Remember where you were, especially if you were there. No matter what you call it—the Mile High Whiteout, the Denver Deluge or just the Hexagonal Blizzard—the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying match that took place Friday night between the United States and Costa Rica is already settling into its spot in American soccer lore.
The match itself, which was played in surreal snowy conditions, ended in a 1-0 victory for the U.S., with stand-in captain Clint Dempsey scoring the 16th-minute winner. But the less that's said about the match itself, the better. It was sloppy, slushy and scattered.
And if you're from Costa Rica, it was a complete farce.
For Americans who follow this team through good times and bad, it was special. Regardless of what else happens in qualifying, we will all remember it.
It was a spectacle not for the sporting excellence but for the setting and the commemorative value. It was a game we will remember 20 years from now randomly and for the foggiest of reasons, none of which we'll understand. It was a thoroughly watchable struggle against the elements, and it had crossover mainstream allure, even if it didn't have the tuck rule or Leon Lett.
What it did have, for the U.S. at least, was pressure. Intense pressure, with a side order of in-fighting.
Before the snow, the U.S. was the only team in CONCACAF qualifying without a point from its first match. And before the snow, the locker room was apparently in disarray over anonymous quotes (via the Sporting News) and conspicuous finger-pointing.
But forget pressure. And for now, at least, forget the tactics and the strategy, the personnel decisions and all the worries over a makeshift defense. This wasn't the beautiful game. This was backyard brawlin', and in its own way, it was as beautiful as it needed to be.
What's more, this was exactly what the U.S. needed.
After bombshell revelations from the press rocked the team earlier this week, the U.S. needed more than a victory. It needed a game that might ease—whether it was momentarily, permanently or anything in between—the ill will and in-fighting. After losing at Honduras in the heat, the U.S. needed to wash away the bad feelings and the worse vibes.
To put it simply, the U.S. needed a game in which it could have some fun. Strangely enough, a nervy one-goal win in a driving Rocky Mountain snowstorm did just the trick.
And here's the kicker: The U.S. now sits in second place in the Hex, the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, ahead of Mexico, with the big showdown looming next week at the Azteca.
There were other positives, of course, but none as important as the result itself.
DaMarcus Beasley defied his critics and defied the odds with a strong performance outside his comfort zone at left-back. Jermaine Jones was immense in midfield alongside the captain-like Michael Bradley. And Jozy Altidore led the line with a physicality only he could muster in such conditions.
Brad Guzan picked up the shutout in goal, giving hope for a viable post-Tim Howard future, while Dempsey got the goal and played the part of captain confidently. Commendable performances abounded, and yet it's impossible to know what might have been without the snow.
For now, though, all that matters is the win and the giddy new feeling around this team.
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