Top 5 soccer games in the Bay Area this summer to fight post-World Cup withdrawl

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Friday, July 16, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment


Club America international soccer friendly Real Madrid Wednesday August 4th San Francisco
CLUB AMERICA MEETS REAL MADRID AUG 4TH IN SF - PHOTO JON SWENSON


Casual soccer fans in the Bay Area may be coming off a World Cup high after a strong showing by the U.S. Men’s National Team in South Africa. A blunder through the hands of English goalkeepr Robert Green, a late volley by Michael Bradley in the 82nd minute to tie the game with Slovenia, former San Jose Earthquake Landon Donovan going top shelf (where momma hides the cookies) in extra time to down Algeria, all of these created indelible memories and built up huge momentum for a Quarterfinal meeting with Ghana. Defeats can be as memorable as victories, if not moreso among many grizzled soccer fans, but the U.S. went out the way they played all tournament, with guns blazing.

The viewing audience for the World Cup was enormous. On ABC, Ghana vs. United States drew 14.8 million viewers, the Spanish language broadcast on Univision drew a then record 4.5 million viewers. Online broadcasts at ESPN3.com were also strong, generating 7.7 million unique viewers for the World Cup. The U.S. Soccer Federation and Major League Soccer are hoping to build off the interest in the World Cup, but attention spans are short among casual fans and demands for entertainment are high. Below are five local soccer games to fight the post-World Cup withdrawl, all of them guaranteed to be at least partially vuvuzela free.

[GAME 1 Tottenham Hotspur vs San Jose Earthquakes, July 17th, 1PM, Buck Shawk Stadium, Santa Clara, ESPN]

Nearly 1,000 fans at the Nutrilite Training Facility got a treat yesterday as the Earthquakes and international partner Tottenham Hotspur held an open training session in San Jose. It was a semi-lighthearted affair, with San Francisco 49er quarterback Alex Smith and lineman/hockey fan Joe Staley joining in towards the end according to CenterLineSoccer.com. “I think the (MLS) has certainly grown. It helps when you’ve got the U.S.A. in the World Cup. They had a decent tournament and they’ve got some good players there so I think over the years it’s just going to keep growing,” Tottenham striker and Irish national team captain Robbie Keane told CLS. Tottenham shocked the English Premiere League this year, earning a top four finish and qualifying for the UEFA Champions League tournament for the first time. Soccer guru Cardillo at Thats on Point believes the Spurs will have trouble repeating their top four effort, new additions and the development of Gareth Bale and Luka Modric withstanding. It will be the first appearance on ESPN for the Earthquakes this season, who at 6-4-4 are off to their best start since returning as an expansion franchise in 2008. If Saturday’s broadcast is similar to past broadcasts on ESPN, expect a small but animated crowd in San Jose to make their presence felt.

[GAME 2 Club America vs Real Madrid, August 4th, 8PM, Candlestick Park, San Francisco]

Primera Division powerhouse Club America returns to the Bay Area for its third international friendly in four years to the delight of its enormous latin fanbase. In 2007 America lost to EPL’s Chelsea FC 2-1 in the Disney Friendship Cup, in 2009 the “home” Club America team downed Inter Milan 5-4 on penalty kicks as part of the World Football Challenge, both games were held under the baking summer sun at Stanford stadium. Backup goaltender Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa and midfield stalwart Pavel Pardo were members of the MNT that finished second in Group A, and eventually fell in the round of 16 for the fifth straight World Cup. Real Madrid, the most successful team in La Liga with 31 titles and 2 EUFA Cups, is one of the beneficiaries of the slight shift in power from the English Premiere League to La Liga and elsewhere in Europe. They will field an astonishing assemblage of talent that includes the highest paid footballer in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, flamboyant midfielder and former FIFA Player of the Year Kaka, Olympic gold medal game winning goal scorer for Argentina Angel di Maria, Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos among several others (possibly not including Raul or Guti). Newly appointed head coach Jose Mourinho’s quest to deliver a Champions League title begins immediately, and he has the firepower on hand to put it through. “This will undoubtedly be the biggest club soccer match in the history of Northern California,” San Jose-based Marquez Brothers President/CEO Gustavo Marquez said. For more information visit ElMexicanoPresents.com or call 408-960-2828.

