Arsenal-Real Madrid friendly brings spectacle, physicality of European soccer to FedEx Field

USA TODAY Sports Images

Arsenal-Real Madrid friendly brings spectacle, physicality of European soccer to FedEx Field

Soccer is known as “the beautiful game,” and there was plenty of sporting beauty on display during Arsenal and Real Madrid’s International Champions Cup clash at FedEx Field Monday night. 

But there was also a level of physicality FedEx Field doesn’t usually see unless the Redskins are playing here: a number of hard tackles, penalties, and an intense competitive edge, as if both clubs were fighting for legitimate European silverware. 

The first half alone featured the two sides of the soccer coin. There was some truly breathtaking play from both teams, highlighted by Arsenal’s second goal. Alexandre Lacazette set up strike partner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with a lovely back-heel flick, Aubameyang dribbling past Real Madrid keeper Keylor Navas and burying the ball in the net, despite Sergio Ramos’ best efforts to clear the shot off the goalline. 

But the opening 45 minutes also featured a rash of fouls and two red cards. Real Madrid defender Nacho was sent off in the ninth minute after receiving two yellow cards, the second being a handball in the Madrid box which resulted in a Lacazette penalty try to give Arsenal the early lead. Arsenal manager Unai Emery said after the match he asked the referee if Real Madrid could be allowed to bring on another player to keep the sides equal, but the official said no. 

In a way, Emery got his wish at the end of the half when Arsenal center back Sokratis picked up two yellow cards in the span of two minutes, reducing both teams to 10 men before the halftime whistle. The Greek defender punted the ball across the pitch in frustration after seeing red from the referee to the delight of the Real Madrid supporters. 

The second half featured even more fireworks as Real Madrid mounted a comeback. Welsh forward Gareth Bale, who Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has publicly stated he hopes soon leaves the club, scored off a rebound to halve the deficit, Marco Asensio tying the game at 2-2 just minutes later. 

While some of the star power left the field as both managers emptied their benches in the closing stages, the two sides continued to give the crowd of 52,000 plenty of eye-catching attacking play to cheer on. In fact, the thrills continued after the final whistle, Real Madrid ultimately winning the match in a penalty shootout. 

D.C. United fans got a taste of world-class soccer when English star Wayne Rooney took MLS by storm last year. But Monday's clash between two European giants, their rosters featuring some of the globe's best players in their athletic primes, displayed all the beauty -- and even brutality -- the sport has to offer. 


Washington Spirit vs NC Courage: Time, TV Channel, How to watch

Washington Spirit vs NC Courage: Time, TV Channel, How to watch

With playoffs on the line, the Washington Spirit hosts the NC Courage in a must-win regular-season home finale Saturday night.

NC Courage sits high atop their first-place throne with an icy six-win streak, 14-4--4 record overall leading the NWSL with 46 points, 31 goal differential, 50 goals for and 19 goals against. The struggling Spirit, with one win, one loss and three draws in their past five matches, need to find a way to crack the Courage and tack on another win to keep postseason hopes alive.

Mallory Pugh has made strong moves for the Spirit since returning from injury and will be a key player to breakthrough the Courage defense with nine clean sheets (just one more than Washington) and averaging 0.9 goals allowed per game.

The Spirit cannot afford to lose this game if they want to snag a playoff spot, and that chase continues in Maryland.


What: Washington Spirit vs. NC Courage

Where: Maureen Hendricks Field Maryland SoccerPlex, Boyds, MD

When: Saturday, September 28 at 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington 


Washington Spirit vs Houston Dash: Time, TV Channel, How to watch

Washington Spirit vs Houston Dash: Time, TV Channel, How to watch

The Washington Spirit will make their way to Houston in hopes to secure three points against the Houston Dash on Wednesday night.  

The Spirit are coming off of a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Red Stars, dropping them to 7W-8L-5D. 

For the first time in quite a while, both midfielder Rose Lavelle and forward Mallory Pugh took the field against the Red Stars. Lavelle returned to the lineup after suffering a head injury a few months ago and played 45 minutes in her first game since August 17. 

During the 80th minute, Pugh scored her first goal of the season but it wasn’t enough to take the lead over the Dash. 

Wednesday nights game will be Washington’s first time as a part of the NWSL’s new broadcast deal with ESPN. 

Kickoff is set for 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2. 


What: Washington Spirit vs. Houston Dash 

Where: BBVA Stadium, Houston, TX

When: Wednesday, September 25 at 9:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2