Although the USA men’s World Cup team defeated Turkey, 2-1, at Red Bull Arena last Sunday in the second of its three-game World Cup send-off series, the bigger story was the record crowd of 26,762 for a U.S. men’s national team game at the venue and the atmosphere that was created at game.
While the USA overcame a listless Turkey team, a poor example of an opponent for World Cup preparation, the fans created an electrifying atmosphere that would match the fervor created for any one of the world’s most successful national teams. They came with their whistles, wrapped in USA flags and scarves and wore hats and jerseys adorned with the names of the American players.
The noise was ceaseless; they chanted USA, USA, USA, from the parking lot to the bleachers and inside, the crowd was greeted with a giant banner hung about 30 feet from the second tier of stands that read, “I Believe in USA.” The chanting did not stop throughout the game; at times, it was difficult to hear announcements. After Sunday, if anyone had doubt as to whether soccer has arrived in the U.S., they were put to rest at Red Bull Arena last Sunday.
The atmosphere certainly trumped the game itself, which was a disappointment. Turkey seemed not interested in playing a competitive game; the visitors were unfit as evidenced by the umpteen times a Turkish player fell to the ground with the slightest touch, as if needing to rest. Turkey was lackadaisical, especially on defense. For a few moments early in the game the visitors worked the ball well in midfield, but Turkey’s shooting was poor. So far, neither Turkey nor Azerbaijan – which the U.S defeated 2-0 in the first game in San Francisco on May 27 – provided adequate preparation for a USA team that has to play Ghana, Portugal and Germany in the group stages of the World Cup. USA will have its first real test in the final warm-up game versus Nigeria on Saturday.
Despite the conditions, the U.S did their best to make a game of it; a good combination play by Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson (26th min.) produced the first goal, while Clint Dempsey (52nd) got an easy tap-in from a defensive mistake. The inadequate preparation for the World Cup-bound U.S squad was bad enough, worse was the disservice done to the record crowd that came, expecting a competitive contest. One thing we know for sure – soccer has arrived here.
In a well-played Nigeria-Greece game that ended scoreless at PPL Park in Chester (PA) on Tuesday night, the Nigeria Super Eagles were a well-balanced team that can play well into the World Cup tournament in Brazil, and so can Greece. The Super Eagles have one of the most disciplined teams in recent years; they were well organized, worked hard, defended effectively and exhibited the discipline required for success.
John Obi Mikel and Chelsea FC (English Premier League) teammate Victor Moses are playing major roles for the Super Eagles. Greece, led by veteran Giorgos Karagounis, played an excellent game as well, especially on counterattacks. Both teams had numerous chances to score, but the despite the result, the fans were well entertained. Nigeria will in a group with Argentina, Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina, while Greece will tangle with Japan, Colombia and Ivory Coast.
Host and Western Conference leader Seattle Sounders had a decisive 4-0 win over Real Salt Lake last Saturday that ended RSL’s record 12-game unbeaten streak at the start of a season, at CenturyLink Field. Seattle got goals from Gonzalo Pineda in the first half and Marco Pappa, Chad Barrett and Obafemi Martins in the second. Toronto FC is certainly having its best MLS season; it defeated Columbus Crew, 3-2, on Doniel Henry’s game-winning goal in stoppage-time at BMO Field in Toronto. Englishman Jermain Defoe scored the other two goals for Toronto. Justin Meram and Agustin Viana scored for the Crew.
DC United is also a very improved team this year; Fabian Espindola (28th min.) scored to carry United to a 1-0 win over defending champion Sporting Kansas City. DC is second in the Eastern conference. Montreal topped the New England Revolution, 2-0, Andres Romero and Jack Mc Inerney scored for the winners. The San Jose Earthquakes beat host FC Dallas, 2-1, on goals by St. Kitts international Atiba Harris and Jean Baptiste Pierazzi; Panama international Blas Perez tallied for Dallas. The Philadelphia Union travelled to Los Angeles (CA) and knocked off Chivas USA, 3-0, at StubHub Center. Conor Casey scored twice and Christian Maidana completed the scoring.