When the New York Red Bulls take on Toronto FC on Saturday night, it will mark the final soccer game at Giants Stadium. With the new Giants Stadiums set to open in 2010, and the New York Red Bulls moving into Red Bull Arena in the spring, soccer fans will finally be able to say farewell to the former home of the New York Cosmos as well as the site of so many great soccer memories.
There was the 1994 World Cup, the 1999 Women's World Cup, the 2005 and 2009 Gold Cup Finals, the Cosmos and the myriad of international friendlies. We saw some of this country's best players grow up on the unforgiving turf field, and witnessed some of the best crowds in American soccer history cheer on both men's and women's teams.
For me, Giants Stadium has been a home office where my dream job was born and has taken shape. From my first assignment covering the MetroStars in 1999, to my first time covering the U.S. national team in 2000, to interviewing the likes of Pele, Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi and David Beckham, Giants Stadium has been the site of many of my best memories on the job.
There is plenty of reminiscing going on with this last game, with Dylan Butler covering the subject well here, and Michael Lewis offering his own listof top Giants Stadium memories. Red Bulls fans (and some MLS fans) will also appreciate Red Bulls fan site Metrofanatic's Top Ten Best Giants Stadium memories, and Ten Worst Giants Stadium memories).
I won't put them in order, but here are ten matches that come to mind as some of the most memorable during my decade of covering games at Giants Stadium:
Red Bulls 5, LA Galaxy 4. A packed house of 66,327 came courtesy of David Beckham, but it was Juan Pablo Angel and Jozy Altidore who put on the show in one of the most entertaining regular season games in MLS history.
Tim Howard's Manchester United debut. You couldn't have scripted it any better. Tim Howard had just signed with Manchester United and promptly makes his debut at Giants Stadium, the same stadium he starred in for the MetroStars. He made 11 saves in Man Utd's 4-1 win vs. Juventus and 79,005 applaud the hometown hero.
USA ties Argentina. It isn't often when a scoreless tie is an unforgettable event, but when the U.S. national team took on No. 1 ranked Argentina on June 8, 2008, 78,682 fans enjoyed a dramatic and rainy evening that included one of the best performances of Tim Howard's international career. He made seven saves, most of them of the world-class variety, to preserve the shutout and send the fans home happy.
USA wins dramatic Gold Cup semifinal. Oguchi Onyewu's signature national team moment came early on in his career, when he headed home the game-winning goal in the U.S. team's Gold Cup semifinal victory against Honduras. The Americans erased a one-goal deficit at halftime thanks to a John O'Brien goal (yes, that John O'Brien) before Onyewu delivered the winner in the 86th minute.
The forgotten Cup title. The U.S. national team's first trophy at Giants Stadium wasn't the 2005 Gold Cup it won, but rather the 2000 U.S. Cup trophy it won by beating a shell of a Mexican national team. This game wasn't all that memorable but it was the first U.S. national team I ever covered.
Clint Mathis scores a stunner. It was 2000 and Clint Mathis was at the peak of his abilities when the then-MetroStars striker scored the MLS goal of the decade. He raced through the Dallas Burn defense like it was standing still and scored a goal that left Dallas head coach Mike Jeffries speechless afterwords.
Peru faces Ecuador. I don't get to watch many matches in the Giants Stadium stands, but made an exception for this friendly, which I attended as a casual fan. Sitting in the Peru supporters section and having a front-row seat to watch them go crazy was a real treat. No, I didn't have a Peru jersey on, but that night was a fun one to say the least.
Wolyniec's wonder goal. Through all the matches and goals I have seen, there haven't been many goals better than John Wolyniec's game-winner in the final seconds of a 1-0 triumph over the Columbus Crew on Sept. 20, 2003. Wolyniec sized up a long and floating pass from the midfield stripe from Amado Guevara, then turned and fired a left-footed volley to win the game. For my money, it is the best goal scored in MLS history.
The original 5-4 thriller. The Red Bulls' 5-4 win vs. the Galaxy is on this list, but it wasn't the first 5-4 match. Youri Djorkaeff scored two, including the game-winner in a rare MetroStars win vs. New England Sept. 17, 2005.
MetroStars beat Columbus in '99 home opener. Mike Petke scored an 80th minute header to give the MetroStars a 1-0 victory against the Crew on March 28, 1999. It wasn't a particularly memorable game but it was the first pro game I ever covered, making it a special one.
Giants Stadium has plenty of flaws, and the artificial turf made for so many ugly and forgettable matches, but the stadium remains a nostalgic mecca for the sport and a venue that won't soon be forgotten by American soccer fans, particularly those from the New York/New Jersey area.
What are your lasting memories of Giants Stadium? Glad to see it being torn down? Sad to see it go?
Share your thoughts below.