Now that more than 68,000 tickets have been sold for Wednesday’s Gold Cup semifinal matches at the Georgia Dome, which of the two big teams, the U.S. or Mexico, will have the most fans at the game?
Let’s look at the ingredients:
- The U.S., which will play Jamaica at 6 p.m., is the tournament’s defending champ.
- The U.S. hasn’t played in Atlanta since 1977.
- The popularity of soccer has exploded in the city since then;
It will be heavily favored to beat the Reggae Boyz.
“I’m excited to be back,” U.S. midfielder Kyle Beckermann said on Monday. “It’s a great time for soccer with the new MLS team. To be able to play a really important game, this is great.”
Beckerman used the word “back” because, while the U.S. team hasn’t been here in a generation, he remembers playing somewhere in the city with DeMarcus Beasley with under-17 national team in 1999.
Looking at Mexico:
- Mexico, which will play Panama at 9 p.m., brings fans wherever it goes.
- Mexico was the star when the previous record for soccer in the city was set last year when 68,212 attended an exhibition against Nigeria.
- Mexico has played in Atlanta three times and has never had less than 50,000 tickets sold for its games.
- It has momentum: more than 37,000 tickets were sold for the U.S. quarterfinal game in Baltimore, compared to the 74,000 tickets sold for Mexico’s game Sunday night in East Rutherford, N.J.
- It will be heavily favored to defeat Panama.
The ratio of fans could be closer than it would seem.
One online ticket broker reported that prices for seats increased 83 percent after the U.S. win on Saturday, indicating an increased demand.
Mexico typically has a decent walk-up crowd for its games, so because tickets have already sold out there’s a chance that the U.S. could have almost as many fans at the Dome on Wednesday as “El Tri.”
Gold Cup: It’s been an odd Gold Cup for the red, white and blue, which hasn’t really answered any questions about the team’s future.
The team is still reliant on Clint Dempsey for its goals. That wouldn’t be so bad because there are lots of teams that are led by one player, except that Dempsey will be 35 years old by the time the next World Cup is played in 2018 in Russia.
Other than Germany’s Miroslav Klose, there aren’t too many 35-year-olds that are still pouring in goals in international competitions.
Jozy Altidore is still 25 years old but unless he finds his form and regains his touch soon his particular skill set as a back-to-the-goal hold-up player may not be suited for the type of attacking, fifth-gear soccer that manager Jurgen Klinsmann wants to play. Altidore was dismissed from the team after the group stages.
Aron Johannsson has shown he will work hard, but he hasn’t shown that poaching mentality that Dempsey has. Johannsson still could – that chipped goal against Cuba was a thing of beauty — but as of now it’s not there.
While the older Dempsey continues to prove himself, the younger players being tried in central defense continue to be erratic.
John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado appear to be Klinsmann’s choice for the building blocks for the future. Neither have put in a dominant performance in the Gold Cup against teams that, other than a disinterested Cuba, they should handle considering the quality of the leagues they play in, Brooks in Germany’s Bundesliga and Alvarado in Mexico’s Liga MX.
I’ve long wished and written that Klinsmann needs to experiment with the lineup more to give the younger players chances to gain the experience necessary to put the team in the best position to succeed in Russia and Qatar. However, those younger players need to give Klinsmann reasons to continue to play them.
Alvarado continues to lose his focus in key situations – he had a giveaway on one of his first touches against Cuba – and Brooks can be caught ball-watching far too frequently, such as the goal Panama scored in the group stage.
The good news is the U.S. continues to advance in tournaments, which is the goal, and there’s lots of room for growth between now and the next round of World Cup qualifying.
Miami and MLS: The odyssey that has been David Beckham’s pursuit of a stadium in Miami for his MLS team seems to have finally concluded after more than 1 ½ years in a way that Homer might have written.
The site will be next to the Marlins ballpark on land that Beckham and his investors reportedly have tried to avoid, until finally giving in.
The stadium is expected to cost $250 million.
Silverbacks: The Silverbacks continued their solid start to the Fall portion of the NASL scheduled with a 2-2 draw at Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday.
The Silverbacks had a 2-1 lead until a converted penalty kick in the 90th minute took away the chance at earning all three points for the second consecutive game.
The game featured what should be a candidate for goal of the year: Jaime Chavez’s bicycle kick.
Atlanta will play at Ottawa on Wednesday followed by another game at FC Edmonton on Sunday.
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