Soccer

Copa America 2016

Soccer.  I’ve never been a huge fan, but recently, I’ve been following it pretty closely.  Last year, I had the opportunity to watch the US Women absolutely destroy Japan 5-2 in the Women’s World Cup Final – at, of all places, somewhere in the middle of the Caribbean, on the top deck of the Carnival Breeze.  It was quite a scene.

With this year’s Copa America tournament being hosted by the United States, I was completely unaware that Glendale was one of the ten host cities – until the US advanced the semi-finals.  Looking back now, I see that Glendale actually hosted two other matches during this tournament – Mexico vs Uruguay on June 5th and Ecuador vs Peru on June 8th.

I’ll be honest.  I was a bit conflicted when the US faced Argentina in the semis. A win against Messi and team would put the US in the championship game in New York against a to-be-determined team – but a loss against the heavy favorite would have the US Men’s National Team coming to Phoenix for the 3rd place game.  Either way, I considered myself a winner, but I was really looking forward to catching my first real soccer match.  And when my daughter said she wanted to go with me, it was even better!

After the humbling 4-0 loss to Argentina, it was a waiting game to see if the US would play either Chile or Columbia in the 3rd place game.  Considering Chile dismantled Mexico 7-0 to gain entry into the semi-finals and Columbia had already beaten the US 2-0 earlier in the tourney, it wasn’t a promising matchup.  But hey – any time you can see the USMNT live and in person during a major tournament, it’s worth it right?!

stadium copa

 

The night before, I still wasn’t sure if we’d be going.  I started looking for tickets, but didn’t want to commit to anything until game day.  There were a few available on Craigslist, but nothing worth jumping on considering our plans were still up in the air.  The going rate at this point for the lower bowl was $100 for pretty crappy seats.  The best I found were upper deck, row 1 in the corner of the end zone for $75 each.  Obviously, this game was in demand, but just as important was the fact that they weren’t selling any upper level tickets on one entire side of the stadium – effectively limiting the supply and keeping prices inflated.

Still, checks on StubHub, SeatGeek and Craigslist the next morning didn’t reveal any deals and I was starting to get a bit worried – but I knew that, worst case, tickets were available from the box office.  We decided to head out early so we could pick up lunch at Westgate and allow us time to search for tickets.

After arriving at about 2pm for the 5pm kickoff, we tried to hit Margaritaville in Westgate for lunch.  Little did we know that Jimmy Buffetts’s place had closed and in its place was now Salt Tacos & Tequila.  Oh well, it was close the stadium and we were able to score a couple of seats with no more than a 2-minute wait!

As we grabbed a bite to eat on their outdoor patio, we were able to view quite a scene with the Red, White and Blue dominating the landscape.  Sure, there was some blue and yellow of Columbia, but it was clear, at least at this point, who the home team was!  During the time we were having lunch, I witnessed quite the range of costumes – ranging from your basic fan decked out in the colors, to a guy emulating Captain America – to my personal favorite, a guy dressed like George Washington!  How he survived in the 100+ temperature in a wool coat and wig is a mystery to me!  Somehow I think crossing the Delaware in December was easier than braving the heat on this day!

CA
Captain America calling

After lunch, we set out to find tickets.  The walk from Salt to the Stadium is about ½ mile.  Not bad – until you realize it was during the heat of the day and about 108 degrees.  As we approached the stadium, there wasn’t a single scalper in sight.

Finally, we caught up with a couple of sellers – both of whom had section 119 seats, directly behind the goal.  We didn’t even bother to ask the price.  We made the loop back up to the Westgate pre-game area.  But again – nothing!  Now it was about 3:30 and we wanted to get in a little early to make sure we saw the pre-game festivities indoors.  I was starting to get a little worried, but I knew that we could get tickets at the window.

As we approached the stadium this time, a couple told us they just sold their lower bowl tickets for $175 each.  Ouch!  I wasn’t planning on that!  At this point, the heat was starting to kick in and I wanted to get inside the air conditioned stadium.  We made our way around the west side of the stadium and found a guy selling section 111, row 38 tickets for $100 each.  With his NY accent and paper-printed copies of the tickets, I was a bit skeptical – so we decided to pass.

We continued over towards the normally buzzing Great Lawn – a site reserved for tailgating at the Cardinals games – only to find it barren.  Apparently, Copa America didn’t allow for tailgating on the plush lawn – instead, tailgaters were relegated to standing on asphalt all day.

empty lawn
What a waste of a great space!

 

At this point, I felt blisters on my feet.  I wasn’t sure if it was from all of the walking or from the heat of the asphalt burning the skin.  And Jessica’s face was as red as her USA tank top.  I figured it was time to bite the bullet.  Back to the New Yorker we went – only to find him quickly walking away from us and towards another group.

The group of normal fans – not scalpers – was trying to sell tickets to what looked like a single gal.  As I got there, the gal was called away by another scalper.  Before you know it, I secured two tickets, section 111 row 2 for $100 each. I’ve sat down low for football games before, but they really aren’t good seats.  I wasn’t sure what to expect for soccer.  At this point, I just wanted to get out of the sun!

welcome

 

Once inside and down to our seats, I quickly realized what a great deal these seats were.  We were about 6 seats away from the USA bench and two rows from the field – which was about 10 yards away from us – unlike football where the field is far away and the players are standing, like trees, between you and the action.  For soccer, they are neatly seated and out of your view. Score!

our view
View from our seats

As the crowd filled in, I was surprised to see so many Columbian fans.  Clearly, we either have quite a few in the valley or they are truly a rabid fan base – to travel to the desert to see them compete in a 3rd place game.  Regardless, they were there in numbers.

IMG_2348
Celebrate Diversity

While scoring is limited in soccer, the action is virtually non-stop – unlike American football.  A quick google search revealed that an NFL game has, on average, 11 minutes of action!  11 minutes!  The guys run around non-stop for two 45-minute halfs.  Granted, they are a bit dramatic if they fall, but hey, it’s a huge field and they have to capture the refs attention somehow, right?  At least that’s what the Columbian’s behind us were saying…

The other great thing about soccer is that the clock doesn’t stop – for anything.  Guy falls down? Nope.  Guy commits a foul?  Nope.  Guy argues with ref? Nope.  Guy gets taken off on a stretcher? Nope.  Sure, they add back in some arbitrary time at the end of the game, but the clock just keeps on ticking.  The beauty is, there’s a ton of action and you’re out of the stadium in about 2 hours tops.

While it wasn’t the outcome we wanted, with the US falling 1-0 and finishing the tourney in fourth place, it was a great event.

IMG_2604

 

If you haven’t experienced major international soccer in person, put it on your list. It combines the passionate fan base of College Football, the pace of an NBA Basketball game, the goal scoring excitement of the NFL and the non-stop action of NHL Hockey to make it its own unique brand of spectator sport.

Leaving the stadium, the USA fans were still enthusiastically celebrating – even in defeat.

Most of the photo creds go to @3six6.photo.  Follow her @3six6.photo on Instagram!

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