International soccer came to Cleveland last night and more than a few traditional Cleveland sports fans wondered what the response would be like. In the end 27,720 seemed like a capacity crowd as Clevelanders cheered on a pretty poor effort from the United States. Some may scoff when I call 27,000 a capacity crowd, but consider that only the lower bowl and one of the club sections were even open. Make no mistake though, when given a good opportunity it was loud.
And the crowd really only had one big opportunity in the 4-2 loss to Belgium. The United States went down 1-0 in the first half in the sixth minute of play, but it didn’t deflate the crowd. Then in the 22nd minute the United States put the ball across the goal mouth of Belgium on a corner, Clint Dempsey headed it back across the goal where Geoff Cameron was waiting to put it in the net. They were able to score right in front of the American Outlaws, the USMNT equivalent to the Dawg Pound too. FirstEnergy stadium exploded1 as the Americans celebrated on the field.
The 1-1 score held up through halftime, but Belgium hit really hard in the second half. The U.S. defense seemed to break down and the sloppy touches in the midfield were leading to turnovers. Combined with a halftime goalkeeper switch away from Tim Howard to Brad Guzan. The United States got one more goal on a Clint Dempsey penalty kick after a hand ball was called, and the 4-2 defeat was complete.
It was a fun night. It was a warmup for the USMNT, but it was a nice showcase for the city of Cleveland as a place to hold international soccer games. While I don’t think it put Cleveland in the top markets for soccer, it was a very nice showing by the local fans. It’ll be tough to compete with Columbus who really shined when they got a chance to host a world cup qualifier, but again, a great night in Cleveland.