Saturday, I drove down to Jacksonville, FL, the largest city in the US (by square miles) to watch the United States Men's National Team play Scotland in a soccer friendly. Attendance was 44,438, the largest ever to see the USMNT in Florida, which is saying a lot since Jacksonville normally struggles to sell tickets to Jaguars home teams and football (American-style) is a sport that north Floridians actually care about. The game started at 8 p.m., but after getting in a bike/run brick workout in before lunch, taking off the garbage and playing a few round of Mario Kart and cards with the kid to make him feel better about being left behind on this trip, I headed down a little early to try out some local beer spots before the game. First, I hit up Bold City Brewing before walking down the street to Kickbacks Gastropub. Bold City makes good beers, but I don't think they're hopheads there. Their IPAs were definitely not very hoppy. It was cool that they give free samplers of their lineup to first timers, though. Kickbacks has an incredible selection and is the Brick Store Pub of Jacksonville. I had planned to visit Green Room's and Intuition's tent in Lot J at the stadium to try their beers, but by the time I got parked, picked up my ticket at will call and found Lot J, I just gave up and went to find my seat. It's a shame I didn't get to try much of the Intuition stuff other than the one I had at Kickbacks because I had to pass Intuition just to get to Kickbacks and back to Bold City.
The stadium looks empty here, but this is about 45 minutes before the game started. The densely populated section in the middle is one of the supporters groups. From the prevalence of American flag bandannas, this is probably the American Outlaws. By the way, if you ever go to a soccer match and really want to enjoy it, do a little research and find out where the supporters' sections are. Then get your ticket as close to them as possible. Their enthusiasm will rub off and make it easier for you to really get into the game.
These two were pretty typical of the American fans. Lots of flags and star-spangled clothing to be seen. There was also a sizable contingent of Scotsmen there as well, and least half of them were actually wearing kilts. They also used more f-bombs in casual conversation. That's not a criticism. It's just an observation.
The Scottish goalkeepers warmed up in front of my section. I'm going to guess from the US 5-1 Scotland final score, that they weren't too happy after the game.
The US players warmed up on the opposite end of the field from me. I may have snuck in a lens longer than the 6" limit set by Everbank Field.
At this point the sun started going down and my photos get a little less clear. The two teams walk out with the kids escorting them for the national anthems.
The Jacksonville Fire Department provided the pipers for the Scottish anthem.
Just seconds until the Scottish players kicked things off.
This is one of the best parts for me. Tim Howard is one of the greatest goal keepers in the world and Landon Donovan is one of the best American players ever. I can now say that I've actually seen both of them play in person.
Someone forgot to tell Donovan that this was just a friendly exhibition that was a warm up to the qualifiers coming up this summer. He's a blur in this photo, but he may have actually looked this way to the Scottish players while he scored a hat trick and was heavily involved in the scoring of the other two US goals. The guy seemed to be locked in and taking the game seriously. I'm really excited that I got to see a guy at this level play like that in a game that didn't really count. I'm pretty sure he was on the field for the full 90 minutes too. I'm officially a Donovan fan.
Howard wasn't really tested, though. The Fightin' Where's Waldos dominated possession and Howard didn't have to make too many saves. The only goal for the Scots was also scored by the Americans. One of our guys got hit by a shot from a Scottish player before the ball careened in with Howard having no chance at the save.
The US got a chance at a free kick late in the game, but nothing came of it. It didn't really matter though, because they got plenty of goals from regular play.
This photo is just because I like Beckerman's hair. He's got a head full of dreads.