Thursday, April 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Seven Hot Matches

This weekend brings Major League Soccer's biggest game in four years.

Seven Hot Matches

Seattle Sounders at Portland Timbers

3:30 p.m. Saturday (NBC)

It might not be the most competitive game of the weekend in Major League Soccer, but from a leaguewide perspective it's the biggest game in years. This will be the first MLS game broadcast on an over-the-air English-language television network since 2008.

For as much progress as MLS has made on the field and in the stands, the biggest hurdle to its growth remains poor television ratings. This game, which features the league's two most telegenic soccer fan bases, will be a big test of just how popular American soccer really is.

There are stakes on the field, too. A Timbers victory would clinch the Cascadia Cup, a three-way rivalry series between Portland, Seattle and the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The soccer historians among you might like to know that this will be the 78th meeting of the Timbers and Sounders. Seattle has won 40 times and Portland 28, with nine draws. In their three MLS meetings so far, each team has won once, with Portland taking the most recent contest this past June at JELD-WEN Field. 

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim at SC Freiburg

9:30 a.m. Sunday (GolTV)

After playing big roles in the United States national team's recent World Cup qualifying games, Danny Williams and Fabian Johnson return to club action this weekend with Hoffenheim in Germany's Bundesliga.

Hoffenheim is winless so far through two games, in which it gave up a combined six goals. Perhaps the team could use a dose of the defensive prowess that Williams and Johnson showed against Jamaica this past Tuesday.

United States women vs. Australia

3:30 p.m. Sunday (NBC)

The U.S. women continue their post-Olympics victory tour with the first of two games in a week against the Matildas. This weekend, the tour rolls into Hollywood, as the game will take place at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

It will be a homecoming for Alex Morgan, Shannon Box, Rachel Buehler and former Independence star Amy Rodriguez, all of whom grew up in the Los Angeles area.

The other storyline will be head coach Pia Sundhage, who will step down from the U.S. team after Wednesday's rematch with Australia in suburban Denver (10:00 p.m., ESPN2). After delivering two Olympic gold medals and a second-place finish at last year's World Cup, Sundhage is headed home to Sweden to take charge of her native country's women's national team.

Real Madrid at Sevilla

4:00 p.m. Sunday (beIN Sport)

Sure, it's still early in the Spanish La Liga season, but it's still striking to see Real Madrid in ninth place in the standings. That's where Spain's most decorated team sits for now, though, after losing its last league game.

Just as big a story has been Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo's recent complaints that he is "feeling sad." Spanish media outlets have reported that he'd like a raise from his current $67 million-per-year salary. 

Alas, Ronaldo's cries have fallen on deaf ears in Madrid – perhaps because 19 percent of its population is unemployed. Fans would rather he do his talking on the field, especially since archrival Barcelona has started the season unbeaten. 

Newcastle United at Everton

2:55 p.m. Monday (ESPN2)

Newcastle fans are renowned for their vociferous support and high standards, which means that the club's all-too-rare success doesn't come quietly. But it's fair to say that the newest star of Geordie Nation has flown under the radar.

After joining Newcastle midway through last season, Senegalese striker Papis Demba Cissé scored 13 goals in 13 games. That lifted the Magpies to a surprising fifth-place finish in the Premier League.

In this game, Cissé will face U.S. national team goalkeeper Tim Howard, who has backstopped his team to two wins in its first three games of the new campaign.

Manchester City at Real Madrid

2:30 p.m. Tuesday (Fox Soccer Channel)

The group stage of the UEFA Champions League kicks off with a blockbuster matchup between the reigning champions of England and Spain. It's also a meeting of two teams whose spending on player salaries is nearly unrivaled in any sport in the world.

According to figures published by ESPN in May, Real Madrid spent nearly $7.8 million per player last season, and City spent just over $7.4 million. That was more than American sports powerhouses such as the Lakers and Yankees.

But all that money will be worthless if Real and City don't win any hardware. Their first task is to advance from the Champions League's “Group of Death,” which also includes German champion Borussia Dortmund and Dutch champion Ajax of Amsterdam.

Los Angeles Galaxy at Puerto Rico Islanders

8:00 p.m. Wednesday (Fox Soccer Channel) 

San Juan may be an appealing vacation spot as autumn arrives, but the Galaxy's trip there will be strictly for business. A win in this game will give L.A. a commanding lead in its CONCACAF Champions League group, which also includes El Salvador's Isidro Metapán.

Upset-minded Puerto Rico plays in the North American Soccer League, a level below MLS. The Islanders' roster includes former Penn midfielder Christian Barreiro, who joined the team in July after a few months with the semi-professional Baltimore Bohemians.

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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