A historic night in New York soccer also managed to be a revealing one.
From the ovation lauded upon John Terry upon his entrance to the match to the final scoreline, a 1-1 draw between Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain was highlighted by a heady and in-tune audience of 38,202 that proved to be every bit the story on this historic night.
Though only a friendly, there was plenty of drama and character surrounding the first ever soccer match at the new Yankee Stadium.
A Blues heavy crowd backed the Chelsea side like the match was being played in the backyard of West London. When Javier Pastore nailed the post and a rebound landed at the feat of Nene for the opening notch, the pro-Chelsea crowd deflated like a balloon.
However, upon the entrance of John Terry, the Chelsea great was given an overwhelming ovation – smattered with more than a few boo-birds who refused to turn a blind eye to the antics that landed him in the Westminster Magistrates’ Court. “It felt great,” Terry said as he scurried out of the stadium, giving a thumbs up to the waiting reporters.
Later, Chelsea managed an equalizer that pulled nearly the entire stadium to their feat. An on-rushing Ramires found 18-year-old Brazilian Lucas Piazon on a run in the box. A one time shot made it’s way past the keeper, sending the majority of the spectators into a tizzy.
“It seemed to be like a home game for us,” Chelsea boss Roberto De Matteo said. “We are grateful for our fans supporting us.”
Even when play slowed to a crawl, the reaction from those in attendance was telling. During one such stretch, there was a very unique, very New York response from those in attendance to the plodding pace of the match; they unleashed a piece of Americana and broke into “the wave.”
And speaking of an American reaction, as Chelsea pushed PSG into their own end in extra time, the final whistle drew a chorus of disappointed boos.
Clearly, New Yorkers are no fans of a draw.
All in all, it was a telling night for New York soccer. On a Sunday evening, 38,000 plus proved to be a loud, proud, and knowledgeable bunch, rising, falling and following the drama as if these teams played locally.
There was no Leo Messi on the pitch to draw in the casuals, nor a supermodel in Cristiano Ronaldo to lure the ladies. Chelsea was the lone proven draw of the night, and the crowd was more than happy with that. Even pregame videos on the big screens celebrating Didier Drogba’s achievements from last season drew huge cheers from those in attendance – fully knowing that he was no longer with the team.
The love of soccer in the United States – particularly New York proper – is so often dismissed. Even as Major League Soccer flourishes on the West Coast, it is often overshadowed by an East coast that always seems to trail behind.
On this night, an informed and passionate fan base showed just how much love the World’s capital has for the World’s game and gave a glimpse into why MLS is pushing so hard for that second New York proper franchise.
Is it a bit of a jump to suggest these same fans would support a local side? Absolutely. Nevertheless, the draw evidenced by last night’s crowd and similar record breaking soccer attendances throughout the area speaks to one simple fact; the potential is there, and that is undeniable.