Sunday, May 26, 2013

Three thoughts about USMNT in Cleveland

You have to love those pesky date conflicts.

On Wednesday, for the first time since 2006 and only the third time in history, Cleveland is playing host to the United States men's national soccer team in an international friendly against Belgium.

Also on Wednesday is the first day of the Division I Austintown-Fitch Regional in high school track and field.

It's that time of the year, so south toward Fitch it will be - gladly, mind you, as hopefully some News-Herald area athletes can secure state berths.

That does not mean, however, I won't share a few quick thoughts about a national team match in my own back yard:

1.) The team Belgium is bringing to the North Coast is no joke.

Being ranked 15th in the world, you had a feeling Belgium wasn't exactly going to send a bunch of nobodies. But this side that will be on display in Cleveland on Wednesday - wow. With Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen, Christian Benteke, Eden Hazard - all very talented English Premier League performers - along with plenty of other talent from across Europe, the U.S. better bring its hard hat, especially in the defensive third.

2.) A great opportunity for local kids to see the USMNT

Memo to area high school players and parents of youngsters involved in youth soccer: The team is hosting an open practice session Tuesday at FirstEnergy Stadium - free to get in, $3 to park and watch some of the very best our country has to offer 24 hours prior to a big friendly. That's not a bad deal at all.

3. The best news of all

If this Ticketmaster page is accurate, there isn't a ticket to be had. Hopefully, unlike some of the other fairly recent international and club matches downtown, this one fills up the seats well and gives U.S. Soccer something to think about with bringing future matches here.*

(* - as long as there isn't a work conflict next time)

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH


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