Monday, October 20, 2008

REWIND: USA vs. TnT - Chicago Style!


Stardate: September 10, 2008.

After returning from a trip south of the border to enjoy some R&R in Cancun with 4 of mis amigos, I headed over to the Windy City to take in the USA's first match against Trinidad. At this point, we were sitting in good position with 6 points but were still a little uneasy having earned those points from two hard fought 1-0 road victories. On the one hand, it was encouraging to see our maiden wins in Guatemala and Cuba; though on the other, it was disconcerting to see us really impose our will on our lesser skilled opponents. Some were critical of Bob Bradley at this point for sticking to somewhat defensive tactics, but I think all would agree that the most important task for this team is to qualify for the World Cup 2010, not to hand out drubbings to the "minnows" of CONCACAF.

Upon arriving in Chicago, I hopped on the L and headed over to the Globe Pub to catch up with some of the North Jersey Brigade. For those that haven't been, the Globe Pub is definitely one of the best soccer bars in the US and a great place to take in a match if you can't make it to the stadium.

After a couple pints and a quick bite, ethan and I headed over to Boundary Bar where we were meeting the rest of the crew for some pre-match drinking before boarding our Party Short Bus to the match. As always, the lineup consisted of a solid mix of match veterans and rookies. The veterans included hans, roger, kotas, erin, mike, bobby, and ethan. The match itself was at Toyota Park, the home of the Chicago Fire. Toyota Park is an awesome stadium but is out in Bridgeview which is decidedly not awesome. For the record, there is no better mode of transport to and from matches than by taking a Party Bus. This version was a converted short bus that featured not one, but two stripper poles - though one was clearly designed for people who have a similar taste in women (read: young boys) as Michael Jackson.

Following a quick pit and pee-stop (the entire bus stopped to pee inside and outside of a gas station), our bus driver dropped us off on the wrong side of the stadium so we had to Bataan death march it over to the tailgate with a giant tin bucket of beer. Fortunately for me, I was able to use my "organizer" status to avoid having to carry the beer. So . . . thanks guys, but I'm much better at drinking the stuff than carrying it anyway. At the tailgate, we mett up with Amy from Detroit and Rob, Marcel and Jay from DC, and of course the ESC and NJB.

Although the match drew only a meager 11,000+ for the midweek, suburban game, the crowd proved my long held belief that so long as the ESC and NJB are in the house, we'll have a wild atmosphere. I want to take this opportunity to thank the 10 or so random people who provided me with beers throughout the match. I was housed by about the 32nd minute. The team responded to the crowd's efforts and uhh, Trinidad's utter lack of desire, and the score should have been 6-0 inside of 15 minutes. Final score - 3-0. Well in boys. My new strategy of introducing myself to stadium security prior to the match paid off as security allowed erin's buddy to stay in the stadium and watch the match despite the fact that he was tossing his cookies everywhere. The fans responded to the team's efforts by keeping the "Oh USA!" song going for the last 15 minutes. Even Frankie Hejduk joined in on the tune from the bench.

Post-match, our sticks were scattered all over the yard as we all scrambled to find the party bus. My being housed did not help to quell the brewing clusterF but somehow we all managed to make it back to the bus, which was conveniently parked at a Mexican fast food joint. We continued the celebrations on the bus on the way back to Boundary with some vodka, well, all of us except for Rookie Matt, who celebrated by just straight passing out.

The 24 hour trip to the Windy proved to be extra worth it as some of us were able to get reacquainted, maybe a little too reacquainted for the province of friends and in certain cases, family, but hey . . .

Here are some photos from the party bus and Boundary post-match:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

USA-Guatemala - Now not hungover

Ever since I read the post I put up from the car on the way to Lago de Atitlan the other day, I have been having flashbacks of so many details that need to be mentioned.

