I’ve gotten a chance to attend sporting events with some pretty good atmospheres.
But the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals at Evil Energy Stadium was easily one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever been a part of.
Over the past five years, I’ve really gotten into soccer. More specifically, international team soccer. What can I say, I’m always a sucker for competition involving the U.S. against other countries.
Late last fall, I got a press release saying the Gold Cup semifinals would be held in Houston. The Gold Cup is the North American championship held every two years.
I have never gotten to see the U.S. Men’s team play in person before, so I knew I was definitely going.
I pitched in to buy tickets with Corey. We were going with one of his friends and his dad. When Corey’s dad backed out at the last minute, we ended up having a local girl’s soccer coach go with us.
The semifinals were a doubleheader, with U.S. vs. Panama starting at 6 p.m., and Mexico vs. Honduras at 9 p.m.
Before the game, we went to this place in downtown Houston called Coach’s Pub. That’s where we ran into the American Outlaws, the biggest group of USMNT fans in the country.
In true U.S. spirit, I dressed up for the match wearing a new red jersey Patty got me for my birthday, along with an Uncle Sam hat. My outfit was nothing compared to those of the American Outlaws, as you can see.
Yeah, he’s wearing a body suit. That’s dedication.
It was probably a little too hot for a fake beard.
The four of us were decked in red, white and blue, but nowhere near like some of the Outlaws.
After a few beers, we followed the rest of the Outlaws (probably close to 200) and walked to the nearby train to take us to the stadium. Just like in the bar, there were different USA songs and chants as we made our trek.
Some of my favorites were, “U-S-A ain’t nothing to fuck with,” “We cut Panama in two; Hey Panama we fucked you,” and “When the Yanks go marching in.”
We finally arrived at Evil Energy (Reliant) Stadium and unfortunately we weren’t sitting in the Outlaws’ section. We made our way up to our seats in the upper deck. It’s a well-designed stadium, so really there are no bad views.
For the start of the USMNT game, there were only about 20,000 people present. That wasn’t too much of a surprise, since it was an early kickoff. Plus, there was expected to be a large Mexican crowd in attendance.
Large Mexican crowd turned out to be an understatement. The stadium was about 80 percent when the USMNT scored the lone goal of its game. The Mexican fans joined the Americans in cheering them on.
By the start of the second match, though, it felt like we had been dropped in Mexico City. There were 70,000-plus fans in attendance that night. I estimate that no less than 80 percent were Mexican. It was crazy.
Watching a soccer game between two Latin countries that love the game was quite an experience. It honestly had an atmosphere as, or perhaps more, exciting than an Iron Bowl.
We were sitting in a section with some Honduras fans, so some of our Mexican jokes went over pretty well. We were rooting for Honduras the whole time, getting involved with their chants, which their fans found humorous.
The game was tied at 0-0 at the end of regulation. I know non-soccer fans are probably like, “See, that’s exactly why I hate soccer.” If you were there, though, you would have agreed it was a great game with unbelievable crowd energy throughout.
The game went to extra time, and the Mexicans finally struck with a goal. A few minutes later, the team’s star striker “Chicharito” scored.
I said before the game if Chicharito scored, the stadium would erupt. I was right. It was the loudest I have ever heard Evil Energy Stadium.
After the second goal, we decided to bail before shit got real between the Mexican and Honduras fans. We had already seen two fights earlier in the match, and we weren’t wanting to stick around to see any more.
Besides, you never know what can happen when President Obama and Osama Bin Laden are Mexico soccer fans.
Cosa Nostra has talked about going to Brazil in 2014 for the World Cup for our annual trip. After Wednesday night, I am more psyched than ever.
I definitely plan on going to the next international soccer match in Houston. The whole experience was awesome.
Mexico 4, U.S. 2
The semifinals set up the Gold Cup final between the U.S. and Mexico on Saturday.
The game was played in Los Angeles, so of course, it was like 85-percent Mexican fans there, too.
It was another entertaining game. The U.S. scored the first two goals and the announcers were basically proclaiming victory by the 30th minute.
I knew the Mexicans were too fast, though, and by halftime the game was tied. They tacked on two goals in the second half to win.
Obviously I was disappointed with the results, but not that surprised. Mexico has great athletes and the USMNT defense is garbage. It was asking for disaster.
There were some interesting stories to come out from that game.
Grantland’s Bill Barnwell wrote that the USMNT screwed up by not playing its young players.
SI’s Grant Wahl gave his thoughts from the game.
And ESPN’s James Martin said it was a blessing in disguise for the U.S.
I agree with Martin’s piece. This is a good chance for the USMNT to look itself in the mirror and find out exactly what went wrong.
I’m hoping coach Bob Bradley gets the ax, but I’m sure he won’t. I’m not proclaiming gloom and doom for the program like some, but they definitely need to show some progress when World Cup qualifying starts next summer.
• If you know anything about me, you know that there is a good chance I will be going to see this.
• Went to see my friend Big Jim do some standup comedy on Monday night. Man, I didn’t realize how many unfunny comics there are in the country. Some of those guys were absolutely brutal.
Jim didn’t get to go on until 1 a.m., so there wasn’t a very big crowd. He still did a good job for his first time on the Houston stage, though.
• Finished Assassins Creed 3 on Sunday. That was the last game that I wanted to play (with the exception of college football) until November. So with that in mind, I went ahead and canceled my GameFly subscription until then. I definitely like the service, but if there are no games that I want to rent for the next five months, then no point in shelling out the $17 a month.
• Green Lantern got ripped in the reviews, but I liked it. Was it Batman Begins? No, but then again, what is. I liked Green Lantern better than Thor and a lot of the other comic book movies. Captain America is still probably going to blow it out of the water, though.
• The bankruptcy issues with the Dodgers are painful to watch. Hopefully someone puts Frank McCourt out of his misery, soon.
• Boogie has become obsessed with Dora instead of Yo Gabba Gabba, now. This is not a change for the better. That Swiper is an asshole.
Bear Down and Keep the Faith!