By Peter Alegi | June 8th, 2011 2 Comments
Having witnessed the USA’s last victory in November against South Africa in Cape Town, our 9-year-old daughters proved themselves lucky talismans for the Americans again on Tuesday (a school night!) against Canada in a Gold Cup match at Ford Field in Detroit.
It was my first football match indoors. Ford Field’s warehouse ambience infused the Detroit River derby with a blue-collar chic feel. We welcomed the oddly pleasant sensation of walking into an air-conditioned stadium on a scorchingly hot and humid afternoon.
We arrived early enough to watch Panama – Guadeloupe with a few thousand hard core aficionados. The heavily favored Panamanians scored twice (’29 and ’32) before Guadeloupe’s Tacalfred got a straight red for a rather innocuous foul on Luis Henríquez. Reduced to ten men, the Gwada Boys came to life as the game got chippy.
Panama’s third goal – an authoritative penalty by Gomez — seemed to bury the game a few minutes into the second half. (The PK was actually taken twice. Gomez “spooned” the first one into the net.) Content and over-confident, Panama switched off. Guadeloupe fought back. Substitute striker Jovial poached two well-taken goals to make the closing moments tense and exciting. Final score: 3-2 Panama.
The ritual procession of the USA and Canada out of the tunnel three rows below us midwifed a roar from the crowd of 28,000. “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee,” sang a few hundred Canadian ultras in the North End. Sam’s Army in the South End led the home fans in a spirited response: “And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.” Are we ready to rumble?
Canada sat back on defense, hoping to spring counterattacks. FIfteen minutes in, Lars Hirschfeld’s comical goalkeeping error on Altidore’s simple shot from a tight angle gifted the US the lead. Despite a lot of huffing and puffing on Ford Field’s soft and slightly unstable grass surface, Canada hardly threatened. 1-0 at the break. Our daughters devoted themselves to their new pastimes: Anna, wearing her Messi Barca jersey, went autograph hunting among the Panamanian squad members seated right behind us; Sophie, clad in a Mia Hamm number 9 shirt, snapped photos.
One of the highlights of the second half was an on-duty police officer leading the “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chants in our section. He enjoyed it so much that he continued cheerleading in other sections of the lower bowl. Highlights on the pitch came courtesy of Clint Dempsey. First, he nearly scored a goal for the ages: a flying backward heel shot at the back post cleared miraculously by a Canadian defender’s jaw. Then he buried the Canadians in the 62nd minute. Altidore sent in a low cross from the right flank and Deuce slid in at the far post — like the quasi-goal earlier — and made it 2-0. Great goal. Classic Dempsey.
There was still time for the Tim Howard Show: a one-handed diving save off a thunderous Ali Gerba shot, and then back-to-back stops in the dying minutes inside the six-yard-box. Clean sheet preserved. Final score: 2-0. The US players thanked us and we filed happily out of the football warehouse and out into the steamy Detroit night.