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U.S. Women to face Brazil in quarterfinals

Written by Dom Tortorice

A rocky first half ultimately spelled doom for the U.S. women’s national soccer team as they lost 2-1 to Sweden in the 2011 Women’s World Cup. It was the American’s first defeat in the group stage ever.

The loss sets up a monumental meeting with powerhouse Brazil in the quarterfinal stage. A dubious task the U.S. looked to avoid by winning the group with a win or draw against Sweden.

But from the beginning of the match, Sweden’s dynamic forward Josefine Oqvist proved to be a thorn in the U.S. defense side as she routinely outpaced the backline and challenged for every ball. Her spring and tenacity certainly inspired her side and Sweden was by far the better team from the outset.

Amy LePeilbet had an especially tough time at left-back. Out-maneuvered and out-ran by the Swedish forwards Oqvist and Lotta Schelin. It was ultimately Schelin who sparked the breakthrough by drawing a foul from LePeilbet in the box, leading to a converted penalty by Lisa Dahlkvist in the 15th minute. LePeilbet was lucky to escape with just a yellow, as it was a clear path foul in the box.

Things didn’t get much better for the U.S. after the goal. Unable to control possession and settle down, they were constantly chasing the Swedes, who in turn wrecked havoc on the U.S. backline.

Lauren Cheney, who has continued to justify her selection in the starting XI, had a trio of gilt-edged chances, but could not find the back of the net. Amy Rodriguez also came close with a chip that bounced of the top of the crossbar after spotting Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl off her line.

But in the 35th minute, it all came crashing down again. Beat off the ball, defender Rachel Buehler brought down a Swedish player near just to left of the arc atop of the penalty box. From a dangerous position, Nilla Fischer gave the Swedes a 2-0 advantage after thumping a ball that ricocheted off an unfortunate LePeilbet and into the back of the net, as U.S. keeper Hope Solo was going the other way.

A shell-shocked U.S. went into the break down 2-0 and desperately needing a draw to avoid Brazil.

As the second half commenced in Wolfsburg, the Americans came out with determination and brought it to the Swedes. After not capitalizing on chances by Carli Lloyd, and the introduction of phenom Alex Morgan, Abby Wammbach finally broke her scoring drought after nudging a ball into the net off a corner in the 66th minute.

It looked as if the goal was all the motivation the U.S. needed to start a run, but a Swedish team defending like their life were on the line came through against a rampaging U.S. squad and sealed a 2-1 win and a date with Australia in the quarters.

Now the U.S faces a nerving quarterfinal match against superstar Marta and Brazil, who won Group D. It is a matchup of epic proportions and it’s doubtful either side is happy to see the other lining up across the field. But if the U.S. can find their way past the South Americans, they’ll have avoided host team Germany in the finals, a possible consolation prize.


Chipper, Manager Regret Ripping Umpire

Written by Bashir Masani
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Atlanta Braves third baseman, Chipper Jones, and manager, Fredi Gonzalez, apologized Monday for criticizing umpire Mark Ripperger after Sunday’s game.

Ripperger punched Jones out on two called strikes to end a 5-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Sunday.  On a 3-1 pitch, Jones started trotting to first base before Ripperger called it a strike.  The next pitch was another called strike and Jones responded by flipping his bat in disgust.

After the game, Jones said both pitches were balls.  He went on to say that the work by umpires overall “is substandard.”  His manager said that Ripperger’s calls “were awful” and “not even close.”

On Monday, both player and manager said they should not have been so critical.  Jones said umpires “do as good a job as they can.”  He also said, “There’s some really good umpires in that crew.  It just so happens that the game didn’t end real well for us, on two balls that shouldn’t have been called strikes.  To say that the umpiring is substandard, that was probably wrong of me to say.  I’m probably sorry, more than anything, of making that comment.”

Gonzalez apologized by saying, “After thinking about it later on, I shouldn’t have said what I said.  But being a competitor, and obviously the competitor that Chipper is, you feel like you get a guy on there and you bring McCann to the plate.”

Major League Baseball has fined neither of them yet for their comments.

NBA Translator: Kemba and Jimmer

Written by Cody Steger

On draft night, discusses run amuck throughout the night on which players can associate their game in play in the ‘association.’ There have been a lot of concerns with both Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette since they exploded onto the scene this past college basketball season.  There is no doubting the basketball ability of these players, just if their game could translate to the next level into the NBA.

Both were selected in the NBA draft.  There were coincidently selected back-to-back at the ninth and tenth picks by teams who have been historically bad the past five-plus seasons.  Both Fredette and Walker joined clubs that are full of youth and years away from producing at the playoff level.  So, entering their rookie campaigns, it’s tough to imagine the statistics either of them will have this coming season.

The first case is the one of Walker’s.  The Charlotte Bobcats chose Kemba with the ninth pick.  Walker opted to skip his senior season at Connecticut after a breakout performance in his junior season.  Although his stats in percentages didn’t grow, the confidence that Walker gained in order to take the majority of the shots at UConn served to be the big difference.  A guard with confidence is what’s needed in order to try to be a point guard for a team, especially coached by Larry Brown.  Brown has had the luxery to coach floor generals like Allen Iverson and Chauncey Billups, among others.


