The Soccer Desk

Hons, Turtles and Yanks

baltimore bench

“This is Baltimore.  The Gods will not save you.”

The great city of Baltimore, the greatest of all cities in America if benches are to be believed, will host two Gold Cup quarterfinal matches this Sunday with the USMNT facing off against El Salvador at 4p EST, followed by Honduras and Costa Rica later that evening.  While thoughts of Charm City might bring more references to John Waters and the Wire, the area has a proud sporting history that provides a unique context as the Gold Cup marches on.

Seated on the Patapsco River, Baltimore has deep blue-collar industrial roots, a rich history, and a proud populace. Once the capital of the United States (1776-1777), it is also hailed as the birthplace of the song thousands of star and stripes-clad fans will belt out Sunday afternoon, The Star Spangled Banner, an anthem commemorating a defense against the British greater than Tim Howard and Frank Borgi together could provide. Originally founded as a port city, Baltimore has since become a high ranking STEM city with particular focus on health and science innovation as home to both UMBC and Johns Hopkins University. While Baltimore maintains the pride and angst generally associated with industrial centers, it also has a pleasant and charming quality, hence the nickname Charm City.

As any good Marylander will be happy to remind you, the Baltimore area has a strong athletic tradition, producing many world class athletes including Michael Phelps, Rudy Gay, and the USMNT’s own Kyle Beckerman (Go Wildcats!). The Ravens are the reigning champions of the NFL, the O’s are making a strong showing in the AL East.  It’s soccer tradition is no less proud; Crystal Palace Baltimore was a shining outpost of professional soccer during it’s American dark ages, and the  Bohemians are the proud owners of the PDL’s second best record, best uniforms and most Scottish coach. Baltimore is also home to the Preakness, the middle leg of the Triple Crown of horse racing, but the most athletic animal in the state may the turtles found thirty minutes south, where the laurel-laden men’s soccer program at the University of Maryland has turned more than twenty Terrapins into top flight professionals in some of the best leagues in the world, including current Yank starters Graham Zusi & Omar Gonzalez.

M&T Bank Stadium, home of the two-time world champion Ravens of the NFL, will be packed with almost 71,000 screaming fans.   The USMNT may be playing the entirety of the tournament on home turf, but Baltimore is unlikely to feel like a home crowd. Maryland is home to a large population of Central American immigrants and many anticipate huge numbers coming out in support of their home countries. El Salvador, in particular, will get a lot of love, with more than 150,000 immigrants of Salvadoran extraction living within a two hour drive of the city. DC United fans from the days when Raul Diaz Arce packed RFK will know what is coming well.

Welcome to Baltimore, America.  Get ready to be charmed.