TGIF: Saying Goodbye to Giants Stadium

Giants Stadium

When the New York Red Bulls take on Toronto FC on Saturday night, it will mark the final soccer game at Giants Stadium. With the new Giants Stadiums set to open in 2010, and the New York Red Bulls moving into Red Bull Arena in the spring, soccer fans will finally be able to say farewell to the former home of the New York Cosmos as well as the site of so many great soccer memories.

There was the 1994 World Cup, the 1999 Women's World Cup, the 2005 and 2009 Gold Cup Finals, the Cosmos and the myriad of international friendlies. We saw some of this country's best players grow up on the unforgiving turf field, and witnessed some of the best crowds in American soccer history cheer on both men's and women's teams.

For me, Giants Stadium has been a home office where my dream job was born and has taken shape. From my first assignment covering the MetroStars in 1999, to my first time covering the U.S. national team in 2000, to interviewing the likes of Pele, Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi and David Beckham, Giants Stadium has been the site of many of my best memories on the job.

There is plenty of reminiscing going on with this last game, with Dylan Butler covering the subject well here, and Michael Lewis offering his own listof top Giants Stadium memories. Red Bulls fans (and some MLS fans) will also appreciate Red Bulls fan site Metrofanatic's Top Ten Best Giants Stadium memories, and Ten Worst Giants Stadium memories).

I won't put them in order, but here are ten matches that come to mind as some of the most memorable during my decade of covering games at Giants Stadium:

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Red Bulls 5, LA Galaxy 4. A packed house of 66,327 came courtesy of David Beckham, but it was Juan Pablo Angel and Jozy Altidore who put on the show in one of the most entertaining regular season games in MLS history.

Tim Howard's Manchester United debut. You couldn't have scripted it any better. Tim Howard had just signed with Manchester United and promptly makes his debut at Giants Stadium, the same stadium he starred in for the MetroStars. He made 11 saves in Man Utd's 4-1 win vs. Juventus and 79,005 applaud the hometown hero.

USA ties Argentina. It isn't often when a scoreless tie is an unforgettable event, but when the U.S. national team took on No. 1 ranked Argentina on June 8, 2008, 78,682 fans enjoyed a dramatic and rainy evening that included one of the best performances of Tim Howard's international career. He made seven saves, most of them of the world-class variety, to preserve the shutout and send the fans home happy.

USA wins dramatic Gold Cup semifinal. Oguchi Onyewu's signature national team moment came early on in his career, when he headed home the game-winning goal in the U.S. team's Gold Cup semifinal victory against Honduras. The Americans erased a one-goal deficit at halftime thanks to a John O'Brien goal (yes, that John O'Brien) before Onyewu delivered the winner in the 86th minute.

The forgotten Cup title. The U.S. national team's first trophy at Giants Stadium wasn't the 2005 Gold Cup it won, but rather the 2000 U.S. Cup trophy it won by beating a shell of a Mexican national team. This game wasn't all that memorable but it was the first U.S. national team I ever covered.

Clint Mathis scores a stunner. It was 2000 and Clint Mathis was at the peak of his abilities when the then-MetroStars striker scored the MLS goal of the decade. He raced through the Dallas Burn defense like it was standing still and scored a goal that left Dallas head coach Mike Jeffries speechless afterwords.

Peru faces Ecuador. I don't get to watch many matches in the Giants Stadium stands, but made an exception for this friendly, which I attended as a casual fan. Sitting in the Peru supporters section and having a front-row seat to watch them go crazy was a real treat. No, I didn't have a Peru jersey on, but that night was a fun one to say the least.

Wolyniec's wonder goal. Through all the matches and goals I have seen, there haven't been many goals better than John Wolyniec's game-winner in the final seconds of a 1-0 triumph over the Columbus Crew on Sept. 20, 2003. Wolyniec sized up a long and floating pass from the midfield stripe from Amado Guevara, then turned and fired a left-footed volley to win the game. For my money, it is the best goal scored in MLS history.

The original 5-4 thriller. The Red Bulls' 5-4 win vs. the Galaxy is on this list, but it wasn't the first 5-4 match. Youri Djorkaeff scored two, including the game-winner in a rare MetroStars win vs. New England Sept. 17, 2005.

MetroStars beat Columbus in '99 home opener. Mike Petke scored an 80th minute header to give the MetroStars a 1-0 victory against the Crew on March 28, 1999. It wasn't a particularly memorable game but it was the first pro game I ever covered, making it a special one.

