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Bob Weiser started playing soccer as a youth and has been following the sport ever since, dating back to days of watching the Bundesliga on PBS on Saturday afternoons.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Impressive day for Union

Despite not having a ticket in hand, I was determined to not miss the Philadelphia Union's debut at PPL Park Sunday afternoon. I'm glad I didn't decide to just spend the day in front of the TV.

I'll start with the stadium. It's beautiful. It's not spectacular, but I've never been inside a true soccer stadium, so I don't have much to compare it to. I won't say there isn't a bad seat in the house. From where I was at (Section 119, Row K, Seat 20), I couldn't see the scoreboard. Even if I turned around, it was unviewable. And there are no arm rests on the seats, which I guess gives fat old guys like me a little more space, but it's still odd. As I said to Linda, the woman to my right, though, at least they aren't bleachers and at least we don't have to stand the entire match.

As far as the game was concerned, it was a very impressive performance by the Union. I thought they dominated possession and looked much, much more dangerous than Seattle in the attacking third. It was a good, crisp passing performance as Sebastien Le Toux, Fred and Alejandro Moreno ran circles around the Sounders defense. I'd love to know where Peter Nowak concocted this attack. It looked totally different and a heck of a lot better than what we saw in the first 10 matches. I thought Danny Mwanga was very good. Really, the whole team was. I can't pick out a weak link.

The play of the game had to be Chris Seitz's save of a penalty kick, just minutes after all the Union's hard work had paid off in a PK of their own. Seitz didn't have to do much, but any time you save a PK, it is a huge lift to your teammates.

All in all, a great game in a great stadium. Hope you all had as good of a time as I did.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The end of the line

Well, it's over. The United States gave the gallant fight Saturday, but, in the end, Ghana was just a little better in the final third and converted twice to eliminate the U.S., 2-1.
Some thoughts:
1) While Ricardo Clark gave the ball away leading to Ghana's first goal, the giveaway was at midfield. Surely, someone else can make a tackle in the 30-plus yards between midfield and Kevin Prince Boateng's strike. I'm not excusing Clark, who I think was bad and didn't deserve his spot in the starting XI to begin with, but I'm not putting 100 percent of the blame for this goal on him.
2) I will put some of the blame for that goal on Tim Howard. Tim Howard is considered one of the top goalies in the world, one of the best in the English Premier League. He's good, don't get me wrong. But he just strikes me as way too inconsistent to be elite. He left room at the near post and Boateng exploited it.
3) I understand that that's more to playing striker than scoring goals. That said, Robbie Findley shouldn't be starting for this team. He's played more than a dozen games with the U.S. national team and hasn't scored yet. His miss Saturday was poorly struck. A good striker doesn't hit it at the goalkeeper. He hits it to a corner and he scores.
4) Jozy Altidore is the future of the U.S. at striker. He wasn't at his best Saturday.
That's the bad. The good was Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley. They were the reason the U.S. had any hope at all. But even Donovan wasn't quite as good as he's been.
The next big question to be answered is whether or not Bob Bradley will return as head coach. I don't think he should. Not because he did a bad job - starting Clark was a mistake as were some other lineup moves - but because I think teams need a new direction every four years. It's not an indictment on Bradley.
Sunday figures to be a great soccer day - Germany vs. England, Argentina vs. Mexico and the Philadelphia Union opener at PPL Park. If you're going to PPL, enjoy yourself. I hope to get there and if I do, will report back Sunday night.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Nearly 12 hours since the end of the U.S.-Algeria thriller and I'm still amazed by the finish. I watched in disbelief as I'm sure most of you did as chance after chance after chance fell by the wayside. I'm sure some of you felt like I did - crap, it's going to finish 0-0 and it's not going to be enough.
Thankfully, the U.S. has Landon Donovan, who has been nothing short of outstanding throughout the World Cup. Thankfully, Algeria's shot in the 10th minute hit the crossbar and didn't drop down 6 or 12 inches more. Thankfully, after that, Algeria seemed to not care about scoring and winning the match.
Now, it's a matchup with Ghana, which I thought looked good until Wednesday's loss to Germany, when the Black Stars, like Algeria, almost seemed disinterested. Still, it figures to be better than a matchup with Germany, which seems to make the quarterfinals every year and will have Miroslav Klose back after his one-game suspension because of a bad red card.
Germany vs. England in the first knockout round, though - WOW! Someone is going home disappointed and walking into a wrath of bad press in their homeland Monday morning. Hopefully, that will be England.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A look ahead at the final 16 first-round matches

