Soccer is fast becoming as American as apple pie!
For the past three weeks Americans packed stadiums during a soccer invasion by some of the world’s great clubs. Dubbed the Guinness International Challenge Cup, the second-year tournament not only served as preseason prepping for the Europeans, but the international friendlies, played in the most storied stadiums here, served to further permeate the passion for the game among Americans.
The tournament created a host of talking points as two of England’s most storied clubs, Liverpool and Manchester City, battled to a 2-2 draw at New York’s storied Yankee Stadium, and as Greece’s Olympiacos beat famed Italian side AC Milan, 3-0, at Toronto’s BMO Filed; we saw Italian giants Inter Milan and Roma battle as Inter won, 2-0, at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL Eagles, then Roma beat Spain’s legendary Real Madrid, the current European champions, 1-0, at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
Sell-out crowds also came to Sun Life Stadium in Miami; Heinz Field in Pittsburgh; Soldier Field in Chicago; FedEx Field in Washington DC; California Memorial Stadium in Berkeley; and Denver’s Sports Authority Field. Such was the extent of this European invasion. It confirmed Europe’s acknowledgement of the USA as a fertile soccer market, which was already signaled during the recent World Cup in Brazil.
Finally, there was the biggest house party in America at the ‘Big House’!
Call it confirmation of a conquered people, or refer to it as the unforgettable house party, whatever the coined phrase, soccer’s popularity here was unforgettably punctuated by the largest crowd to attend a soccer game in the USA when 109,318 fans showed up to watch England’s Manchester United beat Real Madrid, 3-1, at Michigan ‘Big House’ Stadium in Ann Arbor last Saturday afternoon, August, 2. Never mind that man-of-the-match Ashley Young scored twice for United, and that Javier Hernandez tallied for the United Red Devils and Gareth Bale got the lone goal for Real Madrid – the biggest talking point of the summer was the record crowd. It possibly was the second largest crowd ever to watch a soccer game after 173,850 fans marched into Brazil’s Maracana Stadium to see Uruguay defeat Brazil, 1-0, in the 1950 World Cup final.
So, yes, the ‘Big House’ crowd in Michigan signaled that soccer is surely becoming as American as apple pie!
Manchester United went on to beat English Premier League rival Liverpool, 3-1, at Sunlight Stadium to win this second edition of the Guinness International Challenge Cup. United, after a disastrous 2013 campaign under first-year coach David Moyes, was undefeated in the tournament under new coach, Dutchman Louis van Gaal. The Red Devils rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit on goals by Wayne Rooney (55th min.), Juan Mata (57th) and Jesse Lingard (88th) for the win. Captain Steven Gerrard (14th) scored for Liverpool from the penalty spot. Real Madrid won the inaugural tournament last summer.
RED BULLS RALLY
The New York Red Bulls (6-6-10, 28 pts.), coming off yet another draw – it’s 10th of the season in a 1-1 stalemate at Real Salt Lake – rallied from a 1-0 deficit with 10 players to win 2-1 against the New England Revolution at Red Bull Arena last Saturday night in front of 20, 862 fans who braved foul weather.
After a ho-hum first half that saw the Red Bulls trail, 1-0, after a Revolution goal in the 20th minute by former U.S. international Charley Davies from a header off Teal Bunbury’s cross from the right wing, the locals played one of their best halves of the season with only 10 players.
New York moved the ball well and created numerous opportunities to score until the 47th minute when midfielder Dax McCarty took a short pass from Eric Alexander on the 20 yard line and chipped the ball over Revs goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth and into the upper left corner for the tying goal. The winner came in the 63rd minute when league-leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips received a pass in midfield and dribbled down the right wing, cut back inside and curled a left-footed shot just inside the left upright goalpost.
The rally was complete and Wright-Phillips scored his 18th MLS goal, 19th overall on the season. Wright-Phillips will get his next chance to extend his goal-scoring effort and tie Juan Pablo Angel’s record 19 goals in an MLS season, when the Red Bulls play at the Chicago Fire on Sunday night, Aug. 10, 8:00 p.m. in Toyota Park.
In other MLS games last weekend, Sigi Schmid still has to wait to become the first MLS coach to get 200 wins; Schmid’s Seattle Sounders disappointed him for the second straight game when the Western Conference leaders Sounders lost, 1-0, to bottom-of-the-table San Jose Earthquakes. The Earthquakes, playing at their new home, Levi Stadium, got the lone goal from Yannick Djalo, who out-ran a Sounder defender to latch onto a pass from U.S. international Chris Wondolowski for the only score. The Sounders lost its game before, 3-0, to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Portland Timbers are having a hard time duplicating their successful 2013 season as they sputtered to a 3-1 loss to host Los Angeles Galaxy. Irishman Robbie Keane scored twice and assisted once to lead the Galaxy and win the MLS player-of-the-week award. Gyasi Zardes opened the scoring for Los Angeles. Real Salt Lake knocked off host Colorado Rapids, 1-0, on a goal by Javier Morales, while teammate and goalkeeper Nick Rimando tied Kevin Hartman for the most shut-outs all-time with 112.
Toronto FC keeps racking up wins with its latest victory a 2-0 triumph over the Montreal Impact at Caputo Stadium in Montreal. Gilberto and Luke Moore scored a goal in each half for the win. Host Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew played to a 1-1 draw at Toyota Park; Mike Magee scored for the Fire from the penalty spot after a hand-ball call against the visitors, who tied the game just minutes into the second half on a goal by Higuain. The visiting Philadelphia Union scampered out of Kansas City with a point when newly-signed Brian Brown, on loan from Jamaica’s Harbor View FC, headed home a cross in the 71st minute to tie Sporting Kansas City, 1-1, after the host took the lead in the 54th minute through a tally by U.S. international Graham Zusi.
In local Caribbean Cup play at Jefferson High School Sports Complex in Flatlands, Brooklyn, the under-19 girls from the Cambria Heights Panthers club, in a split squad game, drew 1-1; in a boys under-19 contest between the Brooklyn Soca Lions and Brooklyn United ended 1-1. The Caribbean Cup East All-Stars beat the West All-Stars, 4-1.