During Brown’s coaching stint in Charlotte, he has chewed and spit out point guards, including his current guy in D.J. Augustine.  Augustine has only been in the league a few years, but it has been documented by experts around the league that Brown doesn’t feel that Augustine can handle being the starting point guard of the Bobcats.  So, Walker should get the ample playing time that he needs and might deserve.  Because of the height disadvantage that Walker has entering the league, it’s hard to tell if the pure jumper that made Kemba so deadly in college can be similar in the NBA.

If Kemba starts from day one, he should get numbers similar to the first overall pick, Kyrie Irving.  The points could be more, and the assists a little less.  A stat like of 15 and five is an accurate estimate. In order for Walker to stay a starting point guard, he must also harness the ability to be a vocal leader and gain passing skills.  Both of those come with experience and confidence.

The second case is way different than the first, that’s the case of Jimmer.  Jimmer Fredette was selected by the Sacramento Kings in the traded pick they received by the Milwaukee Bucks at pick ten.  Fredette was a part of a BYU team that swept the nation by storm and gave hope to the mid-majors once again.  The former teams of St. Joesph and Gonzaga applauded on what the Cougars of BYU did.   It’s proceed with caution with players that come out of mid-major teams and conference.  When mid-majors play a style that is team oriented, players normally translate fine to the NBA.  If it’s a one man show, it’s mixed results.


There’s no predicting whether Fredette will turn out to be another a Morrison or a Curry.  Jimmer is now on a Kings roster full of players that want the ball in their hands.  Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton are just two of the players that believe they can score 20-plus points a game.  That, which has been proven at this level, will not work.  Add Jimmer to that team and it doesn’t make things any easier.  Fredette seems to have more skills at point guard than Evans and also better shooting skills than Thornton, so Fredette should see starting minutes in his future.

Just don’t expect the best right away for Fredette.  There’s a lot to adjust to at the next level.  When you have to defend against feisty point guards like Chris Paul and Derrick Rose, it’s dangerous.  Jimmer has the ability to create his own shot in any situation so his projections are so much harder to gauge than his counterpart in Walker.  A 16 and four is a guess for Jimmer, but it depends on how quickly team chemistry will evolve on a team of egos.

Arsenal's Future

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GacerographicsIt seems that the end is nigh for Arsenal. Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, and others have all hinted or flat out asked to be sold to different teams. Clichy recently got his wish as he was sold to Manchester City. While it is quite ordinary for players to switch teams during the transfer period, Arsenal is seeing a mass exodus usually reserved for lower tier teams, not a supposed power house in the Premier League. While Arsenal could handle the loss of a few players, they need to reload as well, something that they have yet to do. Arsene Wenger has not shown a willingness to spend and make Arsenal into a contender for the upcoming campaign. One of the few players that want to come over to Arsenal, and probably will, is Gervinho, the Ivory Coast International striker. While this is good news, it is not really the splash that Arsenal fans were hoping to make this summer.

Losing Clichy was inevitable and ultimately for the best. Clichy can be replaced by a younger and possibly superior player in Kieran Gibbs. Arsenal still needs a better defense and should be doing all they can to get Gary Cahill away from Bolton. The most maddening part about Cahill is that he would fit in perfect at Arsenal, Wenger has even acknowledged this, but Bolton has said that they have not received any bids for the defender.

Part of the reason why players want to leave Arsenal is because of the team’s collapse last season and a perceived bleak future for winning trophies. One would think that Wenger would be active on the transfer market because of this sentiment, but instead he has stayed quiet. Samir Nasri has stated that he wants to be in a position to win trophies. Nasri was arguably the best player on Arsenal last season, is still young (he is 24), and pairs well with Jack Wilshire as a strong foundation for the future. Nasri has been closely linked with moving to Manchester United or Manchester City. Moving him to either of those teams would be detrimental to Arsenal, since those two teams expect to contend for the Champions League placements, as well as, most of the trophies that Arsenal is trying to win. Arsenal cannot allow Nasri to leave and thus must become more active on the transfer market before it is too later.

A player that seems likely to leave is Fabregas. Cesc Fabregas has made up his mind that he wants to leave Arsenal and while this is tragic, perhaps it is his time to move on. That said Arsenal needs to make sure that they get fair value for the midfielder. If Barcelona does not put in a request of 35 million pounds Arsenal should just hold onto the midfielder, but it seems likely that Barcelona will pay this amount at which point Arsenal should take the money and buy depth and toughness for their squad.

Wenger needs to realize that the time to act is now and become aggressive in the transfer market. Signing quality players will help keep the ones that he has developed, as well as end Arsenal’s trophy drought. Wenger can no longer afford to be stingy with money and stay still. With the rate at which the other top tier EPL teams are restocking, Arsenal will have trouble maintaining its spot in the Champions League next season. Arsenal can win trophies next year, but only if Wenger allows it to happen.

