Eyder Peralta is a producer for NPR. His plan is to watch Saturday's U.S. vs. Ghana World Cup match with a U.S.A. jersey on.
It was a hot Saturday in Manhattan. A few friends had gathered to watch the U.S. play Algeria at a small bar near Times Square. I squeezed my way through the crowd and headed toward the back of the bar, when the French owner stopped me.
"Are you for America?" he asked with a gruff, drawling Napoleonic intonation. I didn't have time to chat -- so I shuffled along with a dismissive "yeah."
The World Cup, like no other sporting event I've watched, tests your national allegiance. I've lived in the United States since I was 5. My first language is Spanish; I was born in Nicaragua, but half my family lives in Honduras. My wife is Mexican-American and we have a baby girl that we're raising in Washington, D.C.
My paternal grandparents have never been granted a visa to visit the United States. They've never seen where I grew up, the place I've invested a life, a career and a family.
So, yeah -- who should I cheer for in South Africa? It's not like the Olympics where countries are represented by plenty of athletes who you may like or dislike based on things beyond nationality. Cheering for the U.S. World Cup squad is more than a nod to the striking power of Landon Donovan or the patient, selfless defense of Carlos Bocanegra. It's a tacit acknowledgment of national allegiance.
That's why that question -- Are you for America? -- has been bothering me since the tournament started.
But when I watched the U.S. play Algeria, my heart raced the entire game. It was a tight, beautiful match. The U.S. moved the ball with grace but missed so many scoring opportunities.
It was agonizing; heart-stopping to see a nil-nil score into injury time. And just as I had given up, we mounted one final counterattack. Altidore crossed to Dempsey who took the shot, but the ball bounced off the Algerian goalkeeper and seemingly out of nowhere Donovan flew into the area and netted it.
I think I screamed "goal."
I know for sure that I jumped out of my chair with thrill on my face. And it was at that moment -- when I was overcome with inexplicable relief that we had at least one more round in this thing -- that the answer to that uncomfortable question became clear:
Yes, I am for America.