Ronaldo, Real Madrid steal the show in Glendale
AUG 02, 2013 12:25a ET
Such is life for Ronaldo Cristiano, better known as, well, Ronaldo, one of the soccer world's one-name wonders and biggest stars.
On Thursday night at University of Phoenix Stadium, Ronaldo didn't disappoint. Even when he made a mistake, he looked good in doing it, sending a header just wide about six minutes into Real Madrid's 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy in front of 38,922 giddy soccer fans.
The match was part of the 2013 Guinness International Champions Cup, with this match being the one and only stop in the Phoenix area.
"The atmosphere was really fantastic," said Carlo Ancelotti, Real Madrid's coach. "The stadium is really one of the best in the world. We enjoyed to stay here, to play here. Also, the pitch was fantastic and the experience with the stadium ... we will have a good memory in the future."
Victories tend to do that.
It also was a victory for the Phoenix area, where big-time soccer returned for at least one night. Not since 2007 when the United States national team faced the Mexican national team have so many soccer fans shown up; that game drew 62,462.
"It showed that it was a good response," said Benjamin Spencer, director of communications for Relevent Sports, which helped put on the event. "It's a city that has shown that it's a great soccer city."
For the fans, it was all about Ronaldo -- at least when he was on the field, as he sat out the second half. Every touch, every movement and perhaps every breath, the fans watched and at times gasped. And any time he had anything resembling a scoring chance, the crowd was on its feet.
The fans partied like it was a rock concert, with their rock stars being Real Madrid's KaKa, Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, who scored twice.
Soccer fan Orlando Rodriguez drove 7 1/2 hours from El Paso, Texas, to see all of them.
"They're great, and this is a great crowd," said Rodriguez, a 25-year-old who was wearing a blue-and-white Real Madrid flag over his shoulders. "Real Madrid has great fans. And Ronaldo is great with the fans. He posted a photo right away on Instagram."
And he made an impact right away, just missing on the aforementioned header and then getting an assist on a first-half goal by Angel DiMaria to get Real Madrid going in a match that had the atmosphere of a home contest thanks to so many Fly Emerites jerseys in the stadium.
"You really don't think about it when you're out of the field, because once you start thinking about who you are going up against, it gives them the advantage," said Galaxy goalie Brian Rowe. "You just settle into the game and deal with whatever comes your way."
He dealt with it the best he could.
Real Madrid, one of the world's premier teams, pressured often. And Ronaldo was involved throughout the first half, missing right, left and over the goal after his early opportunity that hit the corner of the crossbar/post, which had Real Madrid fans on their feet.
"It's fantastic," said Charista Harristhal, who wore a No. 7 Ronaldo jersey to attend her first pro soccer game. "It's got a good energy. ... He's been very good and is always good outside the goal."
And how did he look?
"He's very good-looking," she said. "You can't get away from that."