The United States soccer team beat a small country in front of a small crowd Saturday, but there were smiles all around.
The 4-0 victory over Grenada before a crowd of 15,378 at Qwest Field was the U.S. team’s first soccer victory on the Fourth of July.
And it got the red, white and blue off to a sold start toward defending its CONCACAF Gold Cup title.
Grenada is an island nation with a population of about 90,000, and the smallest country ever to qualify for the Gold Cup. And this U.S. team, even lacking most of the stars who advanced to the recent Confederations Cup final, was expected to win handily.
“(It was) important to start the Gold Cup the right way,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. “It was a really good team effort. Four different guys scored tonight.”
First to snap the net was Freddy Adu, in the seventh minute. Stuart Holden made it 2-0 before halftime. Then, Robbie Rogers and Charlie Davis set the final score in the second half. Rodgers also assisted the Adu and Holden goals and was selected player of the match.
The U.S. team outshot Grenada 25-3, and U.S. goalkeeper Troy Perkins was called upon to make only one save.
However, no one’s smile was brighter than Brad Evans, the Seattle Sounder who made his national team debut in the 62nd minute.
“It’s special when you put on the national team jersey,” he said. “Overall, it’s a great feeling for sure: good to get on the field and connect some passes and kind of get into the rhythm of the game. ... It was just a special day. My fiancee was in the crowd, some buddies in the crowd, as well. For sure, a day to remember.”
Evans’ national team career got off to an awkward start as he actually got a yellow card before his first national cap because he ran onto the pitch before being officially waved in by the referee.
“He told me to wait a little bit going onto the field, but I couldn’t hear him – that’s how loud it was,” Evans said. “I was excited.”
The Sounders draw crowds about twice the size of the Saturday gathering, and Evans said it was odd to see the stadium so empty. However, he also heard many in the crowd who cheered every time he touched the ball.
“These fans are unbelievable,” he said. “(My teammates gave) a little jab in the side about the fans yelling, but it’s just incredible to have that support as well. ... It’s definitely the most empty I’ve ever seen it. But overall good support. The crowd was loud, and when we needed them behind us they were there.”
One spectator looking on from one of the Qwest Field suites was David Downs, executive director of the USA Bid Committee. He is trying not only to get FIFA to grant either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup to the United States, but also to decide which cities should host games if the bid is successful.
Seattle is one of 37 U.S. cities being considered, and Downs said Saturday’s empty seats wouldn’t be a mark against the city.
“This is a bit of a soft crowd,” he said. “But I’m fully aware of how terrific the attendance is for the Sounders. I know when Barcelona is coming back here there will be 50,000- 60,000.”
The United States continues Gold Cup group play Wednesday against Honduras at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
Honduras beat Haiti, 1-0, in the first game of the Qwest Field doubleheader Saturday.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808