Thursday June 21, 2007
Soldier Field, Chicago
CONCACAF Gold Cup 2007 Semi Final
(Hume 76, Hutchinson 90+4)
United States 2
(Hejduk 39, Donovan 45+1 pen)
“I can’t believe they changed their minds,” yelled Atiba Hutchinson as we gathered back together near the Canadian dugout, “I thought they’d screwed us for sure!”
“Screw ‘em!” shouted another of my team mates, Paul Stalteri of Tottenham Hotspur, “We’re back from the dead so let’s show them no mercy now, boys, we’re so close!” As the Coach, Stephen Hart, and his team edged over towards us, I glanced over my shoulder towards the referee and his assistants. Surrounding them were American players angry with the decision that had just allowed us back into the game. Back into the tournament.
“Were you offside?” laughed our experienced reserve goalkeeper, Pat Onstad, as he handed Atiba a drink bottle.
“No way, man,” answered the Canadian hero, “When Ali played it forward, I was on. I was only off when the defender deflected it towards me. Perfectly good goal.”
“Shame those idiots couldn’t see it in the first place,” added Stalteri, “Then there’d be no controversy, would there?”
Listening to the delighted conversations around me, I tried to focus myself. From a position of despair an hour ago, we were back from the dead and in with a great chance of making it to the Gold Cup Final for the first time in a long, long time. The thirty minutes to come, I thought nervously, were probably the most important thirty of my career.
“Look at them,” exclaimed the Coach, interrupting my thoughts, “They’re finished. Their legs have gone and now their minds have gone too. All you guys have to do is keep going like you did in the second half, keep going for the throat and they’ll buckle. Come on, boys, you can do this.” With a yell from the team, we slowly made our way back onto the pitch listening to the desperate American voices protesting to the referee, or our players even, that their place in the Final should already be secure.
“You ready, Chip?” asked Iain Hume, the scorer of the first Canadian goal that had started the comeback. “Let’s have these lot, we f****** owe them.” I nodded at my fellow English Football League player and smiled as the referee blew the whistle and we were back underway.