It’s been a rough week for fans of the beautiful game.
Hope Solo and the US women’s national team broke our hearts in a mind-blowing choke job on Sunday afternoon. The New England Revolution sit in dead last in the Eastern Conference (my son and I witnessed the carnage first-hand on Sunday evening in Foxboro). And to make matters worse, the collective failures of MLS teams against European competition this week (the Vancouver Whitecaps lost to Manchester City, the Revs lost to Manchester United, and the LA Galaxy got smoked by Real Madrid) are rather deflating.
But it’s not all bad news in the soccer world. Hidden deep beneath the headlines you can find something to feel good about: the annual quest of the Israeli league champion to make the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.
Last year, HaPoel Tel Aviv made an electric run through qualifying and into the group stage. The boys in red were one goal short of making the knockout round of 16, only to fall short in Lyon despite this ridiculous goal by Eran Zahavi, who leveraged his big-time performance in the CL competition into a five-year deal with Palermo in Italy’s Serie A.
This year, for all you proud Boston-Haifa devotees (see this sign yet?), Maccabi Haifa again took the league crown and is heading towards the third round of qualifying after a resounding 5:1 defeat of FK Borac Banja Luka (the champions of Bosnia and Herzegovina) in Haifa last week. Wednesday night is the second leg of the fixture, and barring an epic collapse, the Greens will vault their way into the third round of qualifying.
And when that happens, it’s DVR time again. Fox Soccer usually buries the obscure teams’ later-round qualifying matches in their overnight broadcast, but there’s nothing like waking up for Maccabi Haifa Champions League qualifying to put a little pizzazz into a lazy August morning. I’ll keep you posted on the scheduling.