Certain people in city hall believe we should have more pro soccer around here, or that we should at least transform Cashman Field into a pro soccer stadium, so the 51s finally can move to a new ballpark on the outskirts of town or Summerlin.
The “Beautiful Game” is what the legendary Pele called it, and it is something to behold when a stadium is filled. But after watching Mexico defeat Iceland 1-0 on Wednesday night at Sam Boyd Stadium in front of a Las Vegas soccer record 30,617 spectators — only one of whom ran onto the pitch afterward — might it be that less is more when it comes to soccer in the valley?
It might, provided the matchup is ideal.
Mexico vs. Anybody in an international friendly is pretty close to ideal.
Real Madrid of Spain vs. Juventus of Italy also works.
That was to be the offering in 2012 at Sam Boyd before the Italian side got a better deal in China (it might have been explained otherwise). Santos Laguna of Mexico, with Las Vegan Herculez Gomez up front, was a late fill-in. A throng of 29,152 watched global superstar Cristiano Ronaldo traverse the wings at three-quarters speed as cellphone cameras flashed and women swooned.
“One of the benefits of getting a Real Madrid, a Juventus before it canceled, is you have value, a sense of who the stars and players are. (Devout) soccer fans cannot be fooled easily on what is good content,” said Daren Libonati, the former UNLV field-goal kicker and Sam Boyd Stadium and Thomas & Mack Center director who promoted Madrid vs. Santos.
It was much the same when Mexico met Iceland. “With Mexico, you had a lot of wow value, a lot of (star) power,” Libonati said.
And so you had 30,617 spectators clad in green and red, waving giant flags and blowing giant horns whenever a player wearing green crossed the ball into the 18-yard box, and another sent it flying over the crossbar with his head or foot. The atmosphere, in a word: fantastic.
One might not get that for Sporting Kansas City vs. Red Bulls M.G. (Mayor Goodman) and 16 other Major League Soccer games, plus playoffs, friendlies and a CONCACAF match featuring Trinidad and Tobago.
THEY (SORT OF) HAD HIS NUMBER
Around the 64th minute of Mexico vs. Iceland, it was noticed one of Iceland’s reserves did not have a number, or an imposter had run onto the pitch wearing a replica Iceland jersey purchased at Soccer Zone in Henderson.
“There was a problem with the (assigned) shirt,” said Omar, the Iceland press officer. He pointed to No. 15, Vidar Ari Jonnson, on his scoresheet.
This is why utility infielders who are assigned No. 78 during spring training should be happy, because it always could be worse.
LEAVE IT TO BIEBER
After the Mexico-Iceland game, I met a man named Riccardo from one of the Mexican ciudads who was selling posters featuring soccer legends just inside the west gate. Messi, Ronaldo, FC Barcelona, Bieber.
Riccardo said he had sold five Lionel Messi posters, four Cristiano Ronaldo and three Justin Bieber (!) since the game had ended. He swore it was verdad.
MINT TWIST FOR LENO
The “Jay Leno Garage” will move to the dusty environs of the Southern Nevada desert, as the former “Tonight Show” host will drive a Toyota Tacoma in the March 4 Mint 400 — the Polaris RZR Mint 400 presented by BFGoodrich Tires, if you’re scoring lap charts at home.
Leno will start the race with Ryan Millen, son of off-road racing icon Rod Millen, as co-driver. Some of Jay’s buddies also are expected to drive.
Leno will become the latest in a line of celebrity drivers to tackle the Mint, joining James Garner, Steve McQueen, Patrick Dempsey, Chuck Norris, Demarcus Ware and Sal Masekela, whose father, Hugh, played “Grazing in the Grass” on the trumpet.
PINSTRIPES FOR CARTER
Chris Carter’s agent recently said the former Sierra Vista High slugger might be headed to Japan to hit the baseball over fences closer to home plate. Fake news. After being cut by the Milwaukee Brewers despite co-leading the National League with 41 home runs in 2016 (and leading the league outright with 206 strikeouts), the big guy agreed to a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the New York Yankees.
The Yankees say Carter will play mostly against left-handed pitching, but baseball people will tell you platooning for the Yankees still beats playing every day for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of the Japanese Pacific League, though that’s a pretty cool name for a ballclub.
GONE, NEVER FORGOTTEN
It is time again for reflection, to get down low and play some Amoeba defense, to chomp down hard on a towel full of memories.
Saturday marked the two-year anniversary of the death of Jerry Tarkanian.
You are missed, coach.
Boy, are you ever missed.