Tuesday, September 8, 2009

United States Men's National Team vs. El Salvador

After Mexico City, I thought Salt Lake City would not be as amazing an fan experience. But with an essential home game against El Salvador, I had to make the trip and photograph the USA fans who made the trip.

Led by a strong group of supporters from the American Outlaws, the USA had a large and good group of fans who made the trip.

A group of fans met up at a bar in Salt Lake City and took the light rail from downtown to the stadium, which is in Sandy about a 45 minute ride south of the city.

The march was led by a group of 3 friends from Allentown, Pennsylvania. It was great having a brass ensemble leading the group of fans marching to the game which numbered around fifty.

On the ride, USA fan Andy Siebenborn initiated a new USA soccer fan...

The march from the train to the stadium took about ten minutes.

When the USA fans arrived about 3 hours before the start of the game, the stadium was already surrounded by a few thousand El Salvadorian fans who had made the trip to Salt Lake City.

Some of the fans were not that friendly. But compared to Mexico City it was a cake-walk.

And most of the El Sal fans were actually good sports wishing good luck and high-five the USA fans.

Most people headed over to the USA fans tailgate that ended up being a pretty rowdy event getting ready for the big game. For me I checked into a local bar near the stadium and met up with Andy and a group of fans from Rochester who have been going to USA games since the mid 90's. Andy unfurled his banner his wife that he brought to the 1990 World Cup and has brought with him since then.

From the tailgate, the USA fans marched into the stadium

And thanks to the PA guys the USA supporters section was loud and organized in its chants.

The interaction between the El Sal fans and the USA fans was good natured inside the stadium. A group of friends from Utah dressed up as iconic American figures and stood inside a section that was majority El Salvadorian fans. A lot of barbs were traded back and forth...

And before the game the USA fans were ready and loud and chanting....

The first twenty minutes the USA produced several decent chances and it looked like a matter of time until they would score, until El Salvador sneaked in a goal after a poor clearance by Jonathan Bornstein. 1-0 El Sal.

The US fans were stunned...and a horrible thought crossed my mind at first. "Well there goes the World Cup!" but after a few moments the fans started cheering again in the supporters section and I held the thought as long as the US pulled even before the half they had a good chance of still winning the game.

Thankfully the USA did one better than that scoring two goals in five minutes sending the USA fans into delirium and renewing my dreams of South Africa!

The second half was amazing and after the USA was robbed a third goal (which I was bummed about cause I got some great photos of US fans celebrating it!) and Davies was subbed out the last 10 minutes ended up being a tense a taught affair.

Around the 86th minute even most of the fans in the stadium started chanting "USA, USA" after the cheer started in the supporters section. Its one of the first times I have actually ever heard most of the American fans in the stadium fall into the chant. It was great to hear. The El Salvador fans, which were probably about 35 to 40 percent of the fans in the stadium had been louder for sure compared to the American fans in the first half, but the USA chant was the loudest cheer of the night.

At the end the USA held on and the fans enjoyed a well earned and hard fought win that kept the USA and fans dreams alive for a date in the 2010 World Cup.

And it was fun for the US fans to wave a friendly goodbye to the El Salvador fans that made the trip to the stadium.

So with the game over all was left was to head back to Salt Lake and celebrate the victory with the locals...

Sometimes its good to be an American Outlaw indeed...