For the USA fans getting ready for the World Cup its been a roller coaster week. Last week Landon Donovan, the USMNT and MLS's career leading goal scorer, was left off the USA's roster by team coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Although many were upset with the choice, 25,000 fans put their trust in Klinsmann last night and supported the team as they started their road to Brazil at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
Before the game USA fans were busy preparing themselves for the game with face paintings and some beers.
Some fans took part in a bubble soccer game in the Candlestick Park parking lot. If it looks like its a weird game to play, it is. Weird, but fun.
In the parking lots, there was tailgating everywhere. A hardy group of Azerbaijani fans mingled with USA fans for some good natured exchanges.
Fans picked up some schwag of their favorite USA men's and women's soccer players...
...but sometimes had to improvise to find a place to hold them.
Luckily for this new dad, he didn't have to hold on to his son who he carried over to the American Outlaws tailgate.
There the fans were led in chants and cheers ...
...before marching into Candlestick Park for the start of the game.
Some USA fans waited to the last minute to enter the stadium, and made sure to get every last drop of their drinks...
...and then make a dash to the gates...
...and to their seats...
...to watch the starting lineups of the teams march onto the field.
I made my way up the steps to grab a panorama shot right before the team introductions.
And it was interesting to take a shot of all the other photographers taking photos of the USA's starting lineup.
Clint Dempsey picked up a slight knock just before the game started, and local soccer hero Chris Wondolowski was in the starting lineup.
The USA supporters sections, made of the American Outlaws and the San Jose Ultras, was rocking at the start of the game.
They cheered loudly to give the USA a loud home field advantage...
...and give the team a helping hand in any way possible.
Azerbaijan held the USA scoreless in the first half, much to the delight of Azerbaijanis of all sizes and ages.
In the second half the USA fans continued to urge the team on to score a goal, sometimes risking life and limb.
A few fans showed their displeasure with the decision to leave Donovan off the roster. As the minutes ticked by with no score it looked more and more like it was a bad decision.
But finally in the 75th minute of the game the USA scored. It led to some wild celebrations in the stands.
As the final whistle blew Azerbaijani fans could hold their heads high after their team impressed and only lost by two goals.
The American fans were absolutely giddy that the USA's sendoff series started with a victory.
One overzealous fan tried to celebrate with the USA team by attempting to streak onto the field before being apprehended by San Francisco police officers. But even a possible arrest couldn't put a damper on her or any USA fan's mood.
It's been my life's passion as a photographer photographing the USA fans. After 12 years of photographing the USA fans traveling to the World Cup, I wasn't able to make the trip this year to Brazil.
So instead of photographing the fans in Brazil for the World Cup I want to continue my photography essay on the melting pot of soccer fans in America as they experience the tournament from this country.
You can find more information and help fund me at my crowd funding campaign below:
Please help in any way possible!! Thanks for your support and Go USA!!!