Monday, August 07, 2006

Largest crowd ever to watch a MLS match but pitch was horrible

Yesterday saw Chivas USA and the New England Revolution pound out a draw in front of the largest crowd ever in the league's history. The total count at the Los Angeles Coliseum was 92,650. Nice number, but like most big numbers in MLS, it was due to the second game on the bill which saw European champions FC Barcelona take on Mexican power Chivas de Guadalajara.

Still, it was not all bad news for MLS, as it looked like 50,000 of those fans arrived by the start of the MLS game. Those fans saw New England take the lead of a Taylor Twellman goal in the 16th minute. Pat Noonan set a ball into the box that was heading right to Clint Dempsey, who either missed or stepped over the ball (I could not tell on the web cast), but Twellman, who was unmarked, got a foot on it and slammed it into the netting.

Chivas came back in the 22nd minute and tied it up thanks to Jesse Marsch racing unmarked into the box and shooting a fireball of a shot off Sasha Kljestan's pass into goal.

Chivas had a few more chances, including a very good chance late, but they could not get the second goal. Thus ends the MLS match, now for the reason most of the packed house was there. Almost 100,000 fans going crazy and what do they get? A so-so game played on an uneven, faded and patched-up field. It was so bad that MLS Commissioner Don Garber was appalled.

"I'm furious about the field," Garber said. "It's an embarrassment to the city of Los Angeles. It's disrespectful to the teams we have brought here and to the progress the sport has made in this country.

"There are lots of places we could have brought this game. It's not a great day for the Los Angeles Coliseum."

The best part of the Coliseum experience? In the middle of the second half, two sprinklers turned on in Barcelona's goal area. What a way to make an impression.

The game ended 1-1 with Barcelona's Eidur Gudjohnsen getting a goal in the 74th that should have been offside and Diego Martinez heading in a great cross from Adolfo Bautista to tie it up in the 83rd.

Barcelona's coach Frank Rijkaard said of the pitch, "Obviously, the field wasn't in great condition, but that's what was available. Thankfully, we didn't suffer any injuries."

Guadalajara, forward Omar Bravo said, "I would have preferred to play in Toluca today."*

A very bad show by LA in this one.

Let's see if Houston can put out a better pitch this Wednesday when Barcelona will play Club América. Houston will play LA in the first part of the doubleheader. Tickets are still available.

* Chivas de Guadalajara played two games today. Half the team stayed in Mexico and played Toluca while the other half went to LA.

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