Hey, man, nice arena
Local hooligans howled the fight song for the Sacramento Republic FC long before the team even secured a stadium, while members of the Tower Bridge Battalion drank away weekday afternoons at Alley Katz this summer, watching the United States men's national soccer team earn its place in the 2014 World Cup.
Certainly, one thing's clear: Sacramento has developed a strong and lingering case of the soccer bug.
So, you can imagine what I, fervent fan of the world's greatest sport, said this past weekend upon learning that I live not even 3 miles away from Sacramento's very own pro indoor soccer team—the Sacramento Surge:
“Who the hell are these guys, and why haven't I heard of them?”
As it turns out, the Surge is an expansion team in the Professional Arena Soccer League, a 20-club, U.S.-Mexico league now in its sixth season.
The Surge entered its sophomore season after an unfortunate expansion year, in which the team earned one of its two victories only after Washington's Tacoma Stars unceremoniously announced they wouldn't be making a trip south for the final game of the season.
But onward: The Surge held this year's home opener on a Sunday afternoon. The team hosted the Las Vegas Legends in its hidden venue, the Estadio Azteca Soccer Arena—a little spot off Del Paso Boulevard that boasts its own burger joint and a full bar for soccer fans looking to start their night with a stiff cocktail or Negra Modelo on tap. (For schedule and ticket information, visit www.sacsurge.com.) Regardless of the team's performance, I'll be willing to attend matches for the venue alone.
Which is great, because these guys suck.
The Surge deploys coherent team play, but that can only go so far without serious talent on the roster. The only player to stand out in Sunday's opener was goalkeeper Emanuel Lopez—more for his pink jersey and his bleached-blond spiked tips than for his play, which, while at moments was pretty good, wasn't enough to stop the Legends from scoring half of its goals on him in the Surge's 14-6 loss.
Speaking of the Legends, these boys were the ultimate villains. From the towering, whiny enforcer Enrique Tovar, to the flailing waif Ricardinho, I have never seen a football club more guilty of theatrical flops or more vocal in its bitching to officials. Its slick coach also strutted around the arena in a jet-black suit with a sequined peace sign sparkling across his back.
As the match reached its end, I was impressed to see the 200-plus Surge fans remain to see the team through to the end, despite the deficit. I'm sure I wasn't alone in my satisfaction at one last Sacramento free kick in Vegas territory with two minutes left, which came to pass alongside much protestation from the already-victorious Legends.
Rather than pass the ball to one of his teammates, the Sacramento player decided to take a direct shot at the goal, but instead crushed a screamer squarely at the crotch of a Vegas player, sending urgent, searing pain through the poor defender's body.
Ah, yes, the Surge.