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Sports

Notre Dame Stadium set to host Liverpool-Dortmund friendly

| Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Any American football fan who wanders into Notre Dame Stadium will find it in an unfamiliar state Friday evening as Liverpool and Dortmund take the field in a preseason American friendly match. Uniforms will turn to kits, coaches to managers and fans to supporters — but football will still be football.

Friday’s meeting marks a collaboration between the English Premier League (EPL) and the German league, Bundesliga, as Liverpool Football Club kicks off a three-match American tour. Following their appearance at Notre Dame Stadium, the reigning European champions will travel to Boston to take on Sevilla at Fenway Park on Sunday before ending their tour at Yankee Stadium against Sporting Lisbon on July 24.

Observer File Photo

The Notre Dame Stadium in a file photo from 2014. The stadium will host Liverpool and Dortmund on Friday in a preseason American friendly match.

The event will mark the first-ever international soccer friendly at Notre Dame Stadium, where natural turf is being installed in preparation for Friday’s match.

Liverpool’s trip to the United States comes on the heels of their sixth European Cup, but only their first since 2005. While the club struggled to remain relevant in the first half of this decade — even failing to qualify for the Champions League five of six years — they built an impressive program under manager Jürgen Klopp, who is closing out his fourth season with the club. 

Their run to claiming the European Cup began just two months after the club fell short to Real Madrid in the previous season’s final. The group stage began in August 2018, where Liverpool tied with Napoli in terms of goals but advanced to the Round of 16 on total goals scored. They advanced to the semi-finals against Barcelona, beating Bayern Munich and Porto in the process. Against the Lionel Messi-led squad, Liverpool dropped the first leg 3-0. Facing almost certain elimination, Liverpool won the second leg 4-0, advancing to the finals on aggregate goals. The defeated fellow Premier League rival Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 to claim the title. Tottenham had advanced to the finals in similarly thrilling fashion, including a victory over Dortmund in the Round of 16.

This sustained success has helped Liverpool establish a strong American fanbase. Their three-game series this upcoming week will be an opportunity for the club to reward fans in the United States for their support, according to former Liverpool forward John Aldridge. Aldridge, who played with the club in the 1980s, scored 50 of his 330 league goals while at Liverpool. That total puts him sixth among goal-scorers in English football.

“Liverpool [going] over to America is just … allowing [supporters] to see Liverpool somewhere that you can get to by flying with just a few hours,” Aldridge said in a phone interview prior to the club’s Champions League win. “You’re giving something back to America. Liverpool’s grown enormously in America over the past four or five years and continues to grow.”

Growing up in Liverpool, Aldridge said Anfield, the club’s 135-year-old stadium, was essentially “on [his] doorstep.” 

Aldridge commented on the different ways American fans have followed their clubs as European football has risen in popularity. 

“I went to my first game when I was six, that was 55 years ago,” Aldridge said. “I’ve been fortunate to live in the city, I’ve been able to watch the team in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and so forth. … I’ve been hosting for games, especially some of the away games, and I see what some people have to do to watch Liverpool and get to Anfield and the extent they will go, and American people — I’ve met loads of them — they’re true fans.”

There was some speculation heading into this friendly that many of the premier players would not be available. While several key players were announced missing from the American roster, including goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who recently won the Copa America title with Brazil, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah, the majority of the starting unit is expected to play Friday, headlined by defender Virgil Van Dijk. 

Meanwhile, Dortmund recently lost one of their biggest attractions, midfielder Christian Pulisic, to Chelsea. Pulisic, a native of Hershey, Pennsylvania, has been one of the brightest stars in American soccer since his high school days. 

The match is scheduled for 8 p.m. and will be televised on TNT.

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