When a Mexican journalist asked Landon Donovan if he was disappointed that there were Mexican fans but no American fans at Crew Stadium for Tuesday's final practices ahead of Wednesday's World Cup qualifier, Donovan expressed confidence that American fans would make their presence known soon enough.
"They're coming," Donovan said. "They'll be here tomorrow."
He wasn't lying.
U.S. national team fans from all over the United States (43 different states according to U.S. Soccer) have converged (and are converging) on Columbus for tonight's USA-Mexico match and the evidence was on display at Claddagh's Irish Pub in Columbus on Tuesday night. Sam's Army, the U.S. national team's longest serving Supporter's Group, hosted a party that was truly a summit of American soccer fans. You had D.C. United fans and New England Revolution fans cheering alongside New York Red Bulls fans. You had LA Galaxy jerseys and Seattle Sounders jerseys. Club allegiances were set aside in favor of love of country and hatred for the U.S. national team's biggest rival.
I met fans from California, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Minnesota, Texas and Washington last night. Some fans drove, some flew in, some took buses and some took trains. They all made it though and all were filled with excitement about a match that means more to American fans than some observers realize.
More and more U.S. fans realize how important this game is, and how significant it is for them to be here, in this rainy Midwestern town to cheer on a team that has dominated Mexico so thoroughly in recent years that Mexican fans and media actually sound doubtful that Mexico can win tonight.
After cheering for an underdog for so many years, U.S. fans are now cheering for the favorites, the champions of CONCACAF, a new role for the U.S. national team, a role that has fans from all over the United States eager to see them and cheer them on.
That will be on display tonight, when Crew Stadium is awash in red and fans from every corner of this country will sing in unison and show Mexican fans (and journalists) that they have grown as a group just as the U.S. national team has grown.