Saturday, 9 November 2013

Borussia Dortmund 0-1 Arsenal [Maggie McGarry's, San Francisco]

Yes, you heard right. That's ONE-NIL to the Arsenal. It's been a few days since that historic victory at  the Westfalonstadion, but I'm still ecstatic about it, especially the way in which we turned the game around with a slightly ugly but altogether dominating second-half performance. And, once again, it was the Welsh Wizard that made the difference. He scores when he wants, you know...

Just one of a million great perspectives of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge (taken from the rooftop of my hosts apartment building)
Anyhow, I was in the city of San Francisco for this fixture, the penultimate game in the North American leg of my itinerary. I've been to many amazing cities in the U.S over the past ten weeks, but San Francisco has to be, along with New York (which I've been to many times before) the most iconic. For once I was in tourist-mode, trying to do as many thing as possible in the two days I was there. I got to walk around Alcatraz, I had Dim Sum in Chinatown, I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and I got to ride the infamous cable car (one of only two US National Historic Landmarks that moves, the other being the New Orleans streetcar which I've also used). It was full of 'when in Rome' moments but I enjoyed every minute in SFO and will definitely be heading back.

Bay Area Gooners. These guys sing better than most. It must be a coastal thing.
We were watching the Arsenal game at Maggie McGarry's pub. As you can see below, the members of the Bay Area Gooners supporters club exploded into life as we saw Aaron Ramsey silenced the crown at the WestfalenStadion. It was a moment to remember, like many others this season.

I'm almost at the end of my trip in North America, the last stop will be Los Angeles, or to be precise Santa Ana in Orange County, which technically isn't actually Los Angeles, but for most of the people reading this who are oblivious to Californian geography (and for arguments' sake), it's LA! We play the filth from Old Trafford. I can't wait.


Meet the Gooner Family [Blake & Paul, San Francisco]

Meet Blake and Paul, two Gooners living in San Francisco, and my hosts in California!

Blake Kraft and Paul Sanchez
Q. Why Arsenal?
Blake: Victory Through Harmony. This is more than a football club. The way they do business, the management, the brand, the style of play, their youth development, the type of players they sign, Arsene Wenger… it’s all class.

Paul: Obviously I love the style of football we play, but choosing a club that had values I agreed with was a major factor in my decision. I wanted to support a club with rich history, but also one that didn't "sell its soul" in the name of success. I also fell in love with Arsene Wenger when I read his biography; he's done so much for the sport and Arsenal.

Q. Started Supporting Arsenal?
Blake: I started supporting Arsenal during the 2003-2004 season. I loved watching Henry during the World Cups so it was a natural choice even though my childhood team wore Barcelona uniforms. I stopped playing in the middle of high school and then began watching every game and religiously supporting.

Paul: After the 2006 World Cup, I was enthralled by football, I think partly because I enjoy learning about sports and how they transcend culture in peoples' everyday lives. My best friend Blake (who I still live with) was already a Gooner and he did the rest for me. I started watching during the 2006/2007 season and have been all in ever since.

Q. Favourite Player?
Blake: The legend. Thierry Henry.

Paul: Cesc Fabregas. When I started watching Arsenal, his position was the most interesting to me, and I thought he played it beautifully. I am not bitter that he went back to Barca, and I really think he'll be back at Arsenal in some capacity when he is in his 30's. He knows what it means to breathe Arsenal.

Q. Favourite current Player?
Blake: Wilshere. We raised him. He is 100% Arsenal and I love his grit. He’s like a jack russell terrier out there.

Paul: Aaron Ramsey. It has been so much fun watching his development since we signed him & Jack as teenagers. He has an incredible engine, and always wants the ball. I'm happy to say that I didn't give up on him when he went through his rough patch coming back from injury, and to see his confidence skyrocket is just an absolute joy. I think it's a testament to Wenger and his decision-making.

Q. Favourite Arsenal moment?
Blake: Arshavins’s Champions League goal and win against Barcelona or Henry’s header in the 94th minute against United.

Paul: That's a very tough question, but I'm going to say the victory last season at the Allianz against Bayern. I know we didn't make it through the knockout, but I believe that victory was the catalyst for our amazing run of form, and put us in the position we are in now. The boys proved they could win ugly against the toughest opposition in hostile territory, which was always questioned before that match.

Q. Where do you watch Arsenal in San Francisco?
Blake: I watch Arsenal at Maggie McGarry’s with the Bay Area Gooners.

Paul: I try to make it to Maggie McGarry's every weekend, because it's the closest thing I can get to the experiences I had while living in London. I love watching the matches with other supporters who can relate with how much the club means on a personal level to them.

Q. Emirates or Highbury?
Blake: I’ve never been to Highbury, so I guess The Emirates. I wish I could’ve seen a match at Highbury.

Paul: I have to say Emirates simply because that's where I saw my first match, the North London Derby. It is also symbolic of the club transitioning into a new generation of football, and it shows our ambition.

Q. League Prediction?
Blake: I think we’ll nick it. We’re first in the league at the moment but it’s a long season. If we keep on this run and get a couple players fit I don’t see why not!

Paul: I don't see why we can't win the league this season! I love that we keep proving the pundits wrong, and this squad is more resilient than ever--the chemistry is unprecedented.

Q. Who will be Arsenal's player to watch this season?
Blake: Ozil! He’s the world-class player we’ve been missing. His impact on the pitch and with the fans has been invaluable. You can’t dispute the results since he’s been brought in. 

Paul: I have to say the Mertesacker - Koscielny partnership (even though that's two players). It has to be one of the most underrated CB pairings in the world, and I love how they work for each other. We've had some impressive clean sheets against quality sides this year, which I think in large part is due to that partnership improving so drastically...and Flamini.