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Lessons learned from hosting the USMNT: The crowd and the game


Hosting a big match like the one we witnessed last night pitting the United States against Honduras would be pointless if we didn't take some lessons away from it — good and bad — so let's talk about those.

The Crowd

Rio Tinto typically features one of the best crowds in MLS, but the reaction to last night's audience was, at best, mixed. We're not going to delve into the details much — this isn't a rant about YSA or whether we were loud enough — but it is worth noting that the big noise from our stadium derives not entirely from the south end supporters. Notably, sections 35 and 26 and the surrounding areas produce a strong, raucous noise; pricing and other factors saw some of the louder voices off to the south end to join with the American Outlaws. Understandably so, but there was always going to be an impact on noise level as a result.

It also highlights the fact that we've grown support outside of the south end rather organically, and I think that makes sense for the future of the fanbase. The future of MLS support is, I maintain, not dependent on European-style hard-nosed, tightly organized support, and nor should it be.

It's also worth considering that it wasn't exactly the sort of match that gets everybody on their feet. The finishing was poor, genuine chances were hard to come by, and the opposition got forward in numbers and threatened. There was a nervous air about the crowd, and that's probably understandable.

Honduras fans were a joy to have around, though — they were loud, passionate, and, from everything I saw, friendly. I did hear some post-match taunting from U.S. fans directed at small pockets of supporters, but that was, to my mind, rather out of order.

The Game

It was nice to see the U.S. men play on a field that wasn't suffering. Rio Tinto's pitch is just fantastic, and as a result, we saw a game that didn't include a lot of errant slipping and bobbling passes.

Michael Bradley is very, very good — his understanding of the game was on full display, and he really ran the show. Now, I have some other thoughts about that. Inevitably, of course, right? I just wonder if sometimes the players around him would defer to him too often, and if sometimes, getting other players in good positions and involved in play would have been beneficial in a greater way. Bradley's distribution is good, but the absence of an attack-minded playmaker — Dempsey isn't that, whatever he is — meant that he was shouldering the distribution load in addition to any defensive responsibilities.

Honduras played like so many sides we've seen at Rio Tinto, which was a little funny. I was mostly glad Mario Martinez didn't score a late goal. I'd have nightmares for weeks. Again.