Top Matches of the Weekend

USWNT

This weekend is a gold mine for headlines all over the soccer world, and we’re here for all of them. From the battle between world powers, to the return of MLS excitement, all we have to do is sit back and yell “they should have done better” at our televisions. 

USWNT vs France

As the top two favorites of the tournament collide on Friday afternoon, the US will be feeling the weight of being defending champs. It seemed as though there wasn’t much to worry about through the group stage games, but Spain gave the US more than a rude awakening in the Round of 16. 

When an early Megan Rapinoe penalty kick was cancelled out by an instant replay from Jennifer Hermoso, the Americans knew they were in for a genuine test. Thanks to another Rapinoe strike from 12 yards, the USWNT just passed the test. 

The luxury of having an easier start to the tournament may be bittersweet for Jill Ellis’s side. The American’s first test only came in the Round of 16. All due respect, while the Spaniards were as good as they’ve ever been, they weren’t quite a top tier challenge as others can be in this summer’s World Cup.

One of those top tier tests comes in the form of France, the other of the two favorites to lift the trophy. The hosts encountered several unrelenting tests earlier in their campaign, starting with their second group stage game. 

The early matchup against Norway gave the French an accurate taste of how they would fare against true contenders. Narrowly getting by Nigeria to top-off a perfect group stage, France were immediately met by a strong and resilient Brazil team in the first knockout round. 

Their progression to the quarterfinals was well earned against a Brazil side which may feel they could’ve gotten more from the match. France fell victim to one of the most controversial VAR calls early on, but fought back to both score first and find a winner. The consistent displays of character in finding these wins sets them up better for a strong test like the US.

Of the two heavyweights, France has proven themselves in more convincing struggles than the US. Even though they are reigning champs, the US hasn’t nearly been tested to the extent France has. Not only was their last match their first test, but it also showed their susceptibility to mistakes.

Prediction: USWNT 2, France 3 

Colombia vs Chile

Colombia got off to one of the stronger starts of the tournament, shutting out Argentina in very convincing fashion. The Cafeteros almost found themselves stumble against Qatar, but a late Duvan Zapata goal continued their perfect group stage. 

Zapata’s presence for Colombia has been immense in their Copa America effort so far. Two goals in his three appearances so far helped Colombia remain undefeated. In compliment, the defense has yet to concede a goal in this summer’s Copa. But from here on out, eyes will be focused on one particular big name to step up. 

James Rodriguez has been taken around the transfer rumor windmill more times than we’d like to try and count. Though he found consistent playing time in Munich, his loan expires this summer, meaning he’s back in the clutches of Real Madrid. With Zidane eager to clean house, Rodriguez needs to return to that summer of 2014 form, either to impress the boss or attract an outside suitor. 

Chile stands fairly equal to Colombia in terms of how they started of the tournament this summer. A 4-0 demolition of Japan saw the reigning back-to-back champions reemerge as tournament powers, but not quite favorites. 

La Roja ground out a sufficient win against Ecuador to cement their spot in the knockout stages. Despite losing the final game and the top-spot in group C to Uruguay, Chile put together a solid performance which left fans unsatisfied with the result. 

Much like their Friday night counterparts, Chile will be expecting a lot from veteran leader Alexis Sanchez, who has infamously seen his club career stagnate at Old Trafford. So far, Sanchez has shown more than a glimpse of his form from times passed. Continuing to grow his influence as Chile continues to find success could be key to reinvigorating the winger’s club career.

As arguably the most even matchup of the quarterfinals, this fixture can really go either way. But based on how long they’ve held their form and the hurdles they’ve passed along the way, it feels like Colombia have a greater chance of being able to figure out how to advance. With potentially the toughest path to the final, Colombia are genuine contenders for this year’s trophy.

Prediction: Colombia 3, Chile 1

Italy vs Netherlands

A month ago, no one would be able to imagine  Italy would get this far into the World Cup this summer. Pitted in a group with both Brazil and Australia, it seemed like a battle for third against Jamaica was in store. Cut to now, Italy emerged as winners of the group and already earned a seemingly comfortable Round of 16 win. 

The Italians burst onto the scene with their opening upset win over Australia. They followed up the famous victory with an emphatic 5-0 deconstruction of Jamaica, letting the rest of the field know they weren’t to be taken lightly. A cautious affair with Brazil denied a perfect group stage, but heading into the quarterfinals, Italy seem as likely as anyone to advance.

Italy are a great example of how increased investment can help for the betterment of the women’s game. The loss to Brazil is Italy’s only loss in their nine games in 2019. Between the games leading up to the World Cup, fans were flooding the training sessions and throwing their full support towards the team. 

On the other hand, the Netherlands have lived up to their expectations as tournament dark horses. The Oranje haven’t lost since January and top their group with gritty but sound victories in all three games. 

The Netherlands faced their toughest test in the Round of 16, navigating through Japan’s best performance this summer. Fending off the country who reached the last two finals of this competition, the Netherlands saw out the result with impressive game management. 

The Dutch are led by a powerfully lethal front line which poses a threat to any defense in the World Cup. Lieke Martens is the face of the squad, who lifted her country past Japan with a brace in the Round of 16. Martens plays opposite of winger Shanice van de Sanden, who poses an incredible playmaking threat from the right side. But the focus has been through Arsenal forward Vivianne Miedema, who has become the country’s all-time top scorer this summer.

A battle of dark horses is always fun to watch. Both teams have put in performances this summer to steal hearts and harvest support. These teams feel set up for a stalemate, but the Netherlands has a slight advantage which likely won’t come through in the 90 minutes. Being the reigning European champs, the Dutch have more experience and depth in understanding how to progress in major tournaments.

Prediction: Italy 1, Netherlands 2

Portland Timbers vs FC Dallas

As the MLS returns to action from its small break, we are thrown right back into the exciting matchups it can produce. Portland waited 12 games to play at home in the league this year, and ever since, they’ve been firing on all cylinders at Providence Park.

Despite narrowly losing their first game back at home against the cheat codes of the MLS in LAFC, the Timbers have started reinforcing their fortress in Portland. Within a matter of days, the Timbers beat both the LA Galaxy in the Open Cup and Houston Dynamo in the league by the score of 4-0. 

Portland only have two losses in their last seven games, and are looking to rebound from a very poor start in the MLS. The Timbers have already begun a gradual ascent up the Western Conference, but still need to produce results against the top teams of the league. With three matches in hand and many more dates to come in Portland, the Timbers are set to prove themselves. 

FC Dallas has found themselves in the mix at the top of the Western Conference for the past few years, and notoriously put together strong regular seasons. So far, they find themselves in fourth place behind the two LA teams and Seattle.

Dallas will feel they should be at least in third, since they gave up a disappointing draw at home to Vancouver. Coupled with another shocking loss in the Open Cup to second-tier side New Mexico United, Dallas will be looking at this fixture as an opportunity to turn their fortunes. 

The FC Dallas lines are led by a dynamic trio up front in Jesus Ferreira, Dominique Badji and Michael Barrios. The three have combined for 11 goals and 13 assists, contributing to a strong majority of Dallas’s 27 goals so far, which ranks second in the conference.

Dallas have been stumbling recently, but have a sizable advantage in terms of place on the table. With Portland still able to use an underdog identity in this run of form, returning home is exactly what they need to keep their climb consistent. 

Prediction: Portland Timbers 3, FC Dallas 0

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