Manchester City tops Club América in friendly between iconic clubs

Two powerhouses of the soccer world clashed Wednesday night at NRG Stadium. A true showpiece friendly pairing two-time Premier League defending champion Manchester City against Mexican giant Club América.

For soccer fans, it doesn’t get too much better than this. A preseason friendly involving iconic clubs. An engaged crowd of 61,223 came out to enjoy the Copa de Lone Star showdown.

This is another reminder that Houston supports big-time soccer, big time. That’s no secret. In June it was announced that NRG was one of 11 U.S. host sites for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Wednesday’s match did not disappoint. Kevin De Bruyne’s pair of goals lifted Manchester City to a 2-1 victory over América. All the scoring came in the first half.

“We are very pleased,” City manager Pep Guardiola said. “We’re looking to the season.”

Manchester City is making a preseason tour of the United States. A match against Bayern Munich is to follow in Green Bay, Wis., on Saturday in preparation of its defense of the Premier League title. City heads home next weekend ahead of the FA Community Shield clash with Liverpool for the start of the new season.

De Bruyne made good on a blast just outside of the box in the 30th minute. Guillermo Ochoa was substituted in goal by Oscar Jimenez three minutes later. Ochoa has made the most appearances (400) over two stints on the team. He’s featured at each of the past four World Cups for Mexico.

Henry Martin got the equalizer for América in the 43rd minute, his left-footed shot slowly found the way into the net as Stefan Ortega came off his line. In the 45th plus-one minute, De Bruyne struck again, as City reinstated the lead 2-1. De Bruyne slotted a well-placed ball that went by the legs of Jimenez.  

City’s first outing in its new away kit (red and black stripes) proved to be a winner.

Midfielder Riyad Mahrez was quite involved in the victory. He assisted on De Bruyne’s first goal.

“That’s why the club decided to extend the contract,” Guardiola said. “Look at what he’s done the last three seasons. We rely on him. He’s quality, no doubt.”

Mahrez signed a two-year contract extension last week. Mahrez finished the 2021-22 campaign as the club’s top scorer with 24 goals covering all competitions. The 31-year-old forward joined City from Leicester in 2018, helping the club win three Premier League titles in four seasons.

Manchester City’s defense was so effective that Ortega didn’t record a save. City had a 6-5 edge on shots taken and 3-2 on shots on target.

In a heated moment, Ochoa and City’s Jack Grealish got in a shoving match in the 23rd minute. For the remainder of the match, Grealish was booed every time he touched the ball by the América faithful.

NRG has hosted a number of quality soccer matches. Among those are U.S. Men’s National Team friendlies as well as CONCACAF Gold Cup matches.

A good number of the passionate fans arrived to their seats  Wednesday as soon as doors opened, eagerly awaiting the two powers to get on the field. America supporters wearing yellow, followers of City replicating its team’s sky-blue kit color.

City has met the Mexican side on three occasions, winning all three.

This is an important tour for City, back in the U.S. for the first time since 2018. In addition to prepping for the 2022-23 season, City is focused on continuing to promote the sport and grow its presence in North America. Manchester City has toured the U.S. six times since 2010.

Acclimating themselves into the Houston community, the former City duo of Pablo Zabaleta and Joleon Lescott donned Astros gear in throwing out ceremonial first pitches last weekend at Minute Maid Park.

Each of City’s four summer signees were in Houston. Erling Haaland, Kalvin Phillips, Stefan Ortega Moreno and Julian Alvarez all traveled to the United States as part of Guardiola’s 26-man traveling squad. Guardiola is hopeful they slot straight in. Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden, John Stones and Aymeric Laporte remained in Manchester.

Prior to Wednesday’s match, Guardiola’s side trained at Houston Sports Park. City is returning from a three-week break.

City dramatically beat Aston Villa on the final day of last season to secure its fourth Premier League title in five years.

Based in Mexico City, América is off to a slow start, winning just one of its three matches in Liga MX. It’s in the midst of a series of friendlies against City and Real Madrid. The Aguilas (eagles) suffered a 2-1 defeat against Chelsea on Saturday.

The Mexican outfit has won the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup seven times, and the Liga MX title on 13 occasions, more than any other side. It also is one of only two teams to have never been relegated from the top flight. City has also won 13 domestic cups.

América has captured the Copa Mexico more times than any other side (six). The Aguilas’ most recent success coming in 2019, the same year they won their sixth and final Campeon de Campeones title.

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