The New York Jets have World Cup fever.
The NFL team is dotted with soccer fans and World Cup fans who are eagerly talking about tomorrow’s kickoff for the tournament. Defensive end Vernon Gholston doesn’t necessarily consider himself to be a soccer fan, but he was at Red Bull Arena two weeks ago for New York’s 2-1 win over Houston, where a stoppage time freekick goal by Juan Pablo Angel was the difference between the two teams.
“It was a good game. The ending was really good. The fans were really into it,” Gholston told MLSsoccer.com.
Gholston said that he really liked his experience at Red Bull Arena. Sitting next to him in the Jets’ locker room at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center is Lance Laury, a free agent signing who was with Seattle last year. The former Seahawks’ linebacker said he saw first hand how Seattle shut down for international soccer matches over the past year and he was impressed with the passion that fans have the sport.
“I’ve never seen anything like that, the way the fans came out, it was crazy,” Laury said.
Laury said he enjoys watching the World Cup and seeing the best players in the world in action. He played soccer growing up, but one thing held him back from pursuing a career in fútbol and opting for one in football, American-style.
“It was too much running,” Laury said with a laugh.
The linebacker thinks the United States can do well in the tournament, but he expressed some concerns that the national side seems to choke in big moments.
Tight end Dustin Keller is looking forward to Saturday’s match between England and the US and said he’s rooting for the Red, White and Blue to pull out a victory. Like Laury, Keller played some soccer growing up and said he can’t wait for the World Cup.
“It’s the best of the best and how can you not want to watch something like that? I always like watching the best play anything,” Keller said, equating the sporting event to the Olympics.
When told that Kobe Bryant grew up playing soccer and has admitted to wanting to be a professional soccer player, Keller didn’t think that a young Kobe would be a good fit in soccer, even if his height would make him a good target on set pieces.
“I don’t know, man. Kobe back then had a big afro,” Keller said, “and big afros aren’t good for headers.”
Rookie linebacker Cory Reamer said that in preparation for Saturday’s game, he has done some reading on the last time the US played England in the World Cup, which was in 1950. He’s researched the star of that game, Joe Gaetjens, and is fascinated with his life. He’ll be tuning in Saturday afternoon to see if the Yanks can shock the world and beat England again.
“It’s amazing how you have players like Cristiano Ronaldo who make millions and then come together to play for their country,” Reamer said, adding that he hopes the US make it far in the tournament.
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.