USMNT Roundtable: How did it feel?
The USMNT roundtable gathers to remember what it was like to see THAT goal go in…
There’s more to a World Cup than one match. But USMNT’s victory over Ghana wasn’t just a chapter in the story of the Yanks’ 2014 effort, it was a standalone moment to be savored.
Losing to Ghana was becoming a tradition of American international soccer. No longer.
Also, meaningful games decided by late goals are perhaps the high point of the sport. When your team wins one of those, you remember not just the game but all the stuff that was happening around you.
And that is this week’s question to the roundtable: how did it feel?
Let’s exalt in the memory.
I’m in Trinidad at the moment. In the mornings, I like to trot down the hill from my accommodations and pick up “doubles”: a disconcertingly addictive snack comprising curried chick peas, a couple of pieces of flatbread, and – at least from the guy I get mine from – three mysterious sauces.
After piling on the essential ingredients, there is always one final question: “Pepper?”
Recently, this question is followed by another: “Who you backing?” I respond with the name of a team playing that day, but when I return the question, the doubles guy always has the same answer: “Argentina”. It’s a popular choice round these parts.
All of which is to explain why, when Clint Dempsey opened the scoring, a combination of obligations and the fact I don’t know many people enthusiastic about USMNT around here, found me watching with just one companion: a dog.
The dog was asleep. I’m pretty sure he’s backing Argentina too.
I watch the match ebb seemingly irretrievably out of USMNT’s control. I tap at Twitter sporadically. And then John Brooks gets a goal. I whoop and cheer and holler.
The dog stirs: playtime. Ears up, tail wagging, he looks at me inquisitively. I offer encouragement: we shall share this moment of jubilation.
And then he lunges forward, a blur of canine exuberance, and sinks his teeth into my forearm.
I see it in his eyes: he was backing Ghana for this one.
John Brooks dreamed about scoring the winner against Ghana the night before the game. Moments before he scored for real, I daydreamed the same dream.
To no one in particular, I said “we are going to score.” While everyone around me was anxious, I was at peace.
When I say “everyone”, I’m talking about the 5000 or so fans packed into Grant Park. It was standing room only. In true American fashion, the fans in the park drained a truck of lukewarm Budweiser. When the USA scored the go-ahead goal the park erupted.
Although it was wonderful to share this moment with so many people, Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal in 2010 still has a more lasting impact on me. It was “do or die” time. Packed into a crowded bar, I lifted a co-worker off the ground and threw her into the air in the same way a parent would toss a small child.
This time my celebration was different – I unfurled a large American flag and had two random people help me to hold it up.
I can’t recall if people were cheering “USA USA, USA USA” leading up to the goal, but they said it after the goal, loud and proud.
Although this was only the first match, there is one important take away from this game. The team has likely seen all of the tremendous celebration videos taken across the country. This must surely provide motivation.
This is something special that our next couple of opponents don’t often get because they are rarely the underdogs. We like underdogs.
There are a lot of great stories out there about where people were watching the Yanks against Ghana on Monday evening: fans watching and celebrating at bars, public viewings like Grant Park, at home, and even on the train.
I don’t have one of those stories.
Mine is a tale of inward celebration. And silence.
Like many people, I was still at work for the first half of the game against Ghana. Therefore, I was limited to tracking the game via ESPN’s Boot Room (ok), Twitter (better), and texting with one of my oldest and closest friends.
The office I work in consists of dinosaurs and fossils, and not one soccer fan among them. In fact, I think a couple of them may have been around when the FA was formed. So, when Dempsey scored so quickly, it took everything in my power to restrain myself from letting out a huge “Are you f’ing serious?”
I sent that out via text instead.
Just before halftime, I left work and headed home. Initially, I tried getting the game on the WatchESPN app, but could never get enough connection for it to be stable. On a whim, I searched the radio and found JP Dellacamera and Tommy Smyth on ESPN Radio. This, to me, was heaven. No longer did I have to wait for Twitter or the Boot Room to update the latest happenings (but it was still great to read the reactions).
The second half brought a new problem. I was out fulfilling family commitments: test driving new family vehicles. Between dealerships I had ESPN Radio, but at the dealerships, it was back to Twitter.
When John Anthony Brooks smashed home the winner with his head, I was standing all alone in a car dealership. There, like work, there was no reaction. No cheering. No spontaneous celebration. Just the business of selling cars.
By the time I made it home, it was late. I was exhausted. Exhausted by work, cars and, thanks to social media and the internet, the passion and excitement of a game I had not seen at all.
To join the next roundtable, contact Austin Fido @canetop.