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.

 

Vince Velasquez is subject of serious trade talks between Phillies, Rangers

Vince Velasquez is subject of serious trade talks between Phillies, Rangers

ATLANTA — Seven months after he was acquired from the Houston Astros and anointed a key piece in the Phillies’ rebuild, pitcher Vince Velasquez could be on the move again.

The Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez, a major league source told CSNPhilly.com on Friday night (see story).

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported by Jon Morosi of MLB Network earlier in the week and essentially confirmed when three Rangers scouts, including Scott Littlefield, one of that club’s top talent evaluators, showed up at Turner Field for Velasquez’s start against the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Velasquez delivered a solid but unspectacular performance in a 2-1 loss to the Braves, but he still has the qualities that attracted the Phillies to him last winter. He’s just 24 years old and has a power arm that has produced a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has the upside to pitch at or near the top of a rotation if his development goes in the right direction and he stays healthy. That is a legitimate concern because he had Tommy John surgery as a young minor leaguer and spent time on the disabled list earlier this season with a biceps strain.

The question now is: where will Velasquez continue his development? Philadelphia? Texas? Somewhere else?

Clearly, the Phillies’ big wintertime acquisition is in play as Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline approaches.

Manager Pete Mackanin said he knows nothing of the front office’s trade plans, but he offered his opinion on trading a young pitcher like Velasquez.

“Our whole goal was to get young pitchers because they’re the most expensive commodity and if you can develop young pitchers like him and have four or five of those guys, then you’re ahead of the game,” Mackanin said. “But at the same time, at least as far as I’m concerned, I’ll listen to any offers. If you get three guys that are really good looking prospects because pitching is such a commodity, I’m sure you have to consider it.”

With the Rangers' scouts looking on, Velasquez pitched six innings and gave up seven hits and two runs. He walked two and struck out five. His fastball reached 96 mph, proving that his stuff is good. Mackanin, however, said he thought Velasquez relied too much on his off-speed stuff instead of his power fastball.

“It was unusual to me the way he pitched,” Mackanin said. “It was almost like a finesse pitcher instead of a power pitcher. I’m not arguing with it because he did a good job, but he made me a little nervous here and there. I like the 16 strikeouts.”

That, of course, was a reference to Velasquez’s 16-strikeout complete game win over the Padres on April 14. Could anyone have imagined that he'd be the subject of trade talks 3½ months later?

Velasquez said he was aware of the trade buzz surrounding him and unbothered by it. He’s been down this road before. He said he would not be disappointed if he were traded because he understands baseball is a business.

“At first when I got traded from the Astros it was kind of tough for me, but you have to move on and make the best of what you've got,” Velasquez said. “If things happen, just let it happen. If I go to another team, then I've got to make the best of what I've got there. There's a lot of things that are in the future. I don't know what to expect is what I'm saying. Again, all I can do is live in the present and live another day tomorrow. If something happens, something happens. I've got to make the best of what you've got today.

“It's just one of those things I can't control. I had to fight, had to battle for a spot here in Philadelphia and I'm very thankful for the opportunity and everything. Again, I've still got to keep working hard and make the best of what I've got.”

Any team looking to acquire Velasquez would have to pay a steep price. In addition to having talent and upside, he won’t be eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2018 season and free agency until after the 2021 season.

The Phillies have a good knowledge of Texas’ deep farm system having scouted it extensively — and plucked from it — in making the deal for Cole Hamels a year ago. Are the Phillies about to fuel their rebuild with more talent from the Texas system? Stay tuned.

Velasquez isn’t the only Phillies starter who could move. Several teams remain interested in Jeremy Hellickson (see story), who is scheduled to pitch against Atlanta on Saturday night. The Rangers, in fact, have some interest in Hellickson as a fallback option if they don’t get a pitcher elsewhere. Velasquez is not the only pitcher the Rangers have on their radar, but from a Phillies’ perspective, he is certainly the most interesting.

Best of MLB: Rougned Odor homers twice for Rangers in 8-3 win over Royals

Best of MLB: Rougned Odor homers twice for Rangers in 8-3 win over Royals

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rougned Odor homered twice, A.J. Griffin pitched into the sixth inning and the Texas Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 8-3 on Friday night.

