Well the real purpose of this trip is going to happen today. The first USA World Cup game against the heavily favored Czech Republic. 4 years ago at this time, the USA were again big underdogs to Portugal and managed to beat them and have a fairly sucessful World Cup run. I expect today to be no different. While a win would be tremendous, a tie would be reason to party. Basically in the first round, no team(other than Turkey 2002) has lost their first game and made on to the next round. Picking up 1 pt is a start, 3 pts and you are out ahead of the pack. Do I think its possible... yes I do a few reasons to follow
The Czechs are OLD, at least in soccer terms, many of their star players are over 30 years old. Case in point Pavel Nedved 33, Jan Koller 32, Karel Poborsky 34, Tomas Galasek 33. Today in germany it is HOT, about 82 degrees probably at game time. In the games played yesterday it was obvious the heat was taking a toll on the older players. In the Dutch game, the goalie, freaking goalie who doesnt have a run was cramping up at the end of the game, Edwin Van Der Sar is 35 years old, Ruud Van Nistelrooy was ineffective and subbed out in the 70th minute, age 30. The star of the game was the young 23 year old legs of Arjen Robben. Also in the Portugal game 21 year old Cristian Ronaldo who was all over the field. So in this heat the USA youth prevails.
Another issue is injuries, up to this game, there have been reports of many of the star Czech Players being hurt and wont be able to play. I will believe it when I see it on the pitch today. Looking at the USA teams youth and relatively injury free seasons, we should be able to run up down and around the Czechs, just hope we can get someone to finish off the chances. Look for 24 year olds Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onyewu, along with even younger Bobby Convey, Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey(as a sub, no way he will start), to be able to run thru the Czech defense. Its almost impossible to predict who will score goals, but my bets on are Beasley and Convey.. Looking for a 2 to 1 USA victory, with a late goal in the 75th minute sending us to victory.
The World cup fever here is simply amazing. Last night went up to Dusseldorf to hang out at the Altstadt. It is like 5 streets, closed off to car traffic and bustling with resturants and bars of all sorts. From microbreweries to food from all over the world. It was a warm night, so tons of people were out. Even managed to find an Argentine steakhouse and had an excellent Bife de Chorrizo, it was good while not melt in your mouth Buenos Aires good, still damn good. Tons of cool USA soccer fans were out, talked to a bunch of them, most are going to the game, so we should have a decent cheering section, will still be outnumbered by the Czechs, but it wont be embarassing hopefully.
While germany has done great things in terms of getting people around town with the train system, I can see some signs of strains at the cracks. It was suppose to take 30 minutes to get from where I am in Essen to Dusseldorf, it took 1hr between a delayed train and it running slowly. Yet on the way home, it was a very efficient trip, taking the UBahn, or basically our subway to the main train station and then a long distance train. Even at midnight covered the 30km in about 45 minutes, more than can be said for a late sunday night on the lower east side waiting on the damn F train to take me to the 2 Train, that trip home can take over an hour, and its less than 6 miles. Today should be interesting to see how they get 40,000 fans into the stadium efficiently, pictures I have seen from other games, shows basically a mob scene at the main station. I will be getting to the game early.
Anyway I hope everyone who can will watch the game today, its on ESPN2 at noon eastern, that is 9am for my Cali folks. I fully expect all my east coast folks to be taking a long lunch break and watching the whole game, it will be over by 2pm. Cali folks, just show up late, or dont show up at all.. Look for me, as i will probably be the only skinny black guy with his face painted red, white and blue and waving a flag, if that doesnt get me some ESPN airtime I dont know what will.. GO USA!! USA!! USA!!