Last night I went to Citi Field in Queens, the shiny new stadium where the New York Mets usually play. Only I didn’t see the Mets. I saw a Mexican soccer team, Club America, play an Italian soccer team, Juventus, in the outfield of the baseball diamond.
I went because I thought it would be interesting to see a soccer game at a baseball stadium. If the two teams had played at Giants Stadium or Red Bull Arena, I probably wouldn’t have cared as much. There was something about watching a sport outside of its natural habitat—where it doesn’t really belong—that appealed to me. (Seems like that appeals to a lot of other people, too. From Philly to Texas to San Diego, sports played in unconventional spots are popping up everywhere lately.)
There were about 20,000 people at the game, one leg of the Herbalife World Football Challenge that also features such famous clubs as Manchester United and Barcelona. My friend Steve and I started on the fourth level, behind home plate, but we were a hell of a long way from the action, so after 30 minutes, we moved to left field. Ironically, because of the configuration, the left field bleachers were pretty much the best seats in the house. They were the 50-yard-line, to bring in yet another sport.
But that wasn’t the only confusing, topsy-turvy thing about the night. A few other quirks:
>> Next to a big digitized soccer ball, the scoreboard high above left field listed all the out-of-town baseball scores. Not usually a big priority at soccer games.
>> The big apple in centerfield—famous for rising up after a home run—lay in wait as always. Chilling. Steve asked: “If someone scores a goal, will the apple go up? That would be sweet.”
>> When errant shots flew into the crowd, fans couldn’t keep the ball like at baseball games. Or at least they assumed they couldn’t, because they always threw it back.
>> There was a rain delay, which is very rare for a soccer game, but rather common for a baseball game. It was almost as if the soccer game was taking on the properties of the ballpark it was in. (And so much for a soccer game being over in two hours.)
Eventually the rain delay ended, and the game resumed. A few minutes before half, Juventus scored. Club America goalkeeper Armando Navarrete botched his clearance of a cross, and the ball bounced right to young forward Cristian Pasquato, who volleyed a wonder strike into the upper corner, past two defenders and the goalie. It was a great goal, essentially a perfect shot. The apple did not rise up.