SOCCER RECAP: USA vs Mexico

Written by :
Published on : October 23, 2015

 

 

 

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?

 

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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.

 

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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.”

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

 


SBS Stadium Series: A Quick Trip to the Rose Bowl

Written by :
Published on : October 20, 2015

 

Growing up in Big 10 country meant that the Rose Bowl was the top of the mountain. In the time before divisions, conference championship games and the college football playoff, it was the end of the line for the best team in the conference. The place where the might and glory of the Big 10 would face off against the the best that the Pac 10 (now the Pac 12) had to offer. As the site of one the most storied Bowl Game series in college football, I figured it was high time that I got my ass out to Pasadena to check out a game.

 

I hadn’t really planned on attending the matchup of unranked Arizona State against #7 UCLA a couple Saturdays past, but after happening upon some free tickets, I figured what the hell. Nestled amongst the San Gabriel Mountains, the stadium sits low and you don’t really get a view of it until you are right on top of it. There’s nothing glamorous about the design and you wouldn’t guess that it’s the 12th largest stadium in the U.S. when walking up to it, but you can feel the history of the site.

 

UCLA fans

 

We arrived to the game a little late so we didn’t get a chance to see the parking lot tailgate festivities, but once we got inside there was no shortage of drunken college kids. In fact, during the first ten minutes of trying to find a general admission section that would let us gain entry, we saw no less than three glossy eyed coeds who were either in the process of falling or just picking themselves up off the ground. Ah, to be young again.

 

I was just about to do my best to get on their level when I realized they don’t sell beer. Despite being located 26.6 miles down the freeway from the actual school campus, the Rose Bowl is not one of the 21 college football stadiums that supplies it’s thirsty fans with the nectar of the Gods. Next time I’ll know to bring a flask.

 

After making our way to our seats, situated three rows from the back in the corner of the stadium, we settled in amongst throngs of blue and yellow clad UCLA fans. The stadium itself was an impressive sight to behold, yet didn’t seem as large as it’s capacity of 95,000+ would have you believe. Having been brought into football by the imposing behemoth of the Big House in Ann Arbor, I thought all large college football stadiums would be just as grand in the stature. Either way, the place was packed shoulder to shoulder with fans and people were pumped to see their Bruins do some damage to the Sun Devils.

 

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It didn’t exactly go down like that, and the Bruins came out flat. The Sun Devils defense stifled the UCLA offense and gave Arizona State a 29-10 lead going into the 4th quarter. It was right around that time that the fans began to file out of the stadium en masse. The Bruins faithful that stayed until the bitter end were given shred of hope when the team brought it to 29-23 with 9:19 left but it was not to be. A late safety sealed the game and the Bruins lost 38-23.

 

UCLA fan sad

 

When it became clear that the game was out of hand, we made the decision to try to beat the crowd out of the parking lot. Hundreds of buses were standing ready to transport the sad, drunk, and hung over college kids who had made the long trip out to Pasadena. How many would puke their sorrows away on that trek back to Westwood? Perhaps they would be in better shape if they had been allowed to buy a beer during the game. Instead they were in those late stages of drunk; the wrong side of the borderline between the high and the crash. I could see the sadness and disappointment that all of us fans know so well. That knowledge that one day your football team was undefeated and sitting in the top 10 and the next day it’s gone, along with all real chances of competing for a national title.

 

At least they can rest easy, knowing that their team plays in one of the classic stadiums in all of the country. Who cares that it’s miles, and miles, and miles from the actual campus. It’s still a beautiful stadium surrounded by an even more beautiful landscape. Seriously though, they should start selling beer there…. and at all other college stadiums.

 

 


For Michigan State, it’s College Football Playoff or Bust

Written by :
Published on : September 19, 2015

 

The college football world took a much anticipated trip to the great state of Michigan last weekend. ESPN decided to broadcast SportsCenter live from Ann Arbor for Jim Harbaugh’s home coaching debut at his alma mater. Since Harbaugh took the job this past winter, much of the attention in college football has been focused towards Michigan as they try to revitalize one of the most glorified programs in the history of college football. While most believe Harbaugh is the perfect coach to get the job done in Ann Arbor, Michigan no longer has the fortune of only having to look South to find their big competition. There is a potential bigger threat some 60 miles Northwest—yes the once thought “Little Brother” has grown up in East Lansing, and he goes by the name Sparty.

