Mexican Premier League teams Morelia and Atlas played in front of a raucous crowd at Cal’s Edwards Stadium on Sunday, giving Bay Area fans a rare glimpse at soccer tradition and passion.
The exhibition game was a bit of a snoozer, with just one goal and few opportunities, but that didn’t matter to the fans of the two teams, who came decked out in red and black (for Atlas) or yellow and red (for Morelia). Plastic trumpets blared constantly from thirty minutes before the kickoff until the final whistle and the crowd cheered loudly for their favorites and booed lustily at the villains.
Atlas won the game on an early goal from Jose Luis Calderon, who received a feathery flick-on from Martin Machon and slid the ball under Morelia goalkeeper Moises Muñoz. Morelia had a golden opportunity to equalize late in the first half when Hernan Bujan was pulled down in the penalty area, but Tato Antonio Noriega shanked the ensuing penalty kick wide left. Each team hit the woodwork in the second half, but no more goals were scored.
There were distinct factions to the crowd, which numbered approximately 2,500. Most of the fans seemed to be rooting for one team or the other, but there were scattered faces that was there simply to see good soccer. Cal assistant coach Brad Agoos was one of those, although Sunday’s game could hardly compare to his last experience as a fan. Agoos returned not long ago from watching his brother Jeff and the rest of the U.S. men’s national team at the World Cup in Asia.
Agoos has played soccer all over the globe, including in our own domestic league, the fledgling Major League Soccer. According to him, the main difference between a Mexican game and an MLS game is the atmosphere.
“Just look at how many fans showed up with just week’s notice,” Agoos said. “That’s a big part of soccer. Mexicans are a passionate people, and they don’t hold back. There’s not a lot of etiquette at these games.”
Fremont’s Jorge Parra was wearing an Atlas jersey and hat, clearly identifying which side he was on. But for Parra, 47, the game was mainly a chance to relive memories of watching games as a teenager in Monterrey, Mexico.
“I haven’t seen a live Mexican game since I was 18,” he said. “Mexican soccer is the best in the world outside of Europe.”
Daniel Montero, 36, moved to Oakland from Mexico a decade ago, and his son, Eddie, had never seen a Mexican game in person.
“He’s been to MLS games, but I wanted him to see a Mexican game,” Montero said of his 9-year-old son. “It helps him understand where he comes from. Soccer is life in Mexico. This feels like real soccer.”