Milwaukee embraces Chivas, Swansea
It began in the parking lots, with drums, flag waving and the smells off the grill. Inside, no music, no organ, and very little spoken over the public address. The jumbotron was full bleed, following the ball. The lone graphic was the score and the clock. No sidebars. No stats.
You could argue Wednesday night at Miller Park was spectating at its purest, the sounds echoing around the stadium created solely by the vocal chords of the 31,237 in attendance to watch the friendly between Chivas de Guadalajara and Swansea City (a Welsh team in the Barclays Premier League), which ended in a 1-1 draw following a Chivas penalty kick goal in the 90th minute.
"It was a very good environment; a very beautiful environment," Chivas manager Carlos Busto said through translator Carlos Rodriguez.
The fans – largely pro-Chivas – were captivated by the match, which was a little different than traditional outdoor soccer in that the field's dimensions were narrower than normal due to Miller Park's configuration. But they entertained themselves, too. The Chivas supporters did the cheers – and jeers – for which their fan bases are known.
"For this being the first time, I believe, the first time that this sort of thing happened in
Milwaukee, we were just amazed by this and we think it was just beautiful," Busto said.
The "wave" was emphatic, far from trite. The saves by Swansea goalkeeper Gerhard Trammel were appreciated, and the fans vocalized their emotions on every cross, shot and save as they were riding a rollercoaster – the collective inhale as the play developed, the stomach-dropping "oh!" when the play didn't result in a goal.
If you were to judge the success of this trip by Chivas to the Cream City solely by the people who came in to see it, Milwaukee showed well.
"I'm a Chivas fan, and when it was announced three months ago I was just waiting because it's the first time that obviously we've had a game here in Milwaukee, professionally," said Ruben Resendiz of Waukesha, who brought along his son Anthony and a dozen other family members.
"We always travel to Soldier Field (in Chicago) for games like this, so this is awesome. Now it's in our yard, our backyard, so it's awesome."
Resendiz said Miller Park offered a unique experience, allowing the family to tailgate and have fun outside the ballpark before heading in.
"You get together with other fans, you meet other people, it's nice – it's a whole different experience," he said. "I think it's a big deal."
Wednesday was the third stop in Chivas' American tour of friendlies, but the team was ready to compete – its regular season in Liga MX in Mexico begins Monday. And the players, for both squads, appreciated the passion of the fans.
"It was quite exciting to be fair – I haven't played in front of a crowd in the U.S.A. like that before," Trammel said. "We really enjoyed it, and I think we showed them some good stuff."
Swansea midfielder Leon Britton added, "It was fantastic out there. I think the stadium and the venue was a brilliant venue. All the players in the changing room loved playing out there. It was a fantastic atmosphere."
You could argue the match was perfectly timed for success, following the fervor surrounding the World Cup in Brazil.
"Having the first game at Miller Park is a big thing for the city, especially right after the World Cup everyone's kind of on the soccer bandwagon – it's good to keep things going like that and bring attention to the United States and soccer" said Kyle Anderson, a fan of Liverpool of the Premier League who hails Milwaukee. "It's nice to get recognition for the city having some kind of a big soccer event here."
As those fans streamed down the concourses out of the Miller Park, slapping their noisemakers and maintaining their "Chivas!" chants through parking lots, drums tied to roofs, chairs and grills strapped down by cords, players couldn't help but feel the love.
"A beautiful city," Chivas goalkeeper Antonio Rodriguez said with a wide smile. "It's a beautiful city."
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