  • Just before kickoff, I leaned up against the fence to our left that separated the US Section from throngs of some very passionate and somewhat vicious Guatemalan supporters. I was attempting to have my picture taken with a Guatemalan fan with a flag when a couple other Guatemalan fans started pulling my flag through the fence. THAT WAS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. The flag I bring with me to every game has actually been with me to every game I've ever been to (save the US-Haiti game in Miami a few years ago). There was no way some dirtbag was going to take it from me. It turned in to a tug of war and there was no way I was letting it go.
  • During the game, some old dude who worked for the embassy who looked like Colonel Sanders admonished me for not being very "sporting." I laughed at him and advised him to sit down. Seriously, this d-bag is supposed to be part of our diplomatic mission yet he has no understanding of the local culture? Best part about this was that his young daughter got hit in the neck with a flying chicken bone after the match.
  • The guy who got his ass beat by his mates was going back and forth with Kevin all match long. Kevin repeatedly told the dude he was going to make him his wife and blew him several kisses. It was priceless.

Okay, here are the pictures from the match:


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Los Conquistadores del Estadio Mateo Flores!

My oh my, what a wonderful day! After successfully evading miss Fay, Rob, John and I made our way to the hotel to meet up with the crew. Brian, beth, winney and I grabbed some cigars and headed off to the world famous "Taco Inn." Turns out, the word "taco" actually means "gringos eat here" as we ran into several other Americans while scarfing down some tasty alambres and Gallo cervezas.

A crew of about 20 of us met up at the Intercontinental and, on the invaluable advice of my buddy Doug (be safe in Iraq), we arranged for a bus to take us to Cuatro Grados Norte, which featured a street-fair like atmosphere to get match fit.

We bought enough Gallos from Guatemala's version of a Chinese gymnast to feed him and his three kids for a year. Best part was we knew he wasn't ripping us off with "gringo prices" because his t-shirt served double duty as the menu! Beth's "Obama '08" kit got many, many nods and shouts of approval.

After consuming some tortas, a group of us stopped off at La Esquina Cubana for some cuban coffee. The owner of the shop asked me if I liked cigars and then gave me a very nice cigar as a gift.

We had a few more cervezas, chanted back and forth with a few more Guatemalans, and then decided it was time to make our descent on to the notorious Estadio Mateo Flores, named after the brilliant chapine marathon runner. The US section turned out to be about 150 strong (with over half of that coming from the various diplomatic missions stationed here), and we were tucked into the northwest corner of the stadium. We were protected from the fanaticos to our left by a barbed wire fence, but were otherwise generally exposed to the home fans on all other sides (though, admittedly, many were of the "upper class" variety).

During the match, despite the hostile conditions, much like our team, the supporters persevered and were never intimidated. After Bocanegra headed home, we erupted while the rest of the stadium completely shut down. The back and forth between the Guatemalans and the Gringos was pretty hostile sounding, although it was generally tongue-in-cheek as many of the surrounding chapines were actually American residents rooting for their motherland.

After the final whistle, some plonker in front of us tried to start a fight with a couple in our crew but we wisely laughed him off. His mates ended up kicking his ass for us. The post-match scene was one of the more hostile environs I've ever been in though, as the police were about five minutes too keep the enraged idiots amongst the guatemalans at bay. Several trash items were heaved into the American section and the riot police kept us there till the stadium cleared out.
The streets outside the stadium were clearly too hostile for us to be walking around, so security escorted us down to the pitch and planned to have our bus meet us by the players tunnel. This was awesome as they let us hang around the pitch for about a half hour after the match and I lit up the victory cigar on the pitch!


While all of us maintained a brave stand, our coward of a bus driver fled leaving us stranded at the stadium. This created a bit of a problem as we had no way to get back and the streets were still too hostile for us to walk back to the hotel. Fortunately, the US team had yet to leave and offered to send their bus back for us after they dropped the players off. This allowed us to give our boys a rousing congratulations as they boarded their bus. Demarcus Beasley even went out of his way to come out and sign some autographs - which means the Road to RSA kit will never be washed again.

