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  • Elmer Wheeler

US vs. Honduras 3/24/2017

Living up to the hype is hardest when one’s reputation precedes them. I got to experience the tacos that A.O. Modesto brought to the Copa Centenario group stage game against Colombia. I wasn’t a part of the Night Before Prep team. I was the unofficial photographer with my new camera. I captured some really good moments of an unforgettable day for me and my family.

I saw the large operation that was the American Outlaw tailgate. I had never personally experienced an American Outlaws sanctioned tailgate and I was blown away. Right away I saw there were some seasoned veterans and was thoroughly impressed.

U.S.M.N.T. vs. Honduras at Avaya Stadium in San Jose Ca. 3/24/17, I finally got the opportunity to get my hands in and help.

I arrived at our Chapter President’s house with an apron and an eager 13 year old daughter. The usual suspects were there and the work began. I’m given my task and my teenager in-tow begin. I catch my stride with the paddle stirring the chicken and my daughter earns the epic nickname “Spice Girl” from her work sprinkling the seasoning on all the cooking chicken. She surprisingly breaks out in song when she is dubbed. How she knows the lyrics of a song circa 1997, six years before her birth is beyond me. Another moment in this night that made me chuckle.

Next morning I show up with my eldest son ready to roll. We both jump in the U-Haul van rented to move the nationally recognized production we call A.O. Modesto tacos. The constant sprinkle of rain and wind don’t deter these seasoned Outlaws. My son and I simply follow their lead. We effortlessly set up camp.

The flame is lit and the tailgate begins. I see Heads of State of multiple chapters, most notably A.O. San Jose and A.O. Merced, seamlessly getting our tent city/ base of operation working in moments. We served thousands of tacos to some very gracious soccer fans, Hondurans included. Despite the weather, it was bright and warm.

I took a break from spinning the perfectly seasoned chicken with my wooden paddle. Don’t judge, I’m biased to the Spice Girl. I walk and see my son talking to a very unassuming guy manning a merchandise table. I am promptly educated that this individual was one of the two attending founding members of the American Outlaws fan club. My son returned with his Outlaw sunglasses and poster in tow beaming from this “nice guy”. I relay my recent education to him and his jaw drops like he just met royalty.

The march to the stadium was drummed by the other attending founding father of American Outlaws and throated by masses in tow. My daughter, “Spice Girl” had wanted to participate in a pregame march since she watched a bag pipe laced YouTube video that inspired our memberships.

The unfurling of the giant American flag and the crowd included national anthem almost brings me to tears. Can’t explain it, my national pride pours when I hear it. My beautiful wife and kids in attendance with me, what else can I ask for? My family’s military and law enforcement back ground surface in these moments and all the ugliness in the world fades to a blur. I even enjoyed seeing the vibrant blue of the Honduran fans and how loud they were belting out their national anthem.

All I can see is our Yanks dressed Red to Toe. Howard’s beard and Dempsey’s American posture are sights welcomed back by all in attendance, except those donning the capitol “H” their white and blue jerseys. I was more nervous before this game than the Colombian match. The U.S. needed this game more because of their losses to Mexico and Costa Rica in the first two matches of the Hex.

The whistle blows and I am pleasantly surprised at the play of the men’s team. The ball movement was relatively crisp, no “hair on fire” passing. Then I saw it. The effect that young 18 year old budding star, Christian Pulisic, has on the rest of the team. The attention he commands from the other team is felt immediately. His ball control in small spaces, peripheral passing, touch and ability to beat a defender 1 v 1 was all showcased in that game. He and Nagbe had a calming effect when in possession and allowed players like Altidore and Dempsey to win their matchups. Altidore seamed more dynamic now that he didn’t feel he had to beat the defense, create the scoring opportunity and finish. He now could be a team player, and oh, what a pairing that made.

Lletget breaks the game open and the Yanks take control of a game in such a fashion that I’ve never seen by this team. Pulisic scores on a sweet pass by Altidore and Dempsey’s hat trick culminated by a beautiful set piece back post side netter. I had officially lost my mind. But, Tim Howard hadn’t put his stamp of approval on the game. So, with two minutes left he drops low to the left to block a low screamer that could have wiped away his clean sheet. Not here! Not now! Watching him fist pump after that block cemented the adrenaline rush that would ensure I wouldn’t be able to sleep until well into the morning.

Personally watching the 6-Nill route the Yanks put on the Hondurans was phenomenal. The smile on my 15 year old’s face, in the van ride home, Galactic!

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