American Patriotism on full display at USA v Venezuela
The first time I remember the patriotic feel of rooting for an American athlete was at the 1976 Olympics and cheering for the speed of Sugar Ray Leonard and the missing front teeth smile of Leon Spinks. Both would win the gold medal.
They had me hook, line and sinker. Each Olympics whether Summer or Winter from that point forward I consumed them including the 2018 USA Curling team of John Shuster,Tyler George, Matt Hamilton, John Landsteiner and Joe Polo who also won the gold medal.
Soon, I would discover the national pride extended past the Olympics to the World Cup and the exploits of the American team led by the redheaded Alex Lalas.
In 2007, the only thing I asked Santa Claus for was tickets to the 2018 Ryder Cup at Valhalla in Louisville. Up to this point, I guess I had a permanent spot on Santa’s naughty list.
As the kids were growing up, they would sprint to their stockings hung with care by Jana. There they would find magical wonders that Kris Kringle had left them. For me, several years there were sticks and the hope that maybe next year, I would be on the nice list.
The year of 2007 was that year and I had my Ryder Cup tickets. Kristen, who was in the midst of her golf run making five consecutive appearances at the KHSAA state tourney and winning four junior or women’s NKy Amateur championships, and I headed to Louisville in the fall of 2008.
The crowds were roaring for everything the Americans were doing especially Boo Weekly riding his golf club like it was a bucking bronco. The USA team would go on to claim the Ryder Cup and break the Europeans hold on it.
The patriotic fervor coupled with special memories between a father and daughter equaled something I will always remember.
That same patriotic fervor was on display at Nippert Stadium on Sunday, June 9 as the USA Mens Soccer team hosted the Venezuela team in their last tune-up before the Concacaf Gold Cup. The Americans had lost last week to Jamaica 1-0. It was a chance to right the wrongs and prepare for their opening match in the Gold Cup.
The crowd was decidedly red, white and blue but there were the yellow of Venezuela sprinkled throughout the crowd. The yellow’s cheers would dominate the first half as Venezuela dominated the Americans.
At the 16’ mark, Salomón Rondón (Venezuela) right footed shot from the center of the box to the bottom right corner gave the visiting team the 1-0 lead. It was assisted by Jhon Murillo.
Jefferson Savarino (Venezuela) hit the left post with a left footed shot from outside the box off a headed pass by Rondón. While the American defenders watched, Savarino would gather the rebound and drill it pass the diving Zack Steffen for a 2-0 Venezuela lead with 30 minutes gone in the first half.
The first half rout was on when the white-clad visitors made it 3-0 at the 36’ mark when Rondón (Venezuela) hit a left footed shot from the center of the box to the top right corner. His second goal of the day was assisted by Tomás Rincón with a through ball.
The American fans had some moments to cheer as Venezuela goalie Wuilker Farinez was forced to make a diving stop on Weston McKennie’s (USA) left footed shot from the center of the box that dribbled just outside of the far post and across the endline. On the ensuing corner kick, Farinez corralled the header in the center of the goal from Aaron Long (USA).
At the end of the first half, USA was in a large 3-0 hole and had not scored in the past 135 minutes of friendly action. The Americans were playing without forward Jozy Altidore and experienced midfielder Michael Bradley. Altidore would play the second half.
Coach Gregg Berhalter made two substitutions early in the second half to try and energize the team. Duane Holmes replaced McKennie and Jordan Morris came on for Tyler Boyd.
Morris just missed scoring the first goal for the red, white and blue at the 67’ as he drove a shot from outside the box that went just wide and the roar from the American fans among the 23,955 in attendance became groans of frustration as they were wanting of an American goal to cheer.
Just moments later a ball was played to the middle and Paul Arriola’s shot from the left side at the six yard box was just high and the American fans’ anticipation turned to frustration once again.
With less than 12 minutes left, USA had possibly their best chance for a goal with a cross by Cristian Roldan and Arriola had a point-blank shot from just outside the six-yard box. Farinez continued his stellar play with a diving stop.
The Americans last chance for a goal came in stoppage play as Arriola had a shot go wide. As the ref’s final whistle sounded, the Venezuela faithful roared in their approval.
USA is in pool D of the Concacaf Gold Cup and start play on June 18 at 10 EDT in St. Paul Minnesota against Guyana. It is the first meeting of the two country’s national teams at the senior level.
The Americans second pool play game is against Trinidad and Tobago who they have not played since 2007. Overall, they are 18-304 against them but undefeated in Gold Cup play at 3-0-0. The game is scheduled for 8 EDT on June 22 in Cleveland.
Pool play is completed for the Men’s team on June 26 in Kansas City when they face off against Panama. A team they have played in eight consecutive Gold Cup tournaments. They stand 5-1-4 against them in Gold Cup play and 12-1-6 overall. The USA team beat Panama 3-0 in a game earlier this year.
Tickets can be purchased at ussoccer.com. The Concacaf Gold Cup will be broadcast on Fox Sports.