One year ago, a soccer field had no trouble fitting in Citi Field's cavernous outfield -- Ecuador played to a 1-1 tie with Greece on June 7, 2011. But this year, with goals again positioned on the third-base line and in right field, the stadium's newly moved-in fences needed to be temporarily removed in order to fit the pitch.
But even with temporary sod covering much of the infield dirt and parts of the warning track -- and a torrential downpour in the hours leading up to the match -- the visiting players and managers raved about the playing surface.
"The field was marvelous, it was a luxury in all senses of the word," said Chile head coach Claudio Borghi, also through a translator. "The stadium is not built for soccer, but despite the rain and the new areas with grass -- there were some irregularities -- but what they did from one day to another, and with the rain, was great."
Though Ecuador's fans made their overwhelming presence known, Citi Field's confines provided a great location for a friendly game between two of Queens' most highly represented cultures. Queens County boasts the largest population of Ecuadorians of any county in the United States, with more than 100,000 residents, while the tri-state region boasts the largest Chilean population of any area in the country, with more than 20,000 residents.
"I think it was a great party," Rueda said. "We faced a great opponent [in Chile], which motivated us a lot. It was a great game, with a lot of good results. The field, as we saw a year ago when we played here, the players assimilated well.
"The players were able to assimilate to the field very well, and I think they were able to succeed despite the challenges," he said. "The rain made the field very fast -- certain areas of the field were a little difficult -- but they played with great professionalism."
Ecuador put the game out of reach early, and Rueda raved about his team's performance in his postgame news conference. Even Chile's Borghi tipped his cap at the performance.
"Ecuador was superior in all senses," he said. "They played well, they scored nice goals and they're very fast. They have such speed that is difficult to stop, but these are virtues that they have. They leverage them, but we need to be able to counter attack those. It's great merit by Ecuador."
Wednesday night proved that soccer is very much alive in the United States -- especially on a night when the U.S. National team earned its first-ever win over Mexico on Mexican soil. The fans who came out in support of Chile and Ecuador proved that as long as the field fits, any stadium can make the perfect venue for a game of football.