What: A roadtrip of epic proportions, not to be taken by the weak-hearted or easily exhausted.
When: Thursday May 25 and Friday May 26.
Where to Where: Iowa City, IA to Cleveland, OH and back again.
Distance Travelled: 1206.88 miles in a little under 36 hours.
The Players: Tim, Christine, Jeremiah, and myself.
The Purpose: To catch a glimpse of the Men's National Soccer team in action before they head to Germany and the World Cup.
The Result: 50% Pure Elation. 50% Pure Exhaustion. 100% Pure Soccer Goodness.
When I heard a few weeks ago that the Men's National Soccer Team would be playing one of their three pre-Germany friendlies on a Friday night in Cleveland, I thought, "We're so
there." Of course, at the time I had the thought I figured we'd just make a weekend of it, stay in Cleveland and do all the fun Cleveland things--if there actually
are fun things to do in Cleveland. What I didn't count on was that Tim and my brother would have to be back in Chicago for his Saturday bachelor party, and that Christine and I would have to be back in I-town for her Saturday night wedding shower.
Armed with or rather despite of this knowledge we decided to buck up, drive through the night--twice
--in order to attend the game. It's a distinct possibility that none of us will ever be able to afford to go to an actual World Cup game (my dad found 4 tickets to this year's World Cup final on the internet yesterday, and they were a measly $4000. He briefly flirted with the idea, but when faced with the fact that he hadn't booked a hotel room for that particular weekend a year ago and would therefore have to sleep outside, he decided against it. Well, that and he doesn't really have the $4000 or a plane ticket or a passport) we figured this was our best chance to at least see an American World Cup team in action.
The trip there was a lot of fun. I think Christine was the only one of us who slept at all, and she only did briefly. We were hopped up on excitement to see the match, the excitement of seeing each other again (it had been a few months since I had last seen Tim), and the monster mixed CDs that Tim burned for the occasion. Despite only getting 3-4 hours of sleep on Thursday night (really, Friday morning) by the time we reached the Cleveland Brown's Stadium I was hopping with excitement. Yes, I hop when I'm excited. We've discussed this. Get over it.
We got there as soon as the doors opened. The stadium was pretty empty but there on the field was Pablo Mastroeni
warming up with the MNT fitness coach Pierre. He was going at it pretty hard core, so we were a little surprised later to find that he wasn't slotted to play in this match (After we got back I learned that he was suffering with the flu, so perhaps it had something to do with that). We also got to see the whole warm-up for the entire team, and a longer one for Kasey Keller
--he definitely worked the crowd. It's an entirely different experience to watch them in person than it is to watch them on television. I knew this, of course, but I was unprepared for just how good their control of the ball or how phenomenal their touch is. The game begins, and we get our first looks at these fine lads:
Ah, yes. Clint Dempsey
, a.ka., Deuce. Tim and I were fans coming into the match. He's proven himself a clever, imaginative player who is unafraid to take risks to make it happen. He didn't disappoint that night, and his goal was so lovely that even though we were on the entirely other end of the field we saw him sailing through the air for the header. If possible we left liking him even more. I've even taken to calling him Tim's "lovaah" (in a purely platonic way, of course).
I didn't think much of Bobby Convey, a.k.a. The Reverse Clark Kent, coming into this match. Although he is always energetic and in pure attack mode, he had failed until this point to make an impression on me. That all changed seeing him live. I saw vision, a strong ability for playmaking, and even some occasional decent D. He seemed to lose his focus in the second half, but despite that I'm encourage by his performance and think he has a lot to contribute to the team in Germany.
My opinion of Josh Wolff stayed the same. That is: What the hell is he doing on this team? No creativity, no touch, nothing. He has heart, I'll give him that, and I'm sure he's a really nice guy, but I can't help but think the same thing that the crazy guy in front of us kept bellowing all night: Where the heck is Taylor Twellman?
None of us had ever really had the chance to see Jimmy Conrad play before, but as we came to see throughout the match, Jimmy Conrad is the shit. I feel much better knowing that such a solid defender stands on our back line. We left huge fans of Jimmy. (To be perfectly honest, Steve Cherundolo is the shit, but Jimmy is a definite close second.)
Tim Howard, a.k.a. The man who suffers from tourettes yet has overcome this obstacle to become one of the greatest keepers in the world, looks so teeny-tiny in person that I had a hard time believing his ussoccer.com profile that says he's 6' 3", 210 lbs. He made a few lovely saves, and one friggin' sweet one (see the above picture), and I was happy to get a good look at the man who is backing up the man, Kasey Keller.
At the beginning of the game we were a bit disappointed to discover that we'd only really be seeing the second-string players (except Donovan and Beasley who **shockingly** came in during the second-half, although when they came in it was amazing how much they changed the pace of the game. It instantly became a one-touch game, and a goal soon followed). And for one brief second I was the saddest little girl in all the world when around the 65th minute I realized that John O'Brien and Steve Cherundolo were not going to be making an appearance. I got over it though. After the game we promptly jumped back into the car and drove straight to Chicago where we dropped off Jeremiah and Tim at Jer's pre-bachelor party party, and Christine and I kept plugging away until dawn arrived over Iowa City. At that point we were so delirously tired that Christine was talking to herself, and I--the driver--was hanging my left arm out the window and singing Janet Jackson at the top of my lungs just to stay awake. It took me two days to recover, but boy, it was worth it!