The inaugural Barclays New York Challenge was simply memorable and successful. With an average attendance of 19,042, fans from the New York/New Jersey area and other parts of the world flocked to Red Bull Arena to watch the New York Red Bulls, Tottenham Hotspur, Sporting CP, and Manchester City compete in the three-day tournament.
It all started with Thursday's July 22 debut of the New York Red Bulls newest Designated Player, Thierry Henry. If there were any doubts about his playing abilities, they were erased in the first half of play. In the 25th minute, Thierry Henry scored his first goal as a Red Bull.
Following his goal, the fans erupted into a thunderous cheer which has never been heard in Red Bull Arena. Following his explosive debut, Thierry Henry sat out the second half. Without Henry in the lineup, Tottenham capitalized of the situation as they rallied to defeat the Red Bulls 2-1 off Robbie Keane and Gareth Bale's goals.
Despite the loss, Red Bull fans left Red Bull Arena convinced that their team is capable of winning the Eastern Conference and having a strong playoff run to reach the MLS Cup.
Following Thursday's match, Sporting CP fans witnessed how new manager Paulo Sergio fired up their team to a 2-0 win over Manchester City. While Paulo Sergio was animated and hungry for the win, the player of the match was forward Yannick Djalo. He entertained the fans with two marvelous goals in the first half.
As for Manchester City, they were undermanned and forced to play with an inexperienced lineup. Playing without Carlos Tevez, Nigel De Jong, and new signees David Silva, Jerome Boateng, Yaya Toure, and Aleksandar Kolarov, Manchester City played valiantly. Despite the loss, the Blues supporters cheered and applauded their beloved team.
After three days of soccer, the inaugural Barclays New York Challenge concluded today with a doubleheader. It was an afternoon where 23,228 fans weathered Mother Nature's chaotic mood swings.
In the first match, Sporting CP squared off against Tottenham. Both teams were tied with five points and the winner of this match would be declared New York Challenge winners. If the game resulted in a tie, then Sporting CP would automatically win due to goal differential.
Playing in 93 degree hot and humid weather, fans witnessed how both teams stopped play (twice) in order to get hydrated again. Despite the brief pauses, both teams entertained the fans as they combined to score four goals in an explosive and exciting 2-2 tie. With the tie, Portugual's Sporting CP became the first Barclays New York Challenge winners.
Following the Sporting-Tottenham match, the Red Bulls faced Manchester City in the last match of the New York Challenge. Unlike the unbearable conditions of the first match, the weather for the second match was 79 degrees with heavy showers.
Even though Thierry Henry was the star majority of the fans came to see, it was Macoumba Kandji and Dane Richards who stole the show. They each scored a goal off each other's assist to lead the Red Bulls to a dramatic 2-1 win over Manchester City.
After the game, Sporting CP was presented with the first Barclays New York Challenge Trophy. During the trophy presentation, the clouds cleared up and the sun shined brightly throughout Red Bull Arena as Pedro Mendes hoisted the trophy over his head.
With the tournament officially over, all four teams will return to their respective leagues in their quest of having a successful campaign. As for soccer fans in the New York/New Jersey area, they have the opportunity to return to Red Bull Arena to support the Red Bulls as they're continuing to have a memorable 2010 season.
Cesar Diaz is the Soccer Editor for Latino Sports. Feel free to send him your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
For more Red Bull photos: Thierry Henry Red Bull Debut