July 23rd, 2011 was a day that I will never forget. On this day, Manchester United, the most famous football club in the world, came to my back yard. On this day, I took in my first soccer game live and in person. It was a great day filled with lots of great memories.
As part of the World Football Challenge. Manchester United squared off against the MLS club, the Chicago Fire. While I was in no way keen on seeing the Fire, Man U turned out to be well worth the drive and admission price.
Here are my top five memories from the game.
When the game started, I expected constant offense from United from the kickoff to the final whistle. I was very surprised however, when the Fire got out to the 1-0 lead. It was a 13th minute goal by Cory Gibbs that got the scoring started.
At this point, I assumed that Manchester United would storm back and assert their superiority over the American club, but it took until the second half, however, before Man U would get on the board.
This period of time when the Fire was in the game, gives us hope that one day American soccer will reach a level of consistent greatness. While this is still a ways off, it is a possibility.
I knew that soccer fans are some of the most passionate fans out there, but my trip to Soldier Field only confirmed it. There were people in soccer jerseys everywhere. Whether Manchester United or Chicago Fire, nearly everyone in the stadium was wearing a jersey.
It was very cool to see the passionate fanbase of Manchester United. Even though the team is from a completely different continent, there was a sea of red in Chicago. I was happy to help this as I was sporting my Chicharito jersey, who coincidentally did not play.
When Wayne Rooney received the through ball, you could just tell that magic was about to happen. The play was coming towards my end of the stadium and everyone took to their feet.
Rooney flipped the ball over Fire keeper Josip Mikulic and it looked like he was going to run under the ball and head it in. The flip turned out to be sufficient, however, as his ball went into the back of the net.
The most famous player on the pitch had just made a world class play. It was really a thing of beauty.
In the 82nd minute, Nani capped off the scoring for the Red Devils with a beautiful shot over the keeper to the center of the goal. The tally was not the end of the fireworks however, as Nani took to the air in celebration.
Some would say that the Portuguese have ups and Nani definitely proved it. He did a cartwheel and a back flip, wowing the crowd. It was a moment of flair that cannot be replicated by the American players.
After the game, players of the two teams traded jerseys in the ultimate sign of sportsmanship and respect. I found it to be very cool that both sides wanted to remember the event, and remember the role that they each played by exchanging their jerseys. I kind of felt the same way as I wanted to remember the once in a lifetime experience.
While this was the first soccer game I had ever seen live, it surely will not be the last. Manchester United put on a first class show and really demonstrated the beautiful game in action. If more people came out to games like this, soccer could really catch on in America.