BOSTON — Wednesday night’s tilt at Fenway Park was a de facto home game for Liverpool FC.
Buoyed by the support of Fenway Sports Group — owners of both the English soccer club and the Boston Red Sox — Liverpool supporters came out in droves for the third installment of “Football at Fenway.”
Red blanketed the outfield bleachers and much of the rest of the ballpark, and while Liverpool’s opponent, defending Serie A runner-up AS Roma, was well-represented, as well, there was no debate over the crowd’s collective allegiance.
This fact was not lost on Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, whose squad lost 1-0 on a last-minute goal in its first friendly of the 2014-15 season.
“It’s the second time we’ve been here in the last couple of years, so it was a great atmosphere,” Rodgers told reporters after the game. “The supporters gave us great encouragement and support over the course of the evening, and I think it was both sets of supporters were fantastic. It made it — for a preseason game, it was a really, really good game.”
The object of the fans’ support was not the only aspect of the game that made it feel like an afternoon at Anfield. After Liverpool’s club anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” blared over the speakers, the pregame ceremonies concluded with one minute of silence and the releasing of 96 red balloons in memory of the fans who lost their lives at the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster.
AS Roma (@OfficialASRoma) July 23, 2014
The game was the first of four on American soil for the Reds, who also will play at Chicago’s Soldier Field, Yankee Stadium and Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., before beginning their Premier League slate. Rodgers was asked for his take on the the state of soccer in the U.S., which again is said to be on the upswing after Team USA’s performance at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
“I think every time I come back to America, I sense the growing enthusiasm for football. (The U.S.) had a really successful World Cup to get out of the group stages and qualify like you’ve done and go so close is an incredible achievement. I think it probably grasped the nation and their interest in the sport.
“I think it’s a really knowledgeable crowd here in America. A lot of the channels that I watch when I am over here, they show great coverage — great detail in their coverage — of football. I just think it’s just a continuation of the last 15 years or so, where the sport has really grown and gotten better and better. Obviously, the women’s football is probably up there before the men’s, but know that the men are starting to do better and do it well, and over the next 15 years it will grow even more.”