It was game day again on Monday and all were present and accounted for, on time for breakfast (read: me).
After we ate, the players had a stretch and then a video session. Before we knew it it was already lunch time and soon enough we were heading over to the stadium for our game against Senegal.
The attendance for our game was sparse to say the least and I am not aware of any US fans. Most of the crowd was players from other teams.
The US looked like the more talented team, but Senegal defended well and their goalkeeper played an impressive game. The US got a goal from Matt Clare on a deflection four minutes into the second half to break a scoreless tie.
Thirteen minutes into the second half, Boris Pardo made back-to-back incredible saves to preserve the 1-0 lead. Twenty-one minutes in, Franck Tayou stole the ball on a free kick and led a breakaway. His shot was saved, but Andy Reyes scored on the rebound to put the US up 2-0.
The US had a hyped up defensive stand where players were blocking shots left and right, but they were also conceding throw-ins and corner kicks. After Franck Tayou cleared a ball with a header, Senegal made a quick transition and Mostapha Han managed to redirect a looping ball through a charging Pardo’s legs in the 25th minute.
Then the nightmare happened. A Senegal shot hit Israel Sesay’s arm, unintentionally, as he was dropping to block the shot. Senegal was awarded a penalty kick and Momo Cisse tied the game in the final seconds.
The US team was beside itself because the players worked so hard and only came away with a tie worth one point in the standings instead of a win.
Both teams received six yellow cards in the game, mostly for absurd procedural violations. Taylor Bond apparently got a yellow card because his shoe came off blocking a shot and Cisse got a yellow card for delay of game while taking the penalty kick. The US team was spitting fire after the game and wanted another shot at Senegal, but they will have to save that fire for India on Tuesday.
While, the earlier games were lightly attended, the Tunisia/Lebanon game was a hot ticket. For the first time in the tournament, the 2,800 seat stadium was full and there were Tunsian flags waving everywhere and drums and the stadium was rocking. Tunisia did not disappoint, racing to a 4-0 first half lead, en route to a 6-1 win, improving the host country to 2-0.
At the Tunisia game, I met a friendly man from Belgium who is staying at our hotel on “holiday”. He didn’t find out about the tournament until he got to the hotel, but was very excited to see some soccer (his wife, not so much). “I love America, but I don’t like your President Trump. He is a disgrace,” he said without any prompting or hesitation. He was even wearing a fashion t-shirt with an American flag. Everyone is friendly here, even the police posed for photos with Mario.
The US players attended the Tunisia game, and some stayed for the Australia/Czech Republic game that followed it, but the players mood was more serious and determined. The team needs to beat India and get some help now to advance to the Round of 16.
In what has become a running joke, Uzi Tayou keeps telling me, “Don’t put that in the blog!” so this is for you Uzi.