Monday, June 12, 2017

USA fans at Azteca Stadium for USA vs. Mexico World Cup Qualifier

It was an incredible evening for the USA fans who traveled to Mexico City and Azteca stadium to support the US Men's National team in a World Cup Qualifier against Mexico.

This was my third time photographing the most intense World Cup away Qualifier for the USA.  I can't make it to as many qualifiers as I used to, but there is no way I would miss USA vs. Mexico at Azteca.
Many of the US Soccer fans made their way to Azteca Stadium via buses put together by US Soccer, the American Outlaws, and Sammers Supporters Club.  
After about a 45-minute ride from the center of Mexico City, Azteca Stadium came into view.
 Once there the fans had to disembark from their buses and go through a police line including mounted police officers. One American fan found a special connection with a police horse while waiting to enter.
 Soon the fans were moved through the security line...
 ....and their loud cheers supporting the USA...
 ...were met by jeers from the Mexico fans.

 Spirits were high for the USA fans, especially after a good run of form.
The Mexican police have to be commended for having enough security on hand to handle any potential trouble between the USA fans.

Some USA and Mexico fans faced off with each other on the walk in.
But others fans decided to be more civil and take photos together.
Although vastly outnumbered the USA supporters section continues to almost double in size every four years.
 Even former USMNT'er Jimmy Conrad was spotted in the stands.
 Many fans were decked out in red, white, and blue to show off their national pride.
The fans sang the US national anthem with gusto...
 ...and loudly supported the USMNT from the opening whistle.
They were quickly rewarded with an amazing chip shot from Michael Bradley that put the Yanks up 1-0 against Mexico.
 The USA fans started cheering even lounder after the goal....
 ...and some couldn't believe their luck.
The Mexico fans, separated by police lines and fences from the USA fans, looked on a bit nervously.
 Mexico fans that heckled the USA fans were met with a 'subtle' reply back.
 But there were no serious conflicts between the two fan groups because of the police lines that carefully kept watch on the crowd.
Mexico soon struck back to even the game at 1-1 which led to some wild and raucous celebrations throughout the rest of Azteca Stadium.
 Some USA fans rued their change in fortunes.
 But many USA fans continued to cheer for their team the whole game.
 They cheered and clapped and sang.
 But as the game continued deadlocked 1-1 the Mexico fans looked happy and hoped for a possible a late goal against America.
And in the end...
 ...the USA held on for a point! It is the most difficult away point for America to earn this World Cup qualifying cycle. The point keeps them on track to qualify for Russia 2018.
 As the USA fans left Azteca, the remaining Mexico fans 'gently' asked them to get out of town quickly.
 But the USA fans had no reason to hang their heads. As they boarded the buses back to the hotel, you could tell many left all their energy and effort supporting the USMNT in the stands.
Back to the hotel, they gathered for a celebratory group photo. A point at Azteca is always a good result for the USA.  Maybe one day they will win a World Cup game there as well.

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