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Nash/Reyna charity game: A Look Back


Standing in the middle of an energized crowd, Jozy Altidore rattled off autographs and posed for picture after picture. Even after most of the other stars who played in the Steve Nash/Claudio Reyna charity match in Manhattan’s Chinatown, Altidore stood on the turf at Nike Field and signed and posed for fans eager to meet American soccer’s most exciting young star.

I stood just a few feet away from Altidore, watching the display when three young kids (somewhere between nine and 12) ran up to the group. One kid says, "I think he’s a player. Is that Solomon Kalou?" I leaned over to the boys and said, "That’s not Kalou, that’s Jozy Altidore." One of the boys followed with, "Is he a player?"

After eventually giving the youngsters a quick rundown on who Altidore was, they ran off to get his autograph. I turned to ESPN colleague Doug McIntyre, who could barely contain his grin. Yes folks, this is soccer in America.

Yes, there were hundreds, probably a few thousand, of fans lining the fences at the charity game in Chinatown on Wednesday, but they weren’t all soccer fans. Most fell into three groups: soccer fans hoping to see some good action and catch a glimpse of a soccer star, basketball fans hoping to see an NBA player and curious New Yorkers hoping to see something, anything entertaining and possibly see a celebrity or two.

What all those fans got was a funny, sometimes skillful and entertaining show that was a credit to the sport. Here’s a look back at some of the more memorable moments:

Thierry Henry was the star of the show. He did ball tricks, scored goals and showed the charisma that has made him such an international star. I have already gone on record a few times saying that I see him joining the Red Bulls eventually and I’m sticking to it. Summer of 2009. Book it.

Baron Davis gets the award for most entertaining player. He clearly hasn’t played much soccer in his life but he’s funny as can be and was still athletic enough to score a goal and strip Henry clean in a one-on-one situation. His Reverse Hand of God play (Davis punched away a goal-bound chip shot from Henry) was one of the funnier moments of the day, as was the scene of Davis shoving Robbie Fowler to the ground and laying on him for the pin.

Steve Nash can play. He hit some great shots, including the game-ending volley goal off a long-range pass, and while I’m not ready to say he could play in MLS, I do think he could have been pushing Dwayne DeRosario and Julian DeGuzman for national team time with Canada had he stuck with soccer.

Robbie Fowler showed off some of his trademark finishing and I have to say he wouldn’t be a bad pick-up for the Red Bulls. He absolultely blistered some shots and his finish off a Steve McNanaman pass had to bring a smile to the faces of many a Liverpool fan in attendance. It was still a bit sad to see the autograph seekers who horded the field after basically ignore him.

Leandro Barbosa is a beast and you can tell he knows the game (I know, he’s Brazilian, they all know the game right?). With his size and speed, if he had stuck to soccer I think he’d probably be a $50 million center back and definitely an upgrade on the national team from Juan.

Salomon Kalou showed off some nice speed and ball control, but as is the case with Chelsea, his finishing leaves a bit to be desired.

Jozy Altidore played but didn’t get too involved after the first 20 minutes. He had a nice assist on Baron Davis’ goal and he and Claudio Reyna tried to combine on several occasions. Watching him sign autographs long after most other players had left was impressive. He is in Jersey getting some rest before going to Spain next month. I asked him about playing in the Olympics and he said there would be a meeting to discuss it next week, but that he didn’t think there would be a problem. He definitely wants to play, which tells me he will.

Claudio Reyna delivered some of his trademark sharp passes and had a handful of shots in the first half. Seeing him connect with former U.S. national team and high school teammate Gregg Berhalter was memorable. I know some Red Bulls fans will call me crazy but if he can get past his current injury I still think he can help the team. That’s a big if though and at this point I wouldn’t be at all shocked if he  retired very soon.

I had a chance to catch up with Gregg Berhalter after the game. It sounds like he will consider a move to MLS for 2009 depending on how things go with 1860 Munich next season. he’s 1860s captain and is eager to help the team gain promotion, but after talking to him about a potential return to the USA for the past six years he sounds more open to the idea than ever before.

Kudos to the goalkeepers for taking so much abuse. Red Bulls’ employee (and occasional reserve team player) Mike Quarino made some great saves and has already been called by D.C. United for a tryout (Okay, I made that last part up.)

For those of you wondering where I was, I sat behind the south goal (literally behind it). It was a great view to watch the game and I only wish I had my laptop with me to provide a more thorough live commentary (yes, my laptop is still on the DL, but my Glyde phone did okay in its place). I sat a few feet from NBA all-star Caron Butler, who was relatively anonymous to the people in attendance because he wasn’t wearing any elaborate jewelry and spent most of his time shooting video and taking pictures (probably to blackmail Baron Davis with). Robbie Fowler and Salomon Kalou both almost caught me in the head with shots but my cat-like quickness prevailed.

Overall it was a good event for a good cause and it’s the type of event there needs to be more of to help soccer connect with the community. Can somebody get Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi on the phone?

Were you at the event? If so, feel free to share your favorite moments from the Steve Nash/Claudio Reyna charity soccer game.


  1. Re: “I know some Red Bulls fans will call me crazy but if he can get past his current injury I still think he can help the team.”

    Okay, you’re crazy.

  2. Ives did Joakim Noah play in the charity event? I heard read he was suppose to be there and I thought it would be really funny to watch him try and play soccer.

  3. I had a great time. Jozy signed my Altidore jersey. I was real happy about that.

    They should have played at Pier 40 or someplace with more room.

