For 90 minutes Saturday night, Toyota Park sounded just like Soldier Field used to when Mia Hamm and her U.S. soccer teammates came to visit.
A sellout of 19,522 welcomed a new generation of women's soccer heroines to Chicago as part of a fan tribute tour to celebrate their gold medal at the London Olympics this summer. The Americans didn't disappoint despite a 1-1 draw against Germany, offering a game that saw plenty of scoring chances for both sides.
"The No. 1 team in the world vs. the No. 2-ranked team in the world," goalkeeper Hope Solo said. "Kind of what you expect. A good, hard-fought game, lots of attack. Germany came at us the second half, attack after attack after attack. That's what you expect from a team like that. They're at the peak of their game right now. They're in the middle of Euros. They're training nonstop."
The Americans, who aren't in training now, struck quickly, Alex Morgan sliding a pass across the goal toward the right post where Abby Wambach slid into it and knocked it into the German goal.
The Germans answered in the 14th minute when Simone Laudehr sprung Anja Mittag behind the U.S. defense, and Mittag lofted a shot over Solo and into the net.
The game opened up even more in the second half, but neither side could find the net.
"It was fantastic," said interim coach Jill Ellis, in charge after Pia Sundhage's departure. "You could tell they lost their legs a little bit toward the end, and that was to be expected, but in the first 10 minutes of the game, I thought we did pretty well. These players are so professional they never really get out of shape."
Their fans responded just like Hamm's would. Shrieks of anticipation from the many youth soccer players in attendance announced the Americans' presence any time they looked on the verge of attacking the German net.
"You can't beat a sold-out crowd," Morgan said as her teammates signed autographs for fans after the match.
The key will be whether this group can do what Hamm's generation couldn't: sustain this momentum and build on it to the point where a professional league can finally find its footing.
"Of course it feels great, but this is where women's soccer should be," Solo said. "It is the No. 1 sport in the world, and there's longevity in it. It's here to stay. You see it from city to city across the United States."