The big number
10,000 - Square feet of sod installed at Hi Corbett Field for the 2011 MLS Desert Cup.
Waiting for Rafa
Arturo Jimenez, his fiancée and his brother arrived at Hi Corbett Field from Nogales around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 1/2 hours before the showcase game between the MLS' New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City. They bought beers, took seats in the front row and began the countdown.
Why the early start?
"Because of Marquez," said Jimenez, decked out in a Red Bulls jersey and scarf.
Rafa Marquez, a defender for the Red Bulls, remains one of Mexico's soccer idols. The Michoacan native has played at the highest level of competition since he was a teenager, most recently for FC Barcelona - one of the world's most popular clubs. He signed with the Red Bulls last August, bringing some international credibility to a league mostly filled with Americans.
Marquez's pull is such that FC Tucson star Fernando Gauna sought out his childhood hero between Saturday's matches.
"I told him that I've been watching him play since I was a kid. I watched him when he was in Guadalajara with Atlas, and I followed him with Barcelona, and finally I got to meet him," Gauna said. "He shook my hand and gave me a little hug. It was awesome."
More big numbers
1 - Tucson mayoral candidates in the stands at Saturday's game. We spotted Republican candidate Ron Asta pre-game.
Another big number
2 - Number of new Volkswagens parked on the sideline, behind a protective fence for Saturday's games. A local Volkswagen dealer was one of the event' s main sponsors.
The Tucson Toros returned to Hi Corbett Field Saturday night, at least in spirit. Members of the independent league baseball team's front office helped with planning and game-day operations, including gear and beer sales.
The Toros are on hiatus this season while the Triple-A Tucson Padres play at Kino Stadium.
Decked out in long-sleeved Kansas City jerseys, Sierra Vista's Don Prill and his family admitted to feeling a bit outnumbered. Unlike most who came to Hi Corbett field to see New York stars Rafa Marquez and Thierry Henry, the Prills were there to cheer on their favorite team.
The Prills became Sporting Kansas City fans a few years ago when Don, an Army captain, was stationed at Fort Riley, Kan. He brought his love for his favorite team west when he was transferred to Fort Huachuca. Prill watched the game with his wife, Amanda, and their 14-year old son, Brett.
For the second night in a row, Gauna, a Salpointe Catholic High School and Pima College graduate, played the role of hometown star. His 69th-minute goal helped spark FC Tucson to a 3-3 draw with the Arizona Sahuaros in the night's first exhibition.
Gauna had about 20 family members in the stands Saturday, the happy byproduct of a weekend wedding. He attended his cousin's nuptials Friday afternoon, and hurried to make the reception after his game.
Gauna said he felt a little bit famous after his weekend performance.
"I signed autographs for about 25 little kids," he said. "I was signing their arms, signing the ball for them. Wow."
Hey, didn't you used to be …
New York and Kansas City were two charter members of the MLS when it was founded in 1996. Back then, however, both clubs went by different names.
The New York franchise was branded as the MetroStars, their logo an out-of-control checkered cab. The team was sold to the owners of Red Bull energy drink in 2006; the team's name, logo and colors changed shortly thereafter.
Sporting Kansas City was originally known as the Kansas City Wiz, and later Wizards, before changing their name and logo last offseason. We would have voted for the Kansas City Beef, or KC Barbecue, but whatever …