Mexican Primera

Large pro-Club América crowd enjoys friendly between Mexican giants and FC Juárez

Large pro-Club América crowd enjoys friendly between Mexican giants and FC Juárez

The preseason friendly match between FC Juárez and Club América Sunday night, which ended in a 1-1 draw, didn’t need long to establish that it was not a typical Sun Bowl event.

An hour and a half before kickoff the line to get in any entrance was more than 100 yards long, which is about 90 minutes earlier than the typical El Paso crowd arrives. The line was still 100 yards long at the 7:37 p.m. kickoff when the temperature had dipped to 98 degrees.

As the game kicked off, a number of fans at the stadium’s southeast entrance stormed the gates to accelerate matters.

FC Juárez faces Club América in a friendly game at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX, on Sunday, June 23, 2024.

Some fans may have used the gate crashing to sneak in some flares, which were detonated in the 80th minute. Emboldened by success, several thousand fans stormed the field after the game, the first storming of the Sun Bowl field since UTEP beat No. 11 Houston in 2009.

Much of that was a mobbing of America midfielder Alejandro Zendejas, a Juárez native who grew up in El Paso and went to Hornedo Middle School before being picked up by FC Dallas. His parents still live here.

“I went to the bench area to say hello to my family, they came down,” Zendejas said. “Then I noticed out of nowhere a bunch of people started running toward me. It’s crazy how much people love this club.”

Club America’s goalkeeper Luis Malagon signs autographs and takes photos with fans before the friendly game against FC Juarez at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX, on Sunday, June 23, 2024.

Once fans got into the stadium, they cued up in another line, to get a pregame autograph and a picture with star Club América keeper Luis Malagon (also the Mexican national team keeper), who was out with injury but still putting in a hard day of work for delighted fans.

As for the crowd, judging from jerseys and the reception for the teams, it was about 75% for the Liga MX’s reigning champions from Mexico City, Club América.

“It’s always important when América comes over here on the Borderland to represent,” Malagon said in Spanish after the game. “This reception says a lot about the support of the team.”

América fans were indeed representing.

“I’m super, super excited,” said Sarai Villa, an El Pasoan at the game with her husband and son Aaron, all in Club América gear. “I’ve never seen Club América in person. We’ve been waiting for this.”

Aaron knew he wasn’t going to see his favorite player, midfielder Richard Sanchez, but was still fired up to see his favorite team in person.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “I get to see Club América!”

Once a year Club América makes it to Juárez for a Liga MX road game, but when that happens the 19,000-seat Estadio Benito Juárez often sells out on the presale to season ticket holders.

For Borderland fans, this preseason friendly, with both teams playing large rosters as they angle toward their July 5 and 6 openers, was the easiest way to see Club América. They were last in the Sun Bowl in 2009 when they played a preseason friendly against Mexico’s third most popular team, Cruz Azul.

This was FC Juárez’s first-ever Sun Bowl game, though they played at Southwest University Park against the Locomotive in March.

Fans do the wave at a friendly game between Club América and FC Juárez at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX, on Sunday, June 23, 2024.

Attendance for this game was announced at 29,432, bigger than any UTEP football game last year and it looked fuller than that.

Cindy Buenrostro and Jorge Casteneda were among the early fans in who got their picture taken with Malagon.

“It was great, I didn’t think we were going to make it but we did,” Buenrostro said of getting her Club América jersey autographed by Malagon. “We’re ready to have a good time.

“We’ve been waiting for this ever since they announced it,” Casteneda said. “This is my first time to see Club América. (The Sun Bowl) should do this more often.”

Ivan Rodriguez was in the minority of fans wearing a Bravos jersey, but the Juárense was ready to support his team.

Club America’s goalkeeper Luis Malagon signs autographs and takes photos with fans before the friendly game against FC Juarez at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX, on Sunday, June 23, 2024.

“It feels like we’re home, just 20 minutes down the street,” Rodriguez said. “It’s surprising (América fans were such a majority) but they are popular team. It’s really awesome to see Juárez here, so close to home.”

El Paso is home to backup FC Juárez keeper Benny Diaz, who for once didn’t have to commute across a bridge to go to work. He drives past the Sun Bowl every day on his trip from his West Side home to Juárez but had never been inside.

“It’s exciting to play here. It’s a really big crowd, I’m happy to be here, I hope the people are happy with what they got to see,” Diaz said. “Twenty-nine thousand people is more than Benito Juárez can put in. This is one of Juárez’s biggest crowds, I hope to see this more often.”

On the field, Juárez started a first-choice lineup and América did not, as seven of its starting 11 were 20-years-old or younger. The teams had unlimited subs and took advantage of that. Juárez also took advantage of Club America’s young starting lineup and got its dream start in the fifth minute when Ángel Zaldivar blasted a shot into the net, which drew a roar from the outnumbered Bravos fans.

Club América had a penalty kick saved after an FC Juárez foul that looked like it occurred outside the penalty area. There was no replay in this game, which didn’t keep all 11 Bravos from surrounding the official and pointing at the video board. Juárez keeper Sebastian Jurado saved Miguel Vázquez’s attempt.

Diaz also saved a penalty shot from Esteban Lozano in the 72nd minute but Vasquez banged in the rebound to tie the game.

Club América’s Miguel Ángel Vásquez celebrates his goal at a friendly game against FC Juárez at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX, on Sunday, June 23, 2024.

The crowd’s biggest cheer came when Zendejas, one of América’s big stars, subbed in the 73rd minute.

“It’s incredible to see the stadium pretty packed, almost full,” Zendejas said. “It’s always nice to be back here. It’s always good to be home.”

Bret Bloomquist can be reached at bbloomquist@elpasotimes.com; @Bretbloomquist on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Pro-Club América crowd enjoys friendly between Mexican giants and Bravos

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