July 9, 2013

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2014 FIFA WORLD CUP Qualifying

By: Tyler Vespa

The USMNT began this set of qualifying matches in 2nd place in the group with 4 points. They only trailed group leader Panama by a single point.

A win over Panama put the USMNT at the top of the group.

The U.S. continued their road to Brazil on June 7th with a hard-fought victory over Jamaica in Kingston.

Jozy Altidore put the U.S. on the board first with a well-timed header in the 30th minute off a cross from Graham Zusi.

The one goal lead lasted until the 89th minute, when Jermaine Beckford scored on a free kick from 6 yards away.

However, the U.S. was unfazed and looked to rebound right away. In the 92nd minute, U.S. defender Brad Evans found himself all alone on the back post and buried it past the diving Jamaican goalkeeper.

This frantic finish gave the U.S. 7 points as they continued to climb up the group standings.

Just 4 days later, the Americans took on Panama in Seattle. It was more of the same as Altidore again finished on a beautiful cross from Fabian Johnson in the 36th minute.

The U.S. got some insurance on a great goal by midfielder Eddie Johnson in the 53rd minute. Panama had no answer all night and was only able to place 2 shots on goal as U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard recorded a fairly simple shutout.

This win propelled the U.S. to the top of the group. With 10 points, they led both Costa Rica and Mexico by two points.

A week later in Utah, the Americans battled Honduras. The teams played to a scoreless tie at halftime. The U.S. broke the tie in the 73rd minute when Altidore took a pass from Fabian Johnson and buried into the lower corner of the net.

Honduras, much like Panama only was able to get one shot on goal, while only attempting 6 the whole contest.

Tim Howard posted his 2nd straight shutout and the American remained at the top of the group with 13 points, 2 in front of Costa Rica.

The U.S. men’s national team will compete in the Gold Cup from July 7th-July 28th. The U.S. has won the Gold Cup 4 times.

2014 FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFYING continues September 6th, 2013 when the Americans battle Costa Rica at Estadio Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica.

April 5, 2013

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2014 FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFYING: ROAD TO BRAZIL

By: Tyler Vespa

In the final round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA WORLD CUP, the United States men’s national team earned two favorable results after a disappointing loss to Honduras to open the hexagonal.

The USMNT continues FIFA WORLD CUP Qualifying on June 7th.

On March 22nd, amidst a blizzard in Commerce City, Colorado, U.S. forward and captain Clint Dempsey scored in the 16th minute to give his team a lead they would not relinquish.

With the victory, the U.S. earned 3 points that saw them rise from the bottom of the group.

4 days later at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, the Americans earned only their 2nd point in World Cup Qualifying history on Mexican soil. The 0-0 draw put the U.S. in the top 3 teams in the group with Panama, who leads the group with 5 points and Costa Rica who has 4 points. The United States and Honduras also each have 4 points but Costa Rica and the U.S. remain 2nd and 3rd in the group based on goal differential.

The top 3 teams from each hexagonal go straight to the World Cup. The team in fourth must win a tiebreaker match to earn a spot.

In more good news for the U.S., star midfielder and forward Landon Donovan has hinted as to a return.

The USMNT continues FIFA WORLD CUP Qualifying on June 7th with a game against the “Reggae Boyz” in Kingston. They then host group leader Panama four days later in Seattle. So, hopefully Donovan is ready to go by then. Exhale.

March 26, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Sweet 16 set in the NCAA Tournament: The first week of the NCAA Tournament is complete and, as usual, there were a fair share of big upsets. The big ones in the first round were tiny Florida Gulf Coast shocking the world by beating No. 2 seeded Georgetown and No. 3 seed New Mexico being ousted by Harvard. Lots will be made about some of those weaker teams being underseeded, but the fact is that if you played the tournament a dozen times, you might have a dozen different champions. Any team is capable of losing on any given night and if a team like Florida Gulf Coast played Georgetown ten times, it’s difficult to believe they’d win the majority of those games. But that’s the beauty of March.

Brian Urlacher appears to be on his way out of Chicago.

Brian Urlacher leaving Chicago: A bit of a surprise in NFL free agency was that the Chicago Bears didn’t re-sign longtime linebacker Brian Urlacher. Urlacher, a mainstay on the team for the past 13 years, couldn’t come to terms with the team. He had come down considerably from his initial asking price for the 2013 season, but that still wasn’t enough to get the Bears to move from their $2 million offer, as reported by ESPN. Reportedly, his agent has already talked with the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and Arizona Cardinals. Now at 35, Urlacher is surely slowing down – his tackles have dropped each of the past two seasons. But the bet here is that some team will take a chance on him. With no other options, his asking price may have to come down, though.

Denver Nuggets dominating with 15-game winning streak: With everyone focused on the Miami Heat’s remarkable streak, the Denver Nuggets have gone under the radar. The Nuggets won their 15th straight game this past weekend, beating Sacramento on Saturday. As a result, Denver has soared up to the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, passing the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies in the process. The Nuggets have been winning this year on youth and depth. The team has only three players over the age of 25 and only one of those, Andre Miller, is over 30. Also, nine players average more than eight points a game, but none average more than 17. With so much youth and balance, if the Nuggets keep their core together, this is a franchise that could compete for years to come.

