How to Watch the 2014 World Cup in Philadelphia, US-of-A: A sincere open-arm welcome to everyone

How to Watch the 2014 World Cup in Philadelphia, US-of-A: A sincere open-arm welcome to everyone

A man kicks a soccer ball on the shores of Beira Mar, in Fortaleza, Brazil, Tuesday. Soccer fans around the world are gearing up to watch the World Cup, which kicks off in Sao Paulo, Thursday. (AP Photo)

There have been a million articles, posts and click-bait stories written in the last few weeks about why this kind of soccer fan is annoying, why you're not a "real" soccer fan, why American fans have copied everyone else, and why Americans JUST AREN'T ALLOWED TO HAVE FUN WITH SOCCER.

(That last one is written by a Brit who covers the NFL, if irony is your thing).

I'm here, to completely, sincerely, and without sarcasm (on the Internet, I know) WELCOME you to watch the World Cup with us "real soccer fans."

Some of my soccer "brethren" will try to look down on you, or condescendingly explain the virtues of a 4-2-3-1 over a 4-1-2-1-1 diamond, or tell you all about the scarf they got from Eric Wynalda in 1992 and why Tab Ramos was their "boy."

Just ignore them. Or engage them. Whichever you prefer. Watch the games. Drink some beers. Study team rosters. Or don't. Buy a scarf. Or don't.

The World Cup comes along every four years, and it falls in the middle of a relatively dead time on the American sports calendar. Unlike some years (I'm looking at you, 2002 Korea/Japan), the games will be on at great times of day to watch (and drink beer), and some of the best athletes in the world will duke it out over a month of action.

Lots of people will give you rules on how to watch the World Cup, or how to "sound like an expert," but I'm not here for that. It's a game, and it's supposed to be fun. The more the merrier.

So, come ye, soccer newbies, soccer diehards, guys who insist on calling it "futbol," and everyone in between.

Tomorrow we'll give you some more hot soccer knowledge, as well as predictions for the tournament. And on Monday, we'll focus on the US-of-A before their first match.

Here's a few links and helpful tips to get the most out of the next month. And if you prefer to ignore them all and just watch on your couch, that's cool too. And if you want to pick the games against other 700 Level readers (and me!) for a grand prize of 5 minutes of fame in a future post, you can do that here.
When do I watch?
The World Cup kicks off Thursday with host Brazil vs. Croatia at 4 p.m. EST on ESPN. There are games pretty much every day until mid-July. The most comprehensive schedule comes from Jonathan Tannenwald of Philly.com. Bookmark it. Visit it often.

Games will usually kick off at either noon, 3 p.m., or 6 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. There is the occasional 4 p.m. kick, and a 9 p.m.-er this Saturday (4 games in one day!).

The U.S. plays Monday at 6 p.m. (Ghana); Sunday, June 22 at 6 p.m. (Portugal); and Thursday, June 26 at noon (Germany).

This was the scene in 2010 outside Fado.

Where should I watch:
If you live in or near Philly, your choices are limitless. Whether it's Fado, The 700 or Tir Na Nog, there's plenty of options. If you're feeling ambitious, try to find a bar or restaurant, or even a Philly neighborhood that's tied to who's playing. If Germany is in action, you might enjoy the chaos that is Brauhaus Schmitz. But the World Cup is such an event that nearly any place with a TV will have fans gathered around, especially those who "call in sick" on a weekday to see their homeland play.

For U.S. games, there are events planned, including a great one for adults and kids at the Piazza at Schmidts organized by the CASA soccer league, the Union and others. And for the final on July 13, Brauhaus Schmitz is shutting down South Street and showing the game on a giant screen.

If you're in the burbs, there are a few options (a favorite for me is Iron Abbey in Horsham), but any sports bar is fine. If you have any suggestions near your 'hood, drop them in the comments.

And if you like your couch (as I do), there is nothing wrong with putting your feet up and screaming by yourself in your living room.
Who should I watch?
Obviously you'll be interested in the USA, and/or the country of your family heritage, or the place you studied abroad, or the place where your favorite takeout food originated. But there is something to watch in every single match, even if you're rooting for the team with the jerseys you like best.

The "Can't Miss" teams to watch would probably be the United States, Brazil, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Argentina. Chile, Uruguay and Belgium are up there too. No one is going to blame you if you skip Nigeria-Iran, but you never know where the highlight of the tournament will come from.

If you want some entertaining previews (some of which might go over newbies' heads), you can't go wrong with Grantland's Men in Blazers. Otherwise, you could do worse for general info on the tournament than this comprehensive preview from SB Nation, or this "guide for people who don't watch soccer" from SI.com. And of course, there was the preview last week from our own Evster.

If you are a newbie and want a little primer on some of the terms you'll hear over the next month, this piece might be a big help.

Kids play soccer at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday. (AP Photo)

Should I watch at all?
If you don't like soccer, give the World Cup a chance. If you don't like sports, then you're probably not reading this anyway. And if you just really don't want to ever be caught dead watching soccer, then go play golf for the next month or something.

Plenty of people will tell you that you shouldn't watch the World Cup as a kind of protest against all the chaos and corruption that is behind it, and all the money FIFA will be raking in. Brazilians themselves, the most soccer-mad people on Earth, have been protesting the event.

