Yes my friends, I did in fact get the chance to watch my many talented idols play in person. Things conspired to put a damper on the experience--the 8 hour drive awaiting me after the final whistle, the raw memories of a 4-0 slaughter, the 100-degree heat, sitting behind what turned out to be the wrong goal, the pathetic optical zoom on my camera--but nothing this monumentous was going to disappoint.
We arrived early enough to get brilliant parking next to the few tailgaters, and waited outside impatiently for the gates to open. The comments on our signs began early and we had to clarify that while 129 is an impressive number for caps, it was in fact the number of international goals Kristine Lilly had scored (her caps are well over 300, despite the baby bump that interrupted this year). We brought along goals #100 and #101 just in case, but alas, they would not be needed. Once inside the gates, the field was remarkably empty, but when the team assistants started bringing out the ball bags, we knew greatness would surely follow. Sure enough, we got to watch from directly overhead as the USWNT processed out from the locker room and onto the scorching field for warm up. The aforementioned camera did little justice to capturing the pre-game routine of soccer icons Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone, Hope Solo, and Kate Markgraf (accompanied by an attractive mask), nor the up-and-comers Natasha Kai, Carli Lloyd, Heather O'Reilly, and Lindsay Tarpley (all landmark players in their own right). Not wanting to distract the players, we quietly snapped our shots and then started to head back to our seats. Laura tried to catch Wambach's eye with our clever support for hitting the century mark, but that woman is all business. I wasn't as subtle as my parting scream of "Hea-O" turned Heather O'Reilly's head. When she saw the sign sporting her nickname, she gave the oh-so-suave head nod. Awesome!
Eventually we had to take our assigned seats. They weren't great seats for watching soccer necessarily because we were directly behind the goal and thus small portions of the field were obstructed by the net and crossbar. However, they were great seats for seeing players up close. Like the agony of Natasha Kai after running down a rebound on the goal line and trying to cross it for a certain goal, somehow coming up empty handed. She still got raucous cheers, don't worry. They were also apparently great seats for getting on the jumbotron. Twice. If anybody was watching ESPN, we were the girls shown right at the end of halftime with the two coolest signs in the park. Seriously.
At first I was only slightly disappointed with the game, seeing how tired and hot the players looked and trying to figure out why our midfield looked a little haphazard and discombobulated at times. Then I found out later that Brazil was playing with 5 midfielders. 5 fast midfielders and 2 lightning-quick forwards. That would tax even the world's best. So I didn't feel so bad anymore. Plus, they won. Granted it was not Abby Wambach's 100th goal, and it only came about because a Brazilian defender misplayed Wambach's cross, but A-Rod made them pay for it with a beautiful finish. And there was some excitement throughout the game, a couple of yellow cards, some really bad not-calls, some near misses, dangerous set pieces, etc.
I'll get some pics up later so you can see the players in all their glory. And me with my signs. But I've rambled enough for now.