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Giants Stadium has plenty of flaws, and the artificial turf made for so many ugly and forgettable matches, but the stadium remains a nostalgic mecca for the sport and a venue that won't soon be forgotten by American soccer fans, particularly those from the New York/New Jersey area.

What are your lasting memories of Giants Stadium? Glad to see it being torn down? Sad to see it go?

Share your thoughts below.

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36 Responses to TGIF: Saying Goodbye to Giants Stadium

  1. ga-gone says:

    USA-Argentina was a tremendous game. A truly entertaining 0-0. It was SO HOT that day, and it was great when it started pouring rain for the final 10 minutes or so, which seemed to pump up the USA crowd to an incredible degree.

  2. chupacabra says:

    USA/Argentina and Red Bulls/LA ’07 rank up there for me as well, but the home opener monsoon match April 15, 2007 vs. Dallas (RB 3, Dallas 0) is my personal #1, partly for the two-hour Noah-like adventure I endured to get home afterwards.

  3. Paul says:

    Cosmos playoff game ca. 1978 against Rochester. Pouring rain. 75,000+ fans. I remember thinking how strange it seemed, like it wasn’t real. Sadly, just a few years later, I turned out to be right.

  4. Mark says:

    I’d agree with many of those memories, and I’m happy to say I’ve attended most of those games to enjoy th experience first hand. The one I’d add is when the Metros came back and beat DC 3-2. Nothing more satisfying(and it hasn’t happened enough) than getting the best of you rival in such dramatic fashion.

    Having said that, I won’t miss that dump one bit. I can’t wait to enjoy my front row seats at Red Bull Arena and all the championships we’ll win….I almost kept a straight face writing that…

  5. Coach says:

    The Galaxy game and ’05 Gold Cup semis are indeed modern classics. Those of us on the other side of 30 have basically a lifetime a great soccer memories at GS, and it’s sad to see it go. Here are a few:

    Cosmos 7:0 Ft. Lauderdale (1978 opener & my first game)

    Cosmos beat Minnesota in 1978 playoff game in shootout

    Cosmos lose 1979 semis to Vancouver in a classic with mini-game and 2 shootouts

    Cosmos thrash reigning Euro champs Hamburg in a friendly (1982 or 83)

    In ’83 or ’84, US holds defending world champs Italy to a 0:0 draw after withstanding an early barrage. I swear my father and I are the only US supporters in the crowd.

    It was also cool when, in Metros first year, they played LA, got hammered, Caricola got a red card, and bottles started flying from the mezz and upper deck. Game was the lead story on Spanish-language news that evening; not the sports news but the regular news.

  6. Gino says:

    What about those marlboro cup games back in the 90′s when the US Nat’l side played the likes of Benfica, Parma and Flamengo.

  7. Nic says:

    Freddy Adu scored his first pro goal as a 15 yr old in front of 36000 people. Not a bad crowd for a regular season game.

  8. js says:

    I’ve been to just about all of those games, but my favorite GS memory has to be the comeback against Tampa Bay in ’96 with the Gio bicycle kick to tie it.

  9. ivanomartin says:

    Surely the W Connection loss this year has to be somewhere in the top ten worst moments.

  10. patrick says:

    that clint mathis run was a thing of beauty. That play my have literally been the peak of his career. He just sliced right through them

  11. seven says:

    I’m sure we haven’t seen the end of Giants Stadium as a soccer venue. Seems like it would still be a natural venue when big European teams tour.

    (The new Giants Stadium will certainly be a home for soccer games. The old Giants Stadium will soon be a parking lot.)

  12. M says:

    My only time ever in Giants Stadium was the USA Argentina game. 80,000 people, sold out. The BEST sporting atmosphere I have ever been to.

  13. Matt in SF says:

    I remember a very entertaining 4-4 match between the Metros and the Earthquakes (which came not long after a 5-5 match between the two teams at Spartan Stadium.) Those were fun games.

  14. GLS says:

    Good riddance to the Giants Stadium turf. But being a DC fan I actually have quite a few good memories of that stadium. I’ll always remember watching Christian Gomez in the crowd back in 2005 playing the drum with the DC fans. I was also there for the Man U-Juventus game, in which the highlight was getting there so early we managed to park in the lot that was reserved for the traveling English fans and we tailgated with them all day. Great times.

