Monday, June 29, 2009

Boy did I get that one wrong.

First off, congratulations to the US Soccer team for their improbable run in the FIFA Confederations Cup. Not only did the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team trounce out-manned Egypt 3-0, but they also took advantage of the Brazilians' 3-0 statement defeat of the Arruzzi to vault themselves into the Semi-finals of the Tournament.

It was there, despite the on-going run of luck, that I assumed the ride was over. The opponent was #1 ranked Spain* who was unbeaten since 2006 against Non-European competition, who was the winner of Euro 2008 and who was enjoying a renaissance of late as a World Top Team.

Wrong. The U.S. Men dominated Spain 2-0 for a half, and then rode the stand-on-your-head brilliance of Tim Howard to preserve the shut-out and the win.

The Finals presented a familiar challenge. Brazil, the team that beat the U.S. 3-0 and led to my posting that the US team was done, thanks for playing, take your parting gifts and South African Sun-tans head back to your minor league soccer franchises and prepare for our quadrennial drubbing in 2010.

But the US team surprised me, playing spirited offensive football and, for a half, beating the Brazilians at their own game. Yes, in the second half the sheer talent and offensive brilliance of Samba Soccer proved too much to overcome. Eventually even the best of goalies wither under an onslaught of shots. That being said, the US has a lot to be proud of today, our National soccer team stood up to the World's elite, and they held their own.**

Congratulations to them.

*Proving, once and for all, that FIFA world rankings are bunk.

**There should be some debate, going forward, as to the reasoning behind the US' recent ascension. I'll weigh in on that soon. (Hint: It isn't Minor League Soccer) Ironically the very same establishment that's stifling creativity could be in-part responsible for helping the US to improve.

The Report you're not seeing in Houston (Updated)

Yao could be out for season, if not even longer.

[Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! sports]
As the NBA draft approached, the grim truth about Yao Ming’s(notes) broken left foot hung like an anvil over the Houston Rockets. The fear isn’t that he’s just lost for next season, but longer.

The Rockets and Yao’s reps are frightened over his future, and the concern is the most base of all: Does Yao Ming ever play again?

“The realization has hit them that this is grave,” one NBA general manager said.

For now, the Rockets have privately told league peers it could be a full season before Yao might be able to return to basketball. Multiple league executives, officials close to Yao and two doctors with knowledge of the diagnoses are describing a troubling, re-fracture of his navicular bone. Three pins were inserted a year ago, but the foot cracked in the playoffs and isn’t healing.

“It sounds like he’s missing most of next season, if not the entire 82 games,” one league executive who has had recent discussions with the Houston front office told Yahoo! Sports. “That’s all that [the Rockets] will concede quietly, but they know it’s probably much worse.”

Houston general manager Daryl Morey refused comment on Monday and a team spokesman said the Rockets will not have further comment until Yao undergoes additional medical tests.

Contrast that to the Chron's coverage by Jonathan "tortured prose" Feigan:
Nearly seven weeks after the Rockets were shocked by the injury that ended Yao Ming’s season, they were as stunned Wednesday to find it has not healed.

A bone scan late Wednesday evening showed that the immobilization of Yao’s left foot has not healed the hairline fracture he suffered May 8 during the Rockets’ second-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers.

A statement released by the team said Yao and his doctors will consider other treatment options. Those could include anything from wearing a cast, rather than the walking boot used since the injury, to surgery.

“Yao is not experiencing any pain in his left foot. However, the results from the CT and bone scans we performed over the past two days indicate that the hairline fracture has not responded to the degree that we expected,” Rockets team physician Tom Clanton said in a statement. “We will review a variety of treatment options before proceeding.”


Despite the injuries, Yao has remained central to the Rockets’ long-term plans and is considered untouchable when it comes to trades heading into tonight’s NBA draft.

“He is the cornerstone of the team,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said. “We’re trying to win here. We have an All-Star. We’re hoping Tracy (McGrady) can come back and play at an All-Star level like we know he is capable, but we’re dealing with uncertainty there. We’d like to get more All-Stars, not trade one away.”

Richard Justice danced around the issue but failed to mention what the Rockets are privately saying.

Namely, Yao Ming is out.....for a long time.

Instead of the company line from this town's sports scribes, or wink and nudge 'negative' columns designed to rile up the fan base while staying so outlandish so as not to offend the targets, it'd be nice to get a little bit of actual sports analysis and reporting on the big issues....

