Three things still stand out from the 2013 “Dos a Cero”: How much the game had grown since I was last there, the strike that turned out to be Landon Donovan’s final US goal, and the sound the guy’s head made right next to me when it hit the back to the metal bleacher and exploded.
We’ll get to that last one later.
It had been eight years since I’d last been to Columbus for US-Mexico. I missed the 2009 match—as Chris always points out—but I think I have a valid excuse: I was drinking Guinness in Dublin with my new wife.
Things were dramatically different when I returned. In 2005, we bought our tickets in the Sam’s Army section for something like $20, in what was roughly a 50-50 USA-Mexico crowd. Eight years later, it was probably more than 80 percent US fans, and the tickets weren’t cheap anymore — $65 each through an up-and-coming new supporters group called American Outlaws.
Both ends of the stadium were now packed with US supporters standing and cheering and singing. Amid the sea of red you’d sometimes come across a green jersey or two — Mexican fans who probably had no idea what section they were sitting in before the match. The stadium brought in temporary seating to accommodate all the new US fans.
On the field, though, things were pretty similar to 2005. The game was 0-0 at the half, but then things opened up right away in the second with an Eddie “Grown Ass Man” Johnson goal off a Landon Donovan assist. And just when things were looking like this might be a “Uno a Cero,” Donovan buried one in the back of the net in the 78th minute and went flying toward the substitutes warming up on the sideline with an epic, arms-out knee slide that seemed to go on forever. Maybe it just goes on forever in my mind, because that turned out to be his final goal for the US. Who could’ve believed at the time that Jurgen Klinsmann would leave him off the World Cup roster the following summer?
We now were on the verge of our fourth “Dos a Cero” in this stadium, and we intended to keep it that way. The Outlaws chanted the now-famous scoreline at the Mexican players and fans almost non-stop.
But wait! When Clint Dempsey went to the penalty spot in stoppage time, it looked like he was about to make it 3-0. Not many US fans will admit it, but they were secretly happy when he pushed the penalty wide, maintaining the 2-0 score.
I still wonder if he did that on purpose. It didn’t look like it at the time, but I’ve heard that he said it was intentional in later interviews.
The three whistles blew, and we were all but on our way to Brazil. An hour later, when the Panama-Honduras match ended in a draw, we officially qualified for our seventh FIFA World Cup in a row.
If you look at shots of Chris and I on TV, about 10-15 rows up in the corner of the north end, you’ll see the only empty seat in the building. Here’s why:
Just as the match was about to get underway, I hear three things in quick succession—a bang that sounded like a giant gong, a scream of a woman up above me, and a low, guttural “guhhhhhhhh” from a bloody head that was six inches from my right leg.
This guy, who was really, really drunk, fell forward from several rows above, and his forehead broke his fall on the back of the metal bleacher next to me.
His head fucking exploded. Blood everywhere.
But here’s the best part: His friends didn’t want to miss the match, so they came down and picked the guy up, and said, “He’s fine, he’s fine.”
That’s when Chris yelled, “He’s not fucking fine! He needs to go to a hospital! This is NOT fucking good. You need to get him the fuck out of here!”
They, reluctantly, hauled their buddy to medical safety (hopefully—I wasn’t gonna leave my seat to check!), and a resourceful fan who was sitting on the other side of the bloody mess used some of his beer to wash away the blood that was pooled all over the bleachers. (The blood was so thick it was black. Pouring beer in it did nothing but spread it out. No one stood there the rest of the night.)
Overall, it was a game none of us will forget. Except the guy whose head exploded–I guarantee that guy doesn’t remember shit.