Let's say you couldn't get out of work early and you missed the U.S. Men's National Team (USMNT) World Cup win against Ghana. And maybe, somehow, you've managed to go nearly a week without watching any other soccer game. Well it's time to get ready because it's going to be hard to leave the house and not catch some USMNT fever.
That's because the United States is facing off today against Portugal at 5 p.m. in a game that could guarantee the United States make it to the knock-out stages of the tournament. Not only that, but the USMNT is going up against one of the greatest players in the world right now, Christiano Ronaldo (seen making people look really foolish in the video above).
So if you haven't jumped on the bandwagon yet, everything you need to know to hop on.
Kickoff: 5 p.m. - If you ask me, there isn't a better time for this game as it gives you enough time to enjoy a lazy Sunday in New Orleans before the game and — thanks to soccer's continually running clock and no timeouts — it will be over by 7 p.m., it leaves you plenty of time to celebrate afterwards
How to watch:
On TV: ESPN, Ch. 35/1035 on Cox, Ch. 206 on DirecTV and Univision, Ch. 50/1050 on Cox and Ch. 402 on DirecTV.
Compare how the ESPN announcers called John Brook's game-winning goal against Ghana to how the Univision announcers called it. They're both stunned and excited by the goal but there's just something about hearing that elongated "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLL" when Brooks scores that just puts it over the top for me. (Again, if you're actually trying to learn about the game a bit and gain insight through real-time analysis, then yea, ESPN is the way to go).
With Other People: Pretty much any sports bar with a TV should have the game (WWNO has a helpful map of where to go) on but if you really want to immerse yourself in World Cup excitement, there are two places that stand above the rest:
1) Rendezvous Tavern on Magazine Street: Following the success of their first watch party, the New Orleans Chapter of the American Outlaws will be hosting another watch party that includes drink specials ($10 domestic buckets, $1.5 High Life and $5 Big Bloody Marys) and food by the Rollin Fatties food truck. Rendezvous is also going to be bringing in extra televisions to accommodate any overflow.
2) Finn McCool's: Look, if you haven't seen a World Cup games at Finn's you really are missing out. Even if you don't go today, go see two random teams play and be surprised at just how many people from those countries live in New Orleans.
Soccer, many will tell you, can be a horribly unjust game in which a team can absolutely dominate their opponent and still end up tying or losing. This is heartbreaking for losing teams on many levels but for the team that wins, it can lead to something worse: false hope.
This was absolutely the case with USA-Ghana. All anyone seemed to talk about afterwards washow much of a miracle it was. Ghana had the U.S. on the ropes for most of the second half and it looked like they were the ones that were going to take the win and three points from the game. Then John Brooks happened and all of the U.S.'s faults didn't matter anymore.
Can the U.S. repeat that kind of game against Portugal? Probably not. They'll be without their biggest scoring threat, Jozy Altidore, and that shaky U.S. defense will have to go up against Christiano Ronaldo and a Portugese team fighting for their World Cup lives. Long story short: it doesn't look good for the U.S. But we said that last week and look how that turned out.
Portugal's opening game against Germany was an absolute disaster for the Iberians. Not only did they lose 4-0, but star defender Pepe was ejected (meaning he will miss the U.S. match) and four of their players went down with injuries while Ronaldo continues to play on a gimpy knee. The injury report for Portugal looks bleak but they are still a formidable side looking to redeem themselves after a humiliating start to the World Cup and a loss to the U.S. back in the 2002 tournament.
Really, though, it all comes down to Ronaldo. Even not playing at 100%, Ronaldo is one of the most formidable strikers in the world and you can bet that he will be lined up against DaMarcus Beasley, who looked absolutely lost against Ghana. Every time No. 7 has the ball in his feet every USMNT fan will be holding their breath.
What to talk about to sound like you know about soccer:
For a handy guide on soccer lingo, check out this primer by the Washington Post.
With Altidore injured, USMNT Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has to choose between Chris Wondolowski and Aron Johannsson. If you ask us, we're pulling for the local boy. No, not the guy named Chris, we're talking about the Mobile-born Johannsson who is making his first World Cup trip with the USMNT. Check out this article for everything you need to know about the Mississippi(-ish) boy who could become a U.S. soccer savior.