Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Games to Watch: CONCACAF World Cup qualifying

This week's column is devoted exclusively to the six big CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers coming up over the next five days.

Games to Watch: CONCACAF World Cup qualifying

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This week's column is devoted exclusively to the six big CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers coming up over the next five days.

Each game includes the kickoff time and complete TV and radio information, including what time broadcasts begin.

United States at Jamaica 

9:30 p.m. Friday (beIN Sport English at 8:05 p.m.) 

The U.S. responded from a disheartening 4-2 loss to Belgium with a wildly entertaining 4-3 win over Germany. Now it’s time for Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and company to get back to the serious business of qualifying for the World Cup. 

Jamaica’s National Stadium isn’t as hostile as other venues in CONCACAF. But after a 1-0 home loss to Mexico on Tuesday, the Reggae Boyz must win this game if they want to keep their slim World Cup hopes alive. Their squad includes familiar faces from MLS, such as Portland’s Ryan Johnson and Vancouver’s Darren Mattocks. 

Mexico at Panama 

10:00 p.m. Friday (Telemundo at 9:00 p.m., Futbol de Primera Radio Network at 9:30 p.m.) 

On paper, Mexico is CONCACAF’s superpower. But El Tri didn’t get its first win in the final round of World Cup qualifying until this week. They haven’t lost yet – the previous three games were draws - but the pressure remains on Javier Hernández and company to deliver. 

Panama may be a traditional baseball power, but its soccer team is undefeated in the final round of qualifying. The canaleros opened with a home win over Honduras, then got ties at Costa Rica and at home to Jamaica. Their squad includes FC Dallas target man Blas Pérez and former Union midfielder Gabriel Gómez.

Telemundo's over-the-air affiliate in Philadelphia is WWSI-62. It broadcasts in high definition and is available widely on cable and satellite platforms. Futbol de Primera has two affiliates in the Philadelphia region: WTTM 1680-AM and WMVB 1440-AM. 

Honduras at Costa Rica 

10:00 p.m. Friday (beIN Sport Spanish at 9:50) 

Central America’s two perennial powerhouses enter this weekend as part of a three-way tie with the U.S. for third place. The Ticos’ squad includes dynamic attackers Joel Campbell (Real Betis), Bryan Ruiz (Fulham) and Alvaro Saborío (Real Salt Lake).

Honduras has only played one road game this year, a 2-0 loss to Panama. This game will be even harder. It’s up to Jerry Bengtson (New England Revolution), Óscar Boniek García (Houston Dynamo) and Mario Martínez (Seattle Sounders) to try to lead the catrachos to an upset. 

If you want to watch the game live in English, tune to beIN Sport’s Spanish channel and hit the SAP button on your remote. beIN Sport's English channel will air the game tape-delayed at midnight. 

Costa Rica at Mexico 

8:00 p.m. Tuesday (UniMás at 7:00, ESPN at 7:30, Futbol de Primera Radio Radio Network at 7:30 p.m) 

Mexico has built its reputation as CONCACAF’s soccer superpower largely on its unrivaled home-field advantage at Estadio Azteca. But shockingly, it has struggled at home this year. Both of their final-round qualifiers at the Azteca have been scoreless draws, against Jamaica in February and the U.S. in March. 

Now comes Costa Rica, the only team that has ever beaten Mexico on its turf in a World Cup qualifier. If the Ticos pull off another upset, El Tri’s World Cup qualifying hopes could be in big trouble. 

UniMás has an over-the-air affiliate in Philadelphia, WFPA-28. It's a low-power station, though, and I don't know if it broadcasts in high definition. So you're better off watching on cable or satellite if you can.

Jamaica at Honduras 

9:00 p.m. Tuesday (beINSportPlay.tv) 

With home field advantage and superior skill, this should be a relatively comfortable win for Honduras. The Catrachos will need it, as a week later they’ll face the United States at sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. That will be one of the biggest games of the year for both teams. 

Unfortunately, I'm told that authentication through a cable provider will be required to watch the game online, and it won't be televised. The only providers that have partnered with beIN Sport so far are Time Warner and Bright House.

Panama at United States 

10:08 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN and UniMás as soon as Mexico-Costa Rica ends)

After years of waiting, Seattle’s massive soccer fan base finally gets to host a World Cup qualifer at CenturyLink Field. If the Emerald City backs its country the way it does its club, expect the U.S. to enjoy quite a home field advantage. 

It will be a big night for two U.S. players who ply their club trade for the Sounders. Brad Evans played well at right back against Germany, and Eddie Johnson can play forward or left wing. 

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