Margin Notes

CRAFT STUDIO: WHY THE USMNT COULDN’T GO ANY FURTHER

Jan
12

What I Was Reading:

Why the USMNT Couldn’t Go Any Further by Eric Betts (Slate, Dec 3, 2022) is an analysis of the US men’s soccer team 3-1 loss to the Netherlands at the World Cup.

This paragraph caught my attention as an example of the way a writer can create flow within a paragraph by using details to narrow and widen the lens:

More importantly, though, the USMNT simply looked drained by the effort it expended to get through its group. While it grinded out its win against Iran, the Netherlands got to coast to victory against Qatar, and the difference showed. Every team wants to make it hard to play through midfield, but this time Adams, Yunus Musah, and Weston McKennie couldn’t summon the energy to brute-force their way through the Dutch marking by outsprinting them or winning the most important duels. Much of the game was played at a slow pace that favored the Netherlands, and the U.S. didn’t have the horsepower to push it and put the Dutch under stress. They finally managed it toward the end of the second half, but that was the only moment when it looked like a comeback from a 2-0 first-half deficit might be possible.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

Breaking this paragraph apart sentence by sentence helped me see how the writer uses each sentence to shift the perspective by widening or narrowing it:

More importantly, though, the USMNT simply looked drained by the effort it expended to get through its group. (Wide lens: introduces the topic of the paragraph very broadly—the team was tired from the game it had played before its match with the Netherlands)

While it grinded out its win against Iran, the Netherlands got to coast to victory against Qatar, and the difference showed. (Narrows the lens: supports the introductory statement with details of the previous game and a comparison with the experience of the Netherlands)

Every team wants to make it hard to play through midfield, but this time Adams, Yunus Musah, and Weston McKennie couldn’t summon the energy to brute-force their way through the Dutch marking by outsprinting them or winning the most important duels. (Zooms in: specific examples of the team’s lack of energy)

Much of the game was played at a slow pace that favored the Netherlands, and the U.S. didn’t have the horsepower to push it and put the Dutch under stress. (Lens widens slightly: an analysis statement of the team’s overall play)

They finally managed it toward the end of the second half, but that was the only moment when it looked like a comeback from a 2-0 first-half deficit might be possible. (Zooms back in: offers a specific non-example but brings it back to the overall point)

Opportunities for Writers:

  • Use this as a model for experimenting with perspective and flow in a paragraph.
  • Revisit a paragraph in a draft and try using details to shift the perspective.
  • Find places in their reading where the writer uses a similar technique.
  • Notice and name other paragraph flow techniques they find in their reading.

 

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