Kathryn Lichaj ‘so proud’ of Nottingham Forest defender Eric, after winning the Gold Cup with USA

Standing inside her clothes shop on Forest Road in Annesley Woodhouse must seem a world away from watching her husband, the Nottingham Forest defender Eric Lichaj, help the United States win the Gold Cup in California.

Kathryn Lichaj is back doing her day job, having spent a month in America following Eric’s exploits with his country in the international tournament, which ended in a memorable triumph and one of the family’s proudest moments.

After missing out on Bruce Arena’s final squad for World Cup qualifying games earlier this year, Lichaj must have thought his chance to represent his country may have finally passed.

However, the 28-year-old was to take delivery of an important email, as his wife expalins.

Eric Lichaj celebrates scoring his first goal for the USA

“I was here at the shop and he rang me straightaway, saying we’re going to the Gold Cup, straightaway I thought I’m going,” she said.

“I’m Googling flights and looking at the plan of where they’re going to be. I went back and said I’ve looked at flights, it’s going to be this much – and me and the kids are coming with you.”

When you run a busy clothing business, and have two young children, jetting off to the States isn’t straightforward, and a great degree of planning went into the trip.

“We decided as a family to go out and watch Eric, and when it got to the knockout stages, not knowing if tomorrow you’d be flying home or flying to the next location made the game so much more exciting,” added Kathryn.

“With it being in the USA they felt like they had to win it, being on home turf.”

The trip was memorable in a variety of ways, but probably none more so than the 47th minute at the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia in a 2-0 quarter-final win over El Salvador.

Kathryn Lichaj pictured wearing her husband's winning USA shirt and Gold medal, pictured at her clothes shop Katwalk Kouture in Annesley
Kathryn Lichaj wearing her husband’s winning USA shirt and Gold Cup medal, pictured at her clothes shop Katwalk Kouture in Annesley

Lichaj picked up the ball from Clint Dempsey, glided into the box and shot hard and low to score his first ever international goal.

“We were in Philadelphia, it was very hot and very clammy – it was getting on for 10pm and the girls were getting a big agitated,” said Kathryn.

“I saw the goal and my brother had Ava, who was moaning a bit saying she was hot, and he had to watch it back to believe it was Eric.

“I was watching it, but it was like it wasn’t Eric because of the position where he was. I kept checking to see that I could see number 15 (Eric’s shirt number).

“When he scores at Forest, I’m usually the loudest one there and have 10 minutes of celebrating but I didn’t scream – I was absolutely stunned. My eyes filled up and I was shaking, I was just stunned.

“I love Eric, but I didn’t expect him to score. It took the half-time break to sink in that it was Eric, everyone has high-fiving and I was still not going crazy.

“When I spoke to him afterwards, he was shocked at my reaction. He thought I’d be jumping around like I usually am – I wasn’t.

“It’s every boy’s dream, scoring their first international goal – it didn’t sink in that night, he was acting too normal.

“I said to him, ‘do you understand that you’ve scored for the USA?’ – it took him a few nights for it to sink in and I said to him, ‘how lucky are we to see and do all of this?,’ then he went ‘I’ve scored for the USA. I play for the USA and I’ve scored’ – that’s when I think it had sunk in.”

Jordan Morris scores the USA's winner in the final
Jordan Morris scores the USA’s winner in the final

In the build-up to the final with Jamaica, the US players were given some time off to spend with their family, and defender Eric was in no doubt about the task ahead.

“We had an hour off before the final and I was in the pool with the kids, and I said to him ‘I’ve come all this way, spent all this money following you around, please, let me go home and say you’ve won’,” said Kathryn.

As it was, the US battled as favourites to beat the plucky Reggae Boyz.

“The stadium was buzzing,” she said. “The fans were integrated and having a dance off. Rather than shouting and swearing at each other, they were having dance-offs – the Jamaican’s know how to dance.”

“What an experience.

Eric Lichaj's winning Gold Cup shirt and medal
Eric Lichaj’s winning Gold Cup shirt and medal

“Even if they don’t win, I thought, I’ve got to experience this and may never again. It was wicked.”

After that goal in the quarter-final, Eric wasn’t selected again by coach Arena, having to settle for a place on the subs’ bench.

“I’m not going to be negative about anything. I thought, you started, you scored and you’re involved. He gets to put that shirt on, that winning shirt. It’s still as special,” said Kathryn.

“Everyone was ‘let’s just win it now’ and Eric wanted to take some silverware home and he did.

“The kids wanted to go on the pitch, and Ava said to the security guard that she wanted to go and see her daddy, so they let us on and Eric met us,” said Kathryn.

“We went and hugged him, I was squashing him – we all had pictures, his mum and dad went to have pictures with him.

“I was so proud.”

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