It’s time for the Sweet 16.
No, not the NCAA Tournament, the final 16 first-round matches of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
If you like upsets and upstarts, the next four days could be especially sweet.
Here’s a look at the final days of the group stage:
Group A
France went to the final in 2006. A repeat looks unlikely, but stranger things have happened. Should France beat South Africa today – and with all the problems in the French camp that appears less than a given – it would still need help from either Uruguay or Mexico to advance. If Uruguay and Mexico draw, France is done. Fortunately for France, the winner of that game will avoid playing Argentina in the next round – that’s enough to guarantee the teams won’t play just to draw and advance. France is a –2 in goal differential; Mexico is +2 and Uruguay +3. Overcoming that deficit makes it even more unlikely that France will advance.
Group B
Argentina is almost guaranteed of qualifying. Diego Maradona’s team is +4 in goal differential and 2-0. South Korea and Greece are tied with three points and a goal differential of –1. Unfortunately for Greece, it gets to play Argentina while South Korea faces Nigeria. Advantage: South Korea. That should be enough for South Korea to advance, but Nigeria is good enough to pull the upset and make things interesting.
Group C
Two draws have the United States in position to advance with a win over Algeria Wednesday morning. Those draws, however, leave little room for error for the States. A loss eliminates the U.S. Should the teams tie, the U.S. future would hinge on the Slovenia-England matchup. An England win knocks the U.S. out. An England tie and tiebreakers come into play. Both teams are even in goal differential, but the U.S. has outscored England 3-1. Taking care of business against Algeria is vital.
Group D
Serbia made a mess of things with a 1-0 win over Germany. The bigger mess is all the cards that were shown in that match, including a questionable red to Miroslav Klose in the 36th minute that will force him to miss Germany’s matchup with Ghana. With Lukas Podolski’s confidence probably out of kilter following a penalty kick miss vs. Serbia, Germany has to find a way to score. Ghana advances with a draw or win as it sits on top of the group with four points. Serbia faces Australia. Honestly, who knows what will happen Wednesday in these two games. Australia is alive and will advance with a win and a Ghana win. I wouldn’t be shocked if Germany didn’t advance.
Group E
Netherlands is through and faces Cameroon. Japan and Denmark are tied at three points and meet to decide who will join the Dutch in the next round. A draw goes to Japan, which has a zero goal differential, while the Danes are at –1.
Group F
All four teams remain alive with Paraguay in the driver’s seat with four points and a goal differential of +2. Italy is the disappointment in this group and despite dominating New Zealand is tied with the All Whites with two points and a goal differential of zero. Fortunately for Azzurri, they face Slovakia while New Zealand faces Paraguay. That should be enough to get them through, though they’ll be in trouble in the next round. Of course, people were saying the same thing about the defending champs four years ago.
Group G
Brazil and Portugal are through. Portugal stomped North Korea 7-0 Monday. Again, that’s 7-0. Ivory Coast had a chance until Portugal kept scoring. Now, Didier Drogba and Co. would have to overcome a goal differential of NINE (9) to advance. And that’s assuming Brazil beats Portugal. Obviously, the North Korea defense can be shredded and Drogba and Jeremy are dangerous enough to do it. Ivory Coast will come up short, though, and not starting Drogba vs. Portugal will prove to have been the wrong decision.
Group H
Chile is on top of the group with two wins. Switzerland, which upset Spain, and Spain are tied with three points apiece. The Swiss get Honduras, while Spain faces Chile. Won’t matter. Switzerland blew its chance with a loss to Chile Monday. Now, Spain is clicking and David Villa, despite scoring two goals to beat Honduras, is probably angry. He pushed a penalty kick wide in that match and should have had a hat trick. Look for Spain to prove its among the best in the field with a win over Chile that sends both teams through.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Group C jumbled

I held off posting for a few hours to let the rage simmer down. Like most Americans watching the match, I yelled at my computer (the first match I forgot to DVR all tournament, just genius) as the third goal went in and then was waved off. Disbelief. Frustration. Anger. The blood boiled.
Now that's been 12 hours or so since I watched the game, I simply am left to marvel at the performance of the U.S. in the second half. Yes, the first half was bad. Unlike some fans, I thought Slovenia was going to be a legit test. More so for its defense than its ability to score twice against the U.S. When it was 2-0, I thought the U.S. would really struggle to earn the draw against a good defensive team. Landon Donovan's rooftop blast early was just what the doctor ordered, though, and eventually, Michael Bradley tied things up. Throughout the game I had wondered why, when the ball was coming tantalizingly through the box, our players seemed to just let it go. I thought a few times a better effort could have been made to stick a foot out and try to redirect the ball. Finally, Bradley did almost just that to tie it up.
I wasn't happy to see Robbie Findley get the start, but I'm going to give him his props - he played well, I thought. I just don't think he's a threat to score. He runs hard, plays hard, looks like he can create things. But finishing? Not at this level yet. And this is probably something that is going to hurt this team this year - the forwards just lack experience.
Of course, when the game was over, it figured to be a tough few days trying to figure out how the U.S. was going to get to the knockout stage knowing England and Slovenia were sitting on 4 points and we were stuck at 2. And then England took the pitch against Algeria, in a game English fans thought would be even easier than facing the U.S.

