Soccer match sets Pittsburgh attendance record

SOCCER NOTEBOOK


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On the heels of a World Cup that produced the most-watched soccer game in American history -- with 26 million viewers tuning in to watch Germany beat Argentina, 1-0, in the final -- the Pittsburgh sports faithful Sunday kept the newfound excitement for the sport going.

A crowd of 34,347 watched Manchester City take on AC Milan at Heinz Field, part of the second annual International Champions Cup, a tournament that brings top European clubs to compete in the United States.

The attendance marked the highest number of spectators to watch a soccer match in Pittsburgh's history.

The previous time the city hosted a competition between top-tier international clubs was a July 29, 2004 match between Chelsea and AS Roma. That match drew 25,000 fans.

"I know soccer is getting bigger within the U.S., so we're glad to be part of this," Manchester City defender Gael Clichy said. "As everyone knows, we have a new team in New York now that is getting ready for next year and we can see the way that people can be passionate about soccer."

Big names suit up

While a majority of the biggest names for Manchester City did not see time on the pitch, a handful of top international players were able to leave their mark at Heinz Field.

Mario Balotelli started the second half for AC Milan after sitting out the first half. He was unable to get his name in the score sheet, being called offside on his one opportunity on goal.

"Mario was ready to play 45 minutes ... based on his physical condition, and he was able to get out there and do it," AC Milan manager Filippo Inzaghi said through a translator.

The up-and-coming Stevan Jovetic, a 24-year-old Montenegro national, opened the scoring for Manchester City in the 12th minute, edging a ball past Milan goalkeeper Michael Agazzi. He scored again in the 58th minute.

France's Clichy, Jesus Navas of Spain, Sulley Muntari of Ghana and Keisuke Honda of Japan highlighted some of the other big names who logged significant minutes in the match.

Warming up

Both squads are using the International Champions Cup as a tune-up for their upcoming domestic league seasons.

The Premier League season opens play Aug. 16, with Manchester City looking to repeat as league champion for the first time in club history.

Unlike its opponents, AC Milan was not in championship form last year. The club finished the season eighth in the league table, its worst finish since 10th in 1998. AC Milan hopes to regain its usual dominance when Italy's Serie A begins Aug. 24.

"I think that both teams, we are in positions," Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. "I think that it's an important match because we are in the International Champions Cup, but I think that it's also important to continue working on what we are doing."

Early stop

The International Champions Cup's stop in Pittsburgh was one of the earliest of the competition, the fourth of a total of 13 matches.

The game marked the first appearance for Manchester City in the tournament and the second for AC Milan, which lost its opening match, 3-0, to Olympiacos of Greece at BMO Field in Toronto.

Play will conclude Aug. 4, with the winners of Group A and Group B going head-to-head for the cup at Sun Life Stadium in Miami.

Alex Nieves: anieves@post-gazette.com and Twitter @alexdnieves5


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