That Time I Watched 90 Minutes of a Soccer Game Featuring No U.S.A.Philly Team

That Time I Watched 90 Minutes of a Soccer Game Featuring No U.S.A.Philly Team

To prepare myself a bit for Saturday night's showdown at the Linc between the Philadelphia Union and Real Madrid, I actually watched all 90 minutes of a soccer game last night between two teams I have no connection to. What have I become?

Since I was out of town, I was unable to get the Union vs. Everton match on TV (much more on the U's impressive youth against Everton from Matt here), but Real Madrid vs. Chivas de Guadalajara was being aired on ESPN2 live from San Diego. As a casual soccer fan whose biggest exposure to the sport has been watching Union/MLS games, getting the chance to see Cristiano Ronaldo and the pinpoint passing and ball control of his squad was, obviously, quite impressive. After being held in check for most of the match, Ronaldo exploded for a hat trick late in the game.

Three random observations plus video highlights from Union/Everton and Real Madrid/Chivas below:

First, Ronaldo took a PK when one of his teammates was fouled in the box. That's like letting Ray Allen shoot free throws when Shaq gets fouled going up for two. How does that work?

Secondly, Real Madrid's passing really is the most impressive aspect of their game to watch. It's like video game passing.

And finally, much of the talk on ESPN last night was about the MLS' weak showing against their European opponents in the current string of friendlies taking place. The Seattle Sounders got demolished to the tune of 7-0 against Manchester United with Wayne Rooney getting a hat trick of his own.

But how about the Union pulling out the 'W' against Everton? I kept waiting for ESPN to bring that up, but it must not have been on their agenda because the game was not on their network.

Regardless, Saturday night in Philly should be pretty fun. Ronaldo played the entire match last night, so how much action will he see at the Linc?

Highlights from the Union-Everton match:

More from the Union-Everton match:

And the Ronaldo hat trick I enjoyed watching:

Sir Charles and Shaq made things personal last night and it was fantastic

Sir Charles and Shaq made things personal last night and it was fantastic

Shaq always has the trump card -- and by that we mean championship rings -- to throw in Charles Barkley's face. But with that said, Sir Charles is probably a much better trash talker and therefore has a superior mouth to defend himself with and throw barbs back in Shaq's direction.

The mouthy duo got into it a bit last night and it teetered between fun and lighthearted and a little personal.

Shaq attacks Chuck for only playing in one NBA Finals and therefore not really knowing what he was talking about. Charles claps back at Shaq for having ridden Kobe and Dwyane Wade's coattails. 

During an NBA playoffs that has been mostly boring, at least these two can still entertain us.

Fletcher Cox should be at Eagles OTAs, but absence likely meaningless

Fletcher Cox should be at Eagles OTAs, but absence likely meaningless

Fletcher Cox wasn’t at practice with the rest of his Eagles teammates on Tuesday -- well, 86 of them -- and that’s okay. It’s May, and participation in offseason training activities is strictly voluntary. Furthermore, if Cox wants to take a vacation, he is entitled to do so under the collective bargaining agreement.

Cox really should be at OTAs. The Eagles gave him a contract potentially worth over $100 million just last year, and with that comes an obligation. Cox arguably did not live up to that contract last season, too, so he could use the practice. And if he needed a vacation, why didn’t he take one during the three months he was off from work?

As far as I’m concerned, both takes are true. Cox is free to do as he wishes, and people with careers in sports should understand better than anybody the strain it places on families, so I can’t blame most of these guys for taking a little extra time. Then again, this drama with Cox seems like it was completely avoidable, and looks especially bad in light of his contract and disappointing season, so I can’t blame people for being angry, either.

Yet, Cox’s absence almost certainly will have no bearing on the outcome of any games this season. It’s not a sign of disrespect for Eagles coach Doug Pederson or that he’s losing the locker room. It’s not going to send a message to teammates that participation is not expected or important.

Cox missing OTAs on Tuesday was of no consequence to the Eagles at all. By training camp, it will be a forgotten footnote in the story of the 2017 season, only to be mentioned in future Mays whenever somebody else exercises the option to skip a voluntary practice.

Even then, there is clearly a double standard, because the reaction isn’t the same for everybody. When Brandon Graham missed last week while he was believed to be “holding out” for a new contract -- can’t hold out when it’s voluntary -- there were equal parts rage and support for the cause. Jason Peters and Donnie Jones are out this week, too, and while some displeasure has been voiced, those absences were largely met with apathy.

Marcus Smith was missing on Tuesday as well, and it’s not immediately clear why. Pederson made no mention of the former first-round draft pick, and practice was almost over before reporters bothered to notice. In theory, this is a huge mistake, because Smith is fighting for a roster spot. We also don’t know where he is -- perhaps there’s a reasonable explanation -- so it’s unreasonable to jump to conclusions or become outraged.

This is the part where once again we remind everybody that it’s May and these practices are non-contact. And while Cox going away for a week will still be indefensible to some, it never hurts to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Maybe, for whatever reason, he was literally unable to make the trip at a time that would not interfere with Eagles business. Maybe he was simply getting grief at home because he's away so much.

That undoubtedly will be impossible for some people to accept. And, hey, maybe Cox just doesn’t care. Regardless, the practices are voluntary, Cox is expected back next week, and absolutely nobody is going to be talking about this eight months from now, eight weeks from now, or even eight days from now.