Soccer….Family Style


USMNT vs Germany: My “This is Your Life” Game
June 9, 2013, 1:42 pm
Filed under: International Soccer, US Soccer | Tags: , ,

wpid-2013-06-02_15-42-07_376.jpgI knew that USMNT vs Germany would be uber-emotional for me, just based on it being my 20th anniversary as a supporter, and a rematch of my first cap, but as my plans for the weekend started to fall into place, it became almost comical. First, my college roommate from Carnegie Mellon offered me a place to stay and said she’d come to the game with me. Then, I posted to Facebook that I’d be in town, and did any of my DC area friends want to join me at the game? Matt Erickson, owner of 76 Words, and the guy that took me to his prom, asked me to grab him three tickets. So now I’m going to the most meaningful game of my life, with my former college roommate and prom date. I could picture myself at the field, with Alexi Lalas narrating, “Tanya Keith, this is your life!!”

It turns out, that in the very small world of DC business, Scott, my South Africa husband (or rather the guy that our safari staff thought was my husband, urging me to keep him from getting killed by telling him not to go running in the safari park), and ’89 prom date not only know each other, but live less than 2 blocks from each other. While this was very convenient, since Kaela was staying with Scott, it was the first of many strange coincidences of the weekend.

Matt and I headed to the stadium just after 8 AM to hang banners and set up the stadium flag, which took longer than usual, but still got us out to the tailgate shortly before the rest of the crew. Our group set up by the river, which was so pretty, and seemed about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the parking lot. Somehow, magically, we did not lose any soccer balls in our kick around that was dangerously close to the river bank. As people started showing up, it became clear that there were more than a dozen one degree of separation relationships between Matt and I. In the Venn diagram of soccer fans and DC insiders, there’s heavy, if not total, overlap. In fact, Matt had offered one of his two extra tickets to a guy from our hometown who graduated a few years ahead of us. His friend had declined the tickets, since he already had tickets, but invited Matt to his tailgate….which turned out to be the same tailgate I’d invited him to attend.

We ate, drank, face-painted, and talked, occasionally kicking a ball around. We did one pass through the lot to go visit our friends from New York, and to see my friends from AO RVA. But soon it was time to go into the stadium. When the supporter’s section is GA (general admission), I like to go in 90 minutes before kickoff, but with assigned seats, I had no issue with rolling in barely in time for anthems. It was fun, having the Midwest Mama flag farther back in the section than usual, since people were excited to be a part of the flag management. One guy had on an Ampel Man shirt, winning the subtle reference to German culture. Ampel Man is a graphic design icon from East Berlin, a red walking man that adorned traffic lights, telling you when to walk or stop, don’t cross. How many layers of happiness could I squeeze into one day?

The game kicked off, and the joy of the day was just getting started. In the 14th minute, Jozy Altidore scored on a fantastic shot from in the box. Gleeful giddiness poured out of me. I couldn’t remember ever leading Germany in a match, but before I could collect myself and take a photo of the score board, right in front of me, I saw something I could not believe. A German central defender had the ball at the 18, but was  under pressure, and passed the ball to his wing, who was also under pressure, and made a quick back pass to the German keeper, ter Stegen. Please read this as it is in my head, in the voice on Top Gun, when Maverick gets scolded to “never, never leave your wing man,” YOU NEVER, NEVER BACK PASS ON FRAME! Ter Stegen was immediately under intense pressure from three US attackers, and in a startled moment of indecision, he hesitates, and the ball rolls, impossibly slowly, into the German net. Now we were up 2-0, dos a cero!! It’s not just for Mexico anymore!

After a German goal was called back for being offside, we headed into halftime, up by the most dangerous lead in soccer. I hoped we wouldn’t get over confident and blow the lead, which is risky in how comfortable it seems, but isn’t. When Germany came out and scored once, I thought we were in trouble, but a pair of clinical, beautiful rifle shots from Clint Dempsey put the score at 4-1. What strange new world is this?

But we weren’t done yet. Germany made a late game sub, and with brutal quickness, the score was 4-3, and I was praying that we could hold it through the last seven minutes. It had already occurred to me that this game was almost a perfect flip of the scoring summary from US vs Germany twenty years prior, and now, I wanted my day to come complete full circle. As the players moved from one end of the field and back, I prayed alternately that neither would score, and leave my perfect 4-3 as is. I’d found myself begging the US NOT to score for the first time in my life, then finding them in the German attacking end begging forgiveness, hoping that by thought alone, I hadn’t cost the win by not wanting to run up the score. It was such a long seven minutes. Then…there was that blissful pause, followed by the final whistle and referee signaling the end of the game. They’d done it. US Soccer had made the perfect ending to the perfect weekend, perfect game.

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