Saturday, January 28

Manchester City tops Club América in friendly between iconic clubs


Two powerhouses of the soccer world clashed on Wednesday night at NRG Stadium. A true showpiece friendly pairing two-time Premier League defending champion Manchester City against Mexican giant Club América.

For soccer fans, it doesn’t get too much better than this. A preseason friendly involving iconic clubs. An engaged crowd of 61,223 came out to enjoy the Copa de Lone Star showdown.

This is another reminder that Houston supports big-time soccer, big time. That’s no secret. In June it was announced that NRG was one of 11 US host sites for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Kevin De Bruyne’s pair of goals lifted Manchester City to a 2-1 victory over America.

De Bruyne made good on a blast just outside the box in the 30th minute. Guillermo Ochoa was substituted in goal by Oscar Jimenez three minutes later. Ochoa has made the most appearances (400) over two stints on the team. He’s featured at each of the past four World Cups for Mexico.

Henry Martin got the equalizer for America in the 43rd minute, his left-footed shot found the way into the net. In the 45th plus-one minute, De Bruyne struck again, as City reinstated the lead 2-1. De Bruyne slotted a well-placed ball that went by the legs of Jimenez.

City’s first outing in its new away kit (red and black stripes) proved to be a winner.

In a heated moment, Ochoa and City’s Jack Grealish got in a shoving match in the 23rd minute. For the remainder of the match, Grealish was booed every time he touched the ball by the América faithful.

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NRG has hosted a number of quality soccer matches. Among those are US Men’s National Team friendlies as well as CONCACAF Gold Cup matches.

A good number of the passionate fans arrived to their seats Wednesday as soon as doors opened, eagerly awaiting the two powers getting after it on the field. América supporters wore yellow, followers of City replicated its team’s sky-blue kit color.

City has met the Mexican side on three occasions, winning all three.

Manchester City is making a preseason tour of the United States. A match against Bayern Munich is to follow in Green Bay, Wis., on Saturday in preparation of its defense of the Premier League title. City heads home next weekend ahead of the FA Community Shield clash with Liverpool for the start of the new season.

This is an important tour for City, back in the US for the first time since 2018. In addition to prepping for the 2022-23 season, City is focused on continuing to promote the sport and grow its presence in North America. Manchester City has toured the US six times since 2010.

Acclimating themselves into the Houston community, the former City duo of Pablo Zabaleta and Joleon Lescott donned Astros gear in throwing out ceremonial first pitches last weekend at Minute Maid Park.

Each of the City’s four summer signs were in Houston. Erling Haaland, Kalvin Phillips, Stefan Ortega Moreno and Julian Alvarez all traveled to the United States as part of Pep Guardiola’s 26-man traveling squad. Guardiola is hopeful they slot straight in. Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden, John Stones and Aymeric Laporte remained in Manchester.

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Prior to Wednesday’s match, Guardiola’s side trained at Houston Sports Park. City is returning from a three-week break.

City dramatically beat Aston Villa on the final day of last season to secure its fourth Premier League title in five years.

Based in Mexico City, América is off to a slow start, winning just one of its three matches in Liga MX. It’s in the midst of a series of friendlies against City and Real Madrid. The Aguilas (eagles) suffered a 2-1 defeat against Chelsea on Saturday.

The Mexican outfit has won the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup seven times, and the Liga MX title on 13 occasions, more than any other side. It also is one of only two teams to have never been relegated from the top flight. City has also won 13 domestic cups.

America has captured the Copa Mexico more times than any other side (six). The Aguilas’ most recent success coming in 2019, the same year they won their sixth and final Champion of Champions title.


www.houstonchronicle.com

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