NEW YORK -- If it was strange to see a capacity Yankee Stadium crowd covered with red and spots of sky blue, or a diamond turn into a pitch, then it might be substantially stranger when this event happens on a regular basis next year.
In what might be considered a final trial run for Yankee Stadium as the venue for 2015 MLS expansion team NYCFC, Liverpool and Manchester City gave fans a look at two English Premier League teams that have increasingly become part of American fans' collective soccer conscience.
The teams squared off Wednesday night, part of the next leg in the Guinness International Champions Cup, and the turnout seemed indicative of the recent FIFA World Cup's lasting effects. Liverpool, with help from goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, would eventually win on penalty kicks (3-1) after playing Manchester City to a 2-2 draw.
Stevan Jovetic scored twice for City, but his keeper, Joe Hart, who entered in the second half and made several acrobatic saves, couldn't keep an 85th-minute equalizer out of the net from the foot of Raheem Sterling. Jordan Henderson, who scored one of Liverpool's goals and then was successful in the shootout, was named Man of the Match.
"It's always nice to get a victory, whether it's in a friendly or in a competitive game," said Henderson. "When you're playing for points, it's always competitive in my eyes, especially when you're playing against Man City. To score a goal to win the game is nice as well. I think in the second half, we definitely counter-attacked a bit more."
Even though support split between two teams from England, it was clear that soccer in New York City, or more specifically in the Bronx, will be a welcome change of pace.
Part of the recent fervor for NYCFC, which will begin its first season in March, has been spurred on by the signings of former Chelsea FC midfielder Frank Lampard and Spanish striker David Villa, who were both in attendance Friday.
Manchester City will be the majority owner of the new MLS squad, but the Yankees have a minor share and will be involved in the operations of the team. But Friday, when Man City entered the field for the first time, any future allegiances were dismantled, and a heavy dose of boos erupted from the majority Liverpool support.
Liverpool is owned by Red Sox principal owner John Henry, adding an interesting twist to Wednesday's match.
There was visceral cheering and familiar chanting during the game, as Liverpool fans, groaning and then erupting with each opportunity to score, packed the left-field bleachers using typical home run territory to intimidate Man City's goalies.
Both teams will play the last matches of the tournament Saturday, when Liverpool goes to Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium and Man City heads west to TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. In the meantime, Yankee Stadium can boast about being the only baseball park to host a match in this tournament, even though it appeared to be more work. The grounds crew, which had laid grass on top of the first and second base half of the diamond, spent time in between play stamping down the temporary sod. At halftime, sprinklers inadvertently started hosing down the field.
But even as the Stadium works out its kinks hosting a new sport, it was hard not to notice the added decibels echoing around the park. The Yankees will still take precedence in the Bronx, but it seems clear that New York soccer fans are ready for another team to make some history there, too.
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less