Posts Tagged With: USMNT

Some Match Day Thoughts

Soccer is a sport of emotions and last night was no exception as we were put through it, but as with all things, the more difficult the task the better the payoff.  Some thoughts:

  • Being at the World Cup is simply awesome.  This is my third and I have made good friends at each.  It is so cool seeing friends whom you’ve only ever seen at Cups.  They live in America, but I’ve only know them abroad.
  • The day began here in Pipa with a nice breakfast of Acai with granola, banana, and honey.

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  • Our fleet of cabs took about two hours to reach the stadium.  No worries, we were aware of that and arrived hours before the match.
  • At Bar Original, a few blocks from the stadium, we ate some Brazilian meats.  And had a few beers.

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  • We arrived to the stadium early, having had Mexicans tell us they encountered long, slow lines.  We were in quickly and just hung out on the large, wide concourse.

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  • As most Americans came in our gate, we were reunited with and met many old friends.

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  • There were huge numbers of American, many in great costumes–many were better but this was my favorite.
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  • In addition to Bud, they also sold Brahma beer.  Yeah, it’s owned by Bud but it least is not Bud.  We all drank that.  Beers and cokes came in plastic souvenir cups that notated USA vs Ghana.  Pretty cool, though I didn’t keep any.
  • My seat was in the end zone, 10 rows up, to the right of  the goal, many of my friends were nearby and others squeezed in.

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  • Not once did anyone check my ticket not did I hear of that happening to anyone else.
  • This is good news as for the other two matches, I’m supposed to be in the upper deck–if this laissez-faire approach to ushering continues, I see me having no problem getting close and low.
  • I was happy to see our line-up unchanged from the Nigeria, sendoff match.
  • I love the few minutes from just before the walkout to the start of the match.  There is a feeling of possibilities, it’s all there in front of us, waiting to happen.
  • Belting out the Star-Spangled Banner with thousands of American’s is a moving experience.  It sounded as good as I’ve ever heard us.
  • Soccer can shock.  34 seconds in and we have a goal.  Bedlam in our sections.  A perfect start, surely a match to enjoy.
  • Or not, we didn’t really press our advantage and they didn’t fall apart.
  • Soccer is a game of pain.  And we all felt it when Jozy pulled up, certainly his cup over.  As he chased the long pass, I looked behind me to the large scoreboard which was showing the TV feed, to see if he had room, as he was running to the goal away from me.  I saw enough to know it was bad.  Our emotions sunk.
  • For as large as our contingent was, we were sadly not in good voice.  Despite the efforts of a good many, and though a few chants caught on and were loud, we were quite for long stretches.
  • Soccer is a game of torture.  And this was that.  Ghana had most of the ball.  The action was in right in front of us, but we survived the half.
  • I was not thrilled that Brooks replaced Besler who had been holding his leg late in the half.  Would have really liked to have had Goodson in there.
  • The torture continued and grew in the second half as they relentlessly attacked the goal away from us.  A goal seemingly certain, but they either seemed to blow it or one of our defenders or Tim Howard was able to stop the shot.  My stomach  ached.  None of it was fun.
  • Of course their goal came.  I feared they would add another.  I thought of How Ecuador had led most of the match only to lose to two late goals.  How devastating.
  • Soccer can amaze. A corner for us.  I checked to see if all our defenders had come up.  They had, though Brooks was well back, perhaps 10 yards outside the 18.  I thought to myself, “If you’re going to come up, then COME UP!”
  • And come up did he!  Unleash Heavan!  As our section went crazy in a mass of noise and color, I turned around.  There behind me were two friends, a married couple.  They were simply holding one another, gazing into eyes with a joy and love that was so pure it was only match by the young Brooks’ celebration.
  • Soccer can warm the heart. The way he celebrated make my eyes water whenever I think of it.  So young, so unexpected–he can’t have even thought he would make the team, much less play, and a central defender scoring a goal?  In the World Cup?  To win the match?  For me, this celebration rivals any the passionate Italians have ever put up–including Spain in 1982.
  • No, we didn’t play well.  Yes Ghana probably deserved better but that’s soccer (and we took our chances).  And though we lost one and possibly two important players, did not play well; all we talked about on our two hour drive back to Pipa was that we had three points.  And points are more valuable than limes in Brazil.
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A Moment in a Life

Life is good and sometimes it’s great and then there are those rare days that are simply unforgettable.  Your wedding, the birth of your child, a moment of professional accomplishment.  But who am I kidding, those of us who are either lucky or cursed to have some passionate obsession, particularly with a sport and a team, have our own points in time when our world becomes a big crazy ball of unbridled joy.

