Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Time to return...

It's been a couple of days since the U.S. lost to Ghana 2-1 in the second round of the 2010 World Cup. It was time some of us needed to get over the disappointment, yet, hopefully, look positively at soccer in the U.S.

I was at the game, and from the stands, one could tell is was not like any of the previous three games. The U.S. had played England at this stadium two weeks earlier, so we kind of knew that the stadium did not lend itself to much emotion, at least in our view.

No need to go into the details of the effort it took to get to the stadium or to get out (debacle!), but I can tell you that it's a beat down. We had faced it two weeks ago, so we made sure to avoid some of the issues by arriving five hours before kickoff. NOTE: you can't park cars at ANY of the World Cup stadium, so you're left with utilizing the means provided by the local venue.

We met even more fans this time that were either stuck in traffic, in the long bus lines at the park n rides, or lost. Some fans were already walking in stressed, and then you notice that there is no one section of the stadium where a large majority of USA supporters are placed. Instead, everyone is spread out - unlike the Slovenia or Algeria game, where U.S. supporters filled in entires sections side-by-side.
Our Colorado group, sitting in the corner behind the goal where the goals where scored, tried to lead the chants and cheers, but the feeling in the stands was not there from the onset. It wasn’t loud – there weren’t enough fans to help spread the fun. And, there were so many fans supporting Ghana.

The crew that carries the big USA flag, often at the center of the fun, was sitting across the stadium in the first half. They saw our sections effort and found their way to our corner for the second half. It helped, but in the end I think we were all just spent.

When the U.S. tied the game, there wasn’t a new level or raised excitement. It was not the euphoria that you may expect, or that quite possibly you felt by watching it on TV. There was something missing in the stadium this day. Fans in general felt as tired as the players looked in that last overtime period. We had given it out all.

Many stayed to applaud the players. We made our way from row to row, section to section saying goodbye to so many that we'd seen at all four games. Fans of most MLS teams, that had traveled from all over the U.S., began to know us as the Colorado crew, because at least one us always had a Rapids' beanies or jerseys or sweatshirts on.

The taste of defeat is often shocking, for some reason. We had never discussed the U.S. winning the World Cup, but we were disappointed and sad when the game ended.

Why is that? Maybe because we still came to South Africa, thinking what if? Or because of the run the U.S. had that gave us optimism? Or maybe because of how positive the world seemed to be talking about soccer from the U.S. Or maybe because we just didn’t want the fun to end.

It doesn't end. The Rapids and British Bulldog will host another street party for the World Cup final on July 11, and I'm looking forward to being there (and at other partner bars for the Quarterfinals and semis). We'll all have another chance to come together again and remember how fun this ride was, and realize how bright the present and future of soccer is in Denver and throughout the U.S.