Friday, July 11, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Seven Hot Matches

It's crunch time for the United States in World Cup qualifying.

Seven Hot Matches

Seven Hot Matches

United States at Antigua & Barbuda

6:55 p.m. Friday (beIN Sport English)

The United States men's national team resumes its quest to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, and U.S. fans resume their quest to find a television where they can watch the game. Only DirecTV and Dish Network currently carry beIN Sport's English feed.

It's still better than having the game on closed-circuit, which could have happened had beIN not bought the rights. But the still-new al-Jazeera-owned sports network has struggled to secure carriage deals with cable providers. Comcast only carries the network's Spanish-language feed, which will air the game on tape-delay at 3 a.m. Saturday.

On the field, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has benched forward Jozy Altidore, and two more of his stalwarts are injured – midfielder Landon Donovan and defender Fabian Johnson. Antigua should be beatable, as they're 74 spots below the U.S. in FIFA's rankings. But you never know for sure until the final whistle. 

Uruguay at Argentina

7:50 p.m. Friday (beIN Sport Spanish)

beIN Sport will show this game on its Spanish-language feed instead of the United States-Antigua game, and for a Spanish-speaking audience it makes plenty of sense. Argentina and Uruguay are two of South America's top three teams, and are loaded with stars.

Argentina is led by perhaps the world's best player, Lionel Messi. He is finally playing for his national team the way he does for his club team, Barcelona. Uruguay will counter with hot-shooting forward Luis Suarez, who has a habit of finding the headlines both on and off the field at Liverpool.

Jamaica at Guatemala

9:55 p.m. Friday (beIN Sport English)

After the United States' game ends, the other two teams in the U.S.' group will face off in Guatemala City. The Reggae Boyz won the last meeting between these teams, 2-1, in Kingston back in June. Now they face a much tougher task on the road.

Right now, the U.S., Jamaica and Guatemala are tied in the group standings with seven points. So the best result in this game for the U.S. would be a draw, combined with a U.S. win at Antigua. A more likely scenario, though, is a Guatemala victory – which would set up a huge clash between the U.S. and Guatemala on Tuesday. 

Vasco da Gama at Santos 

3:00 p.m. Friday (GolTV) 

Santos star Neymar will be away with Brazil's national team, but there will still be some talented players on display in this Brazilian league game. 

Vasco da Gama features free kick specialist Juninho Pernambucano, who spent nine years at French power Olympique Lyon. Santos features Paulo Henrique Ganso, who pulls the strings in the midfield of the three-time defending Brazilian champions. 

France at Spain 

2:55 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN2) 

It's always a big deal when two nations of such great statue in world soccer get together. Between them, France and Spain have won two of the last four World Cups and three of the last four European Championships. 

While the game will unify two nations, it will pull apart multiple teammates from Europe's top clubs. France's Gaël Clichy and Spain's David Silva play for Manchester City; France's Olivier Giroud and Spain's Santi Cazorla play for Arsenal; and France's Karim Benzema plays with many Spanish stalwarts for Real Madrid. 

Guatemala at United States

6:30 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN2; Telefutura starting at 7:00)

This game, which will be played at Kansas City's Livestrong Sporting Park, could be a do-or-die contest for the United States. Yes, it's really possible that they might not go to the World Cup. It may not be likely, but if the U.S. doesn't beat Antigua a victory will be required in this game.

And it won't be easy. Guatemalan forward Carlos Ruiz and midfielder Marco Pappa have tormented American fans for years, both with their national teams and with many Major League Soccer clubs. They are masters not only of creative soccer, but also of annoying opponents to the point of distraction – or sometimes worse.

The U.S. will not only have to keep its focus on offense against the Chapines, but also its discipline in order avoid reckless fouls.

With all of that said, if Clint Dempsey, Herculez Gomez and company beat both Antigua and Guatemala, it's possible that they could keep Guatemala out of the next round of World Cup qualifying. That would make the U.S.' road to Brazil a lot smoother, as it wouldn't require another trip to hostile Guatemala City.

Real Salt Lake at Seattle Sounders

10:00 p.m. Wednesday (NBC Sports Network)

Within 24 hours of the dust settling in Kansas City, Major League Soccer will resume action in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle doesn't see Real Salt Lake as a true rival, but it seems to always be a big game when these two teams get together.

It's the case again here, as RSL can clinch second place in the Western Conference with a win or a tie.

The Sounders, meanwhile, can jump into second place with a victory. Both sides will be missing big names, as Real's Kyle Beckerman and Seattle's Eddie Johnson will have been with the U.S. national team the night before. But that won't lessen the intensity of the contest, or the likelihood of high drama.

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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