Mexico v Uruguay

Copa America Centenario

Group C

Sunday 5th June 2016

Kick off 17.00 Actual 17.08

Mexico 3 Uruguay 1,  attendance 60,025

4′ 1-0 A. Pereira (OG)

74′ 1-1 D. Godin

85′ 2-1 R. Marquez

90′ + 2, 3-1 H. Herrera

@ University Phoenix Stadium

1, Cardinals Drive

Glendale, AZ 85305

Admission $60 + $12.65 fees, Print at home ticket.

A mid morning flight saw me arrive into Phoenix from Los Angeles. I needed a hire car today as I would not be doing an overnight stop, so apart from getting to and from the stadium, it would also act as luggage storage.

Before the tournament started this was looked at as the match that would decide who finishes top of the group. Whether that is how it turns out remains to be seen, but Mexico have now stretched their unbeaten run to 20 matches. There was a total farce concerning the organisation here, with the anthem of Chile being played instead of the Uruguan one, although even if I knew what each of them sounded like, I wouldn’t have known as the booing and whistling from the Mexican support totally drowned it out anyway. Pre game saw the usual charade of ‘musical chairs’ amongst the illiterates, something that you just have to accept if you attend these matches.

Mexico had got off to an excellent start and although they were pegged back they always looked like they would still nick it. Uruguay had lost Vecino to a red card on the stroke of halftime, before things were levelled up at 10-a-side when Guardado received a second yellow card just two minutes before Uruguay equalised.Edinson  Cavani was excellent for Uruguay, but they really missed the injured Luis Suarez to partner him up front.

Mexico had at least 50,000 of the crowd on their side, many the worse for wear due to too much alcohol, the Uruguayans were in small pockets dotted around the stadium. Three  Uruguayan supporters near me took a fair few punches following their equaliser and again when Mexico went back in front. The stewards just stood back and watched, hoping it would be sorted out without them having to actually do their job.

The University Phoenix Stadium opened in 2006 and is home to the Arizona Cardinals of the N.F.L. having a capacity of 63,400. Despite the University of Phoenix name, it is only a corporate sponsorship deal and is not used as the home stadium of the university, as they have no intercollegiate athletics programme. The pitch here is fully retractable natural grass, being the first of its kind in the United States. Thankfully the stadium is also fully enclosed, as when I arrived in the car park an hour before kick off the car temperature gauge was showing 117 degrees. At least when I left the stadium it was much cooler, just 113 degrees.

Back to the airport, via a stop off for a meal and checked in nice and early. However, 25 minutes after checking in, I was told by the Spirit Airlines staff that the flight due to leave for Dallas just after midnight had been cancelled due to a lack of flight crew. It later transpired that the same thing had happened the night before. Luckily, being there early meant a bette chance of being transferred onto another airline, rather than wait until the following night, which was what many were being offered.  Unfortunately, the first available flight was the 05.00 on American Airlines. So it was three and a bit hours of broken sleep in the airport lounge, something that quite a few English Groundhoppers do regularly out of choice as they are too tight to pay for a hotel room and having a shower is something that never occurs to them. Not my idea of how to travel, but as they say, you get what you pay for. At least I have no other flights booked with Spirit and I can’t see that ever being the case again.

Brazil v Ecuador

Copa America Centenario

Group B

Saturday 4th June 2016

Kick off 19.00 Actual 19.06

Brazil 0 Ecuador 0, attendance 53,158

@ The Rose Bowl

1001, Rose Bowl Drive

Pasadena, CA 91103

Admission $110 + $16.55 fees, Print at home ticket

No programme.

An early flight down to Los Angeles, shared with what seemed to be the entire Columbian media, including one of the most instantly recognisable Colombian footballers, Carlos Valderrama, allowed plenty of time to collect a hire car and check in to my hotel. It may actually have worked out cheaper to travel with Uber, as on top of the 62 mile round trip to Pasadena, the parking was a rip off $40.

The Rose Bowl was built in 1922 and has a record attendance of 106,869, set in 1973, but nowadays it seats 92,542. It is primarily an American Football venue, hosting the annual Rose Bowl Game, from where it takes its name and is also home to U.C.L.A. Bruins of the N.C.A.A. As well as 5 Super Bowl games it is better known in proper football terms for hosting the final of the F.I.F.A. World Cup in 1994.

Ecuador should have won this and did have a goal ruled out, I think incorrectly, as replays on tv showed. Brazil were absolutely awful and quite how they made three substitutions without replacing the totally inept Philippe Coutinho didn’t help matters. Certainly a player who performs much better at club level. The real problem for them though, was the fact that Neymar was missing the tournament, as his club Barcelona wouldn’t allow his release for this and the upcoming Rio Olympics, the latter more important to Brazil as they were hosts. Certainly not football played in the style of the great Brazilian teams of the past and I wouldn’t imagine Dunga will remain as coach if this persists.

A very poor crowd I thought, although perhaps at a smaller stadium it wouldn’t have been so noticeable, with Ecuador having the greater share of support. At least it meant an easier exit from the car park and soon back at the airport to drop off the hire car.

