So here we are in the final hours before the United States faces Panama at Lincoln Financial Field. This will be the last post on here until the match kicks off, so let's lay out a few things you should know before you head to the stadium.
- I'll be live-blogging the U.S. game, and I hope you'll join me whether you're on your couch or at the stadium. Those of you who will be in the stands can participate by Tweeting with the hashtag #usmnt, which is the standard tag adopted by U.S. Soccer.
Also, if you have an iPhone, this blog and the chat software are fully compatible with the mobile version of Safari, so you can follow and join the conversation that way too.
- I'll be at the Sons of Ben/Sam's Army tailgate from 2 p.m. to around 4:30 shooting a feature video which I hope to have up on the blog by kickoff of the U.S. game. The tailgate will be in Lot J, which is back behind the Jetro warehouse on the east side of the Linc. The Sons of Ben have a good map of everything on their website.
- The Daily News reported yesterday that around 20,000 tickets have been sold so far. I suspect there will be a pretty sizeable walkup crowd, in large part because of the Honduras fans who will come from New York and Washington. So if you're on the fence about going, you should probably get there early.
- Finally, a point about matters on the field. You probably saw the story in the Daily News yesterday which noted that the playing surface at the Linc is "a yard or 2 shy widthwise" of what you usually get in a top-level international soccer facility. This matters, and if the U.S. lands the World Cup in 2018 or 2022 it's going to matter a lot.
Somewhere in a storage box, I have a media guide from the 2003 Women's World Cup which lists the width of the surface at 65 yards. I'm sorry that I can't link to anything, but I remember it really well.
The FIFA standard width for a soccer pitch is 70 to 75 yards. I don't know who took the measurement at the Linc and I don't know if the touchlines can be extended any farther than the were in '03, but it's something to think about.
It has definitely registered with the U.S. team. I asked coach Bob Bradley and midfielder Stuart Holden about it after this afternoon's practice, and they both acknowledged that it will be a factor in the game. You can see their remarks in the video at the bottom of this post.
For whatever problems the size of the pitch may cause, the composition of the pitch earned nothing but praise from Bradley and Holden. The grass was a bit roughed up during the 2003 Women's World Cup and the U.S. women's team's game here against Ireland last fall because those events took place during the football season. But it was in great shape for the international exhibitions that have taken place in recent summers.
I still remember when Manchester United and Barcelona christened the Linc in '03 and then-Barça manager Frank Rijkaard said the surface was like a billiards table. In other words, it was clean, consistent and fast.
I'll know more when I get up to the press box, because it's hard to judge the whole surface from field level. But if it's in good shape, that will outweigh any issues caused by the dimensions.
It's time to wrap up our look back at the U.S. national team's previous visits to Philadelphia. In all, the U.S. has played here four times, and tonight's featured game is the first of them.
On October 15, 1948, the United States beat Israel, 4-0, in an exhibition match at Shibe Park. Although Israel was a full member of FIFA at the time, and had become an independent nation in May of that year, the match was not recognized as official by FIFA.
From the research I've done, it's hard to tell exactly why the match was not official. But the game recap in the next day's Inquirer offers a few suggestions.
At one point, the U.S. team is described at one point as "the U.S. Olympic team." That may have just been the parlance of the day, but the word "Olympic" is of consequence because it implies that the U.S. team was composed entirely of amateurs. The Olympic soccer tournament was open only to amateur players until 1984, while the World Cup had professional players starting in 1924.
The story also states that the match was "staged to aid the families of Israel's war dead and veterans," and the phrase "benefit soccer" is used in the sub-headline.
There have certainly been FIFA-recognized international matches staged for charity over the years, but there does seem to be a particular emphasis on the charity motive for staging the game. I couldn't find much other information out there about this match, so we go with what we have.
It's worth noting that the most famous player on that U.S. team, Walter Bahr, was born in Philadelphia. He was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1976.
Here's how the story was played in the Inquirer. The text of the story is below the image.
The photo caption reads: "RIVALS PUT BEST FEET FORWARD IN SOCCER MATCH / Walt Bahr (right), U.S. halfback, kicks ball away from Abraham Bogdanoff, captain and outside right of Israel's team, at Shibe Park. Americans won, 4-1."
20,000 See U.S. Defeat Israel, 4-1
All-Stars Victors In Benefit Soccer
By George Butz
The United States All-Star soccer team, sparked by the Olympic team's outstanding players and two Philadelphia youths, turned back the aggressive Israel National squad, 4-1, last night in a colorful match before 20,000 at Shibe Park, which was donated by the Philadelphia Athletics. It was the second setback for the clever-passing Israeli tourists, the first athletic team to represent the new nation in international sport.
Israel's team fought valiantly, but their scoring finish was found lacking when rushing close to the American goal. The visitors' lone goal came as a result of a penalty kick, converted by Eli Fuchs, veteran of Palestine all-star soccer for the past five years.
When Joe Costa of the Ponta Delgadas club, Fall River, Mass., committed a holding penalty in the final five minutes, the Israeli team had its scoring opportunity. The resultant penalty try was converted.
The Americans' scoring was divided between Eddie Souza, member of the U.S. Olympic team and a star of the Ponta Delgadas, Rolfe Valtin, another Olympian and Swarthmore College ace; Jackie Sullivan and Joey White, both youthful members of the Philadelphia Nationals.
As an example of the Israel's aggressive play on offense, it forced eight corner kicks to the Americans' four during the contest, staged to aid the families of Israel's war dead and veterans.
The visitors were in peak playing form and only one injury - Elazar Speigel was forced from action with a twisted left ankle - marred the hard-fougth tussle. Jehoshua Glazer, who replaced Spiegel, turned in a grand game. The laurels, however, went to goalie Meler Aron, who turned back the U.S. stars 17 times with brilliant diving stops.
The Americans scored twice in each half. After 23 minutes from the opening kickoff, the U.S. team found the cords as K. Souza connected with an angled drive from the left side of the field. The ball hit the far upright and caromed back into the far corner.
U.S. DEFENSE TIGHTENS
After Israel made several thrusts into its foes' ground with Abraham Bogdanoff and Spiegel taking the shots, the U.S. defense - a three-fullback backfield - tightened and hurried the visitors.
As a result, the final touches were ably handled by Archie Strimmel, Pittsburgh's contribution to the 1948 Olympic squad. Valtin used his head in getting the Americans' second goal. He tipped Bob Gormley's pass into the far portion of the Israel net.
Sullivan scored his goal after three minutes from the start of the final half. It was a 15-yard liner, E. Souza assisting.. The teams made breakaways up and down the field but finally the U.S. booters capitalized on a sudden thrust with White, who took a pass from Bennie McLaughlin and beat Aron.
With the minutes clicking away, the action became spirited and in a hot scrimmage, Costa held Joseph Miramovitz as the latter dribbled and Referee Bill Ross called a penalty. On the free shot, Fuchs' liner arches just under the cross-bar.
Israel makes its final U.S. appearance Sunday, when it meets the American League All-Stars in Brooklyns Ebbets Field.
In a preliminary match, the junior Lighthouse BC team blanked the Central Club, 3-0.
A box score accompanied the article, but the type was too blurred on the microfilm for me to transcribe all of it. The noteworthy parts were the 2-1 halftime score and the note "Time of halves - 45 minutes."