Saturday October 10th, 2015. 6:30 PM PST. The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA.
USA vs Mexico. Mostly a friendly match with a dash of CONCACAF drama. I had not planned on going to the game but my excellent friends wanted to and threw down some cash on great seats right behind the US goal. I couldn’t say no. The four of us parked on one of the few streets in Pasadena not guarded by game day parking enforcement (or whatever that rent-a-cop garbage unit is) and made the free-parking hike toward the stadium.
On the way, we joked about who would have more fans? I mean this is America after all, but it’s Southern California AKA Mexico’s ex-girlfriend, so it should be a toss up. Soccer is really growing in the states. The ladies on team USA are the 2015 World Cup Champions, MLS keeps poaching (aging) international superstars, plus there is finally a real groundswell of support (See: American Outlaws below) across the country. Maybe the times are changing?
We wind through the broken beer bottles of the tailgate lot and make our way in just as the national anthems blare. We grab $13 Coors Light drafts (yes, they sell beer for non-college games, Alex) and find our section. As we exit the tunnel, we are instantly faced with the full might of the packed Rose Bowl. I was here just the other week for the UCLA game but this isn’t the same. The arena was electric.
Over 93,000 screaming fans. We get stopped by security as we try and move down the staircase to our primo seats. They tell us that the area is full even though we have tickets. The only way they let anyone down is if they say they have friends holding them a spot. We learn later, that the unofficial team USA fan club, the American Outlaws, took over the section and made it “general admission”, meaning that the staff won’t help us or anyone else get to their correct seats. Real talk translation: “we have no power over the crowd and are trying our hardest to prevent a riot.”
We wedge ourselves behind a row off the aisle. Doesn’t matter about having a real seat because the entire stadium stands for the whole game. Mexico scores first and it’s instantly clear who has more fans. My old iPhone 4S does its best trying to record the madness.
(click anywhere on the window to start video)
But this game would stay close. Team USA answered the bell and the American half of the building broke out into song. I hope The White Stripes get money for this.
(once again click anywhere on the window to start video)
After an intense 90 minutes, we found ourselves tied and heading to extra time. That’s when we met Abraham Lincoln.
But this wasn’t your grandfather’s Lincoln, this fella had the arms on his jacket missing so you could see his buff biceps. And as everybody knows, Lincoln freed the sleeves.
I assumed this was a sign that we would win but Mexico was too good, too athletic, too fast. Since the half, the yanks looked like they were playing catch up. Overtime was a gift. One that wouldn’t last. Mexico put the dagger in with only minutes before the end of OT. Penalty Kicks were not to be.
I took the loss gracefully. The same could not be said for many of the US faithful. As we left the packed facility, I was overwhelmed by the clever vendors selling their wares to the exiting fans. Mainly, cans of beer, bootleg t-shirts and bacon-wrapped hotdogs. All at a reasonable markup. We grabbed an exit brew and hoofed it back to the car under the chants of “Mexico-Mexico-Mexico.”
I’d say it was a bummer, but I can’t. I saw five goals. Lead changes and equalizers, even overtime. It was incredible. Nothing like I had ever experienced. My closing thought (Jerry Springer!) is that everyone should see one real futbol game before they die. Something like this match. It will change you and make you a soccer fan for life. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Oi Oi Oi!!!
For a less funny recap of the game with GIFS of all the goals go here. Or google it. Lazy.