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An American in Brazil: Madness in Manaus

The U.S. fan’s World Cup is defined, so far, by 30 seconds. Thirty seconds in versus Ghana Clint Dempsey send us into a frenzy onto three points. Thirty seconds left and Portugal knocks the wind out of us and we settle for a draw in Manaus.

Thus is the roller coaster ride that is the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. If you told most American fans that we’d leave the Amazon rainforest with four points I think most of us would take that in a heartbeat. But standing in the stadium at full time on Sunday night I couldn’t feel anything but cheated.

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The trip itself to Manaus was another intriguing story. We finally found ourselves with a spot the charter flight, but delay after delay departing from Natal meant that we would miss the American Outlaws/U.S. Soccer pregame party.  Another straight-to-the-stadium sprint. We were getting pretty good at this.

On the plus side we were able to march, briskly, with other American fans on their way to Arena Amazonia. While it probably wasn’t as epic as what we heard about the Natal march, the experience of being surrounded by hundreds of U.S. fans in foreign country on their way to a World Cup game was incredible.

Arena Amazonia is a gorgeous stadium. Designed to look like a woven basket sold in the local markets it is a crowning achievement of architecture on par with Teatro Amazonas, Manaus’ historic opera house, built in 1896.

As the lineups were announced the largest cheer/squeal was reserved for Portugal’s Ronaldo and his first touch was met with a roar of approval I’d never heard in my life. But as the match wore on and he faded from the match (minus the his last cross, of course) the crowd turned against him, fueled by the growing confidence of the American side and the American fans.

I was situated right behind the Portugal goal the U.S. was attacking in the second half. When Jermaine Jones ripped his shot… that curve… I swear I saw a blinker on the ball it was turning so dramatically.  And Dempsey’s… err… ball into the back of net; at that point of the match anything was possible. Top the group? Sure. Win the World Cup? Why not us.

I thought the United States had the corner on late-game-drama magic, but Portugal had different ideas.

This U.S. team was dominant. Despite two defensive breakdowns at both ends of the game we were the better team on the night. I can take solace, in the long view, that standing up to the likes of Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo on this night in Manaus is a huge step in the right direction for American soccer.

Those will have to be the thoughts that carry me forward to Germany when we face our next “greatest World Cup test ever” ™.

Now there’s just one number to focus on: 90. Ninety minutes of greatness needed on Thursday and we’re through.

Tags: American Outlaws, Major League Soccer, USMNT, World Cup

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