 

Sparty himself.

 

Following the SportsCenter broadcast last Saturday, ESPN’s College Gameday kicked off its show live from East Lansing, as Michigan State vs Oregon was the featured game of the week. Part two in a scheduled home-and-home series between these two teams was again expected to have College Football Playoff implications and both teams are expected to compete for a championship in their respective conferences. Last year in Eugene, Michigan State surprised many by hanging with, and in fact leading, Oregon through three quarters of the game. That was before eventual Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota and the high powered Duck offense began to dominate a tired Michigan State defense on their way to a 19-point victory.

 

Oregon would go on to lose in the NCAA Championship game vs Ohio State, while Michigan State would end their season with a Cotton Bowl victory over Baylor in one of the greatest games of the 2014 season. Heading into the 2014 season, Spartans coach, Mark Dantonio, certainly had his eyes on the inaugural playoff, and while there was no doubt some disappointment when they didn’t make it, it was far from a failed season. Especially when you consider that the only two losses the Spartans had were against the two teams competing for the National Championship.

 

The team celebrates the Cotton Bowl victory over Baylor to close out last season.

 

The bar has been raised in East Lansing significantly. Under Dantonio, Michigan State has won eleven or more games in four of the past five years. They have dominated the in-state rivalry against Michigan, winning six of the last seven. They’ve also appeared in two conference championship games (winning one), and have turned what used to be known as a “basketball school” into a strong, well-rounded athletic program.

 

Heading into this season, Michigan State came in ranked 5th in the nation, and again have their eyes on the playoff and some higher expectations, but first focused on some familiar faces that stand in their way. Having both Oregon and Ohio State on the schedule again, Michigan State knew a win against at least one of those opponents would be necessary if their dreams would eventually come to fruition. On Saturday, the Spartans helped their playoff chances by beating the Ducks and bumping themselves up one spot, to #4 in the polls. I think if Michigan State were to have finished the season 11-1 last season, they would have made the College Football Playoff, and that if they finish with that record this year, they will make the playoff.

 

They’ve already beaten the Ducks, but there’s work to be done yet.

 

Outside of Ohio State, there doesn’t seem to be any clear-cut favorite or obvious choices to win any of the Power 5 conferences like in past years. For that reason, I don’t expect many teams to finish undefeated, if any. In recent years, Alabama, Florida State, and Oregon all seemed like shoe-ins for their conference. This year, all three may not even get to their conference championship games because there seems to be a lot more parity, and I think it’s a good thing. I think Ohio State goes undefeated, and potentially a team like TCU or Baylor could as well, (they play each other at the end of November) but that could be it.

 

Ohio State is the only remaining ranked team the Spartans have to play as of right now. The Spartans do still have a couple potential trap games in Ann Arbor and at Nebraska but Michigan State should be undefeated (10-0) heading into Columbus on November 21st. Provided Michigan State can keep that game reasonably close, say within a couple of touchdowns, the “little brother” from East Lansing could be punching a ticket to the Playoff for the first time. With Oregon already out of the way, I think Michigan State needs to be playing in college football’s Final Four on New Year’s Day.

 

The prize that the Spartans have their eyes on.

 

The past few years, Dantonio and company haven’t gotten the attention and respect they probably deserve up in East Lansing. Often taking the backseat to Ohio State and hated rival Michigan, the Spartans always seem to fly a little bit under the radar but Dantonio pushes on, getting them closer to the pinnacle, slightly raising the bar each year while ensuring that the brand is strong. Conference champions, they’ve been there and done that. A Rose Bowl victory, been there too. New Year’s Six? Yup, did that last year. There’s one big step left, and the Spartans control their own destiny the rest of the way. It’s a funny thing about expectations, when you have them, it means your team is pretty good, but when you exceed them, it means you’ve done something great. The College Football Playoff, it’s all Michigan State has left, everything else Spartan fans have already seen.

 

 

 


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