So I think yesterday may have been the best day of my life. Since I was four years old it has been my dream to go to a World Cup and see the USA play. I got all of that and more yesterday. USA faced Ghana in their first game of Group G, the ‘Group of Death,’ and I could not have been more excited. I’m in Natal with the American Outlaws, the die hard USA supporters group, and the pre-game festivities began six hours before the actual game. At around one o’clock everyone started heading down from their hotel rooms, decked out in scarves, face paint, flags and all other sorts of crazy costumes—Teddy Roosevelt, Elvis, and Rambo all made an appearance.
Everyone was down at the bar watching the Portugal v Germany game and getting really excited at seeing the hated Portugese just get absolutely violated. No Pepe, no Hugo Almeida, no Fabio Coentrao for the next game against us, this was getting our hopes up for the game in five days time. But we all needed to focus on the task at hand—Ghana.
There are a whole bunch of Ghanaians staying at the same hotel as us, and you can bet they were talking a bunch of smack. “Once we beat you for the third time, will you finally just go away?” “Americans are good at politics, not football,” and some other stuff too that probably isn’t appropriate for our younger audience, and they were singing loud and proud all morning long.
We piled into the buses and head for the pre-game festivities at around two, and it’s hard to describe how wild that was. The party shut down an entire block and there must have been at least 500 American fans drinking, singing and dancing. I’ve never felt so patriotic in my life. The loudest chant of all was “I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win!” And we really did.
I finally got to the stadium and it was a great atmosphere, the Ghanaians were all sitting together and they were unbelievable. They had trumpets, drums and all other kinds of noisemakers and they were singing and dancing all game long. We had the numbers, as you could see Americans all over the stadium in huge bunches, but those Ghanaians were loud.
Kick-off, and the game is underway. People were still finding their seats when after 32 seconds, which is the sixth fastest in World Cup history I might add, Clint Dempsey solidified himself into Sainthood. I came to Brazil on my own and have kind of been making friends as I go, but when I jumped up and threw my beer into the sky and hugged the random guy next to me, I felt like he was my best friend. I could have kissed him I swear. The place went into a frenzy, and I lost all feeling in my body—it was wild. I think I experienced my first heart attack and I’m only 19.
The game wore on and the Ghanaians dominated the most of the match. They had significantly more possession and really looked dangerous for most of the first half. Luckily we went into the break holding on to our lead, but we all had a feeling that we couldn’t hold on to a one-goal lead for 90 minutes.
When Ghana scored, our hearts were broken. The noise from the other end of the stadium with their fans was deafening. But we didn’t travel all this way to see our boys not get revenge and beat the crap out of these guys, so we started singing louder.
84th minute, we win a corner. Graham Zusi had just been subbed on and he jogged over to take it. You may not believe me, but I swear to you I said, “We need John Brooks in there.”—The dude is 6’6” and was a whole head taller than his defender. Zusi took the corner, and I’m telling you, the ball flew in slow motion, my heart stopped, the stadium got quiet, and I could see my life flash before my eyes. I could see every American fan’s face go white in anticipation, every Ghanaian biting their nails, Jurgen Klinsmann crouched over like he always is—but most importantly I could see John Brooks flying through the air like the great American Eagle that he is, to head the ball into the goal and cement his place into US Soccer folklore.
The place erupted like a volcano, and I almost cried I was so happy. It started raining beer and Ghanaian tears, and the chants of “I believe that we will win,” were louder than ever. This was the best moment of my life and if we don’t get another point for the rest of the tournament (even though we’re going to win the next two, no doubt) this made the whole trip worth it. Fourteen years I had waited for this moment, and John Brooks gave it to me.
You can bet we celebrated that night.
Portugal, you’re next.