Say, like the severity of Yao Ming's foot injury. That'd be some reporting I'd like to see from the Chron. Because I love my family and would like to spend more time with them I'm not holding my breath.

UPDATE: Feigan files a report: Admits to being scooped by Yahoo! Sports.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Brazil 3 US 0 (UPDATED)

It wasn't even that close.

There's no reason beating a dead horse, the US Men's Soccer team is a deeply flawed unit with a sub-par midfield and poor offensive play.

The end result is a 3-0 scuttling by Brazil that could have been a lot worse. There was once a faint hope that the establishment of a professional minor league would stimulate the "growth" of the game. What it's done is reveal to the rest of the world just how sub-par soccer in CONCACAF has become in relation to the rest of the World.

Pre-MLS most American National team players went across the pond and frittered about the Minors, where at least they were exposed to modern defensive schemes and midfield organization strategies. During the MLS era the US Midfield organization has gotten markedly worse, as has the defense, and we're still hopeless as a Country on offense.

Plus, now, when faced with an International, major-league, pace, the US can't keep up.

Brazil 3 US 0

Can't wait for the World Cup.

UPDATE: The Chron's story is here (linke from the AP).

Predictably, the commenters feel that firing the coach (Bradley) is the answer. I say predictably because the typical American soccer fan thinks much more highly of the US position in the world soccer firmament than reality would dictate. Anyone remember WC 2006? Because one commenter obviously doesn't. The US was terrible then and is just as bad now. The problem isn't coaching, it's talent and a system that's miles behind the rest of the world in both approach and theory.

Monday, June 15, 2009

United States 1 - Italy Much, much better

In the end, the sending off of Ricardo Clark didn't matter much. The US International Soccer team was out-manned, out-gunned, and out-talented when they step out of the friendly confines of CONCACAF and into the harsh glare of the European spotlight of soccer.

For those concerned about such things, the final score was Italy 3, US 1. Guisseppe Rossi, born in New Jersey but of Italian heritage, scored two goals (one spectacular) as the Italians illuminated the US team's two biggest flaws.....

1. Lack of creativity in the scoring zone - To be blunt, the US has no creativity in the scoring zone. This is evidenced by the paucity of US goals scored during the run of play. The lone US goal in this game was scored by Landon Donovan, the leading US scorer in International play, on a penalty kick. Unfortunately the US scoring attack is more about PK's and set plays than it is spectacular, creative play in the midfield. That Donovan, who's real talent lies in ball distribution rather than scoring, is the US' leading scorer speaks volumes about the paucity of American talent on offense.

2. Lack of organization in the midfield. - Too many Italian mid-fielders and strikers had wide-open shots, with no pressure applied to try and blunt the attack. The US has a great goal-minder in Tim Howard (continuing a string of quality goal-keeping) but he was helpless against the barrage of scorching shots from the Italians, and (on the last goal) weak marking by a tired defense.

After all was said and done, the final result was a lot better than it should have been. Tim Howard saved the day with several outstanding saves, and Donovan and Co. displayed the ability to control the ball somewhat against the physically dominant Italians. The Azzurri could have named their score, had the Americans not been scrappy. That's a credit to the coach, the players and the team as a whole, with the faults lying almost exclusively with an over-regimented US soccer system that encourages by the book training, and eschews the free-flowing, quality play that's embraced by the rest of the world.

Samba soccer anyone? It'd be nice.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

UH reportedly finds Maggard's replacement

KRIV's Mark Berman got the scoop (Anyone surprised by that?)
FOX 26 Sports has learned that University of Akron athletics director Mack Rhoades will be named the next AD at the University of Houston.

The school will make the announcement official at a news conference scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

UH narrowed its search to two finalists Wednesday. The other finalist was USC senior associate AD Dr. Brandon Martin.

Rhoades has been the athletics director at Akron since 2005.

Rhoades, 43, led the way for the Zips to build a $55 million on-campus football stadium.

And Rhoades didn't just concentrate on football at Akron. He also enhanced the facilities for other Zips sports programs including basketball, baseball, softball, and track.
We here at 3CB wish Rhoades all the luck in the world. He's heading into a job where the majority is apathetic, and the few that are interested closely resemble Republicans in their desire to run out every casual fan who doesn't pass a purity test. He's also going to have to deal with a local media that's ambivilent (or, in the case of some hostile)

Good luck with that.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Arlovski moves back

Straight back....

