Summer tour: Marc Stein interview
- Sun 10 Jul 2011, 1:25AM
- Posted by Chris Bailey and Marc Stein in LA
The first of three games on Manchester City’s second successive North American summer tour is just seven days away.
To start getting you ready, now that the Blues have safely touched down in Los Angeles to commence a 17-day stay, we turn to one of our old American colleagues and friends -- Marc Stein from U.S. broadcasting giants ESPN -- to help preview City's journey to the other side of the Atlantic.
In the first of three Q-and-A installments with Stein, a lifelong Blue, we focus largely on City's opening match July 16 against Club America of Mexico at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Q: What is City's profile in the States these days?
A: I say this every year, but that’s because it bears repeating every year: The world, especially as it pertains to football, just keeps getting smaller. Watch ESPN's "SportsCenter" in 2011 and you'll see news of a City transfer or injury update scroll across the ticker at the bottom of the screen. As recently as 2007 or 2008, only a Ricky Hatton fight in Vegas could make City visible over here. Now? Just look at the list of European sides participating in the 2011 World Football Challenge. It's Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Manchester United ... and Manchester City. That's the sort of company City keep even in America’s eyes.
Q: The match against Club America will be played on a baseball ground in San Francisco. How do you think that’ll look?
A: Honestly? I thought about making a Derby County joke here, but the truth is that I'm just as curious as you are. The good news: I’m told this isn't the first time they've staged a football match at AT&T Park. From what I gather they'll be laying grass over the dirt infield on a pitch that runs from the first-base line to the left-field wall (for those of you well-versed in a baseball diamond's dimensions). I've also been informed that a major university (Cal) will be playing its gridiron football games at AT&T Park in the fall, so they obviously see this stadium as a versatile venue. This much I know for sure: It's pretty hard NOT to have a good time in San Francisco. So I seriously doubt that any of the City fans in attendance will be complaining no matter what happens on the day.
Q: What about Club America itself? Give us a scouting report.
A: They're one of the two giants of Mexican football along with Chivas de Guadalajara ... but America stunningly haven't won any domestic honors since 2005. Which means they're already facing huge, huge pressure back home. You should also know that their season starts for real exactly one week after the friendly with City, so they'll be much further along in their preseason preparations. Remember last July in New Jersey when Sporting Lisbon was about to start their competitive schedule in the Europa League when they faced City at Red Bull Arena and kept the ball so long against a young and rusty team of Blues that they looked for long stretches like the best passing side in the world? Mexican teams typically don't play at the same kind of pace, but America could have a similar sharpness advantage against City since they've been training since early June.
Q: Any particular America players to keep an eye out for?
A: Their most well-known player -- goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa -- was actually just sold to newly promoted Ajaccio in France, only for the transfer to be placed on hold because of a doping scandal at the recent Gold Cup. Someone of greater interest to Blues and still on America's books is former City immortal Vicente Matias Vuoso, who went from the dubious honor of never making a single appearance after Kevin Keegan signed the Argentinean for nearly 4 million pounds to becoming a naturalized Mexican citizen and a full-fledged international in his new country. Vuoso's position is said to be under threat this season after America's recent signing of Ecuadorian international Christian Benitez, but Vuoso managed 17 goals for America in 2010-11 and has scored four times in nine appearances for the national team.
Q: What will you be looking for from City?
A: I imagine everyone is hoping and expecting to see stronger sides than Roberto Mancini was able to put out last summer. Because 2010 was a World Cup year, so many first-choice players Mancini would normally employ weren't available for much of the U.S. tour. You'd like to believe that Mancini's team selections will have a much more familiar look on this trip.
Marc Stein is an NBA reporter for ESPN.com and ESPN’s family of networks. He’s been covering American professional basketball for the past 18 years and also covered the 1994 World Cup and Olympic football in Australia in 2000. To read some of Stein's NBA work, click here. To follow him on Twitter, click here.