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w/ frequent-flying U.S. Soccer fan Andy Mead

A monthly look at the fans behind the U.S. National Teams. In this case, we introduce you to frequent-flying and Sam's Army card-carrying fan Andy Mead, who should have achieved platinum status with the airline of his choice with all the miles he put in to follow the U.S. Men in 2001.

"2001: Recollections from the Road"
by Andy Mead

My first international soccer game was during the 1996 Olympics. Since then I have fallen into the habit of arranging work trips, family vacations, and "sick" days around various soccer events. Whenever I head out of town (Durham, N.C.), my friends reflexively ask me, "Who's playing?" I seem to be incapable of traveling more than 20 miles without a game being involved. Last year my answer, more likely than not, involved the U.S. Men in World Cup Qualifying. I managed to catch all five home games.

Additionally, my first two trips outside of the United States just happened to be with the Men's National Team when they traveled to Mexico City in July and Port of Spain, Trinidad, in November. Here are some of the highlights of my year on the road.

Best game: This had to be the September 1 loss to Honduras at RFK Stadium. This game had it all, thrilling end to end action, a deafening, raucous crowd, and more twists and turns than route 221 through Appalachia.

Best moment: Josh Wolff beating Jorge Campos to Clint Mathis's looping pass to break open a tense game on the frozen tundra of Columbus Crew Stadium. The ball found the net directly in front of me and the crowd around me was instantly transformed into a sea of ecstasy.

Worst moment: Earnie Stewart, the player of the year, missing from the spot at the end of the first half in the loss to Honduras. It still hurts just thinking about it.

Best Atmosphere: April 25th at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Thirty-seven thousand red-clad fans filled the lower bowl on a warm Wednesday night. This game also witnessed the debut of Ed Kirwin's 60' x 30' BAF (Big-ass American Flag).

Favorite Trip: Mexico City in July. About 120 or so Americans took the package deal. We were based in La Zona Rosa, a tourist enclave near the American Embassy. If you go, be sure to have lunch, dinner, or both at La Refugio el Fondo, but beware that their pitchers of margaritas are little more than straight ice cold tequila. About forty of us filled up two banquet rooms for dinner the night before the big game, and we amused the staff by singing some traditional soccer chants.

As my holiday card list shows, however, the best part of last year was the people I met. I have many new friends all over the country. Big Dog and Sam's Army's Mark Spacone from Buffalo, Steve Dribleis from Philly, Mike Lastort (who helped me drink one of the aforementioned pitchers) and his wife Jan from D.C., Thomas Flanagan from Chicago, Daryl Bogard from Los Angeles, and countless others.

If you go to the games, take time to stop by the Sam's Army tailgate and make some friends.

Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (U.S. Soccer's Chevy 2001 Athletes of the Year)
2) Word Association (w/ MNT forward Ante Razov)
3) D.J. for a Day (w/ U-17 MNT forward Corey Ashe)
4) Queries and Anecdotes (w/ WNT defender Kate Sobrero)
5) Big Woman on Campus (w/ U-21 WNT forward Christie Welsh)
6) Superstar!!! (w/ MNT midfielder Earnie Stewart)
7) Mark That Calendar (WNT vs. Mexico - Jan. 12)
8) From the Bleachers (w/ frequent-flying U.S. Soccer fan Andy Mead)
9) "You Don't Know Jack (Marshall)" (Gold Cup trivia)

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