[GAME 3 San Jose Earthquakes vs Los Angeles Galaxy, August 21st, 1PM, Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara]

The Earthquakes have sacrificed continuity for establishing a foundation since returning to the MLS as an expansion franchise in 2008. A revamped defense/midfield and several key additions have put San Jose in a position to battle for a playoff berth. An August 21st meeting with first place Los Angeles Galaxy at Buck Shaw stadium will have playoff implications. U.S. World Cup representatives Edson Buddle and Landon Donovan lead the Galaxy and the MLS in goals (10) and assists (10) respectively. MLS Commissioner Don Garber recently made it known that the league would not accept transfer offers from international clubs for Donovan’s services. The Galaxy will face a San Jose side on more solid footing this year. A blistering 5 goals by Chris Wondolowski and a .750 save percentage and 5 shutouts by goalkeeper Joe Cannon helped power the Earthquakes to a 2-1-1 record in April, and a 3-1-1 record in May. Wondolowski scored only once, and Arturo Alvarez potted 3 goals during a 0-1-2 slump in June, and 1-0-1 mark in July. The Quakes picked up 2004 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year finalist and 2008 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Jon Busch on the waiver wire March 28th to platoon with franchise cornerstone and 2-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Joe Cannon (2002, 2004). In 3 games, Busch has allowed 2 goals on 11 shots, with 1 clean sheet. The Earthquakes will also face Los Angeles Thursday, July 22nd at the Home Depot Center.

[GAME 4 FC Gold Pride vs Philadelphia Independence, September 11th, 5:30PM, Pioneer Stadium, CSU East Bay, Hayward]

The first place FC Gold Pride will finish the 2010 WPS regular season at home against the second place Philadelphia Independance. 4-time FIFA Womens Player of the Year Marta leads the Gold Pride and the WPS in scoring with 10 goals, and forward Christine Sinclair leads the team and the MLS with 5 assists. Marta scored twice, including one goal off a penalty kick, as the Pride held on for a 3-2 win over the Washington Freedom last Sunday. “We play them three times this season, and we have to figure out their strengths and weaknesses and prepare accordingly. I have challenged [our] players to raise their level, and we will make several changes from our last game,” Philadelphia head coach Paul Riley said of the FC Gold Pride, which they face for the second time July 17th after a 3-1 loss in June. Member of the 2008 Olympic gold medal winning U.S. team, and 1st overall 2009 WPS draft pick Amy Rodriguez, leads Philly in scoring and is second in the league with 7 goals. She was also named WPS Player of the Month for June after registering 5 goals and 2 assists. Attendance is an issue for the Gold Pride, who have averaged 3122 fans a game over 7 home dates at Pioneer Stadium in Hayward and Castro Valley Stadium in Castro Valley. “We’re still trying to build our brand,” Gold Pride GM Ilisa Kessler told the Mercury News.

[GAME 5 Bay Area Classic - Stanford University vs. Santa Clara Univeristy, September 19th, 6PM, Stanford University]

The Bay Area has been home to World Cup soccer, Olympic soccer, major international friendlies, MLS Championships, WUSA Championships, NCAA Championships, and strong developmental and youth programs dating back a number of years. If you are not plugged in to the latest in collegiate soccer, a great way to get a handle on local teams is to simply watch them play. September 19th in the second game of the Bay Area Classic, 2-time NCAA runner up Stanford will host 2-time NCAA runner up and the one-time co-champion Santa Clara Broncos on one of the most beautiful soccer locales in the Bay Area. Stanford junior Bobby Warshaw lead the team in scoring for the third consecutive season in 2009, and became the only Cardinal to be named a NSCAA first team All American since 2002. As a freshman, Beaverton, Oregon native Erik Hurtado led the Santa Clara Broncos in almost every offensive category. He finished first in goals (7), points (16), scored three game winning goals, and lead the shot totals by a wide margin with 42. He was named All-WCC Second Team player, and scored the game winner over USF November 6th on a Fox Soccer Channel televised ‘Game of the Week’.

[Note] Photo of Club America vs Inter Milan from July 2009 above features America’s Paragauyan striker Salvador Cabanas. Very tough on the ball, good in traffic with a heavy foot, Cabanas is on long term injured reserve after suffering a gunshot wound to the head January 25th in Mexico City. His recovery has been described as “tremendous”, but a return to football is not assured. He was not able to participate on a Paragauyan national team that lost to eventual winner Spain 1-0 in the 2010 World Cup Quarterfinals. According to the New York Times, drug baron Edgar Valdez Villarreal was arrested in the shooting of Cabanas.

[Update] Saturday’s football match between San Jose and Tottenham will be streamed online at ESPN3.com for those with compatable internet access.

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