There is some quote I’ve seen on facebook or perhaps its a commercial about living for those moments that take your breath away.  Last night not only took my breath, it sucked it into a mass of sensory overload.  Noise of thousands, each pushing their vocal chords to the limit though adding nothing of any consequence or at least anything comprehendable to the din.  The three colors of Old Glory and motion, oh my the motion.  As if we were thrown onto a giant parachute and tossed without mercy.  There was pressure and perhaps even some pain–someone was grabbing my neck, squeezing it.  Suddenly I’m wet and my nose tells me I am soaked with beer that was the only thing that rained on this night. Except for tears and there were more than a few tears.

I have had this moment before.  Twelve years ago in South Korea.  And that moment is as fresh and wonderful to me as last night will surely be decades from now.

Soccer is an interesting thing.  Last night was only one match, the first, in a tournament we have scant hope of winning.  So why the emotion?  Why will this day be marked among my finest?  Surly it has something to do with patriotism or is it nationalism?  I would think the distance, time, cost, and energy spent just to arrive here, has created inside us a pool of raw emotion and hope and expectancy and yearning that is not unlike molten lava that awaits a release and when that is able to erupt, the results are spectacular.  And being with good friends and strangers, but strangers who are wearing the same colors as you and who are not afraid to grab you and squeeze you as if you were family.  To celebrate, to release among fellow fans is what we supporters yearn for.  Last night was with countrymen for countrymen and it was all that we could have hoped.

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Arrivals

I am no longer living alone–three of my friends/apartment mates arrived late last night. They had a rough day of travel that saw a missed connection set them back over five hours. To make matters worse, when we trudged through the pouring rain, just after midnight, we found the electricity off on our block.

As the weary travelers pulled out cell-phone flashlights, the first thing they saw of their new home was a scorpion! I’ve never seen on running free like that and had to wonder if he’d been in my place the whole time or if he was also seeking refuge from the rain.

I’m sitting in a cafe at 9:30 eating some sort of banana pastry and drinking some of the strongest, thickest coffee I can imagine. I guess they didn’t understand me when I asked for leche. My friends are still in bed so I’m alone with my thoughts from the past couple of days.

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When it rains here, it doesn’t play around. Whatever it was that Mexico had during their match, we had it here yesterday. Hard rain, all day.

Have we been transported to 1982 Spain? This is wonderful soccer being played, a joy to watch. Goals galore.

Costa Rica! Wow! I do recall saying they would have something to say in this group and they have. Funny, I had to leave at halftime of that match and Uruguay was up 1-0. Back in my apartment, I heard a huge cheer go up over the city. I assumed Uruguay had gone up 2-0. While walking back to the bar, I came across two guys wearing they sky blue jersey and watching the match. The TV was on a replay so it wasn’t showing the score. I was about to confirm with them it was 2-0, when live play resumed and the 1-2 score popped up! I quickly walked away, glad I had hesitated before asking them.

It looks lie the Van Persie–Van Gaal relationship will work better than the Van Persie–Moyse one.

I was surprised Japan didn’t finish off Ivory Coast, but man, what a difference Drogba makes.

Previously I mentioned that some 17 of my friends have rented a large house, about a 20 minute walk from the center of Pipa. Yesterday I visited them. All I can say is that if this place were transported to the Hollywood Hills, celebrities would fight for the chance to spend millions on it. It is spactular. A large infinity pool sits on the edge of a steep hill, overlooking Pipa and the ocean beyond. The place has no walls, only huge sliding glass doors which are perpetually open.