  15. CFKA Metro says:

    Gotta agree with JS. Metro v. Tampa Bay was probably the best sporting event I’ve ever been to, even though it was a meaningless regular season game and ended in a (shudder) shootout. That game taught me what it means to be a soccer fan, and made me believe in MLS. I’ll never forget it.

    I think Italy v. Ireland has to rate at the top in terms of GS internationals. Some Irish dude said it was the first time he’d seen an outdoor stadium with the ambience and atmosphere of an indoor stadium.

    That said, the place was simply no good for soccer, even with grass. Good riddance Giants Stadium!

  16. Nestor F Sebastian says:

    Ives, glad to see a Peru match as one of your memorable ones.

    Mine was a 2002 WCQs warm-up match between Peru and Mexico in which Mexico’s coach, Lavolpe, was pretty miffed that Mexico had to play a team of less calibre.

    Sure enough, we handed them a nice shiznitburger to eat immediately within seconds of kickoff when Claudio Pizarro scored. The final result favored Peru 3-1. Jefferson Farfan and Nolberto Solano also were on the pitch.

    I also recall the fights on and off the pitch. Although there were many Mexicans (who usually outnumber any nationality any given day), Peruvians made the presence known and sat in the infamous 101 section and filled it to capacity, singing in unison, never sitting down and jumping up and down throughout the match.

    Unfortunately, there was a lot of violence that day but that doesn’t deter my memory of one of the best matches I’ve attended at GS (with the exception of one when I was 8 years old when I witnessed the Cosmos’ 5-1 drubbing of the Peruvian national team).

  17. Danny says:

    Many good memories from Giants Stadium…My two favorite were when Benfica faced Emlec in a friendly in 2002, and when they played another friendly in 2007 against AEK…Also can’t forget the tons of MetroStars/Red Bull games I saw, but with that said I can’t wait for the new stadium…Giants Stadium you were great, but you won’t be missed…Bring on Red Bull Arena!!!

  18. John D says:

    @G-gone, your description of the weather for the Argentina match as SO HOT is an understatement. It was a scorcher that day. Amazing match with the crowd feeding off the rain as it as got heavier and lightning appeared over the horizon. It was like the crowd was telling the clouds “give us your best shot. this is nothing.”

    When the stadium was filled, the atmosphere was amazing no matter who was playing. Hopefully the new Giants stadium will host big matches.

    Here are the matches I went to at Giants Stadium:

    Roma vs Real Madrid
    Juventus vs Man U
    Chelsea vs AC Milan
    Celtic vs Chivas
    Metrostars vs Barelona
    Ireland vs Ecuador
    USA vs Argentina

  19. Tony says:

    It won’t go down as a good USMNT memory, but I will always appreciate our trip to the Gold Cup final this year. While it was 70,000 Mexico fans versus 7,000 USMNT ones, it was still a great atmosphere and advertisment for the game.

    Also, Danny Capero’s goal v Columbus. Classic. Though, did I hear he’s no longer the only goalkeeper in the MLS to score?

  20. Mig22 says:

    Morocco vs. Saudi Arabia in the World Cup. My first WC match in person and I won a Saudi t-shirt as my friend took Morocco in the wager. Good times.

  21. Adam M. says:

    I will add the Barca-Red Bulls friendly a few years back. Barca coming off its CL win with Ronaldinho at the peak of his career (do people really appreciate how dominating he was), Messi the rising star, Eto’o and the host of other talent and all of the other Barca luminaries in front of 80,000 fans pumped to see the superstar team and the best player on the planet. The game was pretty good also — he Bulls put up a fight.

  22. wyo fan says:

    Mine is a 1981 Cosmos game (can’t remember who against). But I got to play in the pouring rain on the field prior to the Cosmos game. There were two simultaneous U12 games played across the width. We scored on a hand of god goal to win 4-3. The thing that stuck with me is that even soaking wet, the astroturf was rock hard and gave you rug burns (I was always on the ground back then).

  23. Dexter says:

    What about Ireland 1-0 Italy in the world cup?

  24. Juan-John says:

    DCU vs NYRB this past April, with DCU winning 3-2 with a pair of goals in the last five minutes of the game. My first and only visit to Giants Stadium, but a memorable one, nonetheless! :-)

  25. Amber says:

    78,972 watching the US Women’s team at the start of the ’99 WC

  26. wyo fan says:

    Now I recall the most memorable Giants Stadium soccer game:

    1981: East Fishkill Soccer Club (NY) 4-3 Summit, NJ

  27. Wyrm says:

    I grew up in NJ but moved to Washington DC about 20 years ago (and so am a United fan, sorry :-( ). My first soccer memory is seeing the Cosmos playing against the Seattle Sounders when I was 6 or 7. I can honestly say that nothing is quite as exciting as your first professional sporting event.

