Sometimes people can be too smart for their own good.
On paper, the United States taking on Ecuador is exactly what it looks like; a meaningless friendly in the middle of an experimental time that will hold absolutely no weight on the American National teams World Cup hopes. Fine. I get it. It’s also on a Tuesday. Alright. Sure. That can be a deterrent for anyone willing to brave a trip to Harrison. And what’s this? American poster boy Landon Donovan won’t be a part of the confrontation? Well, there goes the little star power the U.S. has I suppose.
What I don’t seem to understand, however, is how any of that is relevant to attending this Tuesday’s U.S. match against Ecuador. Early projections have roughly 12,000 tickets being sold to the first ever United States Men’s National Team match at Red Bull Arena. 12,000!
After pleading for a game to be played in our own backyard, this is the type of support the National Team will get at the, ahem, “Cathedral” of American Soccer? What I see isn’t just a meaningless game against a less than attractive opponent; I see an opportunity to send a message. As of right now, the Cathedral will actually live up it’s name, but not in the way New Yorkers would like; it’s going to be cavernous, it’s going to be quiet and it may actually put the players – and a Nationally televised audience – to sleep.
The good news is, it isn’t too late to turn the ship around.
You may have heard this one before; in order for American Soccer to take off in this country, Los Angeles and New York have to be the hot bed for soccer’s growth. It’s what drives the USSF to frequent New York and, quite frankly, what pushes me to put up a site like ‘Empire of Soccer.’
Over the past five years, the United States Men’s National team has held at least one match at the Home Depot Center per year (13 total since it’s inception). Though they have surely had their share of clunkers attendance wise (see Denmark 2008 with an attendance of 10,048, and Sweden 2009 at a generous 9,918), the Galaxy’s home pitch has proven a great atmosphere when given the opportunity to showcase, earning them the right to host a National team match at a frequency unmatched by any other Major League Soccer venue.
Much like New York, there are larger money making Arena’s nearby that will certainly take the bigger name opposition for showcase (The Rose Bowl and Spartan Stadium come to mind). The Tri-State area has been spoiled by some big name matches taking place at
Giants New Meadowlands MetLife Stadium as well, including games against Argentina, Spain and Brazil, respectively. Tens of thousands have made their way to the matches to take in some of the biggest names in soccer today, but amongst the faithful, there has always been a loud, boisterous and supportive cast of fanatics that fought back against the rubberneckers to make sure the United States had the support they needed and deserved.
Where are they now?
As Empire writer Mike Vallo pointed out in his SFS column last month, the U.S. hasn’t held any games of importance in the New York area during the same time frame as the HDC’s existence. CONCACAF’s small fish couldn’t sell the seats necessary for a proper footballing atmosphere in a 75,000 seat Arena.
That is, until now. A jewel of an Arena sits on the banks of the Passaic, ready for the passionate and knowledgeable soccer fans of the area to partake in the excitement only a National game can deliver.
I view Tuesday’s match as a rare opportunity to make Red Bull Arena a fixture to the U.S. National Team schedule, much like the HDC is on the West Coast. And don’t take this chance for granted; it may not come back for a long time. Don’t believe me? Just ask Philadelphia, whom at the tail end of an exciting inaugural season for their Union residence, failed to make the USMNT their own when they drew a meager and laughable 8,823 to a match against Columbia at scenic PPL Park.
Though the soccer loving audience here is savvy enough to understand the measure of a meaningless friendly, they should also understand the opportunity at hand and the message it could send to the USSF if this game had the attendance – and atmosphere – to make for a proper international stage. This is a chance to show American Soccer that the area is ready, and able, to be a big market draw with a big market feel, even if it is against an opponent that doesn’t have the juice of an Argentina or Brazil.
Don’t let this opportunity pass you by; support the United States this Tuesday and I guarantee you that bigger games will be right around the corner.
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