Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sactown's Finest

The 2009-10 season starts for the Kings today.

My starting lineup:

PG: Tyreke Evans - Exceptional talent who could end up being ROY.  Many experts are not sure if he's a 1 or a 2 but I think he's just a baller.

SG: Kevin Martin - Funky shot from the hip notwithstanding, he's a dependable scorer and the best player on the team.

SF: Desmond Mason - A former slam dunk champ who brings some athleticism to this group.

PF: Jason Thompson - 2nd year gem unearthed by Petrie plays big and rebounds big.

C: Spencer Hawes - Versatile, passing big man who would only be a senior at UW this year.  Our only 7 footer and sadly our only true center.  Is that even possible?


F: Andres Nocioni - Hardnosed veteran competitor can set the tone for this young team.

G/F: Francisco Garcia - a freak weight-lifting accident will sideline him for a few months.  He's a good contributor but needs to hit the weights, heh.

PF: Sean May - a UNC talent that bombed in Charlotte.  Maybe he can rebuild his game here.

PG: Beno Udrih - quite a letdown after signing a big deal before last season.

F: Omri Casspi - Rookie.  Also first NBA player from Israel.  I like his length and physical play.

SF: Donte Green - Raw 2nd year 6'10 baller with potential.

Probably can't get off the bench:

PG: Sergio Rodriguez - If we drafted Rubio, we'd have 2 Spaniard PGs.  2 too many if you ask me.
PF: Kenny Thomas - 10 year vet may be past his contributing days but his huge contract is off the books this year.
F: Jon Brockman - A 6'7 rookie played PF in college, not sure if he can cut it here.

The Kings are still in rebuilding mode are trying to develop young talent as we go.  The truth of the matter is that free agents will never willingly come to Sacramento as they would to the lakers so the only way to build a team here is through the draft and via trades.  Remember, we drafted Jason Williams (whom we eventually traded for Mike Bibby) and fleeced Washington in that Mitch Richmond for Chris Webber trade in order to build our contending team of the early 2000s.  And in 2002, we clearly had it won before the refs took it away from us.

So when we draft, we have to be looking for the superstars, which is why I loved this Evans pick.  We can't sign a Dwyane Wade, so we have to try to draft one.  Hopefully Tyreke's the real deal.  And hopefully we battle our way out of the cellar.  By some miracle, maybe we can nab the 8th playoff spot.  Either way, we need to play a more exciting brand of basketball and put some rear ends in the seats.  Sacramentans need to realize that all they have are the Kings.  If the Maloofs bolt for Vegas, Sacramento becomes completely irrelevant on the national sports scene.

Next year, we'll have two 1st round draft picks again so Petrie can continue to work his magic.  Or maybe Lebron will want to be a real King...

Monday, October 26, 2009

with QB controversies to boot...

The Bruins have now lost 4 straight games to go 3-4 overall.  Worse still, those four losses came in all our Pac-10 contests so far.  Since Stanford's Gerhart truly exposed our lack of run defense, Oregon, Cal and Arizona have each subsequently humbled us in games that we were never competitive in.  I know that our offense is young and inexperienced, but I thought that our defense would be a solid squad and help keep us close.  Apart from Rahim Moore and his 7 interceptions as well as Brian Price's strength on the inside, they have been mostly nonexistent.  Kevin Prince has also been replaced during games recently but not always by the same guy - sometimes its Brehaut, sometimes it Craft.  I don't understand how we don't know who our second best QB is more than halfway through our season.  Personally, I wish we'd just start Brehaut and keep him there.  The ball just looks good coming off his hand.  Now there's talk about using a 2 QB system this Sat.  Not good.