    I also vividly remember Germany-Bulgaria in the ’94 World Cup. Lots of unhappy German fans that day :-)

    As a United fan I can tell you I’m very jealous of the new stadium, it looks like it’s going to fantastic and I hope we get one nearly as nice someday.

  28. Jake Oliver says:

    my fondest memory of Giants Stadium will always be the 1996 MLS All-Star game, followed by a World Select 11 playing the Brazilian Olympic Team. I was at the first Metrostar victory, which was also a treat. Sadly, the last game I will ever attend at Giants Stadium was the humiliating 5-0 loss to Mexico.

  29. art says:

    Memories are memories but the fact is Giants Stadium has long been the worst stadium in MLS, so good riddance to it.

  30. Nick says:

    Without a doubt, the USA-Argentina from summer 2008. An absolute blast of a match, the fact that I was absolutely drenched in rain water just made it even better. I’ll always remember the crowd roaring in unison when the first lightning bolt flashed across the sky and the clouds opened up. Truly a memorable day. Great match, but the weather just really “made” the whole thing, if you know what I’m saying. Singing in the rain was never as fun as that one night.

  31. A.S. says:

    1979 – Cosmos vs Tampa Bay Rowdies(?). First live pro soccer game I ever went to.

    2008 USA-Argentina game was great too.

  32. fischy says:

    @A.S. – I was at that Rowdies gmme — a regular at Cosmos’ game, but I rooted for the Rowdies. I wouldn’t pick just one Cosmos game — the vibe there was so great for so many games. I’d lump the ’77, ’78 and even ’70 seasons as one glorius moment, and I’d include the tailgates. Next up would be the ’82 FIFA All-Star game. So much star power on one field — and a pretty good game, too. The Women’s World Cup opener would be one of my favorite moments — amazing scene in the parking lots and inside. I set a land-speed record getting there from DC, using the truck lanes. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Ireland-Italy game — what an atmosphere!! And, as a United fan, I have to sa I enjoyed the shots of Gomez leading the Barra’s drumming in the end zone seats.

  33. Coach says:

    fischy, good call on that 1982 FIFA game. I remember my Dad vociferously cheering for the “Rest of the World” after these Eurosnobs near us made fun of my kid brother for waving a tiny American flag. Sadly, the Cameroon keeper N’Kono, who had played brilliantly up to that point, let in a cheapie near the end for the Euro win. IIRC the Brazilian Falcao was MOTM.

  34. ToasT says:

    Loved the ARG v. USA Game. Unbelievable. LA v. NY 5-4 game as well. But one not listed I loved, Colombia v. Honduras. Went with a Honduran neighbor. So wild. That was my first real experience of what a soccer match would be like in South or Central America. Wild.

  35. qrysdonnell says:

    One more to add to the list tonight!

  36. EmorySoccer says:

    I was privileged (and lucky, perhaps) to have attended the Red Bulls-Galaxy “Beckham game” back in what would have been either 2007 or 2008. Having been to two(2) World Cups and a handful of US WCQs in my day, the atmosphere leading up to, during and after this memorable MLS game was (and will probably always remain) the closest experience similar to the aforementioned games I will ever witness first hand at an MLS match.

    As I was reading your post on this topic, Ives, this game immediately jumped to the top of my list. Needless to say, I became immediately excited and felt a sense of soccer-fan pride when I read down “after the jump” and this game was included at the “top” of your list (don’t think you were ranking them necessarily though).

    Huge tailgate before the game, soccer games in the parking lot, excessive amounts of drinking, soccer chants (before and in the stands), more drinking in the stadium, some impressive displays of skill and ultimately the (fateful flaw of US soccer fans)end result of goals galore (nine!) all combined to make that game a wonderful experience.

    Here’s to hoping the new stadium and it’s improved transportation system will entice, and ultimately result in, soccer fans from the city (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn) making their way from NY to Jersey to see matches. That, in of itself, will go a long way to positively changing the dynamic of the “new” Red Bulls generation to one that truly does in fact represent the interests and desires of a NY/NJ area franchise.

    Good piece, Ives.