I’ve never been a big fan of the city of Chicago — the traffic is horrible. But I am a fan of soccer. So, yesterday I made my way to the windy city to watch the US Men’s National Team take on Poland in a friendly.
This was the United States’ second friendly since the close of the World Cup in South Africa (the first being a 2-0 loss to Brazil), but only the first friendly since coach Bob Bradley was re-signed through the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Therefore it was the first somewhat meaningful match in the training period before the next World Cup. Going in, I had expected to see Coach Bradley experiment with different formations and available players. Also, Landon Donovan was not going to be available for the game, as he is with the LA Galaxy for the MLS playoffs.
As I took Chicago’s Red Line Train to the Roosevelt Station near Soldier Field, I was shocked at the number of Polish fans. As it turns out, there is quite a large Polish population in Chicago, and according to Wikipedia, “Chicago bills itself as the largest Polish city outside of Poland with approximately 1,100,000 people of Polish ethnicity in the Chicago metropolitan area.” It was almost an away game for the US team, as there was a very strong showing for Polska.
Before the game, retiring US striker Brian McBride was honored for his career contributions to the sport. He was the first overall pick in the initial MLS draft, going to the Columbus Crew. He later played for Fulham and the Chicago Fire. I remember him best from the bloody face he received in the game against Italy in the 2006 World Cup. He was my favorite player for a number of years, and he has truly done some great things for American soccer. I had hoped he would be on the roster for this game, and brought on as a late substitute to give him one final international appearance. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be. At least he was recognized.
The game was exciting from start to finish. You can read recaps of the game on ESPN or Fox Sports, or whatever you prefer. That isn’t the intent of this post. But the game was really fantastic. I’m glad I went. The US team has a lot of work to do, though. Some random thoughts and then some pictures below.
- I was very surprised to not see Eric Lichaj come on as a substitute in his home town for his first cap.
- Cherundolo and Bocanegra are great. But they’re not getting any younger. Who will be there to replace them?
- Oguchi Onyewu had some great moments, but also so horrible ones (like the failed clearance that led to Poland’s first goal).
- Maurice Edu might end up being a decent defender.
- Jermaine Jones looked good, and may be the answer in the middle.
- I don’t understand why Benny Feilhaber was subbed out. He wasn’t fantastic, but he seemed better than Alejandro Bedoya, who I didn’t even really notice on the field.
- Stuart Holden looked really good. I think he has a bright future for the USMNT.
- Jozy Altidore finally scored, but he should have had more than just the one goal.
- Is moving Clint Dempsey to striker the way to get Altidore a reliable partner up front? I don’t know. It might be. He had a great game, despite the ugly black eye he picked up playing for Fulham.
The pictures were taken from Section 131, Row 1, Seat 10, in case anyone is curious. And it was actually the front row (I always wonder when I buy tickets what the view might look like).