The 49ers are also on a losing streak, having just lost to the Texans this Sunday after last game's embarrassing blowout at the hands of the Falcons.  This game marked the debut of Michael Crabtree who had a decent 5 catch, 56 yard effort.  But it will be remembered for the halftime benching of Shaun Hill and the re-appearance of former #1 overall pick, Alex Smith.  Smith led the 49ers to 3 TDs, all to Vernon Davis, and finished with a rating of 118.6.  Clearly Coach Singletary was just looking for a spark since Shaun Hill couldn't move the offense down the field, but is he really ready to make a permanent change?  I'm definitely watching with interest since I would love for Alex Smith to rebuild his reputation and dump his "bust" title.  While Hill has been a winner more often than not for SF, he clearly isn't the long term solution.  As of now, the 49ers are probably planning to look long and hard at the QB prospects in the draft next April again.  We'll see if Singletary will use the rest of the season to see if Alex Smith is the guy.  What worries me is that we still have a chance at a playoff spot and can't afford to be experimenting.  That said, does it really matter this week vs Indy?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

World Cup 2010 roster Oct 2009 Prediction

Now that we've qualified and suffered some key injuries, this is how I think our SA roster will play out.


Tim Howard - #1.  But he's got to tone down his anger on the field.  Sheez.
Brad Guzan - They say he's the clear #2, but honestly, I've never really seen why.  Plus, it looks like he's got short arms compared to the long lankiness of Friedel, Keller and Timmy.  Who else is there, I guess?
Troy Perkins - does it really matter?

We're good for this cycle but who is our #1 in 2014?  We all knew Tim was the keeper in waiting in 2006.  Oh wait, Tim will still be the man in 2014 too.  Nevermind.


Carlos Bocanegra - Now that our CBs have been decimated by injuries, there's no chance El Capitan will move to LB again.
Oguchi Onyewu - His torn knee tendon will keep him out anywhere from 4-6 months.  Then he'll need to get back to match fitness/sharpness with the remaining few months.  But he'll be on the plane.
Steve Cherundolo - This fleet footed veteran returned from injury to stake his claim at RB.
Jonathan Bornstein - 2 solid performances in big games should keep him in the starting lineup for now.
Jay DeMerit - How unlucky can we get?  Needed an eye procedure to combat infection from contact lens accident.
Jonathan Spector - Will still have his say at RB before its all said and done.  He's a versatile EPL defender so yeah, he's going.
Edgar Castillo - By summer next year, he will have been brought into the fold.
Chad Marshall - 4th CB, other contenders are Califf, Goodson, Conrad.  I prefer the experience of Conrad.

I can understand that knee injuries happen but really?  Cutting your eye with a contact lens?  For the short term, it looks like we're looking at starting Goodson.  I guess this will allow us to grow some depth at CB.  There's rumors that the US briefly considered bringing in Castillo to camp for the qualifiers so it looks like he'll get his shot soon.  Personally, I hope we find a way to bring Freddie Hejduk to SA.  Team morale coach? 


Landon Donovan - He's in his prime.
Michael Bradley - Needs to break out of his funk and get back to being the deep-lying engine for our team. 
Jermaine Jones - Now that Fifa has cleared his switchover, we're just waiting for injuries to go away.
Stuart Holden - An energetic right-sided winger may get his chance with Davies' injury (Dempsey moves up).  He seems to attack and defend with purpose.
Benny Feilhaber - This year marks his reemergence.  Hopefully this playmaker will peak next summer.
Maurice Edu - I still think he's a better DM option than Rico Clark, but held back by injuries.  They say he can also play CB.
Francisco Torres - Looks like the playmaker of our future.  Maybe even in 2010.
Robbie Rogers - Left-sided winger option.

My guess is that by next summer, Jones will get paired with Bradley in the middle with Holden starting on the right.  I wonder if JJ can play at DM by himself and let Bradley/Feilhaber/Torres play in front of him?  Donovan will key our attack, as always.  I know Rico has put in his time this year but I still favor Edu's versatility and offensive abilities over Clark's hot headedness.  I'm still astounded on how far Beasley has fallen this year.  If by some miracle he gets back on his horse, he'll take Rogers' spot.  Kljestan is also a favorite of Bob's and could make the plane.


