Greetings from Cleveland. I am expecting — begging! — for a more entertaining display of soccer than witnessed in Richmond last night.
Several downtown streets are closed to film scenes for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” set for spring 2014 release. No sign of Scarlett Johansson. Crews, cranes, stuntmen, extras and smashed-up police cars — just another day on the banks of Lake Erie. (I kid because I love — Wife of Insider’s hometown.)
A few blocks north at FirstEnergy Stadium, America’s team (with captain Clint Dempsey) will begin the busiest stretch of an important year with an 8 p.m. ET friendly against Belgium. Washington is the next stop for Sunday’s tune-up against Germany, then World Cup qualifiers at Jamaica on June 7, vs. Panama in Seattle on June 11 and vs. Honduras in Utah on the 18th.
Coverage tonight has moved to ESPN from ESPN2, and will appear on UniMas in Spanish as well.
Game-time weather outlook: 80 degrees, 53 percent humidity, small chance of rain.
Ticket presale: 23,000.
Road-trip cuisine: Ginza Sushi House with Brother-in-Law of Insider near the baseball stadium.
*Ticket sales for Germany’s visit Sunday have surpassed 40,000 and are closing in on a sellout. With the additional of temporary bleachers behind the goals, RFK Stadium will accommodate about 46,000.
*FIFA boss Sepp Blatter had hoped to drop by Washington this weekend — and the USSF’s annual general meeting celebrating the fed’s 100 years — but it now seems he will not make it. (Fear of American Outlaws storming his hotel, no doubt.) Several politicians, plus CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb, are on the VIP list.
*Germany’s training session Saturday at RFK is open to the public. Gates open at 11 a.m. Parking and admission are free. The Americans will also welcome fans, starting at 2:30.
*In Boca Raton today, Germany scored four times in the first 24 minutes and smashed Ecuador, 4-2. Lukas Podolski and Lars Bender had two apiece.
*The USSF is close to finalizing a July 5 friendly against Guatemala in San Diego, a final tune-up before the Gold Cup opener July 9 against Belize in Portland, Ore. An Aug. 14 friendly in Europe is also in the works — it’s a FIFA fixture date. Bosnia in Sarajevo is the hot rumor.
*Tickets for the USA-Mexico qualifier Sept. 10 in Columbus will go on sale in late June or early July, a USSF official said.
USA: Howard; Cameron, Gonzalez, Goodson, Beasley; Zusi, Jones, Kljestan, Davis; Dempsey, Altidore. Subs: Guzan, Besler, Evans, Parkhurst, Holden, E Johnson, Boyd, Gomez.
Belgium: Mignolet; Alderweirend, Vermaelen, Kompany, Vertonghen; Defour, Fellaini, Dembele; Mirallas, Lukaku, De Bruyne. Subs: JF Gillet, Kaminski, Ciman, Pocognoli, G Gillet, Simons, T Hazard, Lestienne, Vossen, Benteke.