Last Sunday, June 28, 2015, marks a remarkable day for soccer in the USA. The only two games played on this day – one on the Atlantic Coast and the other on the Pacific Coast – reflect the heights of popularity the game has achieved from coast to coast, from New York to Portland. It is further evidence of soccer’s rapidly growing staying power.
Here on the Atlantic Coast, on this Sunday, soccer’s popularity was in full bloom as 48,047 fans sold out New York’s Yankee Stadium and witnessed the New York Red Bulls rally from a 1-0 halftime deficit to defeat local rival New York City FC (4-5-8, 17 pts.), 3-1, in the second edition of the ‘Hudson River’ derby. The Red Bulls (6-5-5, 23 pts.), which makes its home across the Hudson River in Harrison (NJ), has now won the first two of the three scheduled derbies between the teams and now owns area bragging rights.
Ignoring the field markings, the rest of Yankee Stadium resembled a typical New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox American League East baseball rivalry. The entire stadium was opened and filled to the rafters; the third tier of the four-tier stadium was a sea of Red Bulls Red, resembling a traveling contingent of Red Sox Red; the chants from each team’s fans were deafening; and people were at ticket windows still buying tickets 35 minutes into the game. To be able to compare soccer’s popularity to that of America’s favorite pastime, if even for one Sunday, speaks volumes.
In what was an eclectic atmosphere at Yankee Stadium Sunday, with deafening sounds amid omnipresent colors of Red Bull Red on one level and NYCFC Powder Blue on another, the players fed off this and produced a very competitive game, worthy of its derby billing.
When NYCFC’s good first half play led to Thomas McNamara’s wonderful volley from Andrew Jacobson’s assist in the sixth minute, and the 1-0 halftime lead, it seemed as though the series would be squared at a game apiece, since the Red Bulls won the first contest at home, 2-1, but Bradley Wright-Phillips had other ideas as the second half got under way.
Two minutes into the second period, Wright-Phillips was left alone in the goal area and volleyed a hard shot into the upper left corner of the net for the equalizer; the Red Bulls never looked back as poor marking continued to plague the hosts, and in the 52nd minute, right full back Chris Duvall had an easy tap in on the right side for a 2-1 margin. Defender Matt Miazga then jumped over an NYCFC defender in the 73rd minute to complete the rout.
Red Bulls midfielder Dax Mc Carty commented on the game: “Tonight’s a good feeling. Unbelievable atmosphere, credit to the NYCFC fans and obviously our fans for making it very enjoyable…. then the second half we knew we were going to come out, we just needed an early one and what a finish from Brad, so it was a great second half, some of the best stuff we’ve played all season…great performance in the second half and I’m just glad we got a win for our fans.”
NYFC announced that former England international Frank Lampard will make his MLS versus Toronto FC on July 12; and speculation continues about Italian international Andre Pirlo’s signing with the club. Both Lampard and Pirlo were at the stadium for Sunday’s derby.
Meanwhile out on the Pacific Coast, the derby between host Portland Timbers (8-6-4, 30 pts.) and the Seattle Sounders was in high gear as another approximate crowd of 50,000 fans swarmed the stadium and saw Fanendo Adi’s two-goal performance help the Timbers defeat the Sounders, 4-1. Out there, the Timbers Army, veiled in Green and White, was in battle gear. Chainsaw-cutting Timber Joe had a busy day, as he had to cut four slabs of timber, one for each Timbers goal scored, the ritual at Timbers home games. The fans and players love the gimmick, which includes having the Timbers goal scorers lift a slab after the game as if lifting a winning trophy.
The home team dominated play from the outset, which led to midfielder Darlington Nagbe’s opening goal in the 12th minute, when he received a pass from Diego Valeri and hit a 25-yard shot that landed inside the left goalpost. Lamar Neagle tied the game for Seattle (9-7-2, 34 pts.) in the 38th minute, but Nagbe and Adi connected twice to beat Sounders goalkeepers Stefan Frei, in the 74th and 76th minutes, as Adi had his eighth goal of the season and his seventh multi-goal performance for the Timbers. Jamaican midfielder Rodney Wallace completed the scoring for the Timbers when he got a pass from Maximiliano Urruti, took a first soft touch and placed the ball into the upper left corner of the goal.
In other MLS scores, Toronto FC and Eastern Conference leader DC United played to a goalless draw; Philadelphia Union and Montreal Impact played to a 2-2 draw and so did Real Salt Lake versus Columbus Crew; Vancouver Whitecaps beat host New England Revolution, 2-1; Sporting Kansas City knocked off Colorado Rapids, 2-0; San Jose Earthquakes beat Los Angles Galaxy, 3-1; and FC Dallas topped Houston Dynamo, 2-0.
In the New York Caribbean Cup tournament played last Sunday at Jefferson High School Sports Complex in Flatlands, Brooklyn, Team Trinidad and Tobago trampled Team Antigua/Barbuda, 11-0; Jamal Samaroo (4), Kristoff John (3) and Tarik Beckle (2) scored for the winners. Team St. Kitts & Nevis beat Team Haiti, 2-0, on goals from Orlando Mitchumand and Alister Warner, and Team St. Vincent & the Grenadines tied Team Panama, 1-1; Ricardo Clarke scored for St. Vincent and Jaime Bennettfor for Panama. On Sunday, Team Guyana takes on Team St. Kitts & Nevis and Team St. Vincent & the Grenadines meets Team St. Lucia. Games begin at 3:00 PM.
Women’s World Cup
At the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, the USA beat Germany, 2-0, in Tuesday’s semifinals and will play the winner of the Japan-England matchup in Sunday’s final.