After going thru the painfully slow and frustrating process of the ticket lottery for the US-Turkey friendly in preparation for the World Cup, it took a lot of StubHub watching for tickets, but the deed was done and we were live from Red Bull Arena last Sunday Afternoon! For the US team, there have been more negatives than positives over the last few months, as along with the ticket fiasco there has been the shocking omission of Landon, the youth and “Green” movement and the popsicle jerseys which replaced my much-loved Waldo kits. However, the focus is starting to turn to the pitch. In their first friendly against Azerbaijan, the Americans didn’t look great, but won 2-0. A much tougher opponent in Turkey awaited at RBA and while the defense looked shaky, they closed down well in the box. The US ended up winning 2-1 with goals by Fabian Johnson and Clint Dempsey. There was lots to take away from the match that I will leave to the experts, but two things that caught my eye was Jozy looking physically strong, ready to break through again and Mix Diskerud being a perfect second-half sub in Brazil. The excitement is building and at the least, we have two victories in preparation.
As for the experience, traffic was non-existent coming in, while leaving, organizers generally do a good job directing traffic back to I-280 (save for one misplaced sign). Where the biggest travel pains occur is on mass-transit as the Harrison PATH station is way too small to handle the on-rush of fans. The many that use this to get back to New York City deal with quite a jam-packed line. Something to keep in mind for whereever (and whenever) the New York City FC go with their stadium. Red Bull Arena is widely regarded as the best soccer-specific stadium in the country and I concur. The sightlines in the 25,000-seat stadium are excellent and the very steep pitch to the upper-deck makes for some great seats. Having the roof cover most of the seating as well is a huge plus and though the weather was perfect, having the majority of the seats not bake in the sun is a bonus. US fans made this quite an event as the atmosphere was tremendous. There were frequent chants with the American Outlaws leading the way. Even without them, various cheers and chants broke out and it was quite the boisterous crowd all decked out in red, white and blue. It was amazing to be a part of and further proof of the growth the sport has seen in this country.