World Cup 2014 after one week: high drama, beautiful goals, a former Union goalie dancing, and Rip to the rescue


World Cup 2014 after one week: high drama, beautiful goals, a former Union goalie dancing, and Rip to the rescue

[gallery columns="4" ids="1051591,1051592,1051593,1051594"] One full week has gone by and I can honestly say this is the GREATEST WORLD CUP EVER. There have been upsets (like Costa Rica representing CONCACAF in style) and comebacks (like Japan getting Drogba’d). There have been stunning early exits from past champs (thanks for playing, Spain!) and upstart teams making the most of rare World Cup appearances (nice work, Colombia). There have been world-renowned stars doing world-class things (Messi!), word-renowned stars breaking World Cup droughts (Rooney!) and world-renowned stars returning from injury just in the nick of time (Suarez!). There have been breakout stars (Colombia’s James Rodriguez) and unlikely heroes (our favorite German-American John Brooks). There has been the closest thing you’ll see to a buzzer beater in soccer (thanks, Switzerland and Ecuador) and even damn exciting scoreless draws (thanks, Mexico and Brazil). But, above all else, there have been goals. People that don’t like soccer like to point to the sport’s lack of scoring as a reason why – but this tournament is shaping up to be the highest-scoring World Cup ever. And many of the goals have been dramatic and beautiful. Here now is a list of our five favorite goals to this point: 5. USA’s Clint Dempsey vs. Ghana American bias? Perhaps. But the three touches the U.S. captain makes are brilliant and his finish is a perfect one. And don’t act like you didn’t jump off your couch screaming when this goal happened in the first minute of the game. [nbcsports_video src= width=620] 4. Costa Rica’s Oscar Duarte vs. Uruguay There have been a lot of great headers for goals in this tournament but this one is certainly one of the best – not only because it was the game-winner in Costa Rica’s massive upset over Uruguay but because a defender’s foot was practically in his face when he dove for the ball. [nbcsports_video src= width=620] 3. Ivory Coast’s Gervinho vs. Colombia Who doesn’t like a bit of individual dribbling brilliance? That’s exactly what Gervinho did against Colombia, splitting a couple of defenders and dancing around another one before scoring a beauty to the near post. [nbcsports_video src= width=620] 2. Netherlands’ Robin Van Persie vs. Spain Most people would have tried to settle this long ball. Most people are not Robin Van Persie, who opted to fly instead. [nbcsports_video src= width=620] 1. Australia’s Tim Cahill vs. Netherlands The force and precision behind this one-time volley is hard to fathom. One of the greatest goals you’ll ever see. And I hear this guy plays in MLS. [nbcsports_video src= width=620] --- And since this is purportedly a local blog, we should also highlight the goal from Colombia’s James Rodriguez against Ivory Coast because it led to an epic dance party on the Colombia sideline – led by none other than ageless former Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon. (Look for the guy right next to James, who then tries to go for a piggy-back ride on him). Also, great call from former Union forward and color man Alejandro Moreno, who’s been calling the Colombia forward James “Don’t call me James” Rodriguez. (You have to listen to it to get it.) [nbcsports_video src= width=620] One last sorta local story: former NBA star Rip Hamilton – our favorite native son from Coatesville – is on his way to Brazil to give one his signature masks to Dempsey, who broke his nose in the last game.  Gotta love that American solidarity.

Carson Wentz wears Flyers hat, further endearing him to Eagles fans, Philadelphia

Carson Wentz wears Flyers hat, further endearing him to Eagles fans, Philadelphia

Carson Wentz: Eagles starting quarterback. Rookie phenom. Flyers fan?

Posing with former Giants quarterback Phil Simms, who will be part of the broadcast for Sunday's game against the Steelers, Wentz sported a Flyers hat.

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol was a visitor to Eagles camp over the summer and chatted up the young quarterback. Hakstol of course coached at North Dakota for 11 seasons and apparently made a fan in the former North Dakota State quarterback.

Like Wentz, Simms came from an FCS school, Morehead State. Let's hope Wentz enjoys similar success to the two-time Super Bowl champion Simms.

Meet the Pittsburgh Steelers: Eagles' Week 3 opponent

Meet the Pittsburgh Steelers: Eagles' Week 3 opponent

Some would say there's a rivalry between the Eagles and Steelers based on rivalry between Philadelphia an Pittsburgh sports fans. The reality is these two teams only meet in the regular season once every four years, so there's no real heat between the players. In fact, we barely know this opponent.

Sure, Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison have been there forever, and Antonio Brown has emerged as a mega star. Just think though, how many current members of the Eagles were on the club the last time they playe the Steelers in 2012? There's been a ton of turnover here since then, and likewise on the other side.

This is not your father's ground-and-pound Steelers either. The offense is predicated on a dangerous passing attack, while the defense is still stout against the run, but not exactly Steel Curtain-caliber. Still, this is one of deepest teams the Eagles will face all season, and breaking down the lineup, it isn't difficult to understand why.


Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger

It seems that only in the past few seasons has Roethlisberger been spoken about with the same reverence as some of the other elite quarterbacks in the NFL, but he's been in that realm all along. With a 126-62 record in the regular season and playoffs and two Super Bowl championships, this is a certain first-ballot Hall of Famer, and he's still looking for more. In fact, Roethlisberger is only getting better. Last season saw his completion percentage (68.0%) climb to a career high, while his sack rate (4.1%) reached a new lot. As if it wasn't difficult enough to bring him down at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, the newfound quick release makes it hard just to het him. And when Roethlisberger does hang on to it, look out, because he can throw it a mile.

Strength: Antonio Brown

Who would've imagined five years ago that Brown would become one of the most prolific receivers in NFL history? In the past three seasons alone, the four-time Pro Bowler has 375 receptions for 5,031 yards and 29 touchdowns. That is insane production. What makes Brown so good exactly? At 5-foot-10, 181 pounds with sub-4.5 speed, it's not easy to explain. All you need to know is the guy has become unstoppable. The wise thing to do would be double-team Brown as much as possible and make Roethlisberger turn to his other weapons, but let's be honest, even that game plan probably won't hold him under the century mark.

Weakness: None

The Steelers offensive line is strong, particularly along the interior where center Maurkice Pouncey and right guard David DeCastro are Pro Bowlers. Le'Veon Bell is currently serving a suspension, but DeAngelo Williams leads the NFL in rushing through two weeks, so no big deal. You could argue Pittsburgh lacks great secondary weapons with Martavis Bryant out for the season, but it looks like Markus Wheaton will return from a shoulder injury to bolster the receiving corps. Roethlisberger solves a lot of problems too. His quick release makes the protection better, the fear he will take the top off the defense creates room for Williams and he's made do with the likes of Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers and Jesse James as regular targets in the passing game these first two weeks. 


Strength: Run defense

Bad news first. If the Eagles hope to take the pressure off of quarterback Carson Wentz with a strong ground attack, the Steelers have that covered. Pittsburgh's defense finished fifth against the run in 2015, and is off to a good start through two weeks, limiting opponents to 3.4 yards per carry. Defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt are a load at the point of attack — both active pass-rushers as well — which allows versatile interior linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier to clean up behind them. Third-round rookie Javon Hargrave has been a notable addition at nose tackle as well. Long story short, the middle of this defense is as stout as it comes, so don't expect big numbers from Ryan Mathews or any other Eagles back.

Weakness: Pass defense

Now the good news. You can throw on the Steelers. Actually, the secondary is a bit of a mess. 31-year-old cornerback William Gay has been there forever, and whule far from a shutdown defender, he's solid. Beyond that though, the unit is vulnerable, ranking 30th in the NFL last season and not off to a good start in 2016 with only one team allowing more yards through the air thus far. Corners Ross Cockrell and first-round draft pick Artie Burns are ideally matchups that would be exposed by Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham. The safeties are vulnerable as well, with uninspiring eighth-year veteran Mike Mitchell and first-year starter Robert Golden in the backfield. It's not as if the Steelers have a tremendous pass-rush either, with James Harrison reduce to a situational player at age 38, so Wentz will have opportunities.

X-factor: Ryan Shazier

The Steelers have a lot of individuals who are capable of making plays, but perhaps the most dynamic among them on defense is Shazier. A first-round pick in 2014, the interior linebacker is off to a hot start this season with two pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble through two weeks. Last year, Shazier finished with 3.5 sacks, four pass breakups, an interception and two forced fumbles in 12 games, his first has a full-time player. At 6-1, 230 pounds, Shazier combines near prototypical size with sub-4.4 speed and is about as dangerous a weapon as they come. Paired with Pro Bowler Lawrence Timmons in the middle, the interior linebacker duo is capable of wrecking an offensive game plan in short order.


After surrendering a punt return touchdown to the Bears on Monday, how the Eagles handle Antonio Brown in that role will be a situation to monitor. Kicking away doesn't sound like a bad idea. Chris Boswell has become an unexpected weapon for the Steelers as well, as the second-year kicker has connected on 69 of 73 field goals and extra points since taking over the job last season.


Mike Tomlin (10th season, 94-52, 6-5 playoffs)

Pittsburgh has been blessed with remarkable coaching stability, seamlessly transitioning from 15 years of Bill Cowher to Mike Tomlin, now in his 10th season. All he's done since then is go to the playoffs six times going on seven and won a Super Bowl. In fact, the Steelers have finished no worse than 8-8 under Tomlin, a streak that is likely to continue in 2016. Of course, as mentioned before, having a quarterback like Roethlisberger solves a lot of problems. The Steelers have completely transformed their offense, while the defense has gone through some lean years, but the constant has always been Big Ben. Tomlin will continue to look like a brilliant coach as long as that guy is under center.