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More Goals than Fans: Uruguay's 5-0 win over Bolivia

The second 2024 Copa America match to be held at MetLife didn't come close to matching the atmosphere of Tuesday's matchup between Argentina and Chile.

Lots of room at MetLife | © Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody expected the Bolivia vs Uruguay game last night at MetLife Stadium to come close to matching the spectacle and glamor of Tuesday’s match between Argentina and Chile. An announced crowd of 48,033 was in the stands last night, but it felt much smaller. 

Nearly the entire upper deck of the NFL stadium was barren, and tickets were being sold day-of for close to $50. On Tuesday, the announced crowd of 81,106 felt like an undercount — the stadium has an official capacity of 82,500, and it didn’t seem possible that 1,394 seats were empty. That night, tickets in the upper rows of the top deck were selling for $350 or more on the secondary market.

Goals ≠ Vibes

The second 2024 Copa América match in East Rutherford was always going to be the Bridesmaid of the duo. Instead of two good teams, this was a pairing of good and bad. Uruguay might be a team on the rise, but they don’t have the fanbase to fill a stadium like MetLife for a group-stage match. As for Bolivia, those fans barely had a presence. The crowd was 95% for Uruguay.

They provided some atmosphere for the first 45 minutes, starting chants and waves regularly as their team dominated play. After going into halftime up two goals, the rest of the match only saw excitement at certain points. There were cheers when Uruguay scored three more goals in what ended up a 5-0 win; when Inter Miami CF star Luis Suárez jogged from the warmup area to sub on; and when Suárez finally took the field in the 83rd minute.

This game had the vibes of an XFL game (RIP Guardians) for the price of a preseason New York Giants game.

Would any neutral who bought a ticket for cheap be happy they went to this game? Maybe. It was less violent than Tuesday’s match, and there were a lot more goals. There was some star power on the field as well. It played out as expected. Even the Bolivians knew this was Urugay’s game for the taking.

But it didn’t match the intensity and excitement of Tuesday’s game between Argentina and Chile. The 81,106 fans packed into the stands made MetLife the center of the soccer world that day, eclipsing even the high-stakes games in the 2024 Euros earlier that day, when France played Poland to a 1-1 draw, Austria beat the Netherlands 3-2, and England and Slovenia ended it scoreless, and Denmark and Serbia also played to a 0-0 draw. For that one night, New Jersey was the capital of futból.

You can’t say the same about last night. With the Euros taking a breather, arguably the biggest game in soccer was taking place at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where the United States faced Panama. (More on that below.)

When MetLife became El Monumental
Argentina went to New Jersey and proved themselves worthy world champions, but the organizers brought some CONEMBOL chaos to the press box.

New Jersey grass

Bolivia’s play was not the only thing lacking at MetLife Stadium.

MetLife Stadium’s grass playing surface looked awful, both in person and on television. It was chewed up, with dirt patches being visible in multiple spots. Even as ground screws sprayed water on it pregame and during halftime the results never got better.

This came as a complete shock after how the field performed on Tuesday night when there were no complaints from the Argentine and Chilean players. The turf looked good then.

Last night, the surface looked dry. Play looked slow at multiple points. I don’t think a better playing surface would have benefited Bolivia — if anything, it might have allowed Uruguay to score more goals.

Still, this was not a pitch worthy of a prestigious event.

MetLife deployed real grass over its concert flooring for the Copa América tournament, rather than just putting it on top of the same turf that helped destroy the Achilles of Aaron Rodgers. But that is only a patch job for a venue that is supposed to host nine games, including the final, of the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Earlier this year, Giants president and CEO John Mara said a grass field would be put in for the games at his team’s home — and not the same type of grass that would be used for American football, mind you. When the World Cup comes to town, the grass will be greener.

Still, more was expected of this playing surface. The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which governs the land where MetLife stands, approved a $400,000 budget for hosting Copa America. According to The Athletic, the entire amount was used to turn the stadium’s field over to grass.

I hope they kept receipts.

And I hope they will repair the field before the semifinal match is played at MetLife on July 9. That will feature the best of Group A vs the best of Group B — right now, that’s Argentina and Venezuela. Fields across America have been rightly criticized during this tournament, but Thursday’s game was an example of awful delivery on promised improvements. The only upside is the tournament organizers have 11 days until the tournament semifinal that will be hosted there, rather than the two days between group stage matches.

MetLife needs to be ready for the night when, once again, one of the biggest games in global soccer will take place in New Jersey.

Chile win 0 - 0*
*For 88 minutes Chile held off the world champions in front of more than 81,000 fans at MetLife Stadium. No need to discuss what happened after.

The USMNT stumble

Just under 900 miles to the south of MetLife, another disaster was happening in the city of Atlanta. And I’m not talking about the two old guys arguing on CNN. The US men's national team lost, 2-1, to Panama in the other Group C game.

Midfielder Timothy Weah was red-carded in the 18th minute of the match. The Juventus man struck Panama defender Roderick Miller in the back of his head while neither man had the ball. Even though Folarin Balogun scored not long after, Panama was able to score twice and leave Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a huge upset win.

Timothey Weah Red Card | Official Highlight

This leaves Uruguay atop Group C with six points, while the USA and Panama sit at three points each. The USMNT next play Uruguay on July 1 in Kansas City, Missouri. Panama will play the deflated Bolivia in Orlando on the same night. The US now almost certainly needs three points if they want to advance into the knockout rounds.

Considering Uruguay’s depth, that is already a tall order. Combined with Panama playing for a chance at history against a very bad opponent, odds are not looking good for the Americans three days before their nation’s independence day.

Uruguay 5 - 0 Bolivia | Official Highlights