Heavyweight title fights reach WWE proportions for lackluster sportsmanship

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Looks that could kill; intimidation ploys; verbal warfare and entourage scuffles in the days leading up to a title fight, and then actual boxing when the bell finally rings; that’s what title bouts in the heavyweight division are all about, right?

            Well, Saturday’s heavyweight championship match for the unification of the WBO, IBF, and WBA titles serves as proof that heavyweight boxing, unfortunately, is now officially challenging professional wrestling for the undisputed championship of smack talk and juvenile behavior leading up to heavyweight championship fights.

            In short, everyone’s worst fears have been realized, as the antics of Apollo Creed and his cronies in the Rocky films have now become the norm in championship heavyweight boxing, instead of just an exception to the rule.

By far the most distressing aspect of this is the following: It’s no longer enough for the hot air to stretch for months on end, before a title fight actually takes place; it must literally be dragged from the locker room kicking and screaming and dancing to the beat of blaring music and pre-match light shows which rival Pink Floyd, until the last bitter moment before a boxing match eventually begins.

            All the extra-curricular “activities” associated with the title fight between Wladimir Klitschko of Russia (56-3) and David Haye of Great Britain (25-2) set the tone for a below-average boxing match before the two fighters ever emerged from the locker room area.

            Haye, who had earlier been a party to a veritable barrage of threats, insults, and predictions via an onslaught of pre-fight video montages, as to complement his mumbo jumbo in the previous months, deemed it necessary to up the ante as far as pre-match blather and procrastination are concerned.

 After all the HBO-driven montages of Haye and Klitschko trash talk were sufficiently out of breath, Haye chose to deliberately hang around in the locker room area for what seemed to be ages, before finally dragging himself to the ring, as though his actions may just annoy Klitschko into submission; perhaps it would be the world’s first TKO by way of mouth, or by way of wasting time until an opponent expires of natural causes.

One might think that Klitschko, who kept his own pre-match talk to a semi-reasonable minimum, would opt for a more deliberate approach, as to finally get the title bout underway.

But instead of speeding up the complicated process of walking to the ring when your name is announced, Klitschko returned the favor, and in turn played Haye’s original yet pointless kindergarten games to a tee.

All told, it took both boxers sixteen minutes after pre-match rituals and HBO-associated excesses to make their way towards the boxing ring.

That’s how the jazz surrounding today’s heavyweight title boxing works: No one takes the high road; no one takes a classier route, or lets their actions in the ring speak for themselves.

In fact, after the match was over, Klitschko treated himself to an interminable period of outlining Haye’s lack of class, and it was especially ironic to hear the word “class” attached to this boxing match in any shape, form, or fashion.

As most of us know, it would be erroneous to insinuate that this general lack of class and sportsmanship only occurs in heavyweight boxing; it has become an affliction associated with all levels of professional boxing, although heavyweight boxing is usually quite a bit worse, as it’s designed to be such an overly-hyped, gala spectacle by boxing promoters.

Promoters and all the evils associated with the promotion of professional boxing is a discussion better left to an entirely different article/day, and associated media/television entities fall into that category, as well.

Predecessors and precursors, as far as boxers, are much easier to identify.

Since the great Mohammed Ali joined the ranks of heavyweight boxing with his fiery words and his brazen demeanor, and the more forgettable middleweight Jorge Paez started wearing modified hula skirts into the ring, attitude, as a whole, has taken a turn from the inherent toughness at the heart of boxing, to a b-grade production that is often downright tacky.

Flash, attitude, and banter with an edge have always been a part of boxing to a degree, but here’s the difference: Ali and others could back up the talk and had substance at the core, while a vast majority of today’s professional boxers do not.

As for technical analysis of the actual boxing match, it is not hard to summarize: It consisted mostly of Klitschko jabs and Haye wandering aimlessly about the ring; power shots and flurries were few and far between, as it appeared that Haye had tired himself out all with all of the talk, literally.

In the end, Wladimir Klitschko won by unanimous decision, with Klitschko’s punch total eclipsing the 500-mark, while Haye’s punches numbered roughly half of that output, at less than 250, as Klitschko retained the WBO and IBF titles, and attained the WBA title from Haye.

Klitschko now has three of the four heavyweight title belts in major championship boxing, while his brother, Vitali, still possesses the WBA championship. 

As icing on the cake, Haye refused to shake hands with Klitschko after the fight was over, and instead thrust his hands to the sky as though he’d actually be the victor in a fight that wasn’t close, before finally succumbing to a Klitschko hug; it appeared that shame had to be the final motivating factor for David Haye to allow some show of sportsmanship from Wladimir Klitschko.

Perhaps the best analysis was offered by Larry Merchant, an HBO boxing analyst: “Everything leading up to this fight was humiliating.”

It was humiliating for the fans in the arena; it should have been humiliating for the fighters themselves, and it was humiliating for the fans at home relaxing on a 4th of July weekend.

At least this much can be said for the WWE and professional wrestling: The smack talk and the lackluster sportsmanship are totally fabricated for entertainment purposes and dramatic effect.

As for championship heavyweight boxing, not so much.



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