The sound of drums echo from behind me as the fans in my section attempt to make their voices heard. Reading this, you might think I was somewhere in Europe or South America watching a soccer game, but if so, you are greatly mistaken.
Instead, I am sitting in the second row directly behind the goal at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, anxiously awaiting for the US Men’s National Team to walk out on to the pitch to take on Trinidad and Tobago in a World Cup Qualifier.
It felt like I had waited for this night forever, and I couldn’t believe it had finally arrived. Here I was, less than twenty feet away from some of my heroes. Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley…I was seeing them live for the first time ever!
After playing each country’s respective national anthems, the match began and the crowd began to cheer even more ecstatically. I was surrounded by passionate supporters who were cheering their lungs out for the home side.
Prior to the game a massive banner had been unfolded in my section that donned the words, “Don’t Tread On This”. For those unaware, this is US Soccer’s motto,which was inspired by a rap song by Clint Dempsey in preparation for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Ohhhhhh…USAAAAAA…USA…USAAA, USAAAAAA!!! I soon find myself joining in the chants with the rest of Sam’s Army. Nine minutes after the kick-off the US scored from a free-kick and the fans, including myself, went crazy. Landon Donovan’s free-kick had been met by Michael Bradley to give the United States a 1-0 lead.
I was so excited I found myself jumping over the seats in front of me to get as close to the field and to goalscorer Michael Bradley as possible.
The atmosphere was incredible following the goal, and a series of chants flooded the airwaves in Toyota Park. “You’re not singing over there…you’re not singing, you’re not singing over there!” chanted the US fans in the direction of the Trinidad and Tobago fan section.
It only got better for the US nine minutes later as DaMarcus Beasley sent Clint Dempsey through on goal, and the Fulham FC midfielder easily slotted the ball into the back of the net. 2-0 to the USA!
Seeing my favorite American soccer player score on my end of the pitch was a fantastic experience and every single supporter in my section clearly shared my joy. The chants only increased, both in quantity and noise, as the game drew on.
At half-time the US was unlucky not to be leading by more than two goals, but I had the feeling there was more to come.
After the 15-minute break both sides returned from the locker rooms, with the US team drawing praise as they jogged back on to the pitch. Trinidad and Tobago started the second half strongly, but the US defense, led by Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra, managed to thwart the danger and regain control of the match.
The US were rewarded with a free-kick after a blatant foul on Steve Cherundolo ten minutes into the second half. DaMarcus Beasely’s free-kick was met by Oguchi Onyewu, who managed to head down to striker Brian Ching, making for an easy finish. 3-0 to the USA!
I took part in every chant sung by the US supporters and did my best to soak up every second of an incredible experience.
I had sat in a similar spot in the same stadium less than a month ago when I watched the Chicago Fire take on DC United. The game was a fantastic experience, but it was nothing compared to what I experienced watching the US Men’s National team.
Maybe it was because the pride of a football club cannot match the patriotism for a country. I’ve only seen Manchester United play live once, and that was on tour in the USA, so I can’t proclaim that watching the US was better than seeing Manchester United at Old Trafford. As a matter of fact, I have my doubts that anything could be better than sitting at Old Trafford watching the likes of Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, and Rio Ferdinand.
I do know, however, that watching the United States’ National Soccer team was like a dream come true.
It was certainly an experience I would never trade for anything.