I never played soccer growing up in Brooklyn. I think it’s strictly a non-urban sport. And I never had the opportunity to develop an interest in this decidedly international pastime. But I was invited to see an MLS (Major League Soccer) game between the New York Red Bulls and the Los Angeles Galaxy (David Beckham’s team!) and I generally love sports so I was thrilled to accompany Steve Berger and his son (and my godson), Satch.
The Red Bulls Arena in Harrison, NJ was built specifically for soccer two years ago and we had fabulous, if slightly dangerous, seats in the first row behind one of the goals. It’s hard to score in soccer, so the 1-0 defeat for the Red Bulls doesn’t adequately describe the excitement of the game.
Soccer is a 90 minute game played in two 45 minutes halves with a 15 minute break in between. The clock counts up (not down) and never stops. Not for penalty, injury or substitution (which is very infrequent). All of the players except two played the entire game. Depending upon how much time the officials feel was spent on non-play action, they’ll add a few minutes to the end of the game. Not very precise.
Surprisingly, the clock in the stadium doesn’t record the extra time, so the game came to an end with a very anticlimactic walk off the field by the players. Followed by a fight! Apparently, although there is a lot of pushing and shoving and, to my eyes, very unsportsmanlike behavior in the heat of play, the postgame scuffle was an anomaly and means the redcarded player, Rafael Marquez of the Red Bulls, will not be allowed to play the second playoff game on Thursday in Los Angeles.
But I’ll be there—at the television, that is. I still have a lot to learn—I don’t quite get “offsides”, for instance—but I think I might be slightly hooked on soccer!