More fans flock to see Beckham, Ching finale
|Photo gallery: Pan-Pacific Championships soccer|
By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Leila Wai
The allure of international soccer star David Beckham and local standout Brian Ching finally made an impact on Hawai'i fans.
The Pan-Pacific Championships, a combination of top teams in Major League Soccer, the J-League and A-League, completed its inaugural run last night when Gamba Osaka defeated the Houston Dynamo for the championship at Aloha Stadium.
Last night's championship round drew 23,087, reportedly the largest soccer crowd to ever see a game in Hawai'i, after poor fan turnout in the tournament's opening round. The Aloha Stadium's orange and blue sideline sections appeared to be almost full with fans, many wearing Beckham or Ching jerseys.
"It is perhaps the only time we've ever had a David Beckham game that was not sold out," MLS commissioner Don Garber said. "That surprised us a bit because we've been around the world, throughout Asia, to small markets in the U.S. that don't have MLS teams, so to play tonight and Wednesday night to a less-than-sold out crowd is unusual for the Galaxy and probably unusual to David Beckham."
After the game, Beckham said, "It's been a really good stay in Hawai'i."
"We've been looking forward to this tour for a while," he said. "Coming to Hawai'i for almost 10 days and then going to Asia, it's something we're going to enjoy."
Garber, who helped form Soccer United Marketing which put on the event, said the PPC didn't have a target number of tickets it wanted to sell, but the main goal was "to be popular and relevant" in the event's first year.
Many fans cited the 6 p.m. start time for Wednesday's early game coinciding directly with pau hana traffic and the 8:30 p.m. late game ending too late for a school/work day with their decision not to attend.
"It's difficult to get out of the office," said John Hansen, 45, who walked up to purchase a ticket before yesterday's games.
"I was out of town, and I knew it was happening, but I lost track of time," he said.
Hansen was there with his neighbor Sam Sakorafis, 52, of Kunia, who bought his ticket in advance but chose to only attend last night's games because of the above reasons.
"We figured we would pick one of the two, so we went with the championship rounds," he said. "We were hoping the Galaxy and Dynamo would play for the championship, but we just want to see two good matches."
An announced crowd of 15,128 showed up for Wednesday's opening round. As evidenced by the amount of camera flashes that went off any time Beckham was near the ball, many were there to see him. And a majority of the crowd left by halftime of the Dynamo-Sydney FC game — although part of that could have been attributed to the 3-0 halftime score.
"We've got a lot of work to do to figure out the future of Pan-Pacific," Garber said. "We love the tournament and want to see it continue."
He said he met with J-League and A-League officials yesterday to determine the event's future.
"For now we'll take a deep breath and think about what would happen if we had more time to plan," he said.
He did say Aloha Stadium's FieldTurf was not up to par for the players. "Clearly the quality of the surface is going to play into our decision as to what we're going to do going forward," he said.
"We are very disappointed with the field surface ... our players said it was perhaps the worst surface they had played on," said Garber, who added he was surprised because the University of Hawai'i and NFL's Pro Bowl use the field for football. He said a couple of players decided not to play because of the surface.
The last professional soccer game in Hawai'i, between the Galaxy and D.C. United, was watched by about 15,000 in the Aloha Soccer Cup. Before that, the last time a soccer game of that magnitude was played in Hawai'i was in 1977, when Hawai'i had a professional team called Team Hawai'i.
Renowned soccer star Pele came with the New York Cosmos in 1976, playing in front of about 22,000 fans.
Gamba Osaka 6, Houston Dynamo 1: Hometown hero Brian Ching didn't find the net and his Gamba Osaka counterpart Bare scored four goals in the championship game.
Bare scored first-half goals in the 14th and 26th minutes, and opened the scoring in the second half after chasing down a lofted ball into space in the 60th minute. He scored his fourth on an assist by Takahiro Futugawa, who chipped it into the 18-yard box for Bare to curl into the goal on one touch in the 72nd minute.
Forward Lucas scored on a perfectly placed shot from the top of the 18-yard box in the 64th minute and Masato Yamazaki closed out the scoring in the 78th minute after touching a through ball to the right and then finishing with a low shot.
Houston midfielder Ricardo Clark scored in the 11th minute to give the Dynamo an early lead.
Ching exited in the 88th minute to applause.
"Hopefully the tournament can continue," Ching said. "It's great to experience international soccer against teams we don't see on a regular basis.
"I had a great time up until the second half," Ching said semi-jokingly.
"(The applause) wasn't as sweet as if we would have won," Ching said. "Just to be here ad get the support from the people of Hawai'i was amazing. It was good to be back in front of family and friends."
Los Angeles Galaxy 2, Sydney FC 1: David Beckham didn't disappoint his fans, setting up two goals in a 2-1 win over Sydney FC in the third-place game.
He set up the first goal in the third minute by midfielder Ely Allen on a long floating cross from the right to the left for Allen to one-time with his left foot.
Sydney FC answered on a 30-yard Brendan Renaud shot in the 42nd minute.
Beckham was in on another goal when Sydney FC goalkeeper Ivan Necevski bobbled Beckham's cross and forward Josh Tudela put it into the open net a minute before the half ended.
Beckham, who played the entire game, applauded the fans with his arms raised after the game.
Reach Leila Wai at email@example.com.