Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
Email Jon to talk about soccer.
HEADLINE | 67,385.
That's the number of fans that turned out to CenturyLink Field in Seattle for Sunday night's grudge match between rivals Seattle and Portland in MLS. It was the second-best-attended game in MLS history; it was also the third-best attendance for any soccer game in the world over the weekend, just behind the 71,000 that watched Bayern Munich.
Many were there to see the home debut of national team star Clint Dempsey, whose first two matches for the Sounders had come on the road. Most, however, were there to see what has become the league's best rivalry; Portland's last visit to Seattle drew 40,000+ on a 40-degree night in mid-March.
Dempsey, to the disappointment of the Sounders supporters, did not score. However, striker Eddie Johnson, Dempsey's USA teammate, did find the net, flicking a header just inside the far post from a Mauro Rosales free kick in the 60th minute. It was enough to give Seattle a 1-0 win, which lifted the Sounders into fifth in the Western Conference, just two points behind second-place Los Angeles.
The signing of Dempsey, which made "Deuce" the league's highest-paid player, had the effect of adding some serious pressure for Seattle, which has languished in the bottom half of the conference standings all season - due mostly to their terrible record on the road. The Sounders have lost only once at home all year - but have an ugly seven losses in twelve away games. With Dempsey's arrival, the time for excuses in the Pacific Northwest is over; the Sounders need to start climbing the standings.
PREMIER LEAGUE | One of the great things about English soccer is the league's incredible history, which gives us plenty of semi-unbelievable-sounding statistics. This weekend's example: Sunday was Cardiff City's first home game in the top division in England since 1962.
Not even the visitors - Premier League powerhouse Manchester City - could dampen the atmosphere at Cardiff City Stadium. The Bluebirds crowd came ready to party, and were rewarded with a reason to celebrate. Aron Gunnarsson scored, Frazier Campbell scored twice with his head from corners, and Cardiff City - little Cardiff City, without a top-division goal for 51 years - ran out 3-2 winners against mighty Manchester City.
Elsewhere, Arsenal got its first points of the year, beating Fulham 3-1, and Liverpool beat Aston Villa 1-0 on the strength of another Daniel Sturridge goal. The biggest game of the weekend, though, is today, as Chelsea and Manchester United play this afternoon (2pm, NBC Sports).
WORLD CUP | FIFA, having handed the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, is apparently just now figuring out that you cannot play soccer in Qatar in the summertime because it is 130 degrees there. Consequently, they're now going to try to find another time to play it - possibly in November, which I'm sure won't anger pretty much every league in the world that plays during November.
In conclusion, Qatar is still a very, very dumb place to have the World Cup.
EUROPE | Conditions normal in Germany, where Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, and Bayer Leverkeusen all continued their perfect starts to the season. Bayern, however, were hit with their first setback of the year, as Spanish international Thiago Alcantara left the game with a thigh injury, and could miss up to seven weeks.
In France, uber-rich Paris-St. Germain got its first win of the season after a pair of draws to begin the year. PSG, with Qatar's billions behind them, will likely win the French title again this year, so it's entertaining to see them trip out of the gate, even a little.
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