All-Star Weekend, Soccer, and More!

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Tuesday, 7 PM @ Rose Quarter, Portland, OR

Can the Trail Blazer slow down the frontrunner for MVP?

The Thunder are looking like the league’s best team, leading the NBA with 41 wins and a .774 win percentage, so they’ll give Portland all it can handle in this match up. However, OKC has stumbled away from home, going 18-9 compared to 23-3 at home. The Trail Blazers look to be what the Thunder were a couple years ago — a young team that came out of nowhere to eventually become the best in the West. Led by Damien Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Trail Blazers will look to bridge the 4-game gap between them and the #1 Thunder.

#1 Syracuse vs. #25 Pitt
Wednesday, 7 PM @ Peterson Events Center, Pittsburgh, PA

Pitt will try to handle Cuse its first loss

Even with contests like Duke-North Carolina, Heat vs. Warriors, and Canadiens vs. Red Wings happening on the same day, this is the game you want to see. Syracuse is the unanimous #1 team in the country in both the AP and Coaches polls, but they’ll be at the Peterson Events Center in Pittsburgh for this one. Pitt has slipped a little recently after starting the season 16-1, losing 3 of their last 6 — including a 59-54 loss at Syracuse. The home-court advantage could be exactly the lift the Panthers need to get over the hump and hand the Orange their first loss of the season.

NBA Slam-Dunk Contest
Saturday, 7 PM @ Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA

John Wall will look to bring some new energy to the contest

The lineup has been OK at best for this event over the last few years, but in 2014 the NBA attracted some of the best. Paul George, Damien Lillard and John Wall are a few of the competitors looking to take down reigning champion Terrence Ross. Between jumping over cars and 360-windmills, we’re sure to get a show at the New Orleans Arena. Say what you will about the non-compeiative nature of the All-Star Game on Sunday, these guys want to win.

Arsenal vs. Liverpool, FA Cup Quarterfinals
Sunday, 4 PM @ Emirates Stadium, London, UK

Will Liverpool trounce Arsenal for the second time in a week?

A rematch of the 5-1 thrashing Liverpool just gave the Gunners in the Premier League on Saturday, this is a great contest between two of soccer’s best clubs. We are unlikely to see another instance of Arsenal giving up four goals in the first 20 minutes, but Liverpool’s attacking play is hard  to stop. Whether it’s Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge or Raheem Sterling, the Reds offense is set to send them back to the UEFA Champions League for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Arsenal looks to be headed back to Europe as well, but the club hasn’t won a trophy since the 2005 F.A. Cup. Lots on the line here.

 

 

Low Lie the Fields of Athenry

Some of the world’s most famous soccer players were on display during Thursday’s Spain vs. Ireland game in the group stages of the Euros 2012, but late in the 4-0 Spain victory the attention turned to the stands.

The Irish supporters were all still there in the 90th minute and sang louder than any country’s fans have during the Euros, even down the four goals. The Irish faithful sang “The Fields of Athenry,” an Irish folk song from the mid-19th century, so loud you could clearly hear the words despite the announcers speaking over it. This wasn’t just a loss, this was an elimination game and the end of a dream, yet the faithful never lost their pride. It’s also noted that the Spaniards in the crowd we’re clapping along with the Irish as they make their bow out of the tournament.

It’s a tournament that has been ravaged by violence and racism from the supporters of Poland, Russia, ect… but the Irish have proven to be as levelheaded as they are passionate.  As a rumble between Croatian supporters and Poznan police broke out after the Ireland-Croatia match, a lone Irish fan can be seen trying to get between the two groups to calm everything down while bottles flew past his head and he was being hit with a baton.  This photo of two separate Irish fans was taken later that night as riot police stood in the Poznan city centre.

Irish supporters against hooliganism

Soccer is a sport that has long been associated with hooliganism and violence which has been brought to the forefront this summer. UEFA is imposing sanctions on teams as a result of their fans misbehavior, as they have on Russia with a fine and a six-point World Cup qualifying penalty after Russian fans beat up stadium ushers, but it will always be ultimately up to the fans themselves to define the beautiful game as being about pride and country over violence and thuggery.

While the Irish are the first team eliminated from the tournament and are extremely disappointed with their inability to compete with the rest of Europe, it’s their supporters that took the trip to Poland that the country can be proud of as they look towards their next goal – World Cup 2014 qualification.

Watch the Irish sing “The Fields of Athenry” in the closing moments of their loss to Spain.

The Euros

Can the drama, intensity and late minute heroics of the Euros 2008 be beaten? We’re a month away from finding out.

With the signing of Roy Hodgson as England manager, the table is finally set for the Euro 2012. Sixteen countries qualified for the tournament that is being held in Poland and Ukraine, and all 16 are looking at this tournament dreaming of national glory. Defending champion and World Cup winner Spain is the favorite going in, with the Netherlands and Germany also being picked by many to win it all.

