Soccer fans present their colors for US team


Down the street from USC where football reigns supreme, futbol took over for a night at the ESPNZone at L.A. Live.

Less than 10 minutes into the 2011 Gold Cup final featuring the USA and Mexico, Michael Bradley put the Americans up on the board and I was suddenly regretting the fact that I had left my ear plugs at home. Comparatively, soccer is not the most popular sport in the U.S. But what the fan base lacks in size they easily make up for in passion. Separated by a glass wall and a bar the U.S. fans took over the front part of the viewing donning painted hair, real jerseys, fake jerseys and anything else you mind find if you had actually been at the Rose Bowl for the game.

This particular viewing party was not by happenstance. The LA Galaxy decided to host a double-header -- with the first game being a Galaxy affair -- for soccer fans on Saturday with one goal in mind:

Promote the sport.

The Galaxy can lay claim to current poster boy U.S. soccer Landon Donavan, but Saturday's agenda went well beyond supporting their star. The fact is, the Galaxy never sell out games. The problem? The sport itself just isn't popular enough around these parts.

Megan Moss, a member of the LA Galaxy Marketing team, expressed the sentiments behind the party using the most basic of ideals.

"I'm really passionate about soccer and would just really like to see the sport grow."

Right about now that doesn't look like quite as difficult of a task. Donavan just scored his 13th Gold Cup goal of his career and it's not even half time yet.

"We're coming baby. We're coming," yelled a U.S. fan.

And maybe they are. The Gold Cup is an intermediate level competition on the international stage. Winning essentially means they have won their region (CONCACAF -- North America, Central America and the Caribbean). It's a stepping stone for something bigger and more often than not it comes down to the same two teams. Take a guess as to which two.

Did I mention the Mexico fans are just as loud as the U.S. fans?

The Rose Bowl was predicted to be about 80 percent Mexico fans today, but in downtown they managed to split even fairly well. This meant tying the game at two a piece earned a reaction that one would expect more after the end of a game.

On a side note, who else thinks it would be amusing to see NFL refs in those neon green uniforms? Why not?

Around half time during the raffle, one has a chance to look around and notice the four young men in red, white and blue spray-painted shirts and matching hair (Yes, hair). Considering L.A. Live is about a 30 minute drive away from the actual game, they aren't exactly going to be on T.V. for these shenanigans. Clearly this was not a deterrent.

"You have to support your country," said Hunter Rix of Northridge. "It's just fun to come out here with your friends and dress up." They didn't do too shabby of a job either, considering it took about a total of 20 minutes to create their celebratory get-ups.

Mexico was up 3-2 with about 18 minutes left about the time the fans in the restaurant pick up on the "Mex-i-co" chant coming from the Rose Bowl. It was the wonders of modern technology uniting the small but proud soccer community in the greater Los Angeles area.

Wait, make that 4-2.

Regardless, this is exactly what the Galaxy was aiming for by hosting a party for a team they can't completely claim under the heading of their organization. Consider U.S. Soccer their older cousin. Win or lose they wanted to show their support and, if they could, champion the cause in the process.

With about 5 minutes left the Mexico fans broke into some sort of traditional team song that made me wish I remembered any of the Spanish I took in high school or college. Their encore was a more understandable rendition of "Hey, hey, goodbye!"

Mexico earned their sixth Gold Cup title Saturday night, but thanks to the L.A. Galaxy and few well-dressed supporters U.S. soccer might have earned just a few extra fans for the game.

It's a victory in its own right.
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