BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Nowhere was the changing face of the United States more evident Wednesday night than here in Alabama, land of Bear Bryant, the Crimson Tide and . . . the Chapines?
Guatemala’s fans turned out in their blue-and-white thousands on a warm evening to cheer their country’s national soccer team (nicknamed the Chapines) in its World Cup qualifying game against the U.S.
It wasn’t what U.S Coach Bruce Arena expected.
“The reason we chose Birmingham as a venue is because we really believe every time we’ve been in Birmingham it has been a pro-American crowd,” Arena said last week. “That’s not always the case in the United States.”
But Legion Field was largely Guatemala’s stadium Wednesday night.
The American players were booed coming onto the field to warm up. The fence around the field was draped in Guatemalan flags and homemade signs, all in Spanish. The stands were filled with fans bearing placards that read everything from “Chapines de Nashville, TN” to “Guatemala Trenton, N.J.”
Bruce Springsteen’s belting out “Born in the USA” on the stadium’s sound system didn’t change anything.
Only the American team could do that, and it did. The final score: U.S. 2, Guatemala 0.