Anyone else suffering from a serious case of World Cup withdrawal? Join the club. Every four years, the world’s attention turns towards the beautiful game, and for a month we are captivated by the drama, the heartbreak, the stunning soccer being played on the pitch. It’s glorious. And then, like a cold, hard slap in the face, it’s over. And we go back to our regularly scheduled lives, facing the reality that it will be 1,596 days before we can once again experience World Cup euphoria. Sigh.
Thankfully, episode three of BTW Presented by Heineken gives us the chance to relive at least a tiny bit of World Cup fever from an MLS perspective, as I traveled to Houston and San Jose to catch a few of the games with some stellar company.
Upon arriving in H-Town, I met up with Houston Dynamo players AJ DeLaGarza and Chris Seitz to take in Panama’s final group stage match against Tunisia and to cheer on their teammate, Adolfo Machado, who also happened to get the start for the Panamanian side that day. We headed to Pitch 25, a brand new, sprawling sports bar owned by Dynamo legend Brian Ching. Side note: this place is awesome. Wall-to-wall TVs adorn the exposed brick walls, there are bar games galore, there's a mini-pitch where you can have a kick around, plus all the Heineken you can drink. If you’re ever looking for a place to catch a game in Houston, look no further.
Both Chris and AJ have National Team experience, so it was a privilege to get their perspective on the enormity of an event like the World Cup. My favorite part of the day though was witnessing both AJ and Chris as simply fans of the game rather than professional players. They cheered on Adolfo every time he touched the ball, they threw their hands up at controversial calls, they shouted at near misses, which made me realize: Soccer pros – they’re just like us. At least when the World Cup is on.
For the second installment of our BTW World Cup experience, I hopped on a plane to the Left Coast to catch the World Cup final at San Jose’s Avaya Stadium’s watch party with Quakes Hall of Fame goalkeeper Joe Cannon. The match started at 8 am Pacific Time, and despite the early kick off, the place was packed, and for good reason. Avaya’s vast lawn and massive big screen at the Northeast end of the stadium made it an ideal venue to catch Croatia v. France, and more than 5,000 rabid soccer fans felt the same way.
Joe and I marveled at the turnout, and had a chance to engage in some fun banter with fans of both teams. We agreed that seeing that many people show up that early to watch soccer is a testament to the growth of the sport in North America. It’s a beautiful thing.
While Joe and I were rooting for a Croatia upset, we all know how this one ended, and the France fans filed out of Avaya singing and cheering, while the Croatia fans, admittedly bummed, held their heads high after what was a tremendous showing all tournament. Joe and I headed to the bar for one last Heineken and toasted to a phenomenal World Cup, and how we’re already looking forward to 2022. Only 1,596 days to go ... but who’s counting?
Thanks for watching, guys. Cheers to the World Cup and cheers to you.