Thursday, September 18, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Seven hot matches

Sunday might be the best day of the entire calendar year for soccer fans in the United States, with three big games in a row on national television.

Seven hot matches

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Greece vs. Germany

2:30 p.m. Friday (ESPN; ESPN3.com)

The second quarterfinal at Euro 2012 might not be the most glamorous, but it is likely the most emotional – and not because of soccer.

Greece's economy is mired in near-depression conditions due to budget cuts enforced by its membership in the Euro currency. Germany is the continent's most powerful economy, and has resisted calls to help bail Greece out.

Greek fans and media see this game as a chance for revenge. German coach Joachim Löw has steered clear of economics, but the storyline is impossible to avoid.

Spain vs. France

2:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2; ESPN3.com)

Spain has played some of Euro 2012's most mesmerizing soccer so far, with midfielders Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta pulling the strings. Just as importantly, starstruck forward Fernando Torres has finally found his scoring touch, recording three goals in the group stage.

France comes to this game wondering what could have been. All Les Bleus had to do to avoid this matchup was beat already-eliminated Sweden in its final group game. Instead, their offense fell silent in a 2-0 defeat. So instead of facing a beatable Italy squad, France must deal with the reigning World Cup and European champions.

World Soccer Masters exhibition

7:00 p.m. Saturday (Fox Soccer Channel; ESPN3.com)

While the best players in Europe are playing in Poland and Ukraine, Lionel Messi has gathered stars from across the rest of the world for a charity fundraiser at Sun Life Stadium outside Miami.

Among the big names expected to be on the field (along with Messi, of course) are Inter Milan's Diego Forlán, Atlético Madrid's Radamel Falcao, former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba and U.S. national team stalwart Clint Dempsey.

Chivas USA at FC Dallas

9:00 p.m. Saturday (Galavisión)

Former Union captain Danny Califf leads Chivas USA against one of the top young American stars in Major League Soccer, FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea.

After finishing fourth in the Western Conference last year, Dallas sits in last place right now despite the presence of high-powered forwards Blas Perez and Fabian Castillo, and creative midfielder Ricardo Villar. This game presents a good chance to start a turnaround.

England vs. Italy

2:30 p.m. Sunday (ESPN; ESPN3.com)

Sunday might be the best day of the entire calendar year for soccer fans in the United States, with three big games in a row on national television. Start with the last Euro 2012 quarterfinal, as two of the world's most popular teams lock horns in Kiev.

England exceeded even its own fans' expectations by reaching the quarterfinals as Group D winners, with Premier League stars Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United) and Theo Walcott (Arsenal) leading the way.

They'll face a player they know quite well: tempestuous forward Mario Balotelli (Manchester City), who scored a spectacular bicycle kick goal against Ireland in the group stage.

Seattle Sounders at Portland Timbers

5:00 p.m. (ESPN; ESPN3.com)

The fiercest rivalry in American soccer is renewed in the raucous confines of Portland's JELD-WEN Field. This will be the 76th edition of a series that dates back to 1975, when teams with the Sounders and Timbers names first met in the North American Soccer League.

Former Union striker Danny Mwanga will be in the spotlight as the Timbers try to beat Seattle for the first time in MLS. Seattle will counter with Fredy Montero, who scored twice in the Sounders' win at Portland last year.

D.C. United at New York Red Bulls

7:00 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)

Though the Cascadia Cup gets most of the headlines, longtime MLS fans keep a special place for this all-Northeast Corridor clash as well. The D.C.-New York rivalry is the most-played in MLS history, having been contested 57 times since the league launched in 1996.

United, MLS' most decorated club, has raised echoes of its long-dormant glory days by rising to first place in the Eastern Conference. New Yorkers still remember how many times D.C. knocked their team out of the playoffs – a major reason why the club has yet to win any trophies in its 17-year existence.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, U.S. national teams and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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