Saturday, December 20, 2014

Seven Hot Matches

Featuring what should be a highly entertaining men's Olympic Gold Medal showdown between Mexico and Brazil.

Seven Hot Matches

South Korea vs. Japan

2:45 p.m. Friday (NBC Sports Network; Telemundo; NBC Olympic Soccer Channel; NBCOlympics.com)

By a twist of fate, the men's Olympic bronze medal game features the renewal of a fierce Asian rivalry. South Korea has long felt a sense of inferiority relative to its more prosperous neighbor, and will relish the opportunity to get one over on Japan at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.

Although age restrictions limit the star power on men's Olympic soccer rosters, a Japanese victory would nonetheless give that nation the rare honor of having won medals in the men's and women's tournament of the same Games.

Houston Dynamo at New York Red Bulls

8:00 p.m. Friday (NBC Sports Network)

A quirk of the MLS schedule has resulted in these two Eastern Conference powers meeting for the second week in a row. And as with last week's 2-0 Dynamo win in Houston, this game gets a national TV platform.

The pressure is mounting on New York stars Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill to finally deliver a championship. But Houston is in first place right now, led by dynamic midfielders Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia. New York would vault over the Dynamo with a win in this game.

Mexico vs. Brazil

10:00 a.m. Saturday (MSNBC; Telemundo; NBC Olympic Soccer Channel; NBCOlympics.com)

The Olympics gold medal game puts the two most entertaining teams of the tournament on the big stage at Wembley Stadium.

Brazil has been the star team of the Olympics. Chasing the only trophy that the nation has never won, big names such as Neymar, Oscar and Alexandre Pato have risen to the occasion so far.

Mexico's Gio do Santos will be out injured, but El Tri will still have plenty of firepower in forwards Oribe Peralta and Marco Fabian.

Real Madrid vs. Celtic

1:55 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2; ESPN Deportes; ESPN3.com)

Philadelphia's summer of big soccer events is capped off at Lincoln Financial Field with this meeting of the reigning Spanish and Scottish champions.

Real Madrid has dominated all of the games on its U.S. tour thus far. In addition to a 2-1 win over Mexican power Santos, Cristiano Ronaldo and company have laid 5-1 whippings on the Los Angeles Galaxy and AC Milan. A Celtic squad that lacks the star power of years past could find itself beaten just as badly.

Los Angeles Galaxy at Chivas USA

11:00 p.m. Sunday (ESPN2; ESPN3.com)

With David Beckham expected to be in London for the Olympics closing ceremonies, Chivas USA has an opportunity to do more than just beat the team with which it shares the Home Depot Center.

Chivas is in sixth place in the Western Conference, seven points behind the Galaxy for the last playoff spot. But the Goats have four games in hand, which could mean as many as 12 points are still available to be claimed. Getting three here would make a big statement.

Los Angeles Galaxy at Columbus Crew

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

It's never easy for teams to travel across the country for a midweek game. But if the Galaxy are to prove they're good enough to repeat as MLS champions, then they'll have to make a statement against a Crew team that has lost just one home league game since the end of April.

Columbus' offense got a major boost during the summer transfer window with the signing of forward Federico Higuain, the brother of Real Madrid star Gonzalo Higuain. Perhaps Gonzalo will share some tips on how to beat L.A. after scoring just two minutes into Madrid's win at the Home Depot Center last weekend.

United States at Mexico

8:00 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN2; Univision; ESPN3.com)

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann wanted to give his team an taste of what next year's final round of World Cup qualifying will be like. There's no better test than a trip to the mile-high, smog-filled air of the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

Even though this game is a friendly, fans on both sides of the Rio Grande know there's no such thing when these two nations meet on the soccer field. With Manchester United's Javier Hernandez leading Mexico's roster, expect just the kind of tough test that Klinsmann wanted - and that U.S. fans perenially dread.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
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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