This is the second entry of several that will chronicle 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 will head out Wednesday, Sept. 11.
Good afternoon US Soccer fans!
Today is the big day, the one US Men’s National Team fans have been waiting for … well, for a very long time it seems! Tonight at 8 p.m. ET, the US will take on Mexico in a highly anticipated World Cup qualifying match. Fans have been gearing up all weekend for the showdown and Monday was no different.
I headed over to the US Soccer rally at Blue Stone in downtown Columbus. This place was amazing and was packed full of US fans when I arrived. Drinks, food, music and highlights of all the US v. Mexico matches highlighted the three-hour wait. There was also a photo booth set up (which was fun) and Frankie Hejduk to keep us busy. It was a long wait, but I met some great people, including Mark Fiskin of the Seeing Red podcast and Jason Davis and Jared DuBois from The Best Soccer Show. I also hung out with my good friend and fellow soccer blogger Tanya Keith. Plus all the other great soccer fans that turned out.
USMNT legends Hejduk and Brian McBride took the stage first to talk about the rivalry between Mexico and the US and their memories they had from the 2002 World Cup match between the two teams. It was a great time. I don’t think there is any person in the world that gets as pumped about US Soccer games as Frankie Hejduk. And being a Crew fan, it was great to see him along with Brian McBride on that stage taking about the national team and leading a room packed to the brim with fans with US chants.
We weren’t aware of which players would accompany Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, but it turned out DaMarcus Beasley, Jose Torres, Alejandro Bedoya and Michael Bradley were to take the stage. Bradley was definitely the crowd pleaser, but I don’t think that will surprise anyone. Of course, Bradley won’t be playing tonight. Or will he? One fan asked Michael if he would be dressing for the match; Klinsmann took the question and said Bradley would be on the bench. A morale booster? I think so.
Klinsmann was also asked about the growth of US Soccer in the years he’s been heading up the men’s national team. To which he replied the team is moving toward being the best in the world and competing with the top teams. Positivity was out in full force that night. Fans were also promised that the team was out to win tonight, not to set in and defend. With Mexico firing head coach Chepo after their match last week, there is concern the team could have a boost with getting a new coach. The defensive woes of the US do not ease those worries either. I’ll be interested in who Klinsmann puts out there and the formation he’ll use; I’m gonna say it … 4-4-2 will be the way to go, Klinsmann.
After the rally cleared out, I headed down to 4th Street bar where the American Outlaws were out in full swing. Let me tell you guys, no one can throw a party like American Outlaws. The place was backed to the brim inside and out back. AO gear was available, more food and drinks and World Soccer Shop was putting free AO patches on jerseys. Alexi Lalas showed up shortly after I did and greeted fans and even addressed everyone from the back balcony. It was a killer atmosphere.
I caught up with Jared and Jason again, met Grant Wahl and once again met up with my good friend, Columbus Crew reporter Ashleigh Ignelzi. Plus I hung out with the amazing kids of AO Houston that made the trip. It was a great way to cap off the night. I heard there were a great party down at the Three Legged Mare as well. I wish we could have made it down that way, but ran out of time.
The hype in this city has been amazing during my stay here thus far. Right now I’m typing this up in the hotel room, getting ready to hit the massive tailgating that is happening right now. There’s more people to see and catch up with – including Nat and Cam from the Soccer Plus E show! – and lots of friends to make. I can’t wait.
Be sure to tune in tonight for this clash. I would say look for me, but in the sea of 9,000 supporters, I have a feeling that might be a bit hard. I’ll be back tomorrow with my final entry and recap of the game. Talk to you guys then!