Clint Dempsey - Davies' injury should force the US to look at this permanent switch.  Paraphrasing Wynalda, when Clint plays in the midfield, we all get mad at him, but when he plays up top, he scores.
Jozy Altidore - A man possessed, Jozy showed glimpses vs CR of what he can do when he harnesses that ability.
Conor Casey - I was never a big fan but he's shown himself useful in the last two big games.
Brian Ching - Too experienced to overlook but we still could use some speed up top.

Charlie Davies really filled the void that we've been worried about for years.  Without him, I don't know who we'd look at.  Not Eddie Johnson or Freddy Adu, I hope.  Maybe someone new will emerge, like Jemal Johnson?  Or Cunningham?  Also, Kenny Cooper could steal Ching or Casey's spot, I suppose.

Starting lineup:

Dolo - Gooch - Boca - Bornstein
Holden -- Bradley -- Donovan

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My first UCLA fb game in 3 years

Finally went to my first Bruins football game in 3 years - the last game being the 2006 upset of sc. This time, we had seats right on the 50 yard line about 10 rows up. Actually, my seat was on the 46 yard line but whatever. Instead of parking on the golf course by the Rose Bowl as usual, my friend decided to park in the residential neighborhood so that we could make a quick getaway afterward.

After hiking to the stadium, we dropped by the Heisman tent and saw Cade McNown signing autographs. I'm not sure why SI/Nissan got Cade and not Gary Beban, who happens to be the only Heisman trophy winner UCLA has ever had. (I met Gary Beban once at a book signing when I worked retail at a bookstore). That said, Cade was the only UCLA QB in history to have beaten sc 4 times.

I still remember going undefeated in 1998 until our last regular season game (which was rescheduled from August because of some hurricane or other) at Miami. If we won, we would've faced Florida State for the National championship in the Fiesta Bowl. Miami was terrible in September but great in December. Cade's offense was averaging over 40 points a game but our defense was a little suspect, to say the least. Every game was a shootout. So Edgerrin James proceeded to run us over. again. and again. The Rose Bowl was no consolation (since Ron Dayne did the same thing). We may not sniff a title shot again for a long long time. Ironically, we'd all be happy with a Rose Bowl now, 10 years later.

So with a couple hours before gametime, we went to a friend's tailgate party which was a gathering of mostly Cal fans. Honestly, I would much rather Cal be our biggest rival instead of usc. At least I can respect Cal as an institution. And they have a mighty fine fight song. To me, usc is the equivalent of a ridiculously expensive city college. I'd rather sc be a smoking crater in the ground.

Anyway, this tailgate had brats, korean bbq, burgers and every kind of beverage you'd want. Nice Cal folk too. Though their team is easily more talented, they've all been disappointed by Cal football so much that they were already accepting a possible upset. Just 30 minutes before gametime, we made our way to the stadium. Its nice to have reserved seats so you don't have to go in hours before to stake a claim on seats like the students do.

The one thing I love about going to games is seeing the shiny Gold helmets and Bruin blue jerseys. They really just have that pop to the naked eye.

Too bad Cal jumped out to a 2 TD lead that they pretty much never relinquished. I think they had somewhere around 375 yards of offense in the first half, putting up 35 points. Jahved Best was spectacular with 2 long TD plays including a winding 70 yard run. He'll play on Sundays. Our Johnathan Franklin also bust open a 70 plus yarder which was really the only true highlight that I will remember. That and the fact that Locke's kickoff actually hit the crossbar of the goalpost. Wow.

In the 2nd half, we held their offense to 3 points but their defense picked-sixed a horrible throw by Kevin Prince late to seal the game. Prince was inaccurate throughout the game and had me firmly in the Richard Brehaut camp by the end of the 3rd quarter.

