The USA beat Nigeria Tuesday at BC Place to clinch a spot in the knockout round of the 2015 FIFA World Cup, and your humble blogger was there.
Walking down Robson amid the throngs of red, white and blue was an experience. Mrs. Ravinggreen had hit the party store on Roosevelt earlier and took advantage of pre-July 4th swag, so the lot of us were decked out in jingoistic finery. Earlier in the stroll, still far from the stadium, we received odd glances from the Canadian passersby. As we got closer to the stadium we blended in. The Americans were out in droves. It was a Tuesday. We were from different cities, different states, but we’d skipped work or school or whatever to come together and support our team. The random Vancouverite strolling to the bus after work must’ve thought the invasion had started in earnest.
The atmosphere of the game was… okay. It was no Sounders game. BC Place was a beautiful stadium, easily accessed and understood. But boy was it quiet. I have no idea if the calmness came from tension over the game, or the lack of supporter culture amongst the traveling fans–judging from the license plates all over town the majority of whom were from Washington and Oregon, so you’d assume they’d bring some raucous energy. There were also many Californians, and families with young kids.
My party was surrounded by kids. They were cute in their Wambach and Morgan jerseys, painted faces and patriotic pig-tails. But I like to get rowdy at games. In the stadium, you set aside your ego for an afternoon and merely become one of many. You channel that visceral monkeybrain to yell at refs or dives or for your team. But this is difficult without the implicit support of your stadium neighbors, and especially with kids around. There was no community at the game. Unlike at Sounders games, I rarely chatted with the stranger next to me. Like in a city, I was self conscious of my place as one among many. I couldn’t dissolve into the game. I had to keep my civilized filter firmly in place.
Maybe this was the atmosphere MLS always intended before Cascadia: Soccer moms and little ones fidgeting in their seats while that after-school, suburban sport was politely taken in. Soccer games in the States are now known for their crazy energy, even the casual sports fan knows us soccer nuts get crazy. But without the feedback of a throng of unfiltered roaring supporters, the energy was dulled. I was at CenturyLink for the WCQ match against Panama and that was one helluva wild stadium (thank you AO Seattle!). At that game, the energy was just as good as the most intense Sounders game and the patriotic fervor definitely took it up a notch. This game… sure it was on a neutral field, but the stadium was 80% star-spangled. You could see the Americans, you just couldn’t hear them.
The crowd lacked energy and the AO didn’t exactly exhort any. Not to be a hater, but the AO representing the heart of American support was the San Diego chapter. They didn’t quite cut it. There were long stretches of quiet at the game, long stretches without a song. In fact, the only song I heard was an early, “We will follow you.” Some of the only chants heard was the old saw “U-S-A” and “I Believe” (the “I Believe” chant really rankled. I am working on a separate post about that).
The game itself played out to a solid, if lackluster, 1-0 conclusion. I’ll write more actual game analysis later. Leaving the stadium was almost more entertaining than the game. Once again, we were in a red, white and blue sea. We strolled through YaleTown to Indian Bistro, meh, then back to the car. The car with the dead battery. We were stranded in our costumes in a chain-linked lot off Davie. Thankfully another group of Americans (a hearty shout out to Margo and Clay) strolled into the lot and gave us a jump. Clamping the cables onto the dead battery, I channeled the most energy felt that afternoon. Strangers were chatting and working together because of a game.