashed across the TV. So, I decided maybe I would watch the quarterfinals with Brazil. Then, I thought, if I am asked a question about women’s soccer, at least I can say, “yes, it was exciting but the USA’s doesn’t have it anymore.”

Yep, I was one of those naysayers. I know, I know, where’s your USA spirit. Well, I must confess it wasn’t there, until….

I saw the penalty on the USA in the Brazil match. I jumped a little, cursed some, as the USA was penalized with a red card, in the process losing one of its best players, in the second half. Then after goalie Hope Solo stopped a shot by Brazil, the official gave Brazil another shot, saying a player encroached or Solo moved. Whatever it was, I spewed a few choice words.

Down a player to one of the best teams in the world, things didn’t look good for the USA. Still, I watched and fretted a little. Suddenly, the USA, even down a player, seemed to be controlling play. The USA took the match to extra time. Here I was thinking, OK, it is only a matter of time before it ends.

Along the way, I began thinking, why do I care about USA women’s soccer? I suspect it was because like the U.S. Hockey team in the Olympics, I am drawn to games where patriotism engulfs you. Sometimes, a call against your nation can fire you up – at least to this one observer.

As Brazil scored early in extra time, the USA still didn’t quit. The fans in Germany started coming to their side. It was amazing turnabout, almost like Rocky IV when he beat Drago and then after the fight said to the Russian fans – “if I can change and you can change everybody can change!.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsJnxlXepsY&feature=related

That was happening to me. I was changing, rooting hard for the American women’s soccer team, in a sporting contest that mattered little to me before this week.

The USA fought through, kind of like Rocky, beat the odds and when Abby Wambach’s header late in overtime or extra time, tied the match, well I was hooked. I watched the USA win in a shootout of penalty kicks. Again Solo was huge with a big save. With a 2-2 (5-3 PK) USA win (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Y5sPHb6lQw), I was ready for their next match.

Today in the Cup semifinals against France, the USA seemed a bit disjointed and tired. Still they took a 1-0 lead early. However the French team was here to play and they had a number of opportunities to take advantage of the porous US play. They counted just one goal, on a weird play, ball bouncing past U.S. goalie Hope Solo, who reacted to a player in the box going for a header.

In the 79th minute, Wambach did it again. For the third straight game, she scored a goal – this one again on a header. Shortly thereafter the USA added a third goal and they were on their way to the World Cup finals.

Now, I am confused. I can’t say I am a soccer fan yet. You won’t find me heading out to local soccer matches, hoping I will find the next Hope Solo or Abby Wambach. But like Brandy Chastain and Mia Hamm did 12 years ago, the USA women are the attention of the nation, if not the world. They are continuing to build a legacy of excellence in women’s soccer. These wins, and how they unfolded, are captivating young American girls if not all of America.

I think we are seeing the heart of a champion. I don’t know that it matters who is next. It will be a downer if they don’t win it all but they have won over people, like me.

No, maybe I am not totally sold on soccer, but I am going to watch the finals. And, when those moments get tense, I will shout a few words or encouragement to the Americans and disapproval to the referees, thinking they will hear me through the TV.

This Cup finals will capture my interest and be an event that I will remember (even if it isn’t the NFL or the World Series with my beloved Tigers).

The the best thing about this soccer resurgence isn’t winning me over (obviously) but that soccer is back – if it ever left. The USA is tough, resilient and just plain good. We are reminded of that again.