SEATTLE – As far as crowd support goes, the Emerald City may have just set the bar high for US men’s national team games. Real high.
The atmosphere inside CenturyLink Field for the US men’s national team’s 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Panama on Tuesday night was nothing short of spectacular. The boisterous pro-US crowd of 40,847 that represented one of the largest turnouts the US have ever had in qualifying was rocking well before the opening whistle, and their support helped push the Americans to a victory that has the US team sitting pretty midway through the Hexagonal.
In fact, midfielder Michael Bradley was in the middle of giving his postgame thoughts when he stopped and explained that one couldn't talk about the match without mentioning the Seattle fans.
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“Unbelievable. The best crowd I’ve played in in the United States, without a doubt,” said Bradley. “From all the players, a big thank you to everybody who was here, to everybody in the city who makes this a special night for us, because people don’t know what a difference it makes when you play in an atmosphere like this.”
Bradley’s words were a common refrain from other US players, who voiced their delight with the crowd support in interviews and through Twitter. Even center back Omar Gonzalez, who plays his club soccer for the Seattle Sounders’ Western Conference rivals, the LA Galaxy, raved about the fans that displayed an impressive tifo prior to kickoff and provided a distinct home field advantage.
“I thought it was absolutely fantastic,” said Gonzalez. “The fans were amazing tonight. To hear how loud it got at some points of the game, it was really incredible. I'm really happy that we did get to play here in Seattle. For once, it's nice for these fans to be cheering for me."
Prior to the game, there was talk about the number of tickets sold not being high enough for a market that has been adamant about landing a World Cup qualifier, not to mention criticism of the grass field that was laid over the turf surface normally used at CenturyLink Field.
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All that seemed to be forgotten on gameday, especially after all the praise the US players had for the fans and the electric atmosphere they produced.
“Everybody's so impressed,” said US right back and Sounders midfielder Brad Evans. “It's really gratifying for [the fans] to be outspoken about it and say, 'You guys have something special here.' Why it took so long to get one here? It is what it is, but now that it's here you better believe [there will] be more to come in the future. Hopefully it becomes a venue like Columbus, things like that, where every World Cup cycle you get a good game here, because the crowd was absolutely insane tonight.”
Added goalkeeper Tim Howard: “Columbus is great and Kansas City has been fantastic, but this was rocking, and they did themselves justice tonight because everyone talks about the Sounders games. We see it, it’s the best crowd around and we kind of knew they’d be up for it. We can’t get back to Seattle soon enough.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.