So what does a bored Geordie do in LA?
By @Iwantcurlyhair2
Wednesday 16 Nov 2011 09:17:00
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The football season has ended and I am in the US. Enough said. My hopes of getting any football lay tattered and torn. In desperation I sit watching YouTube highlights of potential signings and waiting for the spark of a rumour to fly across the web. A few weeks ago my girlfriend arrived back at her flat after a day at work and noted my depression … she paused for a second and looked directly at me. “My cousin mentioned there's a soccer game on at the Rose Bowl soon”... I could only respond with  “Football?”. I am sure my eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas but it needs to be noted,  if only for her, that the response was more shock and excitement, rather than disappointment at the use of the term “soccer” on my English ears.

 

I am going to be honest. I have never really been a follower of the CONCACAF region before but I have never been so thankful for the Gold Cup. The $50 bill needed to secure a seat at the Final seemed like nothing, especially to feel the buzz of a football game being entered into the calendar. At this point the tournament was still before the quarter finals and the teams for the LA game were unknown given the group results. The tickets arrived immediately into my inbox and thankfully I remembered to print them off before we went.

 

Once I had my tickets I started showing a bit more interest.  It's clear Mexico has been a dominant force in CONCACAF football for many years and this tournament seemed no different. They qualified for the knock-out stages well and crashed into the final faster than a Tiote thunderbolt. It seemed like fate that they would be met by the US Men's National Team. The game suddenly becomes big. An international derby to decide the fate of the Gold cup. Passions were clearly high and even the US press were talking about it.  There were bad rumours circulating about the Mexico v USA games. I know it's a grudge match but hearing rumours about Team USA being pelted with Mexico urine didn't warm me to wearing a star-spangled banner shirt. In the end we decided on the freedom of Newcastle shirts, giving us a talking point on our travels but hopefully without any conflict. The Rose Bowl Stadium (Pasadena not Southampton) generally has traffic issues on event days. I'm trying not to making sweeping generalisations but Americans do like driving their cars. We like walking so we braved the most basic of tube networks in LA to get across to Pasadena.

 

First engagement with football people occurs on the Metro train where a lady who works for Fox Soccer Channel strikes up a conversation- I feel the fix and although it's random, it's mild relief for the close season itch. Further into the journey the train fills up, with larger family groups of Mexicans. Grandads, Dads, Brothers and sons all seemingly wearing Chicharito shirts or carrying banners. They looked more like a football crowd than the patriotic yanks horrendously outnumbered. Arriving in the city was easy and crowd free. There were shuttle buses but it was only a short walk to the stadium pleasantly broken up by a glass of fresh lemonade served up by a local church group.

 

Outside of the ground was much like the little villages that sprung up around the World Cup grounds last summer. There was a “fans fest” area promoting sponsors as well as serving up all sorts of food but I was glad not to have to stand in the taco line. Getting into the stadium was smooth and easy considering the huge numbers of people at the event. The seat was more of a space on a bench than the classical plastic seat. The beer was flowing and the passions were high. Sitting in amongst a 40+ group of Chivas fans provided some prematch entertainment and a feeling of what this really means to the majority in the stadium. The volume really was up there with the best of international team noise, coming close to my experience with the England fans versus Germany, but never as loud as three thousand Geordies. California has a huge a Mexican population and it seemed that anyone who could find the cash was there. I managed to purchase some peanuts from a mobile seller in a similar manner to the days of a packed Gallowgate just as the game began.

 

The national anthems were well respected and the passion of the stands was instrumental in creating the high pace tempo in the opening minutes. I felt intimidated, in not speaking Spanish, but the US lads nearby make it clear who's country it is. The crowd pulsed back with Meh-Ki-Co until the US got a corner after some excellent pressing. The ball was whipped in and a glancing header across the face of goal by Michael Bradley saw the masses silenced. It just reminded me of a Teddy Sheringham classic and after seeing this performance I can honestly say he's not in the team because he's the manager's son. He is in the team because he grafts and maybe has that wild west spirit of never-give-up that really impressed me. Mexico kept their heads in the realisation that they could always make chances and there were still 82 mins remaining on the clock. The shock wasn't a first US goal but a second. A pressing approach paid off again, freeing the ball, and when Landon Donovan received it from a lovely slide rule pass between the two centre backs he still had a lot to do. Before the game there'd been criticism from some aspects of the press and public that the team played better as a unit without him but all that evaporated with a neat left foot slice past the now shaken Mexico net-minder. Two real US chances to US goals.

 

Mexico had the majority of the ball and the crowd still had a positivity that the game wasn't over. It only took six minutes for that positivity to be rewarded and a crazy six more to find the score level at 2-2. Barrera and Guardado were having the final that only little boys can dream of. The US were on the ropes and were pleased to see the half time whistle blow. The attendance is confirmed as 93,420 people – amazing really but even more so when noting the capacity is “only” 91,136. Sadly for the hosts, the second half started as the first ended- Mexico possession and fast paced movement making it look like only a matter of time until the pendulum swung Mexico's way. From where I was sitting, the third goal looked identical to when Asprilla scored at Liverpool with the chip-volley past James but on the replay it was a similar style but a lot closer. The stadium erupted and the sense of inevitable loss now seemed weighing heavy on US shoulders. The crowd relaxed enough to produce a real Mexican wave, started by one drunk lad directly in front of me.

 

 The result was confirmed in the 76th minute when Giovanni Dos Santos produced a miracle finish with clear intent. He picked up the ball and on approaching the goal, Tim Howard came out to narrow the angle and forced him to retreat. As Howard pressed Dos Santos out, keeping his back to the goal, he calmly exited the box, shuffled the angle and chip-curled a shot through a crowd of defenders into the top corner!!!!  This brilliance all but ended US ambitions for the Gold Cup as well as adding a few million crisp British pounds to any potential exit fee for Tottenham. The only thing left to do was to see the Mexican side lift the trophy and hear the pain of US supporters that the ceremony was conducted entirely in Spanish. This was later highlighted by Howard in the press but the actions on the night did nothing but fuel the fire of controversy and scald the pride of the home nation being out-supported on US soil. It's no Tyne-Wear derby but on departing my missus  opinion had moved from neutral to expressing a strong a hatred for Mexico as I ever have for the great-unwashed from down the road. What a good final and what a great way to warm up for the NUFC USA tour.

 

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