USA vs. Azerbaijan, pre-World Cup friendly
It's FIFA World Cup season! The opening match (Brazil vs. Croatia) is schedule for June 12, and I'm so excited. For the next 6-7 weeks we'll be glued to the TV -- we've even scheduled our road trips and long vacations to make sure we'll have access to a TV (or a pub) to watch each and every match!
Even though the tournament starts in 10 days, our World Cup season has already started. Countries are warming up by playing international friendlies, and thanks to World Cup sponsor McDonald's, we were able to attend Team USA's first pre-tournament match! They played Azerbaijan at Candlestick Park last week, and we got the chance to see Michael Bradley, Chris Wondolowski, Tim Howard, and the rest of our favorite US soccer stars.
Based on their performance that night, I think they're going to get creamed in the group stage (fellow countries in Group G are all soccer powerhouses -- Ghana, Germany, and Portugal). It certainly left us even more mystified at coach Jurgen Klinsmann's decision to leave Landon Donovan out of the squad, especially since he's on form and we've spent the entire season watching Jozy Altidore (who did make the team) fail to score a goal for his club, Sunderland. Still, that's not going to stop us from cheering like mad for Team USA -- we want soccer to become even more popular and more competitive in the US, so any and every bit of exposure to world-class play is a good thing!
Even though the US won, I don't think I've ever enjoyed a live soccer match LESS. To begin with, we arrived 10 minutes late due to massive traffic jams -- and we ended up taking our seats 25 minutes late because we didn't realize that Candlestick Park had a strict No-Bags policy until we were at the gate (umm, signs in the parking lot would have been nice???). To add insult to injury, even though the stadium was less than half full, I've never had to wait in such long concession stand lines! Alfie and I joined the queue for hotdogs and hamburgers at halftime.. but 15 minutes later, with the second half about to start, we had barely moved. So we gave up and decided to try again 15 minutes before the full-time whistle. The line was about half of what it was at halftime, but it wasn't moving any faster. We ended up having to watch the rest of the match (and both USA goals!!) on the TV screen above the service counter.
The night wasn't a total loss, however. Team USA did win, and the boys did have a great time. None of the stresses plaguing Alfie or me seemed to bother them; they were cheerful throughout (even when waiting for their food!), and I was delighted to seem screaming, smiling, and cheering Team USA.