[Kevin Iole, Yahoo! sports]
There is little doubt what the future holds for the undefeated Rogers, who scored a spectacular first-round knockout of former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight king Andrei Arlovski Saturday on a Strikeforce card at the Scottrade Center.

More serious questions surround the future of Arlovski, who has now been knocked out in each of his last two fights.

Arlovski, the former UFC heavyweight champion, is good enough to beat the majority of the world’s heavyweights. He doesn’t look like a guy, though, who is prepared to beat the elite men in the important bouts.
Like most recent Arlovski fights, he started out looking (and moving) well, UNTIL he had to move backwards to avoid a punch. Then he moved straight back with little head movement and got caught square on the chin. He was out on his feet, fell to the floor and referee "Big John" McCarthy jumped in and stopped the fight before Arlovski could take a further beating.

The rest of the Strikeforce card was entertaining, if a bit overwrought by the limited announcing skill of Frank Shamrock.

Strikeforce Results:

Kevin Whitehead Def. Kevin Randleman - Unanimous decision.

Joe Riggs Def. Phil Baroni - Unanimous decision.

These two fights were entertaining, if one sided. Whitehead was better than Randleman in every area. The sad thing is, most fight experts consider Randleman to be among the most talented MMA fighters in the game. If he could just sort out the mental aspect he'd be a top contender. Riggs destroyed Baroni, who's always been just not good enough to challenge the big names.

Nick Diaz Def. Steve Smith via Rear Naked Choke 1:41 of Round Three.

Diaz has all of the tools to be great, except that he's one of the main reason's casual observers consider MMA to be amateur-hour fighting done by thugs. You'll not find worse sportsmanship in the ring than Diaz exhibits. It was also tiring listening to Frank Shamrock tell us how 'great' of a boxer Diaz is.

Brett Rodgers def. Andrei Arlovski KO :22 sec round 1. (see above)

Main Event:

Jake Shields def. Robbie Lawler Guillotine choke 2:02 Round 1.

This was a great fight, won by a grappler who lured a puncher into an inescapeable choke before the latter knew what hit him. After the ref intervened, Lawler (visibly disgusted) reached his hand down and helped the victorious Shields off the mat in a show of sportsmanship. To contrast this, after Diaz won he used his feet to shove Smith away. The sport needs more competitors like Lawler and Shields and less like Diaz if it ever wants to be seen by the general public as more than a group of thugs beating each other up

Good card, good fights, evenly matched. That's not something that you see in MMA outside of the UFC. It's something the sport needs more of, and a general discouragement of poor sportsmanship and non-competitive, gimmick fights. Congrats to Strikeforce for putting on a good show.

Roger Federer's press conference translation.

I'd like to thank Rafael Nadal, for being injured.

You know he was thinking it.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The 141st Belmont

The thing about the Belmont Stakes is that its difficult to win in its own way. First off, 1 1/2 miles is a long way for a horse to run, second there's that backstretch to deal with, much longer than others these horses will run on.

Typically the key to successful horse picking at the Belmont is to look for a horse coming out of the shadows, with long odds, that's won at Belmont before. Unfortunately, this year, there's not really anyone who fits that bill. A second suggestions is to select a horse trained by Barclay Tag, but he's missing from the line-up as well.

For the 141st edition of the Belmont this leaves you with a few options:

1. Take the chalk (Mine that Bird, who's looked like the best horse in the field this year) and exotic it up with another short odds horse (Chocolate Candy is one possibility) and hope to make some money there.

2. Dance with what brung ya. In the Derby I liked Dunkirk and thought he was the class of the field. He had a terrible trip. I still think he's the class of the field and should do better here.

3. Trust D. Wayne. - In the Kentucky Derby, in an interview on TVG D. Wayne Lukas suggested using his horses in an exotic, and then expecting them to make some noise in the Belmont. Papa Clem finished 4th there. In this race Luv Guv is the obvious choice and could be worth a look here.

4. Just watch and enjoy. - The thing I like most about horse racing is the sheer power and speed of the athletes involved. I probably will be watching this event from home this year and will forego my trip to Sam Houston Race Park to cat a bet.

It will still be fun, I'll be drinking Manhattan's at home during the race.

And...go Dunkirk.