When we finally arrived back at the hotel, we ran into none other than the captain for life, John Harkes. Harkesy was gracious enough to take some pictures with us and share some stories from the road.

Most of us then set off in search of a victory dance (read: multiple, multiple shots of tequilla). We ended the night slamming a bunch of tall boys in the hotel lobby. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the amazing duet that Kellen and I put on with the drum kit and the piano, or the pushup contest which I dominated (natch).

Right now, we are on our way to Lago de Atitlan.

More to come with pictures on sunday.
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Starting lineup

Ives probably had me beat, but the US is starting this way:

Dolo-----gooch----boca------HP Sauce


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Gringos suck my ass!

Sounds from cuatro grados norte. This one is building up to be a real cracker. I've already had to shower with some agua pura b/c I was douched with beer.

Oh, we're still about 3 hours from matchtime.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Headed for Guate!

Ughh, its a Wednesday and the US is playing Guatemala tonight at the famed Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City. Right now, its 9:00 am and I am on a short layover at the ATL airport waiting to connect to Guatemala City.

This day never really began for me as I opted to not sleep in order to ensure that I made my Sixx:AM (shoutout to Nikki) vuelo esta manana. I am not gonna lie: I am F'NG BEAT!

However, earlier this week I had the good fortune to see Devon Harris, a member of Jamaica's acclaimed 1988 bobsled team, speak about overcoming the difficulties he and his teammates encountered in making their Olympic dream a reality.

So, in his Olympic spirit, I vow to keep on pushing and to make today legendary.

I ran into Rob from Detroit and one of his buddies a few minutes ago. They are conveniently on the same flight. The plan is to meet up with Winney, Beth and Brian at the hotel and then to rally with a bunch of other US fans.

As is typical, I still need to pick up the match tickets.


Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, it's bobsled time! Cool Runnings!

(Or something)
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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

US @ Barbados

Well, by know you all probably know that we produced a 1-0 result after a complete snoozefest of a match. Some may be disappointed that the majority of the young players in the squad failed to play with the energy and passion that one would want to see in a player looking to make his case for continued selection in the side, but being there in person, I can assure you that these were extremely difficult conditions for anyone to care at all.

First, the match did not matter. Barbados has never scored against the United States and they would have needed to knock in 8 more goals than us on Sunday to even force extra time. It was simply not going to happen. As I previously mentioned, Barbados population is less than 1/10 of a percent of that of the United States. Check out the Barbados FA's website - - they are openly looking for players.

Second, the match was played at the Kensington Oval: a first-class cricket grounds. While the groundskeepers did a marvelous job of concealing the cricket pitch (the strip between the wickets), there was nothing they could do to minimize the huge space between the touchline and the stands. To play on a pitch like that must have had the boys reminiscing over their days playing youth soccer in vast parks and soccerplexes.

Third, the ball the Barbados FA used was completely subpar. It resembled something you would find in a drugstore. While the Bajans did a much better job of pressuring our players in the center of the pitch, they left the flanks wide open and Heath Pearce and Drew Moor could handily afford to advance far up the touchlines without fear of risking a serious counterattack. The only problem was that every time we attempted to play a long ball to one of them or to cross the field, the balloon of a ball would get caught in the mild gusts of wind and completely die.

It is difficult to disagree with a lot of the criticism that the team has been receiving over the perceived lack of effort, but seriously, let's be real and recognize that we go through the round without injury and with just one yellow card.

The Kensington Oval itself is a pretty spectacular facility. The building structures are not of the ubiquitous concrete variety found all over the Caribbean, but rather are encased in some sort of fiberglass that causes them to resemble space ships.

After easily collecting my match ticket (something that has not been the case in other developing nations - i.e. Venezuela), I met up with another US fan from the NY area. He had just flown in that morning and turned out to be on my flight back that night. Talk about heart! Inside the stadium, we quickly grabbed a couple Banks beers - a questionable tasting local lager - and I picked up some delicious and super-cheap BBQ chicken. Something you'll note from the pictures is that one of the concession stands sold flasks of Hennessey and Remy Martin. That is awesome - nothing like chicken and Hennessey.

