It mattered not whether you were wearing green or not Wednesday night. It only mattered if you were there to soak it all in at Qwest Field.
You could be backing China or a neutral bystander, but you could not help but get goosebumps when the Mexico supporters hit their high notes.
They adore their team, it is clear. On a brisk spring night the predominantly green-clad fans provided all the necessary warmth. Qwest came alive as the two teams marched to the midfield stripe. Soon after came the chorus of thousands for the national anthem and, by half-past-8, the crescendo arrived when 19-year-old phenom Cesar Villaluz found the Chinese net.
It was an awesome scene and perhaps just an opening act.
Reports in both The Seattle Times and Post-Intelligencer indicate that more international soccer is destined for Seattle, and soon.
Officials for Seattle Sounders FC have not confirmed any teams or dates. Yet.
“Within the next few weeks, we hope to be able to make an announcement on another major game,” says Gary Wright, senior vice president. “It’s part of our overall plan.”
“We would always like to bring in major international teams. Whether it’s national teams or club teams, we want to be able to showcase the best soccer has to offer,” adds Wright. “That raises our bar, for Seattle Sounders FC to compete on a world stage ourselves.”
The crowd of 56,416 surpassed organizers’ expectations, and it was the largest in Seattle to see international teams meet, far-surpassing the 43,651 for the 1994 Kingdome exhibition between the USA and Russia.
Update from Down Below
It’s proven to be a productive first week for Adrian Hanauer and Chris Henderson in South America. They are watching more than one match per day and seeing tons of talented players, yet they are not alone in their star search.
“This market is being heavily mined and the prices reflect that,” says Hanauer, the Sounders FC general manager. “It’s rare that you’re going to find a superstar that’s been unseen and undiscovered. There are just too many people watching too many games down here to sneak away with a Lionel Messi. You might find him, but he’s going to cost you 10 million Euros.”
There have been days when Hanauer and Henderson shuttle between Buenos Aires and Montevideo to see first division and Copa Libertadores matches played before big crowds in Argentina and Uruguay. There are also afternoons and evenings spent scanning non-descript fields for hidden treasures at reserve team and third division matches and free agent tryouts.
“In those cases, we might find players who fit the MLS salary structure,” says Hanauer, adding that it’s possible that a young prospect may be brought in for a trial with the USL Sounders later this spring.
The Copa Libertadores–South America’s equivalent of Europe’s Champions League–has literally brought teams from throughout the continent to the doorstep of the Sounders FC brass. “We’re staying in a hotel with multiple teams coming and going, from Paraguay, Ecuador and Venezuela,” notes Hanauer.
Crowd violence in Argentina has made headlines recently, but Hanauer says they have witnessed only well-behaved and “spine-tingling passionate” fans. Still, he and Henderson and virtually everyone else was barred from attending last Sunday’s River Plate-Tigre game. River was barred from admitting anyone who was not already a club member following crowd incidents at its previous home game.
As for the Sounders’ final season in USL Division 1, it begins Saturday in Charleston. The Battery settled for a draw in their opener while Seattle blanked Washington 5-0 behind Sebastien LeToux’s two goals to wrap-up the preseason.
The Sounders’ first three outings are on the road and fans can see every USL game live or on demand online for a reasonable fee. Go to USLlive.com for details.
Seattle’s home opener is May 10 against Portland at Qwest Field, with the balance of the home schedule being played at the Starfire Sports Complex.
Turn On, Tune In
Take a friend to lunch again next week. In fact, take two.
The Champions League semifinals are on ESPN2 (11:45 each day), with Chelsea hosting Liverpool on Tuesday and Manchester United visiting Barcelona on Wednesday in the first legs.
Anyone betting on Dortmund in Saturday’s German cup final against Bayern Munich must be getting unbelievable odds or at least four goals.
Bayern pounded Dortmund a week ago by a 5-0 count. The two teams meet again Saturday (GolTV, 11 a.m.).
If Brad Friedel and Blackburn can somehow hold Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. scoreless Saturday (Fox Soccer Channel, 9 a.m.), it would set-up a compelling Man United-Chelsea match the following week at Stamford Bridge. As it is, United enters the weekend with a two-point lead in the Premiership and a game in hand on the Blues.
In MLS, the surprisingly unbeaten Colorado Rapids can move to 4-0 if they beat winless San Jose Saturday night (FSC, 6:30).
There must have been some budding aeronautical engineers among the throng at Wednesday’s game because some more than a few paper airplanes landed near the center circle. It brought to mind the days of the Kingdome and the Museum of Flight’s paper airplane contest in the mid-80s…Mr. Woo, the halftime act Wednesday, will reprise his world-renowned juggling skills at SoccerPalooza, Apr. 26 at the Tacoma Convention Center…Brazil, the runner-up in both the women’s World Cup and in Athens in 2004, must defeat Ghana on Saturday to grab the final slot in the Olympic tournament. That game and Sunday’s draw for both the men’s and women’s finals will be held in Beijing…Kasey Keller and Fulham’s fight to avoid relegation may catch a break Saturday as Liverpool is reportedly to rest some starters in advance of the Champions League date…From among over a hundred applicants, U.S. Soccer has added 12 new clubs to its Development Academy system. Among the additions were three youth teams from MLS: FC Dallas, Los Angeles Galaxy and New England Revolution.