Now, England is a tie or loss away from not even getting out of this superEASY group. Nice job Brits. I can only hope against hope that Slovenia beats England and the U.S. beats Algeria. No England and no France? That would be awesome.
The other game Friday was the surprising 1-0 Serbia win over Germany. Miroslav Klose got sent off, the Germans missed a penalty kick and now they'll be up against Ghana, which should be 2-0 for 6 points in a few hours after beating Australia. Of course, there's no use predicting anything as we all saw Friday.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Group A - Off with your heads France

Every time I see the French coach I feel like I'm looking at Jack McCoy from 'Law & Order.' But like one of the greatest shows ever, France's trip to the 2010 World Cup stands a very good chance of getting canceled.
The 2-0 loss to Mexico combined with Uruguay's 3-0 win over South Africa a day earlier left France in third in Group A with one match left. Unfortunately for the French, its fate is out of its hands as Uruguay and Mexico meet on the final day of Group A matches. A tie sends both through and eliminates France. I doubt Uruguay and Mexico will play for a tie, but that doesn't mean it won't end up that way. Winning Group A means playing a runner-up in the knockout round. It would be great to see the two teams realize eliminating France is what is really important, but I'm not convinced France will be able to handle a fired-up, pride-on-the-line South Africa, which will be the first host country to not advance past the group stage. That means all South Africa has to play for is pride and winning one game in the World Cup on home soil is all it can accomplish now. Beating a World Champion would take some of the sting out of the tournament.
As for the Group B games Thursday, Argentina looked very impressive in a 4-1 win over a good South Korean team and Greece took advantage of a red card to beat Nigeria, 2-1. Argentina, which got a hat trick from Gonzalo Higuain, advances with a tie against Greece. South Korea faces Nigeria.
We're less than 5 hours from the U.S.-Slovenia matchup. Slovenia got its moment in the sun Thursday night when Sasha Vujacic hit two late free throws to lead the Lakers to the NBA title. Hopefully, they celebrated late into the night and will come out tired today. Early reports are coach Bob Bradley sticking with Robbie Findley up front instead of Edson Buddle, which is not what I hoped for, but Findley did play well against England.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Welcome to Red Cards, a new blog dedicated to soccer in the Philadelphia area and around the world.
With the Philadelphia Union’s Chester debut just a little more than a week away and the World Cup in full force, there’s no time like the present to get things off and running.
So let’s get started with a look back at the first few days of the World Cup:
The United States’ 1-1 tie with England was crucial to the red, white and blue’s hopes of advancing to the knockout stage. Robert Green’s bobble heard round the world gave the U.S. a point that both Slovenia and Algeria will struggle to match when they face England. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While the Slovenia-Algeria game may have been a bit dull and devoid of flash and flair, neither is a going to be a pushover for the U.S. With Slovenia on the docket Friday, it is imperative that the U.S. get at least a draw — and three points would be ideal. I say play the hot hand and start Edson Buddle up top with Jozy Altidore. Robbie Findlay played well against England, using his speed to run the Three Lions ragged, but he just doesn’t look to be a true threat to score.
As for the rest of the World Cup, the Swiss pulled off a major upset with a victory over Spain Wednesday. Spain played well and was extremely dangerous, just missing on several good scoring opportunities, including Xabi Alonso’s vicious strike off a corner that nearly dented the crossbar. Though teams that lose their first game of the tournament struggle to advance, the European champions are strong enough to overcome the loss.
Switzerland also is in good shape to get through. The Swiss defense didn’t allow a goal four years ago and got off to a good start Wednesday despite the many body blows Spain landed. Chile’s 1-0 win over Honduras put the South Americans in position to get through as well.
The team that probably looked the best through the first few days has to be perennial power Germany, which rocked Australia, 4-0. The Netherlands is another dangerous team and opened with a 2-0 win over Denmark. If only the Dutch’s uniforms didn’t look like something you’d see a bunch of 12-year-old girls running around wearing on the local field.
The Group of Death was one of the last to take the field and it was a bit of a disappointment. Brazil didn’t look like Brazil in the first half, but turned things on in the second to beat North Korea — excuse me, the People’s Republic of Korea — 2-1 after yielding a late goal. Portugal vs. Ivory Coast looked to be one of the best first-round matchups but turned into a 0-0 draw. It was a good match, with plenty of action, but two teams of that talent level should be able to find the back of the net. And Cristiano Ronaldo, considered the best footballer in the world by many, should stop by a South African sporting goods store to by a bathing suit before the next game — he did more diving Wednesday than the rest of the teams combined.