Wednesday, March 27, 2013

US Men's National Team vs. Mexico at Azteca

I can't imagine a better place to experience being a US Soccer fan then spending a night in Azteca for a USA vs. Mexico World Cup Qualifier. Throwing in a tie for a result just makes the experience that much more enjoyable.
 I traveled 4 years ago to cover the USA fans in Mexico and this time a record number of around 500 USA fans were expected to make the trip.  As they waited for buses to take them to the game the USA and Mexico fans engaged in a little friendly exchange.
 The ride to Azteca was pretty smooth for the bus I was on.  And when the stadium appeared in the distance you could feel the energy level rise for everyone on board.
A Fox Sports Mexico reporter came on the bus to interview some USA fans...
 ...I think he received a little bit more atmosphere than he imagined.

When the bus parked it was surrounded by a police security detail to protect the USA fans entering the stadium.
 Several of the other USA buses were much later in arriving so some USA fans, having time to kill,  decided to venture outside the police lines and, well, through them.
Finally the authorities decided to have our bus enter the stadium. So, with one last drink to finish off the tequila, the fans were off.
 With a police cordon in place, the Mexican fans got a chance to say hello to the USA fans.
And the USA fans were also able to say hello to the Mexican fans as well. 

Once inside Azteca, the USA fans were place well up in the corner section.
 The Mexican fans were trying to create a "home" atmosphere for their team in the daunting 110,000 seat stadium.
 But the USA fans, especially a group that had already been to Azteca for several World Cup Qualifiers, were not impressed.

Just in case the police put double lines between the Mexican and USA fans so nothing bad happened.
 The teams entered the stadium and the rest of the USA fans arrived in time for the national anthem.

 And it was an impressively large section of USA fans. Ready to sing for a full 90 minutes.
 During the game the much larger crowd of Mexican fans continued to turn their attention to the USA fans from behind the lines.

While some of the younger USA fans looked nervous...
 ...most of the USA fans cheered and chanted right back at the Mexican chants.
 In the second half the fans were rapt with attention as the USA team, with a stellar defensive display, was keeping Mexico at bay.  A result was looking more and more in the cards.
 There were several close calls...
...but the USA fans kept cheering...

...and when the final whistle blew it was pandemonium for the USA fans in attendance.
 As the cheers continued the Mexico fans, who unlike 4 years ago showered the USA fans with beer for the full 90 minutes of the game, only started to throw their beers at the USA fans after the final whistle.
 They were quite vocal about expressing their displeasure at the result.
Although most of the items thrown were just beer, one unlucky USA fan (far left) was hit with something much heavier causing him to bleed on the forehead.

The Mexican police made sure to get the USA fans out of the stadium as quickly as possible.

And the celebration continued all the way back to the buses...

...and on the buses.
 And with a police escort the whole way back to the hotels it was an incredibly quick and smooth trip back.
Once off the bus a bunch of the USA fans from New York signed a Mexico flag to remember the moment when they were there to see the USA record a hard earned point. And took away two points from the Mexican team.
 Smiles were all around...
...and shots of tequila were the perfect way to celebrate the moment.  A draw, and a result in Mexico,  never tasted so sweet.

For more photos of soccer fanatics around the world "like' my facebook page: 12th Man Photos

To view more images of the USA Fans, please visit ISI Photos.

Monday, March 25, 2013

USMNT Press conference in Mexico City

Attended the USMNT Press conference in Mexico City today.  Jurgen Klinsmann and Clint Dempsey both addressed the media.
The thing that struck me the most the the throngs of Mexican media there.  They easily outflanked the traveling USA media.
There were so many they were even handing microphones all over the speakers to get the proper sound.
Every speaker in the ballroom.
Was fun to see what Clint Dempsey looked like to one of the media cameras.
But it was quite a site for me.  The pressure of the media will be intense tomorrow! Can't wait for game time!!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mile High Whiteout: USA World Cup Qualifer vs. Costa Rica

I've photographed a lot of US Men's National Team games.  But never one in a snowstorm like the World Cup Qualifier against Costa Rica in Denver.  It's a game that any USA fan will talk about for years to come. It was incredible, insane, intense.  And it ended out perfectly.
 I had actually arrived in Denver not even knowing that it could possibly snow on Friday but a friend informed me on Thursday of the possibility.

 And the game started off like many other one's I have photographed before. A tailgate with smiles all around...

..a surprise guest in former USMNT great Cobi Jones...
 ..and hi-fives for all the fans arriving by bus at the game.
 But the snow, and the wind, really started to come down as the fans marched into the stadium.

Some fans tried to get any cover they could.
 While others carried their colors with pride into the eye of the storm.
  Before the match the Dick's Sporting Good workers were trying as hard as possible to make the field playable.

And at the start of the game the field was in pretty decent shape...

 ...for the national anthems of both teams.

Someone with US Soccer was really smart to hand out scarves to (1) to hold up high for the national anthem...

...and (2) to help you keep warm

Despite the snow the USA supporters section was cheering loudly at the start of the game.
 And the fans were rewarded with an excellent strike by Clint Dempsey to stake the team to a 1-0 lead which led to wild celebrations in the stands.
 As the snow really started to settle in and pour from the sky...

...nothing was able to hide from the snowfall.
 Some fans tried to keep warm by staying really close together...
  ...while others were not worried about baring it all to the elements.
 As the second half started the snow flakes were coming down fast and furious.
 At one point the Costa Rican players were arguing with the referee to postpone the game because of the elements.  But the fans started to chant "Let them play!" And after several tense moments the game continued.
 And the fans cheered...
 ...and shouted...
 ...and beat their drums to urge on the USA team to grind out the result
 And when the final whistle blew the USA fans went wild.  It was a test of endurance for everyone in attendance.
And the USMNT, led by captain Clint Dempsey made sure to show how appreciative they were of the fans resolve.
And as the snowballs started to fly in celebration after this epic World Cup Qualifier game. It was time to enjoy the moment but also to get in somewhere dry. Dry and warm.  Whats the weather forecast for Mexico City next Tuesday??