Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Real Salt Lake v San Jose Earthquakes - Major League Soccer match report

I didn't know Utah had a Major League Soccer Team until I picked up a fixture list in a shop. And then I found out Real Salt Lake (twinned with Real Madrid no less!) were playing tonight. Well, you have to go, don't you.

US soccer is quite different to British soccer. For one thing the atmosphere is nicer. There were several families with very small children. I was a bit worried there would be no chanting, but there was a small "ultra'' section and everyone booed the ref when necessary. And, of course, Americans know how to do sports. There was a 'pre-match carnival' on the Olympic plaza for an hour before the game. We got a free programme, and the catering was great. There were numerous concession options on the concourse - we settled on Pizza Hut - and not a dodgy meat pie in sight.

The game began with a 'team tunnel' greeting the players, composed of about 60 kids, in addition to the 22 mascots. Leo the Lion roared onto the pitch riding a quad-trike. (At half time he came on in the scoop of a digger!) We all stood to sing the national anthem. And then the game kicked off, about 5 minutes after it was due to start.

Being honest, both these teams would be eaten alive in the football league over here. Technically the game was very good. Slick passing on an astroturf pitch, good ball control, and good positional play. However, despite the good build up play, neither team seemed to have a cutting edge in the final third. Things seemed to go to pot in shooting range, which is why the game ended up 0-0.

To be fair though, Real did score a perfectly good goal, which was then disallowed. It's the first time I've ever seen a score go up on a scoreboard, then get taken off again. This prompted the crowd to heartily boo the officials and chant "You suck, ref!" A minute later Real hit the post, further adding to the sense of injustice, and they had a couple of chances when it seemed harder to miss than score, yet they managed to. San Jose were happy to hang on for a draw, having been a man down since just before half time, but for Real this was definitely 2 points dropped, rather than 1 point gained.

On the Trax back to our hotel, we got talking to two guys who were very interested in our opinion of the game, as Brits. When they found out we were from Wales, one of them said how he'd spent a year in Blackwood, and a year in Neath - I'm guessing on a Mormon mission trip. He even put on a class Valleys accent to prove it. I told him he must have done something really bad to have been sent to Blackwood...

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