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U.S. v. Belgium: The Prelude

Cleveland hosts Belgium. An international match in industrial America

Patrick Guldan
Perched high in the stadium pressbox I can see there are sailboats to the west on Lake Erie. Late afternoon has drifted to early evening and the main event is about to unfold. The expanse of FirstEnergy Stadium covers from Lakeshore Drive to the Lake. Over 73,000 will fit in to see the beloved Browns, but about a third of that number are already starting to fill into their seats to take in the U.S. v Belgium.

The Americans are getting ready for the vital upcoming qualifiers, three of them, that will come fast and furious in June. This is a tuneup against a stacked Belgium side that has often been less than the sum of it's parts, but is coming together and leads their group. Manchester City man Vincent Kompany captains the side and the offense has a dizzying array of talent with Chelsea's Eden Hazard and Villa's Christian Benteke. They will try to sharpen up before heading back to Brussels to face Serbia next week.

This evening on the lake is a way station for the main acts that open next week. A football mad section of the industrial midwest will be focused on soccer, kids in Browns jerseys will root on Clint Dempsey, the result will be added to U.S. Soccer footnotes of history, and then it's gone.