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MLS All-Star Game - Chicago, USA

2nd August 2017 - MLS All-Stars 1-1 Real Madrid (Real Madrid won 4-2 on penalties) - Attendance, 61,428.

The MLS All-Stars descended on Chicago in August 2017 and we followed suit at a sell-out Soldier Field to see them take on Real Madrid in an exhibition match.  The All-Stars were coached by Chicago Fire's Veljko Paunovic and there were 4 Fire players on show at various stages of the night.  The main draw for us though with Cristiano Ronaldo noticeably absent was former Tottenham player Gareth Bale.  He provided us with an exciting 30 minute cameo in the second half.  

As the game began and the smoke from the pre-match fireworks subsided, the heaven's opened and we feared we were in for a repeat of the last time we were at this ground and a huge storm delay.  Thankfully, the weather just about held off as Real Madrid set about picking their opponents apart.  Somehow though they only managed to find the net once, with US goalkeeper Tim Howard in inspired form, pulling off a number of great saves.  This allowed for the most unlikeliest of comebacks and after Bale spurned a chance to make it 2-0 by hitting the base of the post, the All-Stars rallied and grabbed the equaliser through Dom Dwyer with just minutes to go.  Dwyer would then go from hero to zero a few minutes later as he missed his teams first penalty handing the advantage to Madrid who went on to win 4-2 in the shoot-out.

 

CONCACAF Gold Cup - Cleveland, USA

15th July 2017 - Double Header - Panama 3-0 Martinique/Nicaragua 0-3 USA - Attendance, 27,934

We witnessed another International tournament for the first time, travelling to Cleveland, Ohio for a double header of games.  The attendance was billed as just shy of 28,000 but in truth for the first game we’d be surprised if there were even a quarter of that number present as Panama made light work of an extremely limited yet hard working Martinique team. 

The atmosphere did rise though for the formulaic USA victory in the second game, a result which saw them top the table and stand them in good stead heading into the knockout stages of the competition.

 

USA WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM, FRIENDLY - Chicago, USA

9th July 2016 - Friendly - USA 1-0 South Africa - Attendance, 19,272

 We dabbled in a Women’s Soccer game for the first time when South Africa visited Chicago to take on the US Women’s National Team in a warm up game before the Summer Olympics in Brazil.  As expected from a friendly, the game was rather slow paced with neither team wanting to overly exert themselves and risk any injuries before a major tournament.  We did witness some history in the making though as Hope Solo became the first goalkeeper to claim 100 International clean sheets.  After the game, she was also handed the Player of the Match award – which was perhaps a little generous seeing as she barely had to make a save all game, so poor were the South Africans in attack.

COPA AMERICA CENTENARIO - Chicago, USA

5th June 2016 - Jamaica 0-1 Venezuela – Attendance, 25,560

7th June 2016 - USA 4-0 Costa Rica – Attendance, 39,642

22nd June 2016 - Colombia 0-2 Chile – Attendance, 55,423

In the summer of 2016 the COPA America turned 100 and to celebrate was taken away from the fans in South America and hosted all across USA.  Four of the games were held at Soldier Field in Chicago and we made it along to three of them. 

The first took place in a sparsely populated stadium as Jamaica lost out 1-0 to Venezuela in scorching conditions.  Jamaica boasted no less than 5 players who earn their wages in the English league, including a recently crowned Premier League champion in the form of Wes Morgan, but this wasn’t enough to stop the Venezuelans from stealing a well-deserved 3 points.

The second game was much more atmospheric as the US played to a decent sized home crowd and duly ripped apart Costa Rica.  The game was effectively over as a contest from the second Clint Dempsey stole in to give the US the lead after just 9 minutes.

The big game though was the Semi-Final played out between Colombia and eventual winners of the tournament, Chile.  The game itself was overshadowed by an extremely intense lightning storm that arrived on the stroke of half time.  In all honesty this delay was more interesting than the game, especially for an Englishman like Pete who is used to ‘light drizzle’ or ‘slightly harder drizzle’ as his default weather.  By the time the second half finally kicked off two hours later, it was clear that Chile’s two goals early in the first half would be enough to see them through as Colombia, and the game failed to find any kind of rhythm.

Pete Mel