In the 55th minute of Friday’s epic SnowClásico at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, when the referee momentarily stopped the match between the U.S. and Costa Rica - with the snow coming down sideways and sticking to every surface - my attention was split between the discussion on the field and the crowd behind me.
I was stationed just to the left of the USMNT bench and could see the referee talking with players from both teams near the midfield sideline when U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann approached and appeared to be making a case to keep playing the game.
The crowd behind the benches could see this also and promptly broke out a unified chant.
“Let them play. Let them play. Let them play,” they yelled.
And then it was pandemonium throughout the stadium when the players ran back on the field, indicating the match would go on.
I turned to my colleague and remarked at how special it was that this game was being played here, in Colorado, where no one had left and they wanted more, not bothered in the slightest by the amount of snow and bitter cold.
As it played out I was thinking of the reaction of soccer fans across the country, across the world. We knew we were part of something special, a match that would be talked about for ages – especially if the U.S. could hold on to the lead.
The sold-out and heavily pro-American crowd of 19,374 wanted to see the U.S. claim the three crucial points and they were up to the task of making it a true home-field advantage – regardless of the conditions. Soon they would find out that they were as much part of the story as the snow, the outcome, or the teams.
By the time they got to their cars, took off the gloves, and checked their smart phones, they knew it. People watching the scenes unfold on TV had taken to social media to share their reactions to the match, and their awe at the crowd that had endured the blizzard conditions throughout the 90+ minutes to support the USMNT.
The game ended and the U.S. players ran to each side applauding the fans. They then took to Twitter, too, to share their appreciation, as did more media:
USMNT Forward Jozy Altidore:
Amazing effort from the boys! Impossible conditions but we got it done. To the fans who stuck it out we love you! #USMNT— Jozy Altidore (@JozyAltidore) March 23, 2013
ESPN.com's Roger Bennet:
Amazed by Denver. I have seen fans go through rain & highwater to support their team but these frigid conditions topped that and then some— roger bennett (@rogbennett) March 23, 2013
MLS Commissioner Don Garber:
ESPN commentator Taylor Twellman:
And on and on.
It was as if the country – if not the world - had taken to Twitter and Facebook to stand up and applaud the fans in Colorado who represented the entire soccer nation in the stadium.
If anyone ever doubted if people cared about soccer in Colorado or in the United States, they have nothing to say today.
Years from now more than 20,000 people will claim they were at the match. The fans that attended should be proud of their performance.