Thursday, August 7, 2014

Soccer at NRG: A bad field, a bad crowd, a bad report.

Last night Italian Serie A power AC Milan beat Mexican League stalwart Chivas 3-0 in a game that will be remembered more for horrible turf and turnout than it will be remembered for good play. In fitting with the horrible conditions and crowd, the Chron's soccer beat writer mailed one in when reviewing the game:

AC Milan's 3-0 win over Chivas marred by poor field conditions, Jose de Jesus Ortiz,
You don't risk ruining your Ferrari on a country road in Porter, and that's exactly the dilemma AC Milan and Chivas faced while contemplating whether to play their friendly match at the Texans' stadium.
Mario Balotelli and AC Milan ultimately took the pitch and beat Chivas 3-0 before a crowd of 14,871, the smallest attendance figure for an international match at NRG Stadium.

Not mentioned in the article is the fact that, despite the horrible field conditions, Balotelli was awesome, scoring two goals and proving too much for the CONCACAF fueled Chivas de Guadalajara to handle.

How bad was the field?

That bad.

In fact, it was an embarrassment to the folks that run NRG.  The stadium was also dumpy looking on TV, with all of the bunting and padding removed the stadium more closely resembles a bomb-shelter. Add to this the fact that it was 2/3 empty and you have a failure on a massive scale. Why there wasn't an effort to play this game at the Dynamo/Dash stadium (Compass Bank Stadium) I'll never understand.

As is his wont, Ortiz doubles down on being incorrect by throwing in this nugget:

Houston soccer fans are sophisticated. AC Milan took Houston fans for granted. Subsequently, the promoters got what they deserved, a crowd worthy of their horrendous pitch.

Houston soccer fans are NOT sophisticated. They're just about on par with the fans in Portland who were chanting "USA!" as a multi-national group of "all-stars" eeked out a 2-1 win over Bayern Munich.  That's right, the best and brightest of the entire American professional LEAGUE struggled to beat one TEAM from the Bundesligua.

And fans chanted USA! to a group of players that included representatives from Europe, South America, the Caribbean, Canada and Nigeria.  American soccer fans, as passionate as they may be, are NOT sophisticated. These are people who think that blocks of four behind the ball is somehow less defensive of a set up than a flat five or six. (Seriously, I had someone argue that with me on Twitter)

Not that it's the Houston fans who were at fault here. The real problem was the promoters: Texas Lone Star Sports & Entertainment and SNG-NRG Park. Both of these companies mailed it in to a degree that there was no advertisement to speak of, and almost no-one knew that AC Milan would be in town.

Ortiz, mysteriously, blames AC Milan for this.  Now, it is his M.O. to prop up the Mexican Leagues as Gods among men, so you really shouldn't expect anything different here.  Fortunately, you don't get anything different.  What you get is a fluff quote from Chivas suggesting that they "heart Houston" and then a bunch of conjecture that AC Milan just blew Houston off. Given that we don't know how the promoters (who got everything else wrong) drew up the itinerary this is a preposterous statement to make. It's opining on the part of the reporter and any decent editor would have sent it back for re-writing.

For a city that yearns to be "world class" I'm never amazed when Houston is frequently less than so. Whether it's poorly planned or executed events or the sub-par media coverage of them, the norm in Houston is to do things half-assed and then blame others for the failure.

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