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 - www.barbadossoccer.com - 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!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're hardcore Rishi. If you make it to Chicago for the TnT game look me up.