U.S. coach Bruce Arena said he decided the team should play at Rentschler Field after visiting the stadium's Web site two years ago, and coming to the conclusion that it could be a world-class venue for soccer.
But Arena also said he would like to see more tickets sold for the contest. Only 15,000 of the 38,000 available had been sold by Tuesday.
"What we hope to accomplish here is to win the game," he said. "Let's pack the stands."
[Lt. Governor Kevin] Sullivan said the game is a great opportunity for the area to prove itself as a sports market.
"All the eyes of the world will be here on Aug. 17," he said. (AP)
Okay, I've seen this one before. Every once in a while, a big sporting event blows through town that will, at last, prove to the rest of the country just how wonderful a sports market Greater Hartford is.
And so the event happens, and there are tons of empty seats. Sports announcers will fuss about how sad it is that this fine event is being held in a place like Hartford, which is obviously the worst sports market in the country. And, if they're feeling especially nasty, they'll bring up the Whalers.
It isn't that we're a bad sports market. It's that we don't care about soccer, or about the WNBA, women's football, the world volleyball championships, arena football, minor league basketball or team tennis, either.
For that matter, it wasn't that we didn't like hockey, either. The Whalers were just a lousy club, and who wants to see second-rate hockey?
But it contributes to the vast and growing inferiority complex that Greater Hartford has about its place in the nation. The loss of the Whalers was devestating to a city and a region that had been reeling for a decade from corporate flight, job cuts, crime and general decay. Before 1997, we could at least take some solace in the fact that Hartford was major league, if only in one rather pitiful respect. It hurt our pride, which had already been badly beaten, when that was taken from us.
This led our leaders to do strange things, such as throwing an aircraft carrier full of money at the New England Patriots, building a stadium for UCONN in East Hartford instead of Storrs and making an enormous, if futile, effort to host a bass fishing tournament. The fact that the Lieutenant Governor was forced to go out and sell an upcoming soccer match should give you an idea just how serious our inferiority complex is, and how badly people in power want the Hartford area to be a "great sports market" or at the very least, in some sort of national spotlight from time to time. Why else build a huge convention center?
The problem with spending a lot of time dreaming, planning and building big is that one tends to overlook the small things. Right now, we're acting like a 40-year-old minor leaguer who still quixotically dreams of the big leagues. It's past time to give up the major league dream. We'll be better off, in the long run, if we and our leaders learn to accept Hartford and the region surrounding it for what it is, instead of trying to shape it into what it is not.
"Connecticut To Host World Cup Qualifier." Associated Press 9 August, 2005.