by Andrea Canales
A welcoming crowd of 40,586 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City was a highlight for the U.S. national team, who struggle to find a true home field advantage playing a sport that draws so many passionate fans that are still loyal to leagues and countries outside of the United States.
However, playing in Salt Lake for the first time, the national team was greeted warmly, with extensive coverage by the local media and vocal fans in the stands who wore red, cheered every good play and threw red, white and blue streamers after each goal by the Americans. They even sang along enthusiastically to the anthem at the start of the match. None of this should be a surprise to teams who regularly find that kind of support in their home matches, but to a U.S. squad that is almost accustomed to being relegated to being an afterthought for most sports media and a curiosity for many sports fans, it was a big change.
Coach Bruce Arena:
“It was fantastic. I’ve never been in a more comfortable setting as the manager of the U.S. team. The whole week, Provo was brilliant, the people were great, everything was great there. Then, even today, I went to get a haircut and walking down the street, people were coming out of stores and saying, ‘Hello,’ wishing us good luck. The whole thing. Really, it is the first time we’ve felt so comfortable at home for qualifying. It was fantastic. Beautiful setting, the field ended up being in good shape. I think the crowd was fantastic and I’m happy that our guys were able to respond. When things were tough, the crowd helped us. It was a perfect setting to play an important game in. I don’t speak for U.S. Soccer, I speak for myself, but I’d love to come back here some day.”
“I think a city like this is ideal for Major League Soccer. We’re pleased to have been able to come here.”
Midfielder Landon Donovan:
“They [the crowd] were fantastic.”
“On behalf of all of us, I’d like to say, ‘Thank you.’ The crowd was tremendous. They were passionate, they were loud, they knew what was going on in the game and I really hope we can come back here. It was incredible.”
“I was saying yesterday, or Thursday, that they are very knowledgeable here. Even outside our hotel walking to the game today, there were probably 50 to 100 people clapping for us outside the elevators. They were just excited. As a soccer player, that’s where you want to play. You don’t want to play in front of 40,000 Costa Ricans. You want people there cheering for you. Everyone who came out today did a great job. They did their part today.”
Defensive midfielder Bobby Convey:
“The type of game this is – and the crowd, it’s a big deal. It’s just really exciting.”
Defender Carlos Bocanegra
“It was a good atmosphere. They cheered loud. That’s cool, you know. We’ve had good support the whole week. We’ll come back here. We won. That always helps.”
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