The US fan section consisted of about 8 of us from the NYC area, Chicago, LA and I think a couple Texans. Yeah, not huge. The official attendance is listed at 2,000, but I am guessing it was closer to 1,200 (maybe even 700). During the course of the game, things got so quiet that we could frequently hear J.P. Dellacamera doing the play-by-play behind us. The only atmosphere created by the home fans was the rather futile attempt at starting the wave. A group of Bajan fans to our left kept trying to get it going, but it would generally end with us as the only people sitting to our right were the cameramen. After the warmups, the substitutes headed towards a covered VIP area that was across the pitch from the coaching staff. Apparently they did not want to sit in the uncovered heat on plastic picnic chairs.

After the game, we made our way to the airport (after watching a group of men clear a traffic jam in the parking lot by literally picking up an SUV and moving it a couple inches) where we met up with none other than the president of US Soccer - Sunil Gulati. He was very generous to speak with us for a few minutes about soccer in the US in general and, turns out he is a fellow Liverpool supporter. Solid guy in my book.

Anyway, I'll be offline till August. I am debating going to the US-Guatemala match. It's on a wednesday and ticket prices are pretty cheap right now so I think I'm just going to book it and hope that the workload permits the trip.

Not sure how I'm going to live through July with minimal footy. Guess it's time to catch up on my MLS!

Pics from Barbados.

Another blogpost to come tomorrow. I promise!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Baatan Death March: Barbados style

It would not be a proper trip without including a Bataan death march. The Bajan version saw me make the trek from Oistins Bay back to the Hilton.

That probably means nothing to you. Oistins Bay is a little fishing village that offers up some fresh grilled and fried fish. There are rows and rows of little fish shacks that all offer essentially the same fare: dolphin, snapper, bbq chicken and lamb, peas and rice and a host of sides. My cabbie reccomended a place called Mo's and it did not dissapoint. In the middle of all fish shacks, there is a bandstand that features live performances on friday nights and a dj on saturdays. The DJ last night served up a mix of fifties-americana love songs and gospelish-reggae that had some thumping beats. In a word: strange.

A plate of grilled dolphin and peas and rice filled me with the gumption to make the trek back to the hotel (about 6 miles) on foot. Or maybe it was the 4 Carib beers I put down. Funny thing about the decision is that I really had no idea how to get back: I just knew that Oistins Bay was on the water and so was the hotel.

Along the way home, I was tempted into a club by some blaring reggae. The doorman told me it was the best club in barbados that night. I should have questioned his credibility when he let me in shirtless (key feature of a Bataan death march is the sweat inducing heat). The only other people at the club were three yaardies.

I made a quick exit back to the hotel and had ran into some of the team staff, including former MNT player Mike Sorber. I made sure to let him know that I was there for USA-Switzerland '94 when George Bregi and Eric Wylnada scored on equally impressive free kicks to produce the 1-1 draw that made me a fan for life.

Kickin it by the pool and the beach right now. Headed to the Oval in about an hour.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Size Might Matter

So, the 4 mojitos and 1 Ragin' Bajan I've had on the beach have inspired some mathematical analysis in my brain: Barbados' population is less than 0.1% of the population of the US.

That's right, less than one-tenth percent.

The Road to South Africa . . .

began on June 15, 2008 when the US delivered what can only be described as a good ol' fashioned country ass whoopin' to Barbados. In case you missed it, the US snapped in 8 goals in the 8-0 rout over the Bajan (pronounced like cajun) Boys.

The only lowlight of the trip to LA, which included a Swingers-esqe road trip to las vegas, was the attendance at the match. A mere 11,500 made their way to the Home Depot Center to witness the United States' most imortant match since the Gold Cup final win over Mexico last summer (speaking of Mexicans, how bout those Turks?). Despite the SoCal Brigade's effort to get numbers out, the match atmosphere was a complete let down from the aguante we witnessed at the US-Argentina friendly just a week prior. Oh well, I was there with a solid crew including Ed of the NJB, Andrew, John and Mike of Columbus fame, and several of my Los Angeles compadres.