  4. actually

    fowler and mcmanaman DID have a huge crowd of people storm them a little after they entered the field. granted, most of the people wanting their pics/graphs were in liverpool red like me. there was a huge reds turnout. it wasn’t as sad as you made it out to be…not at all. and fowler exited the field pretty quick after the game. he was a bit drenched in sweat and wanted to get out quick it seemed.

  5. Big News! is registered to Mr. Shawn Francis who is one of the people who has the dp coming june 2008 logo on his blog. The dp thing is i’m sure

  6. RE: Reyna’s Participation from earlier…

    “For many Red Bulls fans, it was the ultimate insult and the last straw.”

    This piece, describing the event:

    “What all those fans got was a funny, sometimes skillful and entertaining show that was a credit to the sport.”

    If this was a credit to football but Reyna’s performance is “the last straw” for fans, then what does this say about RBNY???

  7. Nash’s last goal was absolutely sick. Not many non-professional footballers could pull off something like that. Barbosa was also very impressive considering he is huge. I heard english guy yell out to Mcmanaman that it looked like he needed a beer to which the maccer replied “I’ve had about six”.

  8. Curious Ives, how exactly were funds raised at this fund raiser? It doesn’t seem like there were tickets sold. Will there be video of the event for sale. Maybe an AND1 style soccer tour coming to playground around America.

  9. If I was there it would of been Fowler & Steve McNanaman I would have been most interested to meet or at least say thanks for all the years of great football.

    That is kind of sad but I guess they come to New York for the anonimity.

  10. Thanks, great piece. I could feel the fun from 1000 miles away.

    there are mashups in music all the time, now we have a cool sport mashup. There really is something to that “FIFA Street come to life” thing. I bet 100 kids went home after and played small side games and tried tricks. Put it on TV, or well done on the internet, and it could go viral.

    What was on their shirts??

  11. It was a magical pick-up game, really. Surreal experience. Felt very blessed to be there. The sport just keeps growing and growing… Took a few pics, haven’t posted them yet though.

  12. just a side comment about “eurosnobs”. i had several conversations with people who are following euro 2008…sports fans and not necessarily soccer fans. the problem with mls is the quality of play. people are watching the euro’s….if the quality goes up in mls, people will come. that requires money… takes time, and i know people have heard this before, but 10 years, and mls will be big in this country. probably not even that long if they let the owners spend.

  13. I know its a kickabout, but I have to say that Jozy’s one-touch-passing was impressive.

    A great and very fun event…

  14. ives, if you could post the full roster (or just a few more names that you havent mentioned) id appreciate it.

    cool to think of guys from my two favorite sports hooking up- when can we get the “return leg” with clint mathis running the point, or carlos tevez throwing an ally oop to peter crouch? 😉

  15. Ives,

    Last night was really nice. I saw you and i wanted to approach you but you where talking to some ESPN writers.

    I had a great time, i was the one that was hanging from the fence. (lol) But at the end got to talk to some soccer players. To be honest they surprise me. They where really humble. My way of seeing Reyna has change, he was really nice. He said he was trying to get back to the soccer field, soon.

    Altidore was another one that stayed late, a lot of people did not know him, but i think they got to know him soon after.

    It was just great, i felt like i was in a soccer city. If you guys couldn’t go, u guys missed a nice event. Something i had never experience in the United States.

    Eddie Z.

  16. Nice piece, but there is one obvious highlight for me– Jozy assuring you he really wants to play in the Olympics and doesn’t think it will be a problem. Thanks for giving us something to be optimistic about.

  17. Kidd delivered a great pass on one goal but otherwise I didn’t really notice him much. Same for Raja Bell, who I just didn’t see do all that much. And no, I don’t think David Lee played.

  18. Thanks for the great summary, Ives! I echo Larry Y’s sentiment that I’d like to hear about the rest of the non-soccer guys, especially JKidd.

  19. How about the other non-soccer athletes? Jason Kidd? No Raja Bell or David Lee? I know I’d have fun nutmegging a 6’9″ guy…

    Wonder many people knew Thierry Henry as the razor commercial guy?

  20. David W, I actually think those kids heard Kalou’s name during the game or saw it on piece of paper. They looked pretty clueless to all soccer to be honest.

  21. Ives,

    Now my hopes are up for Thierry Henri as NY Red Bull starting Summer of 2009!!!

    Why is Claudio playing in this event when he can’t even suit up for RBNY?

  22. As for the kids who knew Soloman Kalou but not Altidore, they are probably part of the many soccer fans in the NY area who go to international matches at Giants Stadium (and the Beckham game). It has been a constant challenge for the Red Bulls (and the Metros before that) to attract these fans.

    Do you think they are just Eurosnobs who will never follow American soccer, or is there something that could be done to make these kids (and others like them) MLS fans? Besides ditching the salary cap and having some teams go on Cosmo-esque spending sprees. Should we just give up on people who would rather watch the EPL at home than go out to a stadium and watch MLS?

  23. I was at the event. There was a couple of us in the corner wearing Red Bull Altidore jerseys. We got some pics with Jozy and JPA. Overall I liked the event, but I didn’t like the fact that they decided to play on that field, which was clearly too small to accommodate the huge public. They are lucky people didn’t fall off the fences like they could’ve.

  24. NY is very lucky that Nash has made it his off-season home. He might have been part of the national team if he had stuck with soccer, but right now I would love it if he made a cameo for our hoops team. He would give us a great chance of making it through our last hope Olympic qualifying.

    Funny that the kids are connected enough to know Kalou, but have never heard of Jozy.

  25. *IF* he can get past the *CURRENT* injury he might be able to help the team in .002 nanoseconds before the next injury occurs. This has been his pattern for years, and why I knew the current situation would be as it is …


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