Ole ole ole ole ole ole ola
Driving into the Community America Ballpark parking lot, my heart starts beating faster. I also question if I’m wearing ENOUGH red, white, and blue. I already have a scarf, Bradley Centennial kit, and red, white, and blue shoes. All over the parking lot there are people decked out and it’s the most patriotic I’ve felt – yes, more patriotic than July 4th.
There it is. The imposing but welcoming – in its own right – stadium is before me in all its glory. Yes, I’ve been to games here before, but this is different. I enjoy Major League Soccer, I really do. On another scale, however, is the United States Men’s National Team. Sporting Park, home of MLS’s Sporting Kansas City, is host to the last home World Cup Qualifier for the match between the USMNT and Jamaica. Not only is this the last home WCQ for the US, but two local boys who you’ve probably heard of – Graham Zusi and Matt Besler – are on the squad for this game.
Ole ole ole ole ole ole ola
Walking into Sporting Park near Sprint Plaza, a few thousand of my best friends are walking in as well – fast (most likely because fans want to get in the Park because of anticipation), might I add. Before entering the stadium, I’m handed a scarf that I’ll cherish forever. The World Cup Qualifying scarf is ripped open from the plastic bag and I immediately drape it around my neck with pride. Knowing the commemorative scarf is only being given to ticket holders makes the warmth that’s wrapped around my neck also warm my heart out of joy. It hits me as my friends and I walk by the ESPN booth – with Bob Ley, Alexi Lalas, and Kasey Keller at the pundit desk – that this night is a special night for me; my first US Men’s National Team match and I get to watch it at Sporting Park in Kansas City.
In a sea of American Outlaws, I stand. For most of the warm ups, it’s almost as if I’m in my own little world; taking in the sights and sounds of Sporting Park as it begins to fill up is heartwarming. In the South Stand where AO make their home this game, there are people from all over the nation, mainly 20 and 30-somethings, clad in red, white, and blue, with American flags at the ready to wave and voices prime to yell for more than 90 minutes.
Ooooh USA ole
And just like that, the pre-game ceremony begins. Cheering begins as a handful of US Soccer Hall of Famers walk on the pitch – including two that were inducted earlier in the afternoon, Joe Max-Moore and Sporting Kansas City head coach, Peter Vermes. The rousing applause continues as fans start raising their arms in unison, holding the aforementioned commemorative scarf. What’s even more, there is no single National Anthem singer standing on the field but rather the singers are the over-18,000 people at Sporting Park. We finish by yelling what is so intricately stitched into the scarf: Home of the Brave.
The match starts. The American Outlaws – my section is brilliantly led by the main mic’d capo – start singing/chanting/yelling/screaming, really whatever is appropriate at the time. I’m already out of breath by the time the first 10 minutes are through and I realize I need to regulate my vocal support. This game will be 80 more minutes. Keep it cool, Katherine.
Sha la la la la la
At half, I sit down knowing that my calves are getting a workout and will need to conserve my muscle energy for the second half of standing. When the second half starts, I’m back up on my feet in my patriotic Toms and ready for the US to take over. A goal is coming soon. I can feel it. With the invigorating introduction of Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi in the midfield, the USMNT start to look like I hoped they would. Then in comes Anderlecht mid, Sacha Kljestan, who spices up the middle of the pitch even more thanks to that Champions League style passing. And finally Edgar Castillo is subbed in at left back. Jamaica is letting the steam out of the sauna room while the US is throwing more water onto the rocks, making the game a little more uncomfortable for the men in yellow.
There’s the pass. Alejandro Bedoya slips a little bit but somehow does a little breakdance-esque move and passes it over to the top of the box. And who better to receive than SKC hero, Mr. Graham Zusi. Coolly slotted into the bottom corner of the goal, the South Stand erupts and with the loudness and gumption of ‘Zuuuuuuuusssss’ coming out, I’m even surprised at my own lung capacity. In the 77th minute, we keep getting louder. Once Jozy scores in the 81st minute, it’s mental in the South Stand. There are beer showers. High fives. Hugs. Eyes full of enthusiasm. Hearts are pounding.
Sha la la la la la
It seems as if the whistle will never sound. Finally the three beeps are heard and what continues is more jumping up and down and embracing people you’ve never met but automatically feel connected to. It is its own little family – the soccer family.
I already hold so many memories from Sporting Park, and now added quite a few more from this match. And as my friends and I are walking back to the parking lot – which has cardboard beer boxes and broken bottles strewn about from tailgating – I am humming some familiar tunes that were so boldly sung on the way to the US victory.
But now, after so much singing, jumping, chanting, flag waving, and yelling, it’s time for some Jack Stack barbecue and Boulevard beer. What a day. What. A. Day.
If you haven’t, check out the two goals and the highlights from the USMNT vs. Jamaica game…
Here’s the money
Pre game right before the National Anthem
After Jozy’s goal