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May 28, 2012

SSTAS - Day 1

(I'm working on the Scotland recap but wanted to get this up first. Enjoy the awful videos!)

Great acronym, huh? Soccer, Subjectively tours American Soccer, indeed!

Drove to Jacksonville to watch the USMNT host Scotland. We found a rather nice homeless-looking guy for $5 parking and that was good enough for us. The traffic was pretty bad, which I suppose if I had to pick between genuine interest in American soccer or no traffic, I'd take the former.

44,000 fans filled the teal Jacksonville Jaguars seats. We were on the northwest end where Howard and Guzan warmed up. Across the field were the American Outlaws in full force, underneath a "JAGUARS DON'T SMOKE" sign. (Wish I could find a picture but you'll just have to take my word on it.)

Before the game I saw Philadelphia was struggling with Toronto. Afterwords I saw that they lost and my hopes for seeing an upset by Rochester only rose even more. It's still a long shot, I know, but I'll support any Rhino-franchise over Philadelphia any day.

Some various comments I heard from the crowd

"Beckerman's hair looking extra nappy today…"


"BIKE IT!" - Lady yells before Jones heads it into the goal. (I felt somewhat bad for this particular lady who had continued to yell poor advice to the players throughout the entire match. Not bad for her, just bad for the female population as she was furthering a stereotype that girls don't know anything about sports. I guess that fact that she knew what a bike was was impressive in itself, though.)

The players were greeted with a thunderous applause, one that was only topped by Howard's entrance. There were multiple warmups going on and I was struggling on which one to watch. Howard and Guzan were putting on a nice clinic, both looked very sharp. Then there was Wondo, Onyewu, Gomez, Corona, and Torres collectively juggling a ball. Then they switched to one-touch keep away. On the far side of the field was two team possession. All three drills were fast paced but still creative. Most of all the players looked to be enjoying themselves.

The last drill was a layoff pass atop the 18. Boyd, Torres, and Donovan slotted several past Guzan. Bradley, coincidentally, was not hitting them very clean. Guzan looked hopeless on several of the shots. I wouldn't have guessed five goals from the team though.

Klinsmann was interviewed before the game and he walked us through the roster. Nothing of note except when he said "…and we have one of the best goalkeepers in the world, Tim Howard." One of the loudest cheers I've heard.

Still in warmups, the American Outlaws, who were fantastic for the game, started a nice U-S-A chant right behind Scotland's goal. Scotland's fan embassy started, from the sound of it, "Oh when the Scots go marching in."

The starting lineups walked out soon after. I felt bad for players like Fabian Johnson who got meekish cheers but might be our best LB option for Brazil 2014. Even veteran players, like Bocanegra and Cherundolo, got half the cheers that Howard and Donovan received.

The game started sharp and aggressive. Edu was taken down by Scott Brown within three minutes. Edu swung his leg at Brown and luckily missed Brown and a likely yellow card. Brown received physical play for the rest of the match, specifically by Bocanegra (who practically form tackled Brown) and Jones (who, by the looks of it, intentionally tripped Brown on a counter).

Boyd checked to the ball multiple times and, if my memory serves me correctly, looked jittery but still had a better early showing than Agudelo. But if it was it was not by much.

America looked sloppy at the start but a loose ball fell to Donovan's feet for a second time in a play and he roofed another shot that reminded me of the Slovenia goal, one of my all-time favorite US goals. Bradley's goal reminded me of his last minute miss against Paraguay, oddly enough.

In the first ten minutes the fans were plagued with the expectation of a drubbing. Scotland retaliated with a penetrating counter that was marred with an owl goal. While I don't think the cross would have found the back of the net on its intended route, that shouldn't underplay it was still a dangerous string of passes.

The low point of the night was easily when the crowd started the wave. All but the American Outlaws and Scottish core participated for about three revolutions. Nothing more embarrassing than doing the wave although I did use the brief opportunity to stand up instead of cowardly sit down. Forty-five minutes of standing is not bad; I don't understand the reluctance to stand up and watch a game.

I suppose Klinsmann isn't truly treating these five games like a tournament as he used six substitutes. Although you won't find me complaining about it. I love goalie substitutions.

Second half started with an even higher line of defense from America. Torres was the victim of an early tackle and by-passed the helping hand to get up. Instead he scolded the player. I was really impressed by the US's tenacity throughout the night. Not only did they play physical from the first to last minute, they protected their own players, much like the big men in hockey fight for the smaller (more fragile) players.

Scotland tried to posses the ball more in the second half but this only suffocated their quick counter-based attack.

At one point a man announced over the stadium's speakers, "Fans, you are making history tonight by being the largest crowd ever…" *fans roar and do not hear second part* "…to see a US soccer game in the southeastern United States."

The last ten minutes were pretty quiet and the game ended in a "Was it really five to one? Wow."

About six of Scotland's players went over to the 100-150 Scottish crowd and showed their appreciation to them. Multiple US players, mostly subs, oddly enough, went to the American Outlaws and clapped to them. Some even walked to the other side of the field, where I was.

We journeyed back to our homeless man-parked car and helped a lost man figure out he was on the opposite side of the stadium he needed to be on to find his parked car.

Found a place to sleep and topped it off with a delicious American cheeseburger.

Two men were at the hotel desk when we checked in. One had a sweet repeating pattern Scooby Doo tie. I said,
"I like your tie but I had to stare at it for a minute to figure out what it was."
The other man interjected, "Yeah he stares at it a lot too."
The second man, to one up his friend, just yelled "BLEEEEH"

Here's a random corner kick I filmed that resulted in nothing:

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