When it came time to close the deal, however, the federation morphed into the Houston Texans. Klinsmann said no thanks, so the title of interim coach fell to Bob Bradley, whose 2006 claim to fame was coaching Chivas USA to the best MLS record in Carson.
For Team USA, these were the Borat Olympics.
In men's ice hockey, the cultural learnings of America included six losses in seven games, our squad of NHL All-Stars proceeding to make benefit only once — the lone victory coming against the glorious nation of Kazakhstan. The camera caught Americans doing many foolish things, such as snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis showboating to celebrate a sure victory and falling just before the finish to turn gold into silver. For also-ran America, the footage of Jacobellis trading the thrill of victory for the agony of defeat became a symbol for the entire year.
Also swapping gold for silver was figure skater Sasha Cohen, not to be confused with "Borat" star Sacha Baron Cohen. Sasha was a disappointing — and fortunate — second place after falling twice in the first minute of her long program; Sacha's movie was a box-office hit.
In tennis, Americans produced their worst performance in decades by placing only one player, male or female, in a Grand Slam final. That was Andy Roddick, whose achievement of reaching the U.S. Open final took second billing behind Andre Agassi's retirement as the biggest headline to emanate from Flushing Meadows.
Roddick lost that final to Switzerland's Roger Federer, who came within two sets of becoming the first man to sweep tennis' Grand Slam events since Rod Laver in 1969. Only a four-set loss to Rafael Nadal in the French Open final denied Federer.
Federer had the kind of season that cried out for Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year cover. But the magazine's editors, doing contortions to find some American athlete worth celebrating in 2006, gave the honor instead to Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who finished sixth in the NBA's most-valuable-player award voting.
Even when we managed to break through to the top step of the podium, it was tainted. Floyd Landis completed an improbable ride to the Tour de France championship, tacking on an eighth consecutive U.S. triumph to Lance Armstrong's seven in a row.
Landis, however, tested positive for synthetic testosterone, casting the same cloud of doubt and controversy over the accomplishment as the one now permanently attached to Barry Bonds' chase of Hank Aaron's career home run record.
Bonds passed Babe Ruth on the home run list May 28 amid a head-shaking mixture of apathy and antipathy. He finished the season with 26 home runs, moving him to within 21 of Aaron.
Barring injury or Bonds suddenly doing the right thing and retiring out of respect for Aaron and sport's most hallowed record, Bonds probably will become baseball's all-time home run leader in 2007 — as a nation turns its lonely eyes away, hoping for a pulled hamstring.
So many discouraging words, but one was worth celebrating this year.
That would be Tiger Woods, who won the PGA Championship and the British Open to bring his career Grand Slam victory total to 12, the second most all-time.
That would also be the Detroit Tigers, who went from 119 losses in 2003 to 95 victories and the AL pennant in 2006.
The year's biggest horse racing story involved a horse that failed to finish the Preakness. Kentucky Derby champion Barbaro broke his right hind leg shortly after exiting the gate, his subsequent life-saving surgery and rehabilitation turning him into America's horse.
Jimmie Johnson won his first Nextel Cup title by opening NASCAR's season with a Daytona 500 victory and closing it with, yes, four second-place finishes in his last six races.
But nowhere in 2006 did No. 2 mean more than the NFL.
The wild-card Steelers began the calendar year by defeating Seattle in the Super Bowl.
The 2006 regular season was highlighted by the performances of quarterbacks who started September at No. 2 on their team's depth charts: Tennessee's Young, Arizona's Leinart, Dallas' Tony Romo, Philadelphia's Jeff Garcia, Denver's Jay Cutler.
After 15 games, the league had two two-loss teams — the San Diego Chargers, who rode LaDainian Tomlinson's record 31 touchdowns to the AFC's top playoff seeding, and the Chicago Bears, also 13-2 but not quite sure whom their playoff quarterback ought to be.
In November, two of the nation's most popular athletes, soccer star Mia Hamm and Dodger comeback player of the year Nomar Garciaparra, announced they were soon to become parents.
The number of children they are expecting in 2007?
That's right. Two.