Possibly the biggest day in US Soccer history, so far, began this morning with downpours of steady rain in Recife, Brasil. Luckily after 30 years as a Boy Scout leader, I dug out my rain suit and put on my boots. My son and many other US fans had no coats at all and trusted to get dry somewhere along the way.
Guess we all survived it since when the game was over the rain stopped and they dried out from the AC on the one-hour bus ride back into town. The real scare came in trying to get everyone to the game before it started.
We did not leave as early as we did for the Italy vs. Costa Rica match here last week because one of Reggie’s friends, Carter, flew in from Miami this morning to go with us. He was using one of our extra tickets and Mauricio from Rio is using the other. After waiting almost too late, Carter gave up waiting in line for a taxi at the airport. The flooding had closed streets and cabs were in short supply.
He took the metro to the game and we started trying to get a taxi to the mall where the buses left from up until 11 AM. About 10:15 we had about decided we were not going to make it, but Reggie spotted a woman stopped about three houses down from our hotel. He sent Mauricio to try to beg her to take us to the mall.
Finally some good luck. She agreed. She had been stopped to pick up tickets to the game from a cousin who decided not to go and was going within a few blocks of the mall to pick up her German husband. She spoke English and was very personable and a very good driver.
We went through areas of flooded streets where people at home would have said to never drive through. It was not a no-wake zone. She put us out a few blocks from the mall about 10:45 and we slogged through lots of water to get there just in time. Not the last bus, but close to it.
We had enough beer with us to keep our guys and one of the Germans from Munich who was sitting with us busy for the trip of an hour and a half. Once at the stadium, we met Carter pretty quickly and headed in just in time for the start. We were up on 4th level and I was sweating in my rain suit. We had an overhang and I came out of everything for the game.
The young man standing in front of my seat was blowing a vuvuzela and I told him I thought they were against the law in Brazil. Shortly after that he was tooting and security came to get him. He ran like the rabbit in Wonderland, and we never saw or heard from him again.
There were thousands of US fans in every version of red white and blue. Everyone was in full voice. It is nice that USA, USA is no longer our only cheer. Thanks to MLS fans there are several catchy chants like “We believe that we can win” and others that involve everyone clapping in rhythm.
The game was thrilling and the relatively new defensive strategy Klinsmann has installed is making us way better than we were just a few weeks ago. We still had some mistakes in the back, but Omar Gonzalez played super in the first half particularly. Zusi , Beckerman, Jermaine Jones, and Fabian Johnson supported the defense and led the charges forward.
Tomas Mueller was man of the match for scoring off a rebound, but for me Jermaine Jones was man of the match. Not sure how Dempsey missed that one chance right in front by himself or why Michael Bradley is having qualms of lack of confidence. He missed a couple of basic traps that could have made a difference. We need those guys at their best. Don’t get me wrong Bradley’s work rate is tremendous and I would not replace him starting, but we need his full concentration.
After the game the US team came out and clapped for the fans and we all stayed longer than we needed to celebrate with them that we are going to the next round. My next dilemma is picking up our second round tickets then finding someone to sell them to since we will be home before that game is played.
We fly to Rio tomorrow night and plan one more game, the second round game of Uruguay vs. Columbia in the famous Marracana stadium in Rio. It used to hold 200,000, but FIFA made them build it down to only 100,000 now.