A monthly look at the fans behind the U.S. National Teams. In this case, we introduce you to die-hards Keiran Downie and Jeniffer Huie, who have traveled to a multitude of U.S. Soccer matches, both home and away.
"From Saprissa With Love"
Not too many people would argue with Barbados as a destination point for a young couple in love, celebrating their recent marriage. Barbados has it all. Sand. Tropical climates. The U.S. Men's National Team squaring off against Barbados in a do-or-die World Cup qualifying match?!?
What better way to spend a honeymoon? Or a better question might be, what better way to spend a honeymoon for two young U.S. Soccer fanatics?
For Keiran Downie and Jeniffer Huie (yes, it is spelled with one "n" and two "f's"; kind of like Earnie with the extra ‘a'), U.S. Soccer destination points have become a way of life in the past year. The couple has been to Barbados, Costa Rica and recently celebrated the first MLS championship for their beloved San Jose Earthquakes at Columbus Crew Stadium. To top it all off, they will be in Trinidad on Nov. 11 as the U.S. Men complete their successful 16-game qualifying run to the 2002 World Cup.
"The best way to get Keiran to travel is if it's soccer-related," said Jeniffer, who lives in Concord, Calif., in the Bay Area with her husband of one year. "And it would have been nice to go to Honduras, Jamaica and Mexico, too, but we thought we'd better limit ourselves a bit. We initially were only going to go to Trinidad and Tobago in this round to celebrate our anniversary, but since we always wanted to see Costa Rica, we squeezed that trip in as well."
Some might say squeezing a trip into the not-so-friendly confines of Saprissa Stadium while taking in the geographic beauty of Costa Rica would be akin to visiting the New Jersey swamplands while shopping in New York City. Saprissa is, of course, known as "The Monster's Cave" in Costa Rica, and is a venue recognized worldwide for its less than hospitable atmosphere.
"We didn't get to see that much in Costa Rica, because we had less time and it wasn't as easy to get around like in Barbados, but Saprissa was worth the visit," said Keiran. "We did get to go on a rain forest tram tour, which carries you through the different levels of canopy in the rain forest, with a guide to explain what you're looking at. It also included a walking tour of the rain forest, showing what's at ground level."
Of course, at Saprissa, "rain forest" has a whole different connotation, where avoiding the showers of mysterious liquids and flying coins and batteries can be a sport unto itself. Apparently the young couple got out unscathed, and were "unfortunately" able to watch a country explode in national pride at qualifying for a World Cup.
"When we were in Barbados sitting with the Barbadan fans, we had gotten a pin with the U.S. and Barbados flag on it. So, when we were in Costa Rica, I wanted a pin with the U.S. and Costa Rican flag," said Jeniffer. But easier said than done. "It was quite a feat trying to find one the day after the soccer game. All of the fans and street vendors rolled their eyes and laughed when I asked if they sold this pin. After much searching and asking around, I was finally able to locate it."
"The day after the game, it was basically just a big national party, with everyone celebrating a spot in the World Cup." A national party that came courtesy of Costa Rica's 2-0 victory over the U.S. "We loved the public transportation system in Barbados," recalled Jeniffer, about their first road cap with the U.S. Men when they clinched a Final Round qualifying berth with a 4-0 victory against the tiny island nation back on Nov. 15, 2000. "Big blue buses can take you exploring all over the island, giving you great scenery for fifty cents. But the small yellow buses and the van-taxis that absorb and disgorge passengers with stunning rapidity are the best, because they're blaring reggae-rock and there's usually a guy leaning out the door at forty miles an hour looking for fares to pick up. You're packed in like sardines but everyone's having a great time, with the music and the buses cheerfully honking to each other and the various pedestrians."
Sounds like fun. Wonder if they honor transfers?
Of course, sometimes those cramped conditions can also apply to hotel accommodations when you are on a shoe-string budget.
"The first night we were in Costa Rica, we stayed in a $23 a night hotel, with no windows, thin walls, a bed that was barely six feet long in one room," added Jeniffer. "Of course, we splurged the next night and stayed at the hotel the U.S. team was staying at, and that was pretty spectacular."
And in terms of celebrating their own anniversary, the Nov. 11 match in Trinidad could not have been scheduled any better. It will have been exactly one year to the day that they were married in a local park in the Bay Area. (As Keiran likes to say, "11/11/00 is pretty easy to remember." And as Jeniffer says, "It's Veteran's Day, and being a state employee, I will always have that day off.")
In between Saprissa and Trinidad, though, the year only got better for the two diehard San Jose Earthquakes fans, as they saw their beloved EarthClashQuakes achieve the impossible dream by winning the MLS Cup in 2001.
"The win was incredible," said Keiran, who, of course, traveled with Jeniffer to the Columbus final on short notice. "We sat with the main supporters' group in the stands and when (Dwayne) DeRosario got the goal, we just went hysterical. After four straight years of missing the playoffs, this was so sweet it hurt. I literally had tears in my eyes as we were jumping up and down."
Now that the U.S. has qualified for the World Cup it seems only one question remains for Downie and Huie, Do you prefer kimchee or sushi?
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (USA's World Cup Qualifying)
2) Word Association (w/ WNT midfielder Shannon MacMillan)
3) Cobi's Book Club (w/ MNT midfielder Cobi Jones)
4) Queries and Anecdotes (w/ U-23 MNT goalkeeper D.J. Countess)
5) DJ for a Day (w/ WNT midfielder Lorrie Fair)
6) Superstar!!! (w/ MNT midfielder John O'Brien)
7) Mark That Calendar (2002 World Cup final draw -- Dec. 1)
8) Point-Counterpoint (w/ commentators Andres Cantor and Jack Edwards)
9) From the Bleachers (w/ U.S. Soccer fans Keiran Downie & Jeniffer Huie)
10) "You Don't Know Jack (Marshall)" (U.S. WCQ history)
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