After this compulsory display of patriotism it was finally time to kick-off the new USL1 season. The stadium was decently filled – the official tally was a somewhat unconvincing 5.037 – and I was amazed by how multicultural the audience was (I was sitting next to some Arabs, behind some Africans, and in front of some Asians, for example). Behind one of the goals was a small but determined section of “ultras” who created what they thought was a genuine football atmosphere. Not surprisingly, no away fan had made the 5.000 km trip from Charleston, South Carolina. ;-)
To be honest, the level of play was, at least initially, not that bad. Both teams played tactically intelligent and technically decent football, even though the pace of play and passing wasn’t very high. That said, both in quality of play and quantity of attendance the game could easily hold its own with second division games in countries like Belgium or Austria. While no player of the teams is well-known, there was one with a fantastic name: Bellisimo, the right-wing defender of the Whitecaps.
Although the game was of a decent quality, few chances were created on either side. It took fifteen minutes for the first excitement, a shot at the far post for the hosts. The Whitecaps dominated the first half hour, but this remained their only real threatening situation. At the same time, it rained cats and dogs, and I was happy to sit under the make-shift tent structure – still admiring the couple hundred fans who remained uncovered and singing. Much less pleasant was the guy a couple of seats next to me, who said “Come on Whites” every 30 seconds!