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: