Thursday, March 31, 2005

There Ain't No 'Ham Like the Birmingham...

To make a soccer-fan want to stay in Alabam!

Yesterday, I made the trip over to Birmingham along with five friends to watch the World Cup Qualifier, US versus Guatemala. What a trip. We left mid-afternoon, arriving in Birmingham just in time to enjoy some delicious slow-cooked chopped pork and ribs at Full-Moon Bar-B-Que (26th Street Location). Fully fat and happy, we then proceeded to Legion Field for some full-on tailgating. Beer was consumed (and a little spilled) as we watched the many Guatemalan fans, some of which were from as far away as DC, parade by and generally make merry. Their spirit was amazing. It was like a family reunion, sporting event, carnivale, and circus all wrapped up together. Many news outlets reported that there were more Chapines than Gringos at the match. And it certainly appeared that way when we first arrived.

Once we got into the stadium though, it seemed that the crowd was more evenly mixed, which is still not the best situation for the US, being the "home" team and all. All the Guatemalan fans around us were very happy, living and cheering with their team kick by kick, foul by foul. I'd watch a match with them again any day.

As for the match, the US lightened the spirits of their fans who were still mourning their defeat in Mexico Sunday afternoon. They took control of the match early on; Eddie Johnson continued to cement his permanent place in the starting 11 by scoring in the 11th minute. The US proceeded to continue to fire at the goal, missing about six more great chances in the first half. I'm looking at you especially Brian Ching.

After a few more chances in the second, including a very close offsides call to nullify a goal, they finally got their insurance goal from Steve Ralston. US 2 - 0 Guatemala, and a clean sheet for Kasey Keller, who was fantastic in goal again. (Ed. Note: Brad who?) My man of the match? Eddie Johnson is the obvious choice, but I'm going with Eddie Lewis (We Are P-N-E!), who was a workhorse and fired pinpoint accurate crosses into the box until relieved late in the second half. Here's the local story from Birmingham.

At the end of game, I got congratulated by some of the Guatemalan fans and we returned to the parking lot for more beer until the crowd thinned a bit. Birmingham actually felt like a soccer town last night, making the large sign, "Legion Field - The Football Capital of the South," feel about right--maybe it should have been futbol though.

The only downer was the torrential rain we had to drive through on the way back to the ATL. Our excellent driver got us all home safely, if late, though. Great work Kris! We really appreciate it.

Also, I see that the Birmingham news now has a soccer blog. Go show it some love.

UPDATE: Mexico only managed a draw at Panama, which means the US only trails El Tri by one point. Way to play Panama!

NP: "Pressed in a Book" - The Shins.

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