Posts Tagged ‘World Cup’

Soccer plus games: Précis of (parts of) a holiday weekend

July 7, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 7, 2014

Independence Day was another hot and humid Durham day. I bicycled to a coffee shop on Ninth Street in the afternoon. It closed early for the holiday, at 4 p.m. I went to a nearby grocery store to do some shopping: Peanut butter, salsa, popcorn, rice…

As I sat on the store’s porch, packing my backpack for the bicycle trip home, I realized that the day’s second World Cup quarterfinal match was still being played. I decided to go watch it.

I swung the straps of my now extremely heavy backpack over my shoulders and walked back to my bike on Perry Street. Then I pedaled east, across Broad Street and onto Duke University’s East Campus.

After cycling past the Duke dorms and gym and administrative and miscellaneous buildings, I emerged on Buchanan Avenue. I continued heading east on Dacian Avenue, across North Duke Street and onto the gravel byway that links to the South Ellerbee Creek Trail. I turned right and followed the asphalt ribbon to its southern terminus at Trinity Avenue. For the sake of exercise, I went a few extra blocks east on Trinity before hooking right on North Street and backtracking west on West Geer Street.

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Scenes from a Tuesday afternoon: Part 2

July 3, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 3, 2014

Previously on MEMwrites:

I brought my tea cup to the bus station and walked back to my car. There was soccer to be watched!

The World Cup was on! The United States men’s national team had advanced to the Round of 16, the first part of the knockout stage. I drove over to Geer Street and parked by Durham Athletic Park, former home of the Durham Bulls minor league baseball team, and then hiked up the hill to Rigsbee Avenue. Motorco Music Hall sits on the corner of those two roads, and I had a notion that the game was going to be shown on its screen.

This was true, but when I walked into Motorco’s main venue — the eponymous music hall, as it were — it was pretty packed. I decided after a moment that it wasn’t worth trying to fight my way through the crowd to find a seat, and I didn’t relish the prospect of standing throughout the match, which had already begun.

I wandered back outside, thinking of my options. Motorco has a secondary space, so I walked toward it. This smaller venue was pretty crowded, too, but the bay doors were open. (Motorco used to be a car dealership, naturally.) While I’d still have to stand, I’d be able to see the screen without squeezing between a dozen complete strangers. A nice bonus was that the side bar was pretty accessible.

I ordered a drink and a bratwurst and focused on the game, which was scoreless.

The action struck me as resembling the U.S. team’s last match, against Germany. The Belgians were much better than the Yanks at stringing together extended possessions. As a result, the Red Devils were able to launch a number of shots on goal. For the game, Belgium outshot the Americans, 38-14, with the Europeans getting more attempts on goal (27) than total tries for the U.S.

Fortunately, goalkeeper Tim Howard was in top form, absorbing or redirecting a World Cup–record 15 attempts. So the game remained scoreless when halftime came around. I gulped down some water — Motorco had put out some pitchers and plastic cups for the purpose — and tried to cool down.

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Sweating the World Cup: Watching U.S. vs. Germany

June 27, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 27, 2014

I wrote the other day about my sports calendar. That post started out as…well, as this post, only I turned out to have written them in the wrong order!

Anyway, the United States men’s national team played Germany at noon Eastern time on Thursday for a chance to reach the knockout round of the 2014 World Cup. For months, Group G — U.S., Germany, Portugal and Ghana, which had knocked America out of the previous two tournaments — had been labeled the “Group of Death.” Out of this intimidating field of four, only the top two teams could advance.

The U.S. had beaten Ghana, 2-1, in its opening game, but the second match had resulted in an agonizing tie-from-ahead draw, 2-2. (Portugal’s last goal came in the 95th minute, the latest-ever regulation score in Cup history.) The Americans didn’t need a win to get to the tournament quarterfinals, but victory would guarantee advancement. Obviously, the stakes were pretty high.

I left home on my bicycle a little before noon and arrived after the match was under way. My viewing venue was Bull McCabe’s, an Irish (er, Scottish? No, Irish…I think) pub in downtown Durham. Four years ago, when the World Cup was staged half a world away, in South Africa, I’d watched the matches at Bull McCabe’s.

But the bar is now very different from the way it used to be — at least on the outside. Back then, fans packed themselves at tables inside the humid, crowded bar. Presumably, that happened on Thursday, too, but I sat myself down on one of the benches in the small sward beside Bull McCabe’s. This space, once essentially vacant, has been transformed into a sort of beer garden; sometime over the last year, the bar added an exterior patio, and table service is now available outside.

So instead of being hot and sweaty inside a bar, I was hot and sweaty outside a bar — and also exposed to direct sunlight. I later learned that these conditions were more or less diametrically opposed to those in Recife, where the match was played in an ongoing downpour that had drenched the Brazilian city overnight.

And what of the game itself? It was riveting, both because the outcome was so important and because the score remained so close.

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Seasons of sports: One fan’s calendar

June 27, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 27, 2014

I make no bones about it: I become a soccer fan every few years, whenever the American men or women are competing in the World Cup. I have nothing against the Beautiful Game (football or footy or fútbol, as it’s widely known outside of the States) but my sporting agenda is too packed for me to indulge anything beyond this kind of sporadic soccer fandom.

Football, by which I mean American football, has been my top sports passion for years: College football through the end of the regular season, the National Football League after that. My attention shifts to college basketball once the Super Bowl has been played.

Once, I was a fanatical and relatively informed baseball fan; now, spring is a bit of a sports breather for me. I pay minimal attention to the start of the Major League season, even though everyone has a shot at the playoffs at the start of April. (Actually, my interest is low sort of because everyone has a shot at the playoffs at the start of April.)

Come May, I sometimes let the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League playoffs hover on the periphery of my consciousness. Occasionally,  I’ll take a closer look if there are compelling narratives. Such was the case this year, with San Antonio attempting to avenge its loss to the Miami Heat in a rematch of the 2013 NBA finals and the New York Rangers seeking to win their first Stanley Cup in 20 years. (For many decades prior to 1994, Rangers haters would boisterously chant “1940! 1940!,” a taunting reminder of when the boys in blue last topped the NHL.)

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