The result of that match means that tomorrow's return leg against Barbados is largely meaningless as Barbados would need to equal or better the scoreline to see us out at this point. As my grandmother would say, no matter, I'm in Barbados!

When the plane landed, they announced the island population as a mere 260,000. Wow.

As I'm only staying the night, I brought minimal clothing, arriving with only a pair of board shorts and the camo cargo shorts I was wearing as groinal region covering options. This could prove problematic as the customs official informed me of Barbados' strict sartorial code which prohibits the wearing of camouflage clothing. That probably increases my chances of getting a handjob though as the shorts, which I fully intend to wear, could land me in jail. Pretty sure that's not what I'm looking for thoguh! (If you do not get the prior two sentences, watch Superbad. Now.)

By the by, while you jut read this on a computer screen, I scribed it on the playa!

Plan for tonight is to hit up Oistins Bay for a fish fry!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Erin go Bragh!

The Ireland-Colombia match at craven cottage last night provided a true international atmosphere. The atmosphere at the US-England match was more akin to that of an NBA game with the England fans only breaking into song at the prompts of a 20 man horn section behind the North goal. No wonder England suck these days: they have no passion in the stands. Who can blame them really with all the European success the English club teams are having? It seems like all the truly passionate English football fans are satiated and even a little jaded by their clubs' successes. Afterall, 1966 was many, many moons ago now. The comedy offered by the notion of England being a world power on the pitch rivals that of the comedy offered by hearing the English sing "Rule Brittainia.". Not sure what waves they're ruling today . . .

The Irish and the Colombians packed the cottage to the gills with the Colombians filling the entire Putney Bridge end. The Irish were decidedly the home side and occupied the Johnny Hayes stands, the Hammersmith end and the Riverside stands.

Meeting up with Alex, his cousin and Tom proved to be a bit of a challenge as AT&T failed to activate the roaming on my cell and none of them had a blackberry. We did manage to all find each other though just before the match kicked off. My stupid desire to eat a lamb pie caused me to miss the game's lone goal, but no matter, the atmosphere was what I was there for.

The game itself was dominated by the Colombians who forced several great saves from the Irish defence (note the British spelling - just call me Brad Friedel). Colombia were unlucky to get anything for their efforts, but hopefully this is a sign of a return to form of the once powerful South American side. I for one am all for that as the presence of beautiful Colombian women is always appreciated.

After the match we headed back towards Putney Bridge for some more curry. Love the indian food in London!

Headed to back to the US now. We have a pretty epic weekend planned for the US-Argentina friendly. Alex, the lucky bastard, is headed to Spain first though so hopefully he'll get to see Landon get his 100th cap.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Beware the Steel Diesel!

On the tube ride from the airport to Wembley, I randomly ran into Amy from Detroit (you'll remember her from last summer) and her man, MakingNews. Turns out they were headed to the Green Man as well so they guided me up the hills around Wembley to the bed and pub.

The night before, several US fans played a group of English fans in a supporters match. The US prevailed 7-3! Congrats to all who took part in that thrashing.

There were about 300 fans at the Green Man. Beer was plentiful and they set up a burgers and sausage cookout for us. Best explained by the pictures to come, but I now understand why the English were so persnicketty about the sausage/bun setup in Germany. I met up with Alex and his cousin, rafael along with Chase and Dan from the SoCal brigade.

We made our way down to the stadium, which is nothing short of breathtaking, and actually made it in before they cut off the beer sales. You may remember my rant on this from the last trip to London. We engaged some cops with funny hats in conversation and they were shocked that so many yanks came over for the relatively meaningless match.

