When USA and Mexico squared off in a friendly at University of Phoenix Stadium about 16 months ago, the crowd was great and packed the place in a memorable display of soccer passion. When the New York Red Bulls and Chivas de Guadalajara met last night, the scene was slightly less memorable.
Okay, a lot less memorable.
The paltry crowd was treated to a forgettable game, though the Red Bulls gave their fans plenty to feel good about. Despite being short-handed, the Red Bulls thoroughly outplayed a top Mexican club (which to be fair, was also not in season and missing several key players). No matter. The Red Bulls can feel proud about their performance.
SBI West Coast correspondent Odeen Domingo was in the house on Wednesday night and gave us his take on the exhibition and the Red Bulls’ performance:
Major League Soccer in Phoenix .
That’s like heaven in hell.
It must only be the work of the devil, when the clouds are black and the sun is setting and it’s still over 105 degrees. But a reprieve — MLS is in Phoenix. If just for one, glorious night.
The heat is as unbearable as Max Bretos. But on this night, Phoenicians can take solace in watching professional soccer live – the New York Red Bulls vs. Chivas de Guadalajara at the big bedpan, er, University of Phoenix Stadium .
Doing so while drinking beer. We just didn’t know how much. For two buddies and I were about to join — for the first time — others who share our preference of seeing an MLS team in the Valley. We bought tickets to enjoy the match with the resident MLS in Phoenix supporter’s group, MLS Phoenix Rising.
Finally, to be a part of what makes soccer great. Fanatic fandom. To wave the flag of a team that doesn’t exist. To buy pints of beer with the lone objective is to spill them. To chant and sing and for 90 hell-raising minutes.
Our only problem was how to raise hell when hell is already waiting for you outside?
It need not matter. Everything will be better once we begin singing songs stolen from South America , the ones we don’t know the words to.
But then, we walked inside the monstrous stadium and reality hit.
The lower bowl wasn’t even half full. Much of the 15,000 or so in attendance were Chivas fans, which was predictable. What also should have been predictable was the size of the local MLS in Phoenix support group.
Sons of Ben it was not.
“Small” would be an overstatement. “Minute” would be a slap in the face.
The group couldn’t even fill three rows in the section it saved for the match.
There were no flags to wave. No pints to shower in. No chanting. No singing.
No big grins.
No offense to the eight people who were wearing yellow Phoenix Rising shirts or the other 10 who were there to round out the supporter’s group (and the two of whom who are reading this right now), but it falls much short of what is needed to convince the MLS that Phoenix deserves a team.
Which is why this city will never receive one. Well, not in the next decade, at least. It’s laughable to think the MLS was even considering a meeting with a potential Phoenix ownership group. (FYI, the meeting was canceled and has yet to be rescheduled.)
Heck, even the Chivas fans were lame. They tried starting a wave, which failed, and the lone chant heard that night was “Chivas!” clap-clap-clap-clap-clap “Chivas!”
It’s the Americanization of Chivas fans.
To be fair, this game wasn’t marketed the way it should have been, giving the public just a three-week notice instead of the needed three months.
But still, if you really want to follow the footsteps of the Sons of Ben, there should be nothing in the way to stop you.
The best moment and the longest time I actually stood was when the game was over, when I was the lone soul in the stands to recognize American soccer star, Reading F.C. goalkeeper and soul patch-extraordinaire Marcus Hahnemann.
I asked him if he could take a picture with me. He obliged. And then gave me the scoop.
Me: “What’s up Marcus? So when are you going to play for Seattle ?”
MH: “I have one more season at Reading then I’ll announce I agreed to a three-year contract with the Sounders. But don’t tell anyone.”
OK. I’m lying.
Hahnemann really said: “Maybe. Maybe. We’ll see. I have one more season at Reading .”
Phoenix Rising will also need more seasoning to become a factor in American soccer. To their credit, they tried. And if you live in the Valley, you should help them create something special. Check them out at: www.mlsphoenixrising.com.
It has to begin somewhere. To being creating flags. Chants. And those famous grins.
A few notes on the game:
— Both teams were short-handed. And it showed. Both teams seemed uninterested in a disturbing amount of stretches.
— Sinisa Ubiparipovic is no joke. His run into the box and jock-dropping move on a Chivas defender before the assist on the match’s lone goal was impressive. As was his play for much of the night.
— But I also like to stress the pass before the pass. Stammler’s pass to find Ubiparipovic was money.
— Oscar Echverry’s goal wasn’t even his highlight of the night. His footwork when on the ball was fun to watch.
— The Red Bulls had a hard time playing through the midfield in the second half and asked their fullbacks to boom the ball down the touchline to streaking forwards, a strategy that found some success.
— Not sure why Juan Carlos Osorio seems to put a lot of faith in Mike Magee. He didn’t do much besides sail balls into the stands.