Fenway Park has hosted soccer matches before. In fact, the sport has been played there going back 90 years or so. Pele appeared in 1968. In 2010, Celtic FC defeated Sporting Lisbon.
The next display of the beautiful sport in Boston’s most famous sports venue comes with a bit more intrigue.
Not many locals will care one way or another if Liverpool FC gets the better of AS Roma at Fenway tonight (6:30 p.m.). Some will, but not those with an interest in the regular occupants at Fenway, the Red Sox. Those individuals will be eyeing the arrival of Liverpool like a second-grader might with the new kid who comes to school that first day with the best backpack money can buy and a smile that makes the girls swoon.
Liverpool FC, of course, rests under the same umbrella as the Red Sox, the two star entities (along with Boston nemesis LeBron James) of New England Sports Ventures. But it is the new kid on the block and one that locals hope never takes away too much of the attention from what really counts (the Sox winning it all). In much the same way that the owners took a popular but somewhat lacking Boston franchise and made them a powerhouse on and off the field, it wants to do the same with Liverpool, like the Sox a history-rich franchise that was in need of a boost after some years of mediocrity.
Nearly two years after the purchase, dreams of a two-headed monster have faded. While the Sox face the distinct possibility of missing the playoffs for the third straight year for the first time since the trio took over, Liverpool has struggled to keep up with rivals both on and off the pitch. It recorded its worst Premier League finish in 18 years in 2011-12 and NESV has not been shy about shaking things up. When the club comes to Fenway it will be doing so led by new manager Brendan Rodgers.
Even James, a shareholder in Liverpool, opined on the matter in a recent interview with the British tabloid the Daily Mail, saying, “Liverpool are a team in a period of transition at the moment, so I don’t know what they can achieve.”
An NBA star based in Miami partnering with a Boston-based sports investment company and commenting on the state of a soccer team an ocean away. That speaks to the mish-mash of interests in which the Red Sox find themselves these days.
Tonight, they get a first-hand glance at the new kid.
John Henry’s New England Sports Ventures also owns a 50 percent share in Roush Racing.
Roush Racing has had its own set of issues lately when Matt Kenseth, points leader in the Sprint Cup standings, announced he was leaving the group after this season.
Speculation has persisted that Kenseth will join Joe Gibbs Racing, a move in NASCAR circles akin to leaving the Sox for the Yanks.
Tickets are available for tonight’s friendly (6:30 p.m.) at www.redsox.com
Liverpool is in the midst of a North American tour and will play in Baltimore Saturday.