Our seats were prime - third row in the corner of the stadium. Randomly seated next to Amy from Detroit and MakingNews, which proved to be important later as she calmed me when a few idiot english who managed to get tickets in the away section got under my skin. These dolts were downright obnoxious and had no knowledge of the game. English fans feel the need to make themselves feel relevant and its comical.

At one point, one of them mentioned how I was going to get my ass kicked by he and his mate.
I laughed, turned around and stood up and proclaimed myself the "Steel Diesel". Clearly the beer I chugged at halftime did indeed contain alcohol.

Tensions calmed and we all had a good time despite the result. I'll admit that it was hard not to cheer when Stevie G put one in. After the game, we made our way back to the green man and then headed out for some late night curry.

I've been walking around a rainy london today in search of an ireland kit but have had no luck at all. I got to see the new liverpool and chelsea kits though and they look fantastic. Well, at least the liverpool one did. The chelsea kit looks like it will be a suitable fill-in if you ever run out of charmin extra soft.

Off to meet up with a friend before heading to the cottage!

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

At least we have a 6 foot johnson

Here are the lineups:



Brown - rio - terry - cole

Beckham - fat frank - hargreaves - stevie g

Rooney - defoe




Dolo - gooch - bocanegra - pearce

Dempsey - rico - bradley - beasley

Johnson - wolff

Hmmmm . . . Donde esta donovan?
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JFK to London

Fittingly, I almost pulled a Mick and blew the entire trip by almost missing the flight. I neglected to review my itinerary before heading to the airport and actually arrived 2 hours early. What does a chap like myself do with 2 hours to kill? Beer, of course! Sitting at Shannon's bar in JFK's too busy Terminal 4, I met several other passengers on my Aer Lingus flight to Dublin. As departure time approached, we noticed that several patrons who had left for their flights were returning for more drinks.

We correctly concluded that our flight was delayed. What we did not correctly conclude was that we were out of earshot of the PA system announcing when we would actually board. The lot of us were pretty smashed when a gate agent stumbled upon us and asked if anyone was on the Aer Lingus flight. When she announced that they just made the final boarding call, we all simultaneously slammed our drinks and headed for the gate. Would have been high comedy if 20 people missed their flight because they were too busy boozing.

The picture I posted was the terrible exit row seat I was assigned. I requested the exit row for the legroom and ended up having less than a normal seat. Fortch, the seat next to me was open. Passed the flight by viewing the Istanbul classic from 2005. Easily the best game I've ever seen.

Shortly before landing, a woman travelling alone with her baby (prolly about 1 to 1.5 years) asked me if I'd hold him while she went to the bathroom. Being chivalrous, I obliged. Problem was that baby was sleeping when she gave him to me. She obviously had to deuce because while she was taking her sweet time in there, baby woke up and started playing with my face like a blind man. Pretty sure he called me "mama" which might have also been his first word since the only other things that came out of his mouth all flight were screams and a little barf.

Achieved the goal of drinking a guinness in Dublin. I one-chugged a pint on the way to my connection to London (which I also almost missed).

Headed to the Green Man now.

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Such a premium seat.

The T on the hat stands for toasted.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

London Redux

I'm about 3 hours from jetting over to London. This weekend is probably going to kill me. Despite the game being on a Wednesday, I am considering it the weekend because I am off for the rest of the week.

I arrive in London by way of Dublin tomorrow at noon (will have to find a pint of Guinness during the stopover). Then, I'm headed straight to the Green Man Pub and Hotel in Wembley. Not only am I staying there for the first night, but the US fans have decided to congregate there.

I'm planning on meeting up with my buddy Tom O'Brien, a lifelong Gooner who I met in Mexico City back in 2005, as well as Alex (who I also met in Mexico City but more recently of Basel fame) and one of his friends. After hopefully seeing the US deliver the Cabbage Man his first defeat at Wembley, we're all off to see Ireland take on Colombia at Craven Cottage on Thursday.

I then head back to NYC on Friday and have plans to immediately meet up with some buds for a booze train ride down to Baltimore for one of my buddy's bachelor parties.

Summer Tour '08 is a go!