Manuel Lopez wants to see more of what he drove to Chattanooga to see on Saturday night.
Fans from North Georgia and Tennessee filled Finley Stadium to watch 90 minutes of soccer between Mexican club rivals Pachuca FC and Club America.
The well-known Mexican club teams were a draw, but the proximity was a big plus, too.
Lopez’s fellow Dalton soccer fans share this wish.
“I just wanted to see a good match,” said Lopez, a former Dalton High player. “Mexican soccer isn’t as big as it should be, so I’m happy for this game.”
“I’m not a fanatic of either team,” his wife and former Southeast Whitfield soccer player, Betty Lopez, said during the pre-game tailgate in the parking lot. “I’m just here for the party.”
Others cared a bit more. The game ended in a 1-0 win for Club America. Alvarado Ventura took the ball up the right side in the third minute before crossing it low and past the Pachuca goalkeeper to Christian Benetiez, who finished it. This sent half Finley Stadium into cheers as Club America held on.
The result made some Carpet City fans happy and left some wishing for an immediate rematch.
The father-son combination of Gabriel Camacho and Eddie Camacho, 13, were hoping Mexican national soccer legend Hugo Sanchez could work some magic for his Pachuca side. But the rooting interested had less to do with a love of Pachuca as it did for another reason — Club America is heated rivals with the Camachos' favorite team — Chivas de Guadalajara.
“My favorite team is enemies with (Club) America,” Eddie Camacho said while pointing to a Chivas flag.
“Chivas is my team and they are rivals of America,” Gabriel Camacho said, following up with a playful jab. “(Club America fans) don’t know soccer.”
Gerry Hijar, friends of the Camachos, only shook his head and offered a quick retaliation. He is a fan of the victors because it brings in a mismatch of players with different nationalities.
“They contract international players,” he said, and then offered some insight into the contest. “We got a quick goal and then (the pace) kind of went down. It was our game.”
Despite walking away smiling, he also doesn’t want Saturday’s final whistle to be a permanent one.
“We need to bring an MLS team in this area, maybe Atlanta,” he said. “We’ll have plenty of support. You see the crowds for this game.”
While the reported attendance for the game was not known when the game ended, Club America fans were waving yellow team flags inside the stadium a good 75 minutes before the start of the game. Once the first players entered the field, it brought widespread cheers from the fans already inside.
Soccer World was responsible for bringing the event to the University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s football home.
In 2004, it hosted a match between the UAG Tecos from Guadalajara, Mexico and Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy at the Tennessee Titans’ LP Field in Nashville. Mark Weisman, Soccer World owner, said in a previous interview with The Daily Citizen this could be a recurring event if enough people show up to cheer the teams on.
Manuel Lopez hopes this becomes reality.
“It should happen more often,” he said. “They should bring more teams here. I wish they would because it’s so close.”