Listen, FIFA is horrible and nearly every FIFA executive is a complete and total crook and criminal, as John Oliver lays out well in this video (it's worth your time, I promise). I hate that by watching it, and watching an ad for Budweiser, I'm sorta-kinda helping with the very real problems the World Cup is creating in Brazil, and in turn, places like Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022).

But I really like soccer. And I really like drama. And I really like America. So I will watch the games AND be morally outraged at what is going on with FIFA, OK?

But I WILL NOT drink Budweiser. Take that, FIFA.

Seriously though, welcome to the World Cup, whether you're a Union season ticket holder or don't know a touchline from a touchdown. The next month is going to be a lot of fun.

I promise.

 

Flyers Notes: Promising performances from young defensemen

Flyers Notes: Promising performances from young defensemen

The most impressive thing about the Flyers' 4-0 preseason win over the Islanders on Tuesday night was the play of the their young defense and the outstanding work by the penalty kill.

Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers each gave a strong accounting of themselves while veteran Andrew MacDonald proved why experience helps with some terrific PK work during an extended five-on-three Islanders power play in the third period.

“Overall, they did a good job,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I look at some of the opportunities we gave up, especially in the second period, we gave up three or four Grade A opportunities that Mase (goalie Steve Mason) was great on, but I put those on our forwards.

“We’re still not into regular-season form on our play without the puck. I thought as a whole, the group of defensemen did a good job and the young guys in there were good tonight.”

Sanheim had strong plays the entire game from the point and picked up two assists (see highlights). He gets the puck quickly on net and joins the play up front.

“It took me a little bit, even in this game,” Sanheim said. “As I play more, I started to jump up more and you start to see my game more. It’s something I want to bring to this next level.”

Provorov logged 21:43 of ice time following nearly 29 minutes at New Jersey. He had 5:17 on the PK. Some of his clears weren’t deep or hard enough, at times, possibly because of fatigue.

He also took a bad boarding hit on Joshua Ho-Sang in the third period that set up an Isles five-on-three power play. It became extended because of a trip call to Myers but MacDonald did yeoman’s work on the extended PK.

Provorov quarterbacks the first-unit man advantage for now until Shayne Gostisbehere joins the crowd. He had some very skillful passes. The Russian can find the seam up the ice on the breakout quickly and had a no-look, hard pass to Nick Cousins in the second period for a quality one-timer on net.

Expect Provorov to handle the second-unit power play during the season, should he make the roster.

The goals
Although the Flyers, using a better NHL lineup, were lacking for offensive chances early against the Isles' "B" squad, they found their way in the final four minutes of the opening period.

First, Dale Weise had one of those pinball goals as a bouncing puck hit a couple of players in the slot, including goalie Chris Gibson, to make it 1-0 during four-on-four play.

That was the Flyers' first goal of preseason in three games. A little more than a minute later, Wayne Simmonds scored off a rebound just as a Flyers power play ended. Simmonds had two goals in the game, including a wrister from the left circle to open the final period.

Smallish (5-foot-7) — but bullish — centerman Andy Miele, a former Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey’s top player (Miami-Ohio), made it 3-0, out-battling Thomas Hickey for the rebound of Michael Raffl’s shot.

The shield
Simmonds is wearing a visor for the first time. It’s an experiment for now.

“Everyone is all over me about it,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. It wasn’t too bad tonight. The only thing is trying to track pucks in the sky when you are getting the glare from the lights. A little bit of an adjustment."

He said neither his mother nor girlfriend had pushed him as hard to wear the shield as someone else: “Ron Hextall,” he said flatly. “He gave me a call.”

Because of his tenacious play in the slot where sticks are high and pucks are deflected, a shield makes sense.

“Yeah, I think so, being that front guy and doing work on the PK,” he said. “Getting sticks in lanes like that, the game is really fast and pucks get deflected.

“Sometime you don’t know where they’re going and can’t react to that. Obviously, the shield is good for that."

He added he would wear the shield in a fight, too.

“Every time I fight and someone has a shield on, I’m at a disadvantage so I guess this evens it up,” he said.

Loose pucks
Weise did a nice job sticking up for teammates late during a melee after a Ben Holmstrom crosscheck to linemate Nick Cousins. “It was a bad crosscheck and you’re defending your teammates,” he said. “The ref was in the way and I kind of went overtop him. That’s what I’m about. Guys take liberties on my linemates, I’ll stand up for them.” … Matt Read had just 6:54 ice time through two periods. Fourth-liner Boyd Gordon had more ice time there — 9:39 — but Read finished with 13:55 to Gordon’s 13:41. More than half of Gordon’s ice time was on the penalty kill. … Goalie Steve Mason faced some point-blank chances among the first 17 shots he faced and finished with 23-save shutout.  

Carson Wentz named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Carson Wentz named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Another week, another award for Carson Wentz.

This time the Eagles' electrifying rookie has been named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Steelers.

In the 34-3 win over Pittsburgh, Wentz completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 125.9. It was the first 300-yard game of his very young career.

Wentz is the first rookie QB in Eagles history to win an Offensive Player of the Week award, and the first Eagle to win the award since Jeremy Maclin in Week 9 of the 2014 season.

Through three games, the 23-year-old has completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 769 yards and five touchdowns. He's the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to achieve those stats in the first three games of a career. He still hasn't thrown an interception in 102 passing attempts, which is a record for rookies.

It looks like Wentz will have plenty more opportunities for awards this season.