Dodger Stadium Soccer Did Not Meet the Hype
Is that all there is? That repeated question in the Peggy Lee classic kept rolling in my head on Saturday as I sat in the loge section at Dodger Stadium.
It was the Guinness International Champions Cup. The doubleheader feature the semifinals of the tournament between Real Madrid and Everton and a consolation round (of sorts) between Juventus and the Galaxy. The other half of the draw — AC Milan, Inter Milan, Valencia CF and Chelsea played today at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
The first question was how the soccer pitch was going to fit on the field. One goal was placed right outside the Dodgers dugout while the other goal was out in front of the right field pavilion. As noted previously the Dodgers groundscrew jackhammered the pitcher's mound and laid down sod over the infield dirt and portions of the warning track in the outfield.
It wasn't pretty, but it couldn't be any worse than Cowboy Stadium filling in spaces between their sod with sand painted dark green. It also wasn't as bad as this one Chivas USA match I covered years ago. The X-Games had used the then-Home Depot Center for their moto-cross events. After the dirt was cleared, the field was re-sodded. By the time Chivas played on it, the strips hadn't had time to grow into each other. It actually resembled the parquet floor at the old Boston Garden.
So it wasn't pretty. I saw a couple of players slip on the sod over the infield dirt. It more or less work, but still, is that all there is?
I was expecting a mob scene at the Ravine for this. How often does one get the chance to watch Real Madrid, Everton and Juventus live and in person? Also how often does one get the chance to watch soccer at Dodger Stadium? The correct answers are not very often and never.
So I was expecting a complete sell-out of 56,000 or whatever constitutes a sell-out at the Ravine nowadays. I mean, surely everyone would flock around Cristiano Ronaldo, right? Hell, I damn near fainted when he was at the Ravine and threw out the first pitch on Wednesday.
But walking through the parking lot about two hours before the Real Madrid-Everton match was to start, it didn't feel like a sell-out. There were quite a bit of Real Madrid and Galaxy kits and scarves worn. Not quite so much Juventus, and you really had to squint to see the Everton blokes.
I kept waiting and waiting, but the turnout was far less than I expected. The pavilions were full as were the top deck even though they had the worst view of the pitch. As you can see, home plate seats were nearly deserted. But looking all around me in the loge section it was pretty empty.
Perhaps the tickets were cost prohibitive. Where I was sitting in section 158 of the loge level was $198 not including taxes, fees and all of that other nonsense. So I can only imagine how much it cost to sit in other areas of the park.
Perhaps it was the X-Games being hosted mere miles away at LA Live.
The official paid attendance was 40,681. Is that all there is?
As for the actual matches, again it left a lot to be desired. Despite the 2-1 final score, Real Madrid faced no real threat against Everton. Mesut Ozil assisted Ronaldo's goal in the 17th minute and the two switched roles for the 2-0 lead in the 31st minute.
Nikica Jelavic pulled Everton to within one with a no-look goal in the 61st minute, but Everton could not overcome Los Blancos speed.
The second match proved more entertaining as Galaxy and Juventus took a 1-1 tie into halftime with goals by Omar Gonzalez in the 36th minute and Alessandro Matri in the 39th minute.
Despite the changes Juventus after the half, Landon Donovan scored the winning goal in the 60th minute and Robbie Keane clinched the match taking advantage of a misplay by Juventus in the 89th minute.
The sides had their supporter groups in the stadium complete with flags, chants and drums, but with how big Dodger Stadium is they sometimes got muted out. The best attempt came as the "LA! Galaxy!" chants started up during the second match.
Everyone longs for that crazy soccer stadium environment, but from the looks of it the only place to be a part of that was in the pavilions. Is that all there is?
In the $200 loge area, there were some interesting array of characters. Directly in front of me was a guy who lives in Newport Beach. Both my happa radar and gaydar started ringing bells. But things weren't so clear. He brought his seven-year old daughter and what I could best tell was his girlfriend. That really had me confused. But he mentioned to me that he was from Seattle, so then it made sense.
A couple of rows in front of me to the right was this set of identical twins who looked like a shorter skinnier version of Chris Capuano. With their collars turned up, they could have been at home being receptacles of a water-vinegar mix. I so wanted to punch them both in their faces just because. Thankfully I know my manners and held back, but man did they irk me.
Then there was the guy pictured above with a nice elaborate tattoo on top of his head. That's dedication I can admire.
Since Guinness was the title sponsor, Guinness Black Lager was being sold throughout the stadium. It's much better than the usual Bud Light or Coors Light or whatever other kinds of watered down swill they usually serve at the Ravine, although those were certainly still available.
I guess it was silly of me to expect something more. Don't get me wrong. I was happy to be there and watch these two matches.
The 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship match drew 93,420 fans at the Rose Bowl. The Galaxy-FC Barcelona friendly in 2009 drew 93,137. Of course there was the 1994 FIFA World Cup and the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup that sold out.
It's clear soccer is alive here in Southern California. So this was just a disappointment. All three games of the Dodgers-Marlins series in May did better than this, and this was when both teams were shit.
So what can we expect when the Kings and the Ducks take over Dodger Stadium in January? I'm a bit worried now.