Keeping up with the Gold Cup when it’s not your match day can be a challenge.
Case in Point: The MNT’s Sunday night trip from Baltimore to Atlanta.
Prior to leaving for the airport and all the way to the tarmac, U.S. players tracked the match day’s first Quarterfinal between Panama and Trinidad & Tobago. Tied at the end of regulation, the U.S. team began boarding the plane as the match went into extra time. As has been the case throughout the tournament, the team was joined on the aircraft by Wednesday night’s semifinal opponent Jamaica as well as representatives from CONCACAF for the 80-minute flight. Both groups had already boarded and were also following along.
With takeoff time slightly delayed as baggage continued to be loaded on to the plane, the full complement of travelers were able to take in the beginnings of the penalty shootout, but just as the ground crew loaded the final bags on to the plane, the flight attendants gave that dreaded warning to “turn off electronics and set mobile devices to airplane mode”.
As the plane prepared for takeoff and flight attendants took their seats, one U.S. player, who may or may not be teammates with Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo at the LA Galaxy, continued to show the tiebreaker, holding his cell phone on the headrest of the seat in front of him for all behind to see.
The entire plane was captivated by the long-lasting shootout: a miss or two here and there to go with the successful conversions brought cheers and jeers throughout the aircraft as all on board hoped to see the result before the loss of cell phone signal.
Surely any second the internet access to the phone would die. Surprisingly, it stayed on long enough to allow all passengers to see Trinidad & Tobago twice have a chance to advance. Just as Panama forward Blas Perez set his ball on the spot, the signal finally died and the biggest collective groan came from all on board.
With no available Wifi connection on the plane, perhaps fittingly all passengers had to wait 90 minutes for touchdown in Atlanta to see who had advanced to Wednesday’s other semifinal.
As soon as the wheels hit the ground, whispers of “Panama” spread quickly, bringing to end any lasting speculation.