Poland and Ukraine were given automatic bids as co-hosts, but are likely to bow out as both are in Pot A with Spain and the Netherlands. Pot 2 is the tournaments “group of death,” with the Germany, Italy, England and Russia. England’s chances of winning the tournament are seen as slight, but getting through this pot and on to the knock-out stages would do a lot for Hodgson’s future with the Three Lions — England has never reached the final of the competition.

This will be the 14th edition of the European Championships, with Germany (including wins by West Germany) taking home the trophy three times. Spain and France have both won twice and no other team has won more than once.

There is no doubt this competition is one of the most important that these players will get to participate in throughout their careers, with aging players like David Beckham trying his hardest to impress the England brass for one last chance at international glory. Players on club teams around the world have been angling for more playing time to try and show their international team’s coaches that they have what it takes to be selected for the team – some even asking for transfers to lesser clubs that will allow them more playing time.

One problem will remain no matter what the outcome: only one of 16 teams will go home satisfied. Second place might be seen as a success for teams like Ireland, Russia or Sweden, but getting that close and still losing hurts nevertheless.

Over 12 million applications for tickets were received for the 31 matches that make up the Euro 2012, an all-time record for the championships. Ukraine and Poland will look quite different this summer, going through the same influx of visitors and festivities that South Africa saw two years ago when it hosted the World Cup.

The following video should give you a small taste of what this summer will bring. Matches will be on ESPN for those of you not lucky enough to go. Want tickets? We’ll have them up until the day of each game here.

Tricks Are For Kids…and Luis Suarez

This week’s play comes to us from Carrow Road, home of the Norwich City Football Club. Saturday was a Barclays Premier League battle between Norwich City and Liverpool. The rain allotted for sub-par playing conditions but that did not seem to inhibit the Reds Striker, Luis Suarez.

The 25 year old from Salto, Uruguay, did not waste any time in attacking the net. Within 28 minutes of play Suarez had already turned the game into a 2-0 rout. The first goal came from a 30 yard cross to Suarez, who took one touch and seamlessly finessed the ball passed the Norwich keeper John Rudy. This would be the start of a long day for the keeper because before the crowd could settle back into their seats Suarez strikes again. After advancing past the defender by way of the nutmeg, a technique where the player rolls the ball through an opponent’s legs, Suarez drilled his 16th goal of the season.

The remainder of the game would play out in traditional soccer fashion until after the 60 minute mark. Norwich City was on the attack struggling to put one in the back of the net. A Liverpool steal that was cleared to Suarez at half field set the striker up for an amazing 55-yard goal. As Suarez controlled the pass crossing the half field mark he  notices John Rudy off his line and hammers the ball into the back of the net sealing his first ever hat-trick and a 3-0 victory for Liverpool.

In a sport where the instant gratification of scoring does not exist, this was one exciting match to witness. Three goals in a match by one team would be more than enough to please any soccer fan. Watching Luis Suarez’s astonishing hat-trick is enough to make me tune in again, as well as earn a spot as the Ticket City Play of the Week.

Manchester United and FC Barcelona Clash in DC!

Imagine the Yankees and Red Sox at Wembley Stadium, or the Cowboys and Redskins battling it out in Munich’s Allianz Stadium. That’s what you’re in for when you watch the EPL’s Manchester United and La Liga’s FC Barcelona battle on American soil—at Washington, DC’s FedEx Field no less. If this doesn’t cause an international incident, “Friendly” or not, we’d be surprised.

Even though they play in separate countries and leagues, the teams are well acquainted. It was only in May when the two played for the UEFA Champions League title, which is the crowning achievement in soccer outside of the World Cup, at Wembley. The Spanish team, directed by world dynamo Lionel Messi, beat the Wayne Rooney-led Red Devils 3-1 on their home turf. It was the third time in six years Barcelona were crowned UEFA champs, and second time in a row the title was won against Man United, who themselves had been to three out of the last four UEFA finals.

The match will be the final one for both teams, culminating the tours both would have been on throughout the summer. Manchester United will be facing MLS talent, taking on the league’s All-Star team, New England Revolution and Chicago Fire, with scheduled stars like Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. Barca will be knocking around the field against international talent, A.C. Milan in Miami and Club America in Dallas. Besides Messi, other stars who could grace the pitch are David Villa and Xavi Hernandez.

It’s going to be game-on at FedEx Field on July 30, 2011. So wear your favorite club’s kit and scarf, practice your chants and get ready to see some world-class soccer (or football/futbol, if you prefer). On that Saturday, there’s nowhere else most fans will want to be.

Get your seats here for the match of the summer from TicketCity!