SAN JOSE, CALIF. – Greetings from Soccer City USA.
That, at least, is the title that the Oregonian newspaper recently bestowed on San Jose, based on a formula of factors that reflect a city’s soccer fanaticism.
Portland, which has long claimed for itself the Soccer City USA title, came in third behind San Jose and Washington, D.C.
Seattle ranked fifth. But fans can get a look at No. 1 San Jose tonight as Sounders FC visits the Earthquakes.
“I’m not that caught up in the labels,” Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer said this week. “I’d rather allow someone else to call themselves Soccer City USA if we have the most season-ticket holders and the best fans and the best corporate support and the best team on the field. I think really the numbers should speak for themselves. We hope to maintain the best soccer business and the best soccer fans in the United States and let the media decide who Soccer City USA is.”
The Oregonian cited San Jose based “on relative importance to creating a ‘soccer city’ atmosphere and the data were adjusted for population, where appropriate. Areas given most emphasis were average home attendance in the city’s last year in the NASL, and MLS attendance last season.
Categories given moderate emphasis were the number of U.S. national team events hosted, youth soccer participation, NASL titles, MLS titles and supporters’ groups. Categories given the least emphasis: D-I men’s and women’s soccer titles since 1982, home-grown members of the 2007 women’s or 2010 men’s U.S. World Cup teams and TV ratings for 2010 men’s World Cup.”
Seattle fans could argue that current MLS attendance might have been undervalued, as Sounders FC has averaged 36,318 fans in their first two home games of the season, while a crowd of 10,525 jammed rickety Buck Shaw Stadium for the Earthquakes’ home opener.
The small, no-frills stadium cramps the Earthquakes’ ability to pull the kind of attendance number they might in a more professional setting. However, the consensus is that the fans who show up are knowledgeable and involved.
“The history and tradition of soccer in the Bay Area and San Jose is something the people here take pride in,” Quakes defender Jason Hernandez said. “The Earthquakes are the team that the fans look to to be kind of a beacon for soccer in the Bay Area. I think the fans and the supporters deserve a (new) stadium here, and I think this front office and the management understand that and they’re doing their best to make that dream become a reality.”
If the pieces fall together, the Quakes could be playing in their own soccer-specific stadium by the 2013 season. A site already is being cleared to make way for a multipurpose development planned to include commercial and retail elements along with soccer fields and a stadium.
“There are still a lot of moving pieces,” Earthquakes president Dave Kaval said. “But we feel that maybe before we were stuck in traffic, but we’re moving again, and that’s really important.”
And once the stadium opens?
“I think it will be one of the best markets in the league,” Kaval said. “(The Oregonian survey is) indicative of the fact that San Jose has a long tradition, both professional soccer and also participatory, amateur, the surrounding region, the great youth teams and Stanford, Santa Clara – the colleges. We just have so many elements of it here, and I think that really can become celebrated at the new facility, which really can become – for lack of a better term – the epicenter of the whole experience.”
Sounders defender James Riley played a season in San Jose before coming to Seattle in the 2009 expansion draft. And over that season, he saw some of the San Jose soccer interest that the Oregonian survey picked up on.
“The weather is phenomenal there, and everyone is always outside,” he said. “Big Hispanic population. Big soccer community. It depends on what was used in the rubric, but it could happen for sure. ... Definitely a good time down there. I enjoyed my year.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 email@example.com twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer
SOUNDERS FC (0-2-1; 1 point) AT SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (1-1-0; 3)
KICKOFF: 7:30 p.m., Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
TV: Ch. 5. RADIO: 97.3-FM, 1210-AM (Spanish).
HEAD TO HEAD: Seattle leads, 3-2. Last season, the clubs split two meetings, each winning 1-0 on the opponent’s pitch. The Quakes will visit Qwest Field on Oct. 15.
TEAM LEADERS: For Seattle – G 1, Steve Zakuani; A0; S 14, Montero; SOG 9, Montero; GAA 1.0; Kasey Keller. For San Jose – G 2 Chris Wondolowski; A 1, Chris Leitch and Joey Gjertsen; S 9, Wondolowski; SOG 4, Wondolowski; GAA, 0-5, Jon Busch.
NOTES: Sounders’ all-time goals leader Fredy Montero is expected to miss tonight’s game while recovering from wrist surgery performed Thursday. However, defender James Riley (concussion) has been cleared to play. Riley came to Seattle from San Jose in the 2009 expansion draft. ... In last week’s 1-1 draw with Houston, the Sounders established club records for shots in a half (15) and a game (26) and matched the mark for corner kicks (12). ... Wondolowski led MLS with 18 goals last season and scored both goals in the Quakes’ 2-0 win last week at FC Dallas. Wondolowski has scored San Jose’s last 12 goals, an MLS record. ... This is the first game of the 2011 Heritage Cup, which will be decided by aggregate-goal format over the two games with away goals counting as the first tiebreaker. San Jose won in 2009, Seattle in 2010. ... The referee is Edvin Jurisevic.
QUOTABLE: “It’s going to be a tough, blue-collar game, I think. Small field, a lot of fouls, and a lot of chances, probably.” – Sounders defender Jeff Parke.
NEXT: 1 p.m. April 9 vs. Chicago Fire, Qwest Field; Ch. 5.
Don Ruiz, staff writer