Harvard men’s soccer coach Carl Junot believed a significant crowd would arrive if the Haitian national team were to play at Harvard Stadium. Doubts were raised when only 400 tickets had been sold on the eve of last April’s match, then eased when 11,513 spectators arrived for the match.
Organizers should have a better idea of what to expect when Harvard and Haiti meet again Sunday at 5 p.m.
“Our goal is for the crowd to grow,’’ Junot said Monday. “The word’s out a little more, so we are hoping for closer to 15,000 this year. We’ve done the same promotional efforts but we’ve gone outside New England to Montreal and the New York City area, as well.
“Last year, we had 400 tickets pre-sale, but we knew there was a community here and they were into soccer and the grassroots feedback was strong. Another thing we are doing this year is consignment ticket sales. Last year, people trying to get tickets either had to go on the Internet or come to Harvard.’’
The success of “Haiti Leve’’ (Haiti Rises), a benefit for a hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti, led to the scheduling of a 7 p.m. Friday game between Harvard and Cape Verde. Junot expects a crowd of about 5,000 for that game, despite the Cape Verdeans having to regroup after eight players and the team doctor were denied visas.
“The US consulate denied visas to the first eight players who applied,’’ Junot said. “I was disappointed. We have a huge Cape Verdean population and they are pretty passionate about soccer. Even though we aren’t getting the full national team, we decided to host the game, anyway. I still think we will get a pretty good crowd. People have said, ‘If this will benefit Cape Verde, we’re in.’ ’’
Last year, Haiti sent a development team of young players for a 0-0 tie.
“It was one of the more exciting games I’ve been a part of,’’ Junot said.
“Toward the end of the first half, they had a long-range shot, which our goalkeeper made a good save on, and in the second half we had three chances we could have scored on. But they also had a player sent off, which I disagreed with - this is an exhibition game and no one needs to be sent off.
“International teams use these games almost as a trial. So, there are opportunities for us to steal a goal. They were much more athletic, especially in the wide areas - their wing players were faster, stronger, and jumped higher than our players. But soccer is soccer in general, and the field is a little narrow, so we were able to close space. Our organization helped with that.’’
Parnel Guerrier, Wilde-Donald Guerrier, and Jean Garry Rubin, starters for Haiti a year ago, are on the roster again. Harvard returnees include goalkeeper Brett Conrad, defender Richard Smith, and midfielder Scott Prozeller, plus Ross Friedman and Brian Rogers, who played for the Columbus Crew Juniors, and Michael Innocenzi, who was with the New York Red Bulls academy team.
The Cape Verdean team is composed almost entirely of players from the New England Luso American Soccer Association (NELASA) all-star team, which recently took a 1-0 win over the newly-formed Boston Victory of the United Soccer Leagues.
“We have some local guys who have a lot of talent,’’ said Carlos Semedo, a former New England Revolution midfielder who is coaching the Cape Verde team. “They need someone to help them, discipline them. A lot of them have potential. Trust me, if someone helps them, five or six of them could play for any MLS team. If I could play, they could too, because they are way better than me. It will happen soon - I will make sure at least one or two of them get there.’’
Rochester Rhinos forward Graciano Brito and Zico Veiga, who is on the Victory roster, are the only players from last year’s Cape Verde roster available for this match.
Haiti’s full national team has played twice in Foxborough, taking a 2-1 win over El Salvador in 2000 and tying the US, 2-2, in 2009.
Last year’s Harvard-Haiti game was contested the day after a Revolution-Real Salt Lake game attracted 7,970 fans. But there was very little crossover attendance.
“We’re not trying to show anybody up,’’ Junot said. “We will have a pregame fan zone and we have invited the Revolution, so they are going to do some marketing and promotion. There should be some synergy there.
“Hopefully, people who show up Friday night will say this was fun and come back Sunday.’’
Roma hits diamonds
AS Roma will compete at least twice in baseball stadiums this summer.
Roma, acquired by respective Red Sox and Celtics part-owners Thomas DiBenedetto and James Pallotta last April, will meet Liverpool at Fenway Park July 25 and SS Lazio at Yankee Stadium July 28.
Organizers are considering designating the match a tribute to the late Giorgio Chinaglia, who starred for Lazio and the New York Cosmos. Chinaglia died April 1.
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.