He Ain’t Pelé

What if the world's top soccer player came and nobody showed?

During the National Anthem, the Rhinos (one of the United Soccer Leagues' fiercest teams) appeared distinctly taller and younger than Miami. When play began, the Rhinos locked down FC's midfield and never left Romário untended.

In the $15-per-seat grandstand, a boisterous band dropped a sloppy drum beat, tooted a single horn, and chanted Romário's name. Gia Bonfim, a Brazilian émigré, arrived 30 minutes late, decked out in her national colors. "Romário's the man we really came to see," she said.

Romário touched the ball only about ten times. He never managed a shot on goal. At halftime under the bleachers, two toothless old men cursed him in broken English. "Romário is tourist," cried one between deep drags on his cigarette. "He's coming here for vacation."

Note the silver temples
Note the silver temples

Rochester beat Miami 3-0.

After the game, Romário admitted he had been tired in the last fifteen minutes and said he wouldn't travel with the team to Charleston, South Carolina, for the first away game. "I wasn't expecting the opposition to be of such a high level," he said.

He did turn out for the two games that followed — both Miami FC victories. On Friday, May 12, after only thirteen minutes of play, he scored his first goal of the season against the Portland Timbers. Then he nailed the winner just as time expired — with his head, no less. Unfortunately for the team, a mere 2500 people were there to see it.

Then on Sunday, only 2125 fans saw Romário bumble two big opportunities against the Atlanta Silverbacks. Nevertheless Miami won 1-0. Baby steps.

Friday's goals brought Romário's career haul to 966. But don't get too excited. Romário has promised to return to Rio when he nets 999 goals so he can make the millennial money-shot at home.

Will Miami try to whip him into shape? Responds the team's general manager, Luiz Muzzi: "We don't have to tell him what to do and not to do. He knows better."

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