- Sarah Spain, Contributor, espnW.com
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About 5,000 fans packed the lawn at Arvey Field in Chicago’s Grant Park on Monday night, gathering to watch the United States defeat Ghana 2-1 in their World Cup opener. Some fans arrived as early as 10 a.m. to set up blankets and chairs in front of a 19-by-33-foot screen. The late-comers were seen accelerating into a jog toward the lawn as they heard fans go wild for Clint Dempsey’s goal in the opening minute of the game.
Late-comers were hard-pressed to find a good view, as fans crowded the screen like it was a headliner stage at Lollapalooza. Many were forced to watch from a berm outside of the gated-off watch party area.
Those who pushed to the front row had a great view for a short pre-game set put on by Chicago musician Lupe Fiasco, who also acts as the music director of U.S. men’s soccer. In addition to playing hits like “Kick Push” and “Superstar,” he led the crowd in a few rousing rounds of the unofficial USMNT chant “I believe.”
Chicago Fire forward and 2013-14 MLS MVP Mike Magee was in attendance at the event, which was put on by U.S. Soccer, the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Sports Commission.
Magee signed autographs and took pictures with fans. He also did a halftime Q&A with former World Cup player and current Fire assistant Clint Mathis.
Late in the second half of the U.S. win on Monday John Brooks became the first USMNT player since Mathis to score a goal in his World Cup debut.
Like the second half for the U.S., the watch party didn’t go off completely without a hitch. Fans were packed in like sardines, overflowing onto sidewalks and berms, so they’d definitely benefit from a bigger space and bigger screen for the next match.
And while the event had a lot of beer for sale, the only water I spotted was in the hospitality tent. If there was water available for Average Joes, it sure wasn’t easy to find.
Despite the difficulty hydrating, happiness hung in the air after a big 2-1 U.S. victory. For those planning on a return trek to Grant Park for Sunday’s match with Portugal, my suggestion: get there early, bring lots of water and don’t forget your red, white and blue.