Jurickson Profar also went deep for the Rangers, and scored three runs.

Odor hit a solo homer in the first that put AL West-leading Texas up 3-0 against Edinson Volquez (8-9). That 443-foot drive into the second deck of seats in right field came a night after Odor's 465-footer that is the longest in his career. He had another solo shot in the seventh, his 21st of the season barely clearing the 8-foot wall in right.

Eric Hosmer homered for the defending World Series champion Royals, who dropped to 10 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central.

Griffin (4-1) had his longest outing in seven starts in just over a month since coming off the disabled list because of right shoulder stiffness. The right-hander struck out one and walked two while throwing 66 of 98 pitches for strikes in 5 2-3 innings (see full recap)

Chatwood, Gonzalez lead Rockies over Mets for 4th win in row
NEW YORK -- Tyler Chatwood kept winning on the road, Carlos Gonzalez homered and drove in four runs and the Colorado Rockies defeated the New York Mets 6-1 Friday night for their fourth straight victory.

Mark Reynolds also homered for the surging Rockies, who are 11-4 since the All-Star break and have moved within four games of Miami for the second NL wild-card spot.

Chatwood (10-6) improved to 6-0 with a 1.30 ERA away from Coors Field this season. The 26-year-old is 4-6 with a 5.69 ERA at home.

Gonzalez matched a season-high hitting streak of 11 games with an RBI double in the first. He hit a 448-foot, three-run drive in the ninth for his 21st homer.

Steven Matz (8-7) gave up two runs and 10 hits in six innings (see full recap)

Lester recovers from rut of bad starts, Cubs rout Mariners
CHICAGO -- Jon Lester recovered from a rut of bad starts, pitching six shutout innings that led the Chicago Cubs over the Seattle Mariners 12-1 Friday for their third straight win.

Jason Heyward and David Ross homered as the NL Central leaders improved to 9-5 since the All-Star break following a 1-9 slump. Seattle lost in its first trip to Wrigley Field since 2007.

Lester (11-4) had lasted just 16 innings over his previous four starts, going 1-1 with a 10.13 ERA. That skid came after he had gone 9-3 with a 2.03 ERA in his first 16 starts.

Lester gave up four hits, struck out seven and walked two. He was already done when there was a 74-minute rain delay in the seventh.

Mike Montgomery, traded last week from Seattle to the Cubs, pitched the final two innings. He gave up a single to Shawn O'Malley in the ninth for the Mariners' run.

Hisashi Iwakuma (11-7) had won his last five starts, but gave up five runs and eight hits in three innings (see full recap).

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies lost, 2-1, to the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

The big news from this game, however, was that Vince Velasquez might have made his last start with the Phillies. A major league source told CSNPhilly.com that the Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez. The Rangers, the source said, also have some interest in Jeremy Hellickson, who pitches for the Phillies on Saturday night, but he appears to be a secondary target (see story).

It would take top talent to get Velasquez, a 24-year-old right-hander with a power arm. The Phillies acquired him over the winter from Houston as the centerpiece in the deal that sent Ken Giles to the Astros.

The Rangers had several scouts at the game, including Scott Littlefield, one of their top talent evaluators.

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported earlier in the week by Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

Apparently there’s more than just interest (see story). Stay tuned as Monday’s trade deadline approaches.

Starting pitching report
Velasquez scattered seven hits and two runs over six innings. He walked two and struck out five. Velasquez battled some command issues and needed 91 pitches to complete the six innings.

He is 8-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has a 2.75 ERA in six starts since a brief stint on the disabled list with a right biceps strain.

Braves right-hander Tyrell Jenkins gave up just one unearned run over six innings.

Bullpen report
Both bullpens pitched scoreless ball.

At the plate
Phillies leadoff man Cesar Hernandez reached base in his first three at-bats and scored the Phillies’ only run on an error in the third inning. 

The Braves scored two runs in the third inning on three singles, a sacrifice bunt and a walk against Velasquez. Gordon Beckham and Nick Markakis drove in the runs with base hits.

Up next
Hellickson (7-7, 3.65) makes perhaps his final start with the Phillies on Saturday night. He will face Braves right-hander Julio Teheran (3-8, 2.71).