This is the final entry of several that chronicled editor Trista Lutgring’s stay in Columbus, Ohio during the days leading up to and the highly-anticipated U.S. Men’s National Team World Cup qualifying match against Mexico. She arrived in Columbus Sunday, Sept. 8 and left Wednesday, Sept. 11.
Wow. Just … wow.
I feel there are pinnacles in every sports fan’s life. A rivalry game, winning the championship, seeing your favorite player’s last game …
For US Men’s National Team fans, our pinnacle is US v. Mexico in Columbus. For the past 24 hours, all of us – fans, journalists, players, EVERYONE – have talked about is the myth of “Dos A Cero.” It’s US Soccer legend … really, it’s doctrine. If Mexico comes to “our house,” they’re losing 2-0.
In the days leading up to this game and my stay in Columbus, I spoke with a lot of people about this team and how they felt this game was going to go down. After the dismal performance in Costa Rica, some fans were a little shaky in their predictions. I myself wasn’t sure exactly how the team would respond, but I couldn’t predict anything but a 2-0 result for the US, mostly on the sheer fact that it was being held in Columbus. If you don’t know this team and this history, that might be a bit hard to understand.
But let me tell you, there’s something about Columbus and the USMNT. Four games against Mexico, all ending in 2-0 results for the US. It’s in the atmosphere, you can feel it buzzing in the stadium, you could see it in the players when they hit the pitch. It’s a confidence – not necessarily cockiness – that Crew Stadium is their home, their territory. And there was no way Mexico was going to get anything past them.
Tim Howard was magnificent. After the Costa Rica game, US fans talked among themselves about whether they wanted to see Howard in goal or not. But in Columbus, it was like an entirely different player was on the pitch. He was on his line, made spectacular saves and kept Mexico frustrated. A thousand different things could be the reason for his performance, but you can’t ignore the myth of Dos A Cero.
Could it be the myth of Dos A Cero was the reason the US didn’t score until the second half, when they were attacking toward the North End where the largest group of AO supporters were? Maybe …
Landon Donovan was everywhere; and I mean EVERYWHERE. Jermaine Jones was killer in the midfield. Fabian Johnson did work as right back. Alejandro Bedoya was impressive. And our center backs of Clarence Goodson and Omar Gonzalez made things look easy. It wasn’t always perfect and there were times I was more than a little nervous, but Mexico could never get a grip on the game. The US had them the whole time. It can’t be denied that the history of Dos A Cero played a huge part in the play from both teams.
Here’s the biggest one to think about, the most haunting of all… when the US were awarded a penalty in the dying minutes of the game, Clint Dempsey stepped up to the spot and missed. It was the most peculiar feeling for a fan. I stood among the AO crowd, looking out at Dempsey taking the spot and I said out loud, “I don’t think I want him to make it.” And then he didn’t and the crowd response was almost like he had.
Did he miss it on purpose? I can’t honestly say that I know. I wouldn’t want to think that Dempsey would purposely miss. However, I will tell you, as a group of us stayed to watch the ending of the Honduras v Panama game and the US players came back out to celebrate the World Cup berth with the fans, we chanted, “Clint missed on purpose.” Dempsey smiled and even did a little dance. He may not have did it on purpose, but the fact that it happened, in the dying minutes, adds so much more to this amazing US legend.
The myth of Dos A Cero continues….
This game, this experience, I honestly don’t think can rival anything else. I will tell stories from these four days for years, I am sure. I can now say I was at Crew Stadium for a Dos A Cero; it’s like a badge of honor. And yeah, I’ll admit it. When the scarves went up and we sang the national anthem, I felt tears in my eyes. Because this was much more than a World Cup qualifying match for us. And it also shows that this sport has come in leaps in bounds in this country. The national team has moved in leaps and bounds in their performance and ability. The team is getting to a point of being respected and what’s better is that they can put fear in Mexico now; it used to be the other way around.
It’s just at 24 hours after the start of the US v Mexico game. I’m exhausted, I have no voice and I have a suitcase on my bedroom floor to unpack. But I can still hear the chanting, and I can’t stop smiling. Was it great to be in Columbus with this team, with the fans as the US got a World Cup spot? Hell yes. But what was even better? Being there chanting “Dos A Cero!”