Soccer match wows crowd at Citi Field
Juventus triumphs over Mexico's Club América in exhibition
Harry LaCoste and Bekah Coulter had been to Citi Field before, but they'd never seen it like this.
A pair of Red Sox fans living in Astoria, they've been coming to the Mets' new ballpark since the stadium's second baseball game back in 2009.
On Tuesday, the couple got a chance to see the second soccer game in Citi Field history, a 1-0 win for Italian club Juventus over Mexico's Club América.
"You should see Jose Reyes right over there in the dirt getting dirty diving for baseballs, and there's lawn there," LaCoste said. "So it's kind of funny that way."
"You come to a baseball stadium and you expect to see the diamond, but to come here and see this beautiful soccer field is kind of wonderful," Coulter added.
The game took place as part of the World Football Challenge, a series of exhibition games being played in North America this summer between some of the world's most prestigious soccer clubs, including Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United.
Though LaCoste and Coulter came primarily due to general soccer enthusiasm, most of the 20,859 fans in attendance came to catch a rare glimpse of their favorite clubs in person.
One such fan was Tony Mussumeci, who currently lives on Long Island after emigrating from Sicily in 1995. Though a 38-minute rain delay, caused by pouring rain and lightning, halted play during the first half, nothing could put a damper on the experience of seeing Juventus in person for the first time.
"It's pretty cool," Mussumeci said. "You look all around, you can see every corner. Our seats are pretty great."
A traditional Mexican league powerhouse, Club América was also well-represented in the stands. Carlos Hernandez came with his family from Yonkers to see Las Águilas for the first time. In addition to the allegiance to Club América he inherited from his family, Hernandez is a Mets fan and said he enjoyed seeing Citi Field transformed.
"I'd never thought I'd see it like this," Hernandez said. "I think it's cool to change everything up."
Juventus went out of its way to add a Queens touch to its pregame ceremony. As is customary in big-time soccer matches, each player walked onto the field holding the hand of a small child. Each of the children accompanying Juventus onto the pitch Tuesday night was dressed in a Mets T-shirt that read "Piazza 31" on the back, a nod to legendary catcher Mike Piazza, who represented Italy in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and was the team's hitting coach in 2009.
Though the covered-up baseball diamond caused an uneven surface, both Juventus coach Antonio Conte and defender Reto Ziegler echoed the fans' sentiments in saying they enjoyed having a soccer match at the home of the New York Mets.
"Aside from the baseball diamond, which was a little bit of a rough patch, the stadium and the facility is quite a beautiful one," Conte said through an interpreter. "The grass cut was exactly what we need for soccer aside from the baseball diamond. It's great to play in front of many Juventus fans who are living the experience of being a fan of Juventus from afar, especially knowing how important this season is for us, and giving us a good send-off to Italy in preparation for our season."
"It was a big stadium with a lot of fans -- Juvi fans and Mexican fans," Ziegler said. "For us to play, it was a great feeling."
Aaron Taube is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.