So there’s no Sounders game this weekend. It happens. MLS clubs have weekends off but just because there is no rave green and blue fix, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a feast of football to keep your addiction satiated. But if you think you can wake up on Saturday and take in an EPL game in your pyjamas, you’d be sadly wrong.
Football fans tuning into Fox Soccer Channel at 8.30 am will see a trans-continental World Cup play-off between Asian not quite qualifiers Bahrain, and the reigning OCEANIA Champions, New Zealand. Australia having left the Oceania conference for the greater challenge of Asia, the All Whites had only to overcome Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Tahiti, the Cook Islands, the Solomon Islands and Fiji to reach this stage.
The first leg of this strange combination takes place in Bahrainâ€™s National Stadium in Manama. New Zealand have not qualified for the finals since 1982 and Coach Ricki Herbert has selected MLS stars Andrew Boyens (New York) and Simon Elliott (San Jose) in his squad.
Bahrain have also been in this position before, having fallen short during qualifying for 2006 when they lost in a playoff against Trinidad & Tobago. The return match is in Wellington on November 14th. New Zealand are ranked exactly 100th in the world.
So having enjoyed that rare treat of obscure players you’re unlikely to have heard much of, your next dish is French, as Les Bleus attempt to ensure at least a play-off by beating the minnowest of minnows, the Faroe Islands.
Raymond Domenech’s France have had a lousy campaign but the ineptness of other sides such as Austria and Romania has enabled them to at least be sure of a play-off. Their best chance of anything better probably rests in the hands of Serb hooligans whose violence has marred every home match so far.
The match is live on FSC at midday and there will be a chance to marvel at the skills of players such as Thierry Henry, Eric Abidal, Gael Clichi, Nick Anelka and William Gallas. As recently as September, the Faroese won a game when they beat Lithuania, so don’t expect a goalfest, but do expect to see some fine players trying to find a way through 11 fishermen packed into a small space.
At 2pm, you can join Sounders Freddie Ljungberg in prayer as his Swedish side make the short hop to Copenhagen. The group is perilously tight and Sweden will need at least a draw to keep their fate in their own hands. Portugal meet Hungary in the same group. Both are two points behind Sweden. The Danes lead the group three points ahead of Sweden but cannot afford a loss with Portugal and Hungary still in with a chance of 19 points to their 18.
Liverpool’s Daniel Agger and Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner are Denmark’s best known players. Barcelona’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in the Sweden squad.
A Cup Final eh?
At 4.30, it’s back to MLS action as New England Revs entertain Columbus Crew. The game is live from Foxborough and Sounders fans finally have someone to cheer for. The MLS league table to your right should provide enough evidence that a New England win would be a nuisance. The Revs would go above Seattle on head-to-head with a win, but a loss would give Sounders a three point lead, which is fairly substantial with just two games left.
It’s a good chance to see how Columbus Crew bounce back after their defeat to Sounders FC.
At 6.30, there’s an item of local interest. Neighbours Vancouver Whitecaps qualified for the USL Cup Final where they play cross Canada rivals Montreal Impact.
The Caps made the final after beating fellow Pacific Northwest side Portland Timbers 5-4 on aggregate in a thrilling semi-final, while the Quebecers beat Puerto Rico Islanders 4-2 on aggregate, having won both legs 2-1. Vancouver are the reigning USL Champions but had a less than stellar regular season. Nonetheless, they have outstanding issues with the Impact, following Montreal’s abysmal 6-1 collapse to Toronto FC, which deprived the Caps of a CONCACAF place.
As a site that covers sport and occasionally the arts in the entire PNW, we totally encourage you to cheer for the Whitecaps. Damn nice folk they are, even by the already high standard of Canadians. Good luck Caps!
Of course, if by then you have itchy feet or some other ailment, you could also join your fellow patriots in Scottish owned, Irish bar, Fado and watch the USA match in Honduras live, in the only bar in Seattle showing the game. We guess the manager needed someone to cheer for!
The USA need just one more win to book their ticket to South Africa but will have to be on their guard against Honduras.
Right, that lot should get you through Saturday. If six games doesn’t satiate you, then you can always find someone kicking a ball around a park in football mad Washington State.