Saturday, April 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Eight Hot Matches

In honor of the Olympics, you get a bonus match this week. See if you can figure out which one it is.

Eight Hot Matches

In honor of the Olympics, you get a bonus match this week. See if you can figure out which one it is.

United States women vs. New Zealand

9:30 a.m. Friday (NBC Sports Network; NBC Olympic Soccer Channel; NBCOlympics.com)

The United States' reward for a perfect performance in the group stage of the Olympics is a quarterfinal matchup that is the easiest of the four in the tournament. New Zealand is No. 23 in the FIFA rankings, far lower than any of the other teams still alive.

That said, the Football Ferns gave the U.S. a real scare when the teams met in February. The U.S. had to come back from 1-0 down with two goals in the game's final minutes for a 2-1 win. This time, they'll face off at St. James' Park in Newcastle, one of England's most venerable soccer stadiums.

Brazil women vs. Japan

12:00 p.m. Friday (NBC Sports Network; NBC Olympic Soccer Channel; NBCOlympics.com)

The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales hosts what should be the best of the four Olympic women's soccer quarterfinal games. It has a simple storyline: Japan is the world's best team, and Brazilian midfielder Marta has long been regarded as the world's best player.

Brazil will need all of Marta's skills and savvy to win this game, especially after a sub-par performance in their group stage finale. The Samba Queens lacked their traditional style and flair in a 1-0 loss to hosts Great Britain.

New York Red Bulls at Houston Dynamo

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

The game of the weekend in Major League Soccer features the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, with first place at stake. It's also a battle of contrasting styles off the field. Star-laden New York has the league's biggest payroll at over $13 million, while hard-working Houston's payroll is under $3 million.

If Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and the Red Bulls can survive the ferocious Houston summer heat, it could be a sign that New York is finally ready to win its first ever MLS championship. 

Brazil men vs. Honduras 

12:00 p.m. Saturday (MSNBC; Telemundo; NBC Olympic Soccer Channel; NBCOlympics.com) 

Just as the NCAA basketball tournament has its Cinderellas, it looks like the Olympic men's soccer tournament might have one too in Honduras.

Los Catrachos reached the quarterfinals thanks in part to a 1-0 upset of world power Spain. The winning goal was made in Major League Soccer: New England's Jerry Bengtson scored it, with assists from Kansas City's Roger Espinoza and D.C.'s Andy Najar. 

With Spain eliminated, Brazil becomes the clear favorite to win the gold medal. The Olympics are the one tournament Brazil has never won, and a team led by superstar forward Neymar is determined that this will be the year. Expect the Seleçao's skills to be on full display in this game at Newcastle's St. James' Park. 

FC Dallas at Portland Timbers 

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

When MLS' schedule-makers put this game on national television at the start of the season, it seemed like a great idea. Dallas' roster is stocked with creative players such as Brek Shea and David Ferreira; Portland's home crowd produces the best TV show in the league. 

There's one small problem, though: the two teams are at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Portland has a MLS-worst 19 points from 21 games, while Dallas has 22 from 23. 

But the fans in Portland will show up anyway, and it's likely that former Union striker Danny Mwanga will too. Along with teammate Darlington Nagbe, they've given Timbers fans hope for a brighter future. 

Los Angeles Galaxy at Seattle Sounders 

9:00 p.m. Sunday (ESPN2; ESPN3.com) 

Galaxy star David Beckham has continued his jet-setting ways in recent weeks. After flying to London from the MLS All-Star Game, the world watched his speedboat cruise that brought the Olympic torch to the Opening Ceremonies. Beckham should be back Stateside for this game - though his distaste for Seattle's artificial turf surface is well known. 

Seattle fans have better things to care about than Beckham's globetrotting, though. Nearly 55,000 of them will fill CenturyLink Field to watch what should be the debut of the Sounders' newest Designated Player, Christian Tiffert. If he can mesh with forwards Eddie Johsnon and Fredy Montero, Seattle will become one of the top candidates to win the Western Conference. 

Real Madrid vs. AC Milan 

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

For the second time this summer, Yankee Stadium will have a soccer field laid over its baseball diamond. It won't quite reach Alex Rodriguez's part of the infield, but Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo would likely find a kindred spirit in the Bronx Bombers' third baseman. 

Both men are known for their dazzling skills and dashing looks – and at one point were known for coming up small on big stages. That changed when Rodriguez's Yankees won the 2009 World Series, and when Ronaldo helped Real Madrid claim last season's Spanish championship. 

Between Madrid's star power and Milan's big fan base in New York, this game has become one of the summer's toughest soccer tickets. It might not be a Yankees-Red Sox game, but it will still draw a huge crowd for what should be a memorable occasion. 

Seattle Sounders at Sporting Kansas City 

9:00 p.m. Wednesday (GolTV) 

No team in the 98-year history of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup has won the tournament four consecutive times. Seattle is just one victory away from making history. To do so, they'll have to win a championship game on the road for the first time since 2009.

This final will be a homecoming of sorts for Sounders forward Eddie Johnson. He played in Kansas City from 2006 to 2007, then embarked on a five-year European journey that took him from the highs of the English Premier League to the lows of Greece's second division. 

Soccer's growth in the American heartland has few better symbols than Sporting Kansas City. After years of small crowds in cavernous Arrowhead Stadium, they now routinely sell out their $200 million, soccer-specific LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. A cup championship would be the capstone to their progress.

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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