In his instant recap of Saturday’s match, I believe Matthew spoke for a lot of us when he said “…perhaps it was best that the diehard fans watched and appreciated clustered together in 37 packed bars across the nation.” (By the way, Matthew when do you sleep?)
The use of the word “clustered” is the only quibble I would have with Matthew’s statement. “Clustered” implies “huddled” or “grouped.” I am thinking that “crammed,” “wedged,” or “jam-packed-to-the-point-of-near-asphyxiation” may have been more appropriate. The thing is, I don’t think we’d have it any other way. As one of our readers mentioned, moving through a bar on Saturday was like playing “human tetris.” But with every duck, squeeze and sucking in of our guts to let others pass we all grew a little bit closer to the rabid fan base we will become in support of the USMNT.
Matthew had our customary recap with the awards and grades, but a game like this deserves more hardware, so I am here in my tuxedo t-shirt to hand out just a few (perhaps unconventional) awards from Saturday and along the way share some great stories.
The envelope please…
The “Golden Remote” Award…goes to the thirty-seven establishments and their owners that ponied up the cash and most likely MacGyver’d the feed to bring all of us the memorable match. (Please note, any feed / audio problems were not their fault.) I sincerely hope the proprietors had a chance to enjoy the game as I know they were working hard to keep the suds flowing and the feed rolling.
The “Are You Gellin’” Award…goes to the all the USMNT fans, many of whom stood for six hours or longer to catch a glimpse of the match. In our tiny pocket of the world in Kearny Mesa, San Diego you would have thought we were about to witness the moon landing. There were kids on shoulders, people peering in through windows and strangers crushed together with just enough room to free their arms and give each other high-fives after each goal.
The “I Should Buy You Something Pretty” Award…goes to my wife. We arrived at the bar at 4:30pm to find it already packed. She waited to get beer while I tried to stake out a small corner of the outside patio where we would stand for the duration. All of sudden my phone rings and she says, “I have seats inside.” She didn’t just “have seats,” she managed to acquire the best seats in the house and I promptly told her she didn’t need to buy me anything for my birthday…or Christmas. (Note to my wife: That is what we call in the “writing biz” hyperbole…feel free to wrap up that all-expenses-paid trip to the World Cup and place it under the tree in December!)
The “Mini-Van” Award…goes to Paul and Tiffany our tablemates at O’Brien’s who brought their two sons along with their homework to camp-out until game time. Both John Paul and Jake were rockin’ their club jerseys and spiked hair. Keep an eye out for these boys as they are on track to feature for the USMNT in the 2022 World Cup.
The “You’re Better Than This…I Think” Award…goes to Media Pro/World and its broadcasting partners. No audio. Grainy, freezing video. And a line-up graphic that read “Conor Kersey,” “Charlie Davis” and, if I recall correctly, listed Michael Bradley at striker. The feed froze so often and seemingly during key points in the US attack (hmm…) that the fans just kept cheering for what they hoped would happen on the play. “Run-on Donovan, run-on!” Then there was big sigh of relief when the feed would bounce back to life with the same score intact.
The “Don’t BS Me” Award…goes to Kofi Davies, father of Charlie Davies. The entire Davies clan was watching at O’Brien’s. Kofi was like the mayor of the place…shaking hands, kissing babies, pouring beer for / on folks and even doing the Stanky Leg at my request (serious). However, the best moments were when we were talking about the first half while waiting at the bar for a refill. I half-jokingly asked Kofi who taught Charlie how to shoot; alluding to his son’s point-blank header getting stopped, followed by Deezy air-mailing the rebound attempt. His response, “Not me!” Classic. Another fan then congratulated Kofi on his son’s performance in the first half. To which Kofi uttered, “Don’t bullsh*t me” followed by something about Charlie needing to play better in the second half. (As Matt alluded to in his recap post, the “word on the street” was that Charlie’s wheels were not 100%.)
The “That Boy is An Amurhican” Award…both in his physical first goal that was equal parts desire and muscle and in his inability to get his engine at top speed fast enough to make the most of a first-half “breakaway,” Conor Kersey Casey seemed to symbolize the American athlete – determined, smart, physical, hard-working (did you see him track back repeatedly to help defend?) but not the most gifted athletically. I was surprised by his start, but in retrospect shouldn’t have been. Going in, I believed it was going to be Ching and Davies triggering the attack for Bob-O, but Casey saw a lot of pitch time in the Confed Cup. In addition, despite Ching’s determination and work rate, you know what you are going to get with Ching and Bob felt it was worth the risk to see if he could get a little more with Casey.
The “I’d Like to Change My Vote for Player of the Year Award”…goes to me. I stated in the piece on the nominees that for me the most enduring image of Donovan in 2009 would probably be the blow-by that led to the winning goal at Azteca. Not anymore. It won’t be the curling free kick that won it on Saturday, either. Rather, it will be the perfect pass he slotted to Casey for the second goal versus Honduras. That’s Donovan at his best. I don’t know if voting was officially closed prior to Saturday’s match for the Player of the Year, but if it wasn’t the award will be going to Lando in a landslide (a “Landoslide”?…wow that’s a bad pun).
The “Wind Beneath My Wings” Award…goes to Hondura’s Julio Leon. Thanks to his fantastic free kick that found the back of the net, the USMNT was challenged to “get busy living or get busy dying.” Is it me or does the USMNT seem to play more inspired soccer when they are behind on the scoreboard? Even Coach Bradley realizes this: “What changed the game was just more of a push that where we got down we knew we had to respond, we had to close down faster, we had to take the play into their end more.” Bob-O’s next task is to figure out how the team can start out BOTH HALVES with that kind of intensity instead of needing to be a goal behind before getting fired up.
The “Oops That Backfired” Award…goes to the Honduran press. Apparently, they ran a quote attributed to Grant Wahl of SI.com where Grant proclaimed that Honduras was “the best team in CONCACAF.” Not only did Wahl never say that, but the article was allegedly passed around by the American players at lunch on Saturday.
The “Man-Hug” Award…goes to the Honduran fans who cheered appreciatively at the end of the game for its team and the Americans. Far too often we witness and hear about despicable acts of poor sportsmanship by fans around CONCACAF, so this great act should be elevated, celebrated and, hopefully, emulated in the future.
I am pretty sure I could keep going here because this was the type of game you want to linger. It was the type of game that you know you watched ever second, but still search around the internet for every story to allow you to re-live some of its best moments. And It was the type of game that makes what Matthew, myself, the fans and countless others do to support this team worth it.
So thanks, USMNT!
(Now get back to work, beat Costa Rica and start preparing for South Africa.)
As a parting shot…here’s some of the post-match commentary from the USMNT.