Welcome to Your Second Home, Liverpool FC

Living in the U.S. means it’s hard see some of the best soccer in the world, let alone see your favorite team alongside thousands of fellow fans. Last night the world-renowned soccer team owned by Fenway Sports Group honchos John Henry and Tom Werner played an exhibition game against AS Roma at Fenway Park. It was a rematch of the legendary 1984 European Cup final, where the two teams tied 1–1, with Liverpool (aka LFC, aka the Reds) prevailing on penalty shots. So while this may not have been a tense rivalry played out in our burg, there was a lot of history here. Imagine the Pats and St. Louis Rams reliving Super Bowl XXXVI at Anfield, Liverpool’s home stadium, and you get the idea. This experience was a giddy mashup of two teams that I love.

Well before the game, the streets filled with folks in red — and not the Sox crimson, either — and the Souvenir Store on Yawkey Way proclaimed itself an LFC “fan zone.” Fans lined up to buy Liverpool and Roma gear in the store, which was displayed all along the usual Sox jerseys and hats. It was John Henry’s marketing dream come true, at least for a day. (When I spoke to a Souvenir Store employee earlier in the week, he said that they would be treating this sale as if it were concert, meaning: This stuff is on a special sale, so when it’s all gone, it’s gone.)

At game time, Fenway was packed to the gills and jammed with Liverpool jerseys, Roma jerseys, USA Soccer jerseys, and just about any type of soccer team you could imagine. Fenway had sold seats in left field as a Roma supporter section, while the bleachers and part of right field were a sea of Liverpool red dubbed the “Fenway Kop”— another nice reference to Anfield, whose famous grandstand the Spion Kop is where the most diehard LFC supporters have sat for generations every game. You could tell from the signs that people held up that they came from all over North America and the world to be at this game.

As for the game, I’ll let the Liverpool Echo newspaper and fansite This Is Anfield fill you in. From my view, Liverpool had some great chances in the first half, especially with a Joe Cole shot that bounced over the crossbar. At halftime, the massive LCD screen over the bleachers replayed highlights of that 1984 European Cup final, and it looked like we were due another close one this year. But in the second half Roma looked faster and tighter with its passing game, and Liverpool’s defense fell apart at the most crucial moments, leading to two quick goals for the Italian side — the first scored by American Michael Bradley. Finally Charlie Adam scored for the Reds in the last ten minutes and it was a scramble thereafter, but it was a little too late.

This, after all, was a preseason exhibition game … which of course has to mitigate my disappointment that the Reds lost to Roma 2–1, with all the goals scored in the second half. The only real disappointment in the end was the speed with which the game ended. Americans tend to think soccer is boring compared to baseball or our football, but in reality the game is over in two-thirds the time, and in person the game is faster and more graceful than any other. But I’m a believer, so what can I say.

Suddenly, it was all over, and there was Mayor Menino at home plate congratulating Roma’s superstar captain Francesco Totti, and then there were the Liverpool players making a nice walk around the entire circumference of the field to wave to all the fans at Fenway, and then there were the security staffers who told me it was time to go. All I could think about is how I wanted Liverpool to come back.

Check out these photos from the game:


liverpoolLiverpool and Sox gear for sale, aka, John Henry’s dream. (All photos by Matthew Reed Baker)

The Souvenir Store welcomes Liverpool dollars.


The Shankly Gates replica before the game.


Fenway Park becomes Anfield West.


The Fenway Kop: the designated section for the most diehard Liverpool supporters.


The Green Monster and sausage balloons for LFC and Roma.


Final score: Roma 2, Liverpool 1


Mayor Menino congratulates Roma’s superstar captain Francesco Totti