2013 Gold Cup
Forget the Fans, Says Jon Arnold. The U.S. Should Win
El Salvador fans will outnumber United States supporters in today's Gold Cup quarterfinal match at a sold out M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. And you know what? So what.
BY Jon Arnold PostedWELL, WE MADE IT halfway through the tournament. With the knockout stages of the Gold Cup about to begin for the United States, that old friend, worry, has resurfaced in the American soccer community. Maybe the long win streak has people on edge. Maybe fans are noticing how young some important members of this team are. Maybe we’re just out of things to talk about. Whatever the reason, there’s plenty of unease surrounding Sunday’s match against El Salvador (4 p.m. Eastern; FOX). No, not because of Fito Zelaya’s set pieces or the rest of the young EL Salvador striker force. Not because Victor Turcios and the back line are likely to stop the U.S. attack. No, the worry seems to stem from the fact that there will be a lot of Salvadoran fans in Baltimore. GET TO KNOW EL SALVADOR'S GOLD CUP SQUAD I get it. I’ve crunched the numbers. I’m aware there are 126,813 people of Salvadoran origin in the Washington D.C.-Maryland metro area, good enough for fourth in American metro areas according to the Centro de Estudios Migratorios Latinos. I understand why it’s worth talking about, but it doesn’t matter. Play the game in San Salvador, for all I care. The Red, White, and Blue has a better team than El Azul y Blanco and should win no matter the circumstances. It’s not like harsh crowds on home soil is a new phenomenon. In fact, the novelty is the recent partisan American crowds the U.S. Soccer Federation has fostered by hand-picking Hex match sites and making sure tickets end up in the hands of those who want to be in the stadium supporting as opposed to those who want to be outside scalping. CONCACAF is under no such obligation, nor should it be. With veterans like DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan in the team, a few jeers and chants for the opposing team shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Even relatively green Matt Besler has the experience of starting a Hex match in the Azteca (Brek Shea came in as well), a far more adverse environment than a NFL stadium half-filled with some opposing fans. In case you were wondering, there will be U.S. fans in attendance too. And there will be Honduran fans (37,665 people of Honduran origin live in D.C.) and Costa Rican fans (although many fewer with just 3,207 living in the metro area). "I don't think it's going to be a factor at all, if anything it's going to motivate us," Eddie Johnson told reporters Friday. Even if it doesn’t provide an extra boost, the U.S. has one of the most talented teams in the tournament and went through the group stage unscathed while its opposition struggled and stumbled into the knockout rounds thanks in large part to a refereeing error. Though the visitors come in with confidence, the U.S. should know it has more quality and can notch a victory—whatever the makeup of the crowd. The worry about those in M&T Bank Stadium has seemingly overtaken any worries about those on the field. Though Klinsmann has a superior roster, there are still questions about where goals will come from and how the back line will come together. Will Chris Wondolowski get more opportunities to score? Will Besler transition seamlessly into the team? These important questions are being glossed over. Caution is healthy, worry less so. U.S. fans can go into the quarterfinal with confidence, even if it’s a Salvadoran party in the stands. Jon Arnold is an ASN contributing editor. Follow him on Twitter.
July 21, 2013
July 21, 2013