Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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Seven Hot Matches

One of them is a futsal contest. It's that time of year.

Seven Hot Matches

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It's the time of year where it gets a bit hard to find seven matches to fill out this column. So I did something a bit unconventional and picked a CONCACAF Futsal World Cup qualifying game.

The United States was involved in the tournament until Wednesday, when it was eliminated at the end of the group stage. I figure you have better things to do at 10 p.m. on a Friday night than stay home to watch indoor soccer, but if you are around, check it out.

Also, I should mention that Gol TV has an interesting-looking UEFA Under-17 Championship group stage game today at 1 p.m.: Portugal vs. Spain. Here's hoping a dash of youthful innocence leads to some goals after the grownups' scoreless draw last month.

So here goes.

Mexico at Guatemala futsal

10 p.m. Friday (Univision Deportes)

Futsal is the term that the rest of the world uses for indoor soccer. But if you ever saw a Kixx game at the old Spectrum or the Liacouras Center, this game will look quite different from the Major Indoor Soccer League.

Instead of artificial turf, the futsal floor is painted-over hardwood. There also are no boards around the playing surface, and the scoring is like traditional soccer - all goals count for one point.

Futsal is played in many countries around the world, and is widely credited with helping young players develop ball control and passing skills that are later used on bigger soccer stages.

CONCACAF is holding its qualifying tournament for November's FIFA Futsal World Cup.This game is a semifinal, and Guatemala has home-court advantage.

Mexico has won the most recent CONCACAF Gold Cup, the Olympic qualifying tournament, and the under-20 championship. El Tri may be two wins from adding another soccer trophy to their display case.

Cruzeiro at Internacional

5:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3.com) 

You never quite know what you will find in Brazil’s soccer league. Sometimes you’ll find big names, but more often you’ll find young starlets hoping to make an impression – and a big-money move to Europe. 

Those up-and-comers could learn from one of the league’s stars, Internacional midfielder Andrés D’Alessandro. Early in his career, he was among Argentina’s most-hyped talents. But the playmaker struggled to make it in Europe, and returned to South America in 2007.

D'Alessandro has been at Internacional since 2008. He is among a rare group of Argentines playing in the domestic league of their biggest soccer rival.

Update: Internacional announced Friday that it has signed forward Diego Forlán, a star on Uruguay's recent World Cup teams. If he makes his debut in this game, it should be quite a scene.

Colorado Rapids at Seattle Sounders

11:00 p.m. Saturday (NBC Sports Network)

Seattle is one of Major League Soccer’s best-supported and best-financed teams, but it is stuck in a major rut. The Sounders have not won a league game since May 9, a stretch of eight games.

But there has been one bright spot: After returning to MLS from a three-year tour of Europe, forward Eddie Johnson has scored a team-high five goals this season. 

Colorado, meanwhile, has had an up-and-down week. The Rapids routed Portland, 3-0, last weekend, but slipped up against Vancouver in a 1-0 home loss. They’ll look to complete their run through MLS’ Cascadian contingent with another win.

Los Angeles Galaxy at Chicago Fire

3 p.m. Sunday (ESPN; ESPN Deportes; ESPN3.com)

David Beckham showed why he is the biggest name in MLS last weekend. After being omitted from Britain's Olympic soccer team, Beckham delivered a trademark free kick against San Jose - then got a yellow card for drop-kicking a ball at a Earthquakes player and the ref. Beckham then got into a postgame dust-up that saw him shove the Quakes mascot.

The booking earned him a one-game suspension for card accumulation, which was served in Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Union.

Beckham was suspended a further game on Thursday, meaning he will be out of this game against the Fire as well. So it will be up to Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane to lead the Galaxy's attack. 

Grêmio at Santos

3:00 p.m. Sunday (GolTV)

No less a figure than Pelé claims that young Santos star Neymar is a better player than Lionel Messi. Of course, it helps that Neymar is Brazilian, and plays for Pelé's old club. There's no doubt, though, that Neymar is one of the world's most entertaining players. 

Grêmio is led by well-traveled midfielder Zé Roberto, who helped Bayern Munich win four Bundesliga titles last decade.

New York Red Bulls at New England Revolution

7 p.m. Sunday (Galavisión)

You would think that a meeting between New York and Boston teams in any sport would make for a good rivalry. But the Red Bulls-Revolution series has never quite had the same spirit as the Red Bulls and D.C. United - or even the Red Bulls and the Union, in recent years.

What this game will have, though, is three of MLS's top seven goal-scorers this season. New York's Kenny Cooper ranks second with 11, his teammate Thierry Henry is in a three-way tie for third with nine, and New England's Saër Sène has eight.

That should help liven up cavernous Gillette Stadium, which the Revs have shared with the NFL's Patriots for too long.

France Under-19s vs. England Under-19s

1 p.m. Monday (Gol TV)

Just when you thought the soccer world might finally take a summer vacation, here comes another international tournament to watch. This time, it's the UEFA Under-19 European Championship, taking place through July 15 in Estonia.

Close followers of the English Premier League will may recognize a few players in this game. French captain Paul Pogba was one of Manchester United's most precocious young talents, but just moved to Juventus - much to the displeasure of Sir Alex Ferguson.

England's squad features other Man U players such as goalkeeper Sam Johnstone and defender Michael Keane, Chelsea midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah, and Arsenal striker Benik Afobe.

Also in the Three Lions' squad is midfielder Jack Rodwell, who Philadelphia fans have seen in person. The Everton prospect played as a substitute in their 1-0 loss to the Union at PPL Park last summer.

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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