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It comes with not one, but two cooks who made us an amazing breakfast (fried cheese, fresh fruit, eggs, tapioca rolls, and a few different fruit juices, which they squeezed themselves. I had the lime–crisp and tart.) For lunch there was spaghetti in a homemade Bolognese sauce. On the roof of the place,we played soccer-foursquare.

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Their place it immense, expensive, and a good ways from the bustling center of Pipa. My place is tiny, cheap (@$25 a night), but just of the Main Street, in the heart of the action. Mine also has ants, a smell of mildew, no air conditioning, and three beds (one a pullout couch) for six of us.

I ate dinner last night at Golfinho’s, which has sort of become my home as it is the only place (other than that huge palace on the hill) that has wifi. I ordered a dish that my Word Lens app translated to “Ribs of Ox” but was basically spare ribs. They were served with rice, beans, salsa, and french fries and were more than I could eat.

It is Fathers Day–so have a great one, all you fathers. I miss my wife and kids. That is always a price of traveling without them. I am looking forward to tournaments five or six years into the future when my son will be old enough to make these treks with me.

Have I mentioned I have my suitcase!?!? Yes, Brock, one of the guys staying in the huge place, went to the airport to pickup his family and while there, enquired at the lost luggage desk and voila! I am fresh and ready for this day and tomorrow’s big match.

Well, it looks like the sun is trying to fight through the clouds, it is not raining now so I’m going to go on a bit of a walkabout.

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Dateline Brazil

I arrived today or was it sometime last night? No matter, I am here and this place is rocking with World Cup fever. There at Brazil flags everywhere and players are in advertisements all over the airport. Two surprises there, first, there were more Messi ads than I would have thought and secondly, by my count, Oscar had more than Neymar. Some other thoughts:

  • It gets dark early here. Real early. Like 5:30 early. As our first two matches are at night, this will with the heat.
  • I hear our friendly with Belgium was cancelled due to traffic. This worries me–as I have written previously, I do not like where our camp is, so far away from our matches AND so far away from the airport. This is making a long commute even longer. I really hope we will go from Manaus to Recife and not back to São Paulo. It really is like the NY Red Bulls playing at Portland on a Sunday and having a match at LA on following Thursday and then deciding to fly home, landing at JFK in between. Senseless.
  • My flight from São Paulo to Natal was full of Mexicans. I met an American couple here and they said the same about their flight. Mexico do play Cameroon in Natal on Friday.
  • I am happy that there will that match in the stadium where we play Ghana on Monday. Hopefully they will work out the kinks. Actually, one lucky thing about our stadiums–we are not the first match in any of them.
  • I had a late lunch in a cool little place here in Pipa that overlooks the sea, was just beautiful. Not so beautiful was the table of Mexicans next to me working on their “Ahhhhhhh, Puta!” cheer. Serioulsy, there were six of them.
  • They didn’t bother me one bit, I had a Caipirinha to keep me company.  There is also no shortage of limes here!

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  • On the way to Pipa, which is about an hours drive south of Natal, we passed the stadium. It’s design is meant to honor the huge sand dunes of the area. From pictures I had seen, all taken from the inside, I didn’t think it worked. From the outside, it totally does. It’s a very cool design.
  • There were construction workers scurrying all around the stadium.
  • Speaking of construction workers, I flew into the new airport in Natal and, yep, lot’s of workers. Of note, while there were water fountains all around, none of them worked.
  • And speaking of airports, it was pretty cool in Miami as I discovered that Nigeria was on our flight.  I am trying not to get into club stuff on this blog, but I don’t like John Obi Mikel at all, however I totally marked out.  I blame it on lack of sleep or World Cup fever.

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  • Bora was also there!

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  • Great news for my friends coming here, I just discovered Pipa has a brewery!  And the bottles have a special World Cup label.  They have Golden Ale, Boch, and I am enjoying a Red Ale with a Spanish crest, 5.3% and it is very good.  They have the US on the Boch.  Will have that, ummm, tomorrow?
  • Our apartment is small, has ants, and no air conditioning–but is has a deck with a view.  I think it will work.

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  • It has been a long, four year wait, but the World Cup begins tomorrow!

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