There was a constant buzz in downtown Fresno on Wednesday night as Mexican League Soccer made its return to Chukchansi Park for an exhibition between Chivas de Guadalajara and Monarcas Morelia.
Vendors scattered themselves around the stadium, hawking everything from scarves, jerseys, flags, noisemakers, luchador masks and hot dogs and tacos. Fans, most of who were sporting the Chivas’ red, white and blue regalia, arrived in boisterous fashion to the beat of drums and vuvuzela horns.
It was another cultural spectacle as Liga MX made its 11th visit to Fresno in five years, including the third-straight appearance for Chivas that drew an announced crowd of 11,977.
However, Monarcas stole the show, winning 2-0 on goals from Jorge Zarate and Claudio Zamudio.
The two teams went scoreless in the opening half, before Zarate lit up the scoreboard in the 59th minute. Zamudio added his goal in the 80th.
Chivas had a chance to level the score with a penalty in the 67th minute, but Néstor Calderón’s shot was blocked by Monarcas’ goalie Jesús Urbina.
Popular players like Chivas’ Alan Pulido, Carlos Fierro and Carlos Salcido drew cheers every time they touched the ball, as well as Monarcas’ midfielder Rodolfo “Pipila” Vilchis.
It was a bucket-list event for Analilia Ruvalcaba, 26, of Gustine. The lifelong Chivas fan finally got to see her favorite team in person as an early birthday gift from her family.
“I really enjoyed it because I usually never have the time to come to these friendlies,” Ruvalcaba said, who is studying nursing. “This time I did, and as a hardcore soccer fan it was a lot of fun.”
It also was an early birthday gift for Ernesto Torres Osuna, who turns 30 on Friday. The native Fresnan kept warm on the 60-degree brisk night snuggled under a thick Chivas blanket with girlfriend Erika Leal, 29, also of Fresno.
Despite not getting the desired result, Torres Osuna and Leal made the most of their first soccer match together.
“We really enjoyed the atmosphere and the fanatics,” Torres Osuna said. “It was a great way to start my birthday weekend.”
▪ Fans from opposing teams attempted to fight each other in the parking lot outside of Chukchansi Park after the game. The Fresno police reported the fans left peacefully after they promptly arrived and got in between them.