Ghan In 120 Minutes

The U-S-A chant started early on Saturday afternoon at Alonso’s Restaurant in Roland Park.  Forty minutes before the match – with an infomercial blasting on seven screens in this small corner respite for American soccer fans – a group of middle aged tennis weekend warriors clanked glasses to a team they have fallen in love with over the last week or so.

They may not know the names or faces, but I’m pretty sure they get when a goal happens for the team in red, white and blue. Without a place to sit on either level, and with a bunch of revelers just standing around, they kicked off the round of 16 in South Africa.

And just like that, all the energy evacuated the area. The erratic United States team has to play from behind once again after Ghana took a 1-0 lead before anyone had a chance to blow into their vuvuzela.

In the first 30 minutes of the match, the mood reminded me of a wake mixed with a bunch of high schoolers stuck in the corner at a mixer. In other words, it wasn’t fun. The amount of anticipation on Wednesday morning against Algeria was wiped away in the first ten minutes of this match.

The highlight of the first half came with the arrival of the amazing cheeseburgers from the Alonso’s kitchen.  As the steady stream of smokers went out for a halftime release, you could sense this wouldn’t be an easy comeback.

It’s not like they haven’t done this before. This American team, which relishes the comeback more than than the Vlasic pickle mascot, starts the second half on the offensive. A flurry of missed chances peppers the first 15 minutes of the final half. The collection of “ooh’s” and “aah’s” echoed past Cold Spring Lane.

And then Landon Donovan broke the ice. Again. On a free kick in the 62nd minute, the one who wears the number 10 for the home squad tied the game and gave everyone a reason to let out some pent up jubilation.

The amount of patriotism and blind faith in a team and sport not many have seen got a 5-Hour Energy shot with the equalizer. Think about it. How many complete soccer games have you seen in your entire life? Do you really know exactly what is going on during every play?

Even with the added aggression towards the end of the second half, both Ghana and the United States took this epic into overdrive and overtime. The 50 folks on the downstairs level at Alonso’s didn’t seem to mind. This game became more important than anything on their schedule.

After the quick five minute break, everyone took their places again as if it was a high school play. Just as quickly as extra time started, frowns occupied the faces of the patrons as Ghana took an inexplicable lead.

People began to trickle out of the bar as the time ticked away in extra time. Then the expletives flew and the hope faded.

I’d like to think everyone enjoyed the experience at Alonso’s minus the final score.

The overall popularity level of soccer in this country mimics the team.

We’re just not there yet.


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