U.S.A. v Colombia

Copa America Centenario

Group A

Friday 3rd June 2016

Kick off 18.30 Actual 18.40

U.S.A. 0 Colombia 2,  attendance 67,439

8′ 0-1 C. Zapata

42′ 0-2 J. Rodriguez (pen)

@ Levi’s Stadium

4900, Marie P. De Bartolo Way

Santa Clara, CA 95054

Admission $74 + $13.75 fees, Print at home ticket.

No programme.

An early flight from Los Angeles, courtesy of American Airlines, saw me land at San Jose airport nice and early and checked into my hotel shortly after 11am. With the temperature in the 90’s it meant the hotel pool was soon getting its use before going for lunch. No need for car hire here as the stadium is well served by the VTA (Valley Transportation Authority) with regular trains running from a stop around 300 yards from my hotel. A bargain price of $4 return and you stop right outside the stadium. It was well organised after the match, which meant I managed to get on the second train heading back south.

This was the first time I had been to a Continental Championship, so wasn’t sure what it would be like, but as everyone knows, the United States certainly know how to run an event. This tournament is to celebrate 100 years of the Copa America and is slotted in as an extra, being held outside South America for the first time. It is normally held every 4 years, Chile having won the last one as hosts in 2015. As well as being the first match of the tournament it doubled as the opening ceremony.

The Levi’s Stadium, which opened in 2014, is home to San Francisco 49ers of the N.F.L. and is situated about 40 miles south of San Francisco. Despite the giant screens showing the match as a sell out, it was short of the 68,500 capacity and the empty seats certainly backed that up.

It was a really good atmosphere, the Colombians probably having a 60-40 split of the support. U.S.A. contained a number of players with experience in the Premier League in England, namely Brad Guzan, Geoff Cameron and DeAndre Yedlin, with perhaps the best known being Clint Dempsey, now at Seattle Sounders. Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones have also played a few games in England. Colombia had a couple with Premier League experience,  Arsenal reserve ‘keeper David Ospina and Juan Cuadrado, who failed to make an impression at Chelsea, but probably their two best known were James Rodriguez and Carlos Bacca, who ply their trade at Real Madrid and A.C. Milan, respectively. The game was pretty much over once Colombia went in front and the second half was a stroll in the park for them. U.S.A. did plenty of running, but just didn’t have any creativity to make an impression.

Los Angeles Galaxy v Sporting Kansas City

Major League Soccer

Thursday 2nd June 2016

Kick off 19.30 Actual 19.39

Los Angeles Galaxy 0 Sporting  Kansas City 0,  attendance 19,651

@ StubHub Center

18400, Avalon Boulevard

Carson, CA 90746

Admission $29.50 + $7.50 fees, Print at home ticket

Programme free, 40 pages.

The StubHub Center was opened in 2003 and was known as the Home Depot Center until changing name to its current sponsor in 2013. It was the second ‘soccer specific’ stadium to open in the M.L.S. era and was also home to the now defunct Chivas USA.

I had taken a nice steady drive up from San Diego and checked in at my hotel near Los Angeles Airport, before heading the 10 miles south to Carson, getting a cheap $10 parking slot. I already knew that Robbie Keane was away on international duty, but was disappointed to find out that Steven Gerrard would also miss the match, probably already back in England, as there was a 3 week break in the M.L.S. following this round of fixtures. At least I got to see Ashley Cole !

The first thing I noticed was the club crest for the visitors used on the big screens was the old Kansas City Wizards one. Never mind, it’s only 6 years since they changed their name. Secondly, I was surprised at how low the crowd was and nowhere near the 27,000 capacity, although having witnessed one of the worst matches I have ever seen, then this is little wonder. On this showing Galaxy have no chance of winning the league, either finishing top at the end of the regular season, or advancing to win the M.L.S. Cup. I asked the lad sat next to me if they were always this bad, but he was also English, on holiday over here, and unbelievably lives just 5 miles from my house back in the U.K. Small world.

After the match I headed back to drop off the hire car, ready for an early start the next morning.

Mexico v Chile

International Friendly Match

Wednesday 1st June 2016

Kick off 19.00 Actual 19.37

Mexico 1 Chile 0,  attendance 68,254

86′ 1-0 J. Hernandez

@ Qualcomm Stadium

9449, Friars Road

San Diego, CA 92108

$30 admission + $7.75 fees, Print at home ticket.

No programme.

I had visited the Qualcomm Stadium in October 2015 (see American Football section) for a San Diego Chargers match in the N.F.L. This was my first visit for proper football and despite this only being a friendly, and also taking place midweek, the attendance actually beat that of the Chargers by 2,417. I had flown into Los Angeles late morning before picking up a hire car and heading two hours or so south to my hotel about 15 minutes drive north of the stadium.

With the ground being so full it was noticeable how few of the Mexican fans can read. Endless times people arrived at their seats only to find someone already sat there. The charade then took place of showing their ticket to everyone in the row, before reaching one of them capable of actually being able to read the information and attempting to direct them to the correct area. Of course, once arriving there, the same scenario occurs again.

I actually thought Chile were the better side, in particular Vidal and Sanchez, who were excellent. It was a bit harsh on them when substitute Javier Hernandez headed in at the far post to send the vast hordes of Mexicans home happy. This extends their unbeaten run to 19 matches.