There was never any doubt as to who the crowd was cheering for at the inaugural El Border Clásico at University Stadium Friday.
In front of 9,042 fans, Santos Laguna, a Liga MX team, defeated Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids 2-1. Most of the crowd was rooting for Santos, and a majority was clad in the team’s signature striped green-and-white jerseys. One Santos fan wore a green luchador mask and led the crowd in chants.
The stadium was half empty, but full of noise: the boisterous crowd that was rarely, if ever, quiet.
Santos midfielder Marc Crosas said the team has always received a warm welcome whenever it has played games in America or Canada. He cited games in Houston, Seattle and Toronto in which the crowd’s reception was much the same.
“We always have a good support,” he said. “For the fans it’s like being home for two hours — two and a half hours — and also it’s a good night for us because we have a good time every time we play away in the states.”
Santos head coach Pedro Caixinha said there is nothing like having the crowd on your side at a neutral match.
“That was the passion from the Mexican people that love soccer, that love their players, that love their country,” he said of the crowd. “That’s a really huge support. It’s always special to have their support.”
Rapids defender Marvell Wynne said he enjoyed the atmosphere and knew beforehand that the crowd would be hostile toward the Rapids.
“When we walked out we were greeted by a lot of boos, and I just smiled and gave them a wave,” he said. “I wasn’t being a jerk, but it was the fact that they all came out. They knew we were here for a friendly, so why not make it interesting?”
Colorado fans were few and far between, but Colorado head coach Óscar Pareja said he thought the crowd did the game a service by being so lively.
“That was great — I enjoyed the passion the fans had tonight and that’s the way it should be,” he said.
Players and coaches on both teams said they would be willing to play more games in Albuquerque if given the chance.
“We would love to and we were welcomed here. The experience has been incredible,” Pareja said.