A sold-out Soldier Field in Chicago saw Mexico take on the United States in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final. 60,000 showed up, with perhaps 50,000 of them coming from Chicago’s million-strong Hispanic population.
A few fans professed love for both their native and adopted countries, and they received plenty of curious looks and banter for doing so.
Others were more partisan, such as Sam’s Army and the Mexico fans in green surrounding them.
There was plenty of back-and-forth banter, but for the most part, it stayed light-hearted.
Mexico’s fans were louder and more boisterous in the first half, as they went in 1-0 up, and their vast numbers – perhaps a 10-1 ratio – made it feel like a game south of the Rio Grande.
Donovan’s penalty in the second half tied things up, and chants of U-S-A began to resonate around the stadium. It seemed, suddenly, like a large proportion of the crowd was now cheering for the U.S.
And Sam’s Army had the last laugh. After a Donovan penalty tied it, the U.S. took the lead with just fifteen minutes to go, sending their diehards home happy with a 2-1 win.
The day was not all peace and light. After the game, troubled flared in a few spots.
Overall, though, it was a fantastic game, the crowd was lively, and soccer in America felt like a bigtime sport. That may have been a mirage just for one warm summer’s day, but it felt good anyway.
And on a non-crowd related note: all 60,000 were equally shocked when Beasley managed to miss from this Donovan breakaway.
Still, U.S. fans can laugh about it now, and Mexico’s supporters will wonder if they’ll ever break the hex their neighbour to the north hold over them.