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Soccer match electrifies Marlins Park crowd

AS Monaco tops Atletico Nacional in second event of its kind in park's history

Soccer match electrifies Marlins Park crowd

MIAMI -- A rainy afternoon gave way to clear evening skies and a partially opened roof at Marlins Park, just in time for a soccer match featuring Colombia's Atlético Nacional and France's AS Mónaco on Wednesday.

The 2014 Copa EuroAmericana game was the first of two that will be played in the United States during the tournament, which is in its second year of existence.

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Monaco prevailed over Atlético, 4-2, giving itself some breathing room with a goal in the 92nd minute. The team is now 2-0 in the tournament, giving Europe control of the points lead over America, 2-0.

The Marlins, who were in Atlanta for the third game of their series against the Braves, wouldn't have recognized their home stadium. The grounds crew began work on field transformation shortly after Sunday's win over the Giants, needing to remove clay from the infield dirt in order to level out the areas over which sod would be placed.

From 8 p.m. ET on Monday to 6 a.m. on Tuesday, the crew started installing the sod over the diamond and lowering the pitcher's mound, making way for a full-sized soccer field -- markings, goals and all -- that was oriented north to south. The teams' benches were placed in left and center field, and sponsor boards served as outlines on three sides of the playing ground.

Before the game even began, a contingent of Colombian fans decked out in Atlético colors on what usually is the third base side of the stadium had unrolled a flag in black, green and white over a section of seats. A parade of drums filed in under the flag, playing almost without pause throughout the night. Fans tossed streamers onto the field, draped banners over the rails (one with the words "Passion without boundaries" in Spanish) and rarely got off their feet.

"I was on the field at one point, and I heard these guys come in with the drums and they came in really strong," said Claude Delorme, the Marlins' executive vice president of operations and events. "Then [the fans] started throwing this printer paper on the field before the game, and I said, 'OK, it's going to be a little bit different than baseball.' It seems to be a custom of theirs.

"This has more like a World Baseball Classic feel for me," Delorme added. "A lot of energy, a lot of music, a lot of dancing. The people who are here, half of the event for them is a social setting and just being in a group setting and cheering for [their] country or team."

Wednesday marked the second time in Marlins Park history that the field was transformed to accommodate a soccer game. The first was for a friendly between Nigeria and Argentina in November 2012.

Fans won't have to wait two years before more soccer is played in Miami, as Marlins Park will host the Miami Legends Cup, a match that will feature Real Madrid's Legends Squad and the F.C. Barcelona Legends on Sept. 11. The stadium will also host football for the Miami Beach Bowl on Dec. 22.

Forward Anthony Martial netted Monaco's first goal in the seventh minute. Dimitar Berbatov added another, his second of the tournament, in minute 15. The score was 3-0 by the 39th minute of play thanks to another goal courtesy of Fábio Tavares.

It wasn't until the 63rd minute that Santiago Trellez, in from the bench, scored Atletico's first goal of the night, cuing an even louder buzz from a predominantly pro-Colombia crowd. The noise level at Marlins Park increased even more when, in the 87th minute, another Atletico goal shortened Monaco's lead to 1.

The game's biggest draw was supposed to be James Rodriguez, who burst onto the scene during the 2014 FIFA World Cup with six goals for the Colombian National Team. But Monaco's former forward signed with Real Madrid on Tuesday, eliminating himself from participation.

And even though Monaco's other standout, Radamel Falcao, did not appear in the game, the atmosphere at Marlins Park was electric all night. The drumming, in fact, didn't stop until long after the final whistle.

Maria Torres is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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