Hanley Ramirez out for two months: The Dodgers got some bad news with Opening Day just around the corner. Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez had a torn ligament in his thumb and required surgery last week. Because of it, Ramirez will miss about eight weeks recovering. That’s a tough break for the Dodgers, who picked him up in a trade last season. In 2012 splitting time with the Dodgers and Marlins, Ramirez hit 24 home runs and drove in 92 runs, having one of his best offensive seasons of his career. Not having him until close to May could mean the Dodgers get off to a slow start.

Sergio Garcia hits golf ball … from tree: The final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational was on Sunday. You might assume that the real news was that the event was suspended due to weather, but you’d be wrong. The big highlight came from Sergio Garcia hitting a golf ball while atop a tree branch. Don’t believe me? Here’s the video. Whatever your interest level is in golf, there’s no denying that shots like these make it interesting. Still, I’m not sure Garcia’s move was all that wise. A slip of the foot could have meant a nasty fall and possibly even an end to his season. Not to mention that Garcia double-bogeyed the hole anyway and later withdrew. Still, if we’re going by entertainment value, this one’s a ten all the way. And as a spectator, I’d much rather see Garcia take a gamble like that.

U.S. Soccer wins match over Costa Rica despite snow protest: You read that right. The U.S. Soccer team defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in the qualifying for the FIFA World Cup in the snow in Denver. Costa Rica protested during the match and also filed a formal protest immediately afterwards. Typically, this is where I’d say that both teams had equal playing conditions so Costa Rica should suck it up. But I also understand the point in protesting. Soccer isn’t like, pardon the pun, (American) football where snow is considered as a part of the playing conditions. When you think of soccer, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For most of us, it’s not white stuff falling to the ground. I don’t mind a match being played if it’s a little bit of snow, but the field was covered to the point where Costa Rican players were complaining that they couldn’t even adequately see the lines. Keep in mind, this is also the qualifying for the World Cup – it’s not a meaningless preseason MLB game. With so much at stake, postponing the game would have made more sense. Similarly hilarious is the fact that a qualifying match was even scheduled in Denver when there’s always a chance of spring snow.

February 8, 2013

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TIME TO PANIC FOR USMNT?

By: Tyler Vespa

The United States men’s national team began the hexagonal stage with a road loss to Honduras on Wednesday. The first-half was pretty even until Clint Dempsey scored on a volley in the 36th minute to give the Americans the lead. Honduras quickly halted that momentum when Juan Carlos Garcia tied the score on a goal in the 40th minute.

Can the USMNT rebound from their loss to Honduras?

In the second half, the U.S. came out considerably flat as Honduras had them back on their heels. The consistent pressure by “Los Catrachos” finally broke the tie on a goal by Jerry Bengtson in the 79th minute. The goal was scored on a broken play where U.S. goalie Tim Howard came out to play the shot with no defender left in the middle to block the open net.

Surprisingly, the U.S. did not seem to push forward to mount an attack in the final 15 minutes.

Bottom line, this team still has way too many questions to answer. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann seems to still be figuring things out all over the pitch. That’s alarming considering this is the final stage in World Cup Qualifying. Here are 3 reasons it’s time to panic for the U.S.

1. No Landon Donovan: It is unclear whether or not the team will have his services. I’m praying he doesn’t retire.

2. Lineup Moves/Substitutions: A lot of the decisions Klinsmann made were questionable, especially on defense. He passed on starting veterans Carlos Bocanegra and Michael Parkhurst for Timothy Chandler and Omar Gonzalez. Herculez Gomez and Jose Torres saw no action.

3. Formation: Klinsmann can’t keep juggling formations along with his lineup. He needs to find something that works and stick with it. The 4-4-2 might be strongest without Landon Donovan in the lineup. That will help our outside backs go on the attack.

The only thing working in the teams’ favor is the fact that they have over a month until their next qualifier against Costa Rica on March 22nd in Colorado. Whoever is chosen to play must bring an increased sense of urgency because one more loss could spell doom for the Americans.

October 5, 2012

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2014 FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFYING: Crucial Matches Ahead

By: Tyler Vespa

The United States men’s national soccer team will continue its quest to qualify for the 2014 FIFA WORLD CUP with two matches in the next 12 days. On October 12th, they will travel to North Sound, Antigua to take on an Antigua & Barbuda squad that sits last in Group A with 1 point. Four days later, the Americans will battle Guatemala in Kansas City.

Will the U.S. have Landon Donovan vs. Antigua & Barbuda?

With 2 matches left in the third round of CONCACAF qualifying, the United States sits tied atop Group A with 7 points. Both of these matches are significant considering the fact that Jamaica and Guatemala are also tied for the group lead. Only the top two teams from each group advance to the next round of qualifying.

With execution at a premium, it will be interesting to see who head coach Jurgen Klinsmann calls up for these two matches. In the last qualifying match against Jamaica, he opted for Jose Torres, Graham Zusi, and Danny Williams in place of Jozy Altidore, Kyle Beckerman, and Maurice Edu. If this was still Bob Bradley’s team, Altidore, Beckerman, and Edu are staples for the lineup.

Another important piece is if the U.S. will have the services of Landon Donovan. Donovan missed the last two qualifiers against Jamaica because he was injured. I’m sure with absolutely no room for error, Klinsmann would be relieved to see Donovan on the pitch. Midfielder Michael Bradley echoes the same solace when in the lineup for the Americans. The midfield for the U.S. was average without Bradley against Jamaica.

The Antigua & Barbuda match should be a breeze for the U.S. The Americans defeated them 3-1 on June 8th.  Guatemala will be more of a challenge. The U.S. played them to a 1-1 draw on June 12th in Guatemala City.