Obviously, our defense needs some more speed. This is the 3rd game in a row where we've been manhandled on the ground and gashed for big yards by the opposing running back. The weakness seems to be on the edge where our linebackers just can't get to the sideline in time. But its fair to say that we are a lot worse on defense than on paper. Offensively, we're probably just about where I had expected us to be - sometimes able to move the ball and often held for field goals instead. At least at UCLA, we'll always have the best FG kickers in the country. Kai Forbath is no exception.

So we're still stuck at 3 wins and my Cal friends are letting me have it. Whatever. At least we have a better fight song. heh.

Oh, did I mention that it was really hot?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Davies, Costa Rica .... and Bornstein!

My heart dropped Tuesday noontime when I heard about Charlie Davies' car accident. I spent the next few hours periodically scouring the internet for updates. Ultimately, Davies very lucky to have survived this single car accident that claimed the life of his friend. He was in the rear seat when the car hit a metal guard rail which sheared the car in half but he escaped with only a fractured right femur, tibia, right elbow, a lacerated bladder and facial fractures. They are not life or career threatening. It is curious that we don't know the identity or condition of the driver who was the 3rd person in the car. Something tells me that if this was the Yankees' Jorge Posada or the Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware in this injury, we'd know way more just hours after the fact. Perhaps this is because the soccer media has more respect for privacy than the mainstream media?

Charlie Davies had just gone through his breakout year in the international soccer world. He had essentially filled the void that the US has had at the forward spot for years. This year, he played a huge role in the Confederations Cup, scoring the first of US' 3 huge goals vs Egypt. He also earned the US' first lead ever at Azteca with a beautiful early goal. Clearly Coach Bradley had begun starting him in all the important games in qualifying and his presence brought speed and a finishing touch to the frontline. Even against Honduras, he provided the assist on Conor Casey's first goal. Unfortunately, Davies' injuries will keep him from participating in the World Cup next summer. My hope is that this accident and his recovery will strengthen his resolve and train his mind to become an even better player for us in WC 2014.

Last night's game vs Costa Rica was an outpouring of emotion of every kind. The US fans had come to joyously celebrate US's qualification as well as show their somber support for Charlie. In the 9th minute, the fans memorably held up print outs of Charlie's number, 9. It was a good moment. The accident also provided motivation for the US players as several of them were noticeably emotional the whole night. Jozy Altidore played like a man possessed and was painfully upset every time he missed a goal-scoring opportunity. In the 9th minute, Jozy took the ball on the right wing and powerfully dribbled between 2 players and setup an easy ball for Casey. It would have been a fitting tribute to Charlie to score in the 9th minute, but just as it goes sometimes, Casey scuffed it skywards.

Costa Rica took advantage of the early lackadaisical central defensive play and Bryan Ruiz actually scored 2 goals within minutes of each other. The 2nd goal was a beautiful display of power and placement. It would have been a 3rd had Tim Howard not got his hands up in lightning quick time to redirect a point blank volley.

In terms of Concacaf's automatic qualifying spot, Costa Rica would qualify with a win or with a Honduras draw or loss. Honduras could qualify with a win and a CR draw or loss. So up 2 goals early, the Costa Ricans just had to hold onto the lead and they had booked their spot. I can only imagine how Honduras felt seeing that early scoreline and thinking that the US had let them down. The US also had something to play for: 1st place in the Concacaf. Being up 1 point over hated rivals Mexico, they only needed a win to secure that title. Mexico needed to win over last place Trinidad & Tobago and a US loss or draw to take it.

Now the worst case scenario was playing out in front of my eyes. Costa Rica, whom had embarrassingly waxed us 3-1 in Saprissa, was about to emphatically qualify on our home turf. Honduras, whose fans showed a certain respect missing from most central american countries on Sat, was about to lose out on the automatic qualifier. Mexico was surely going to beat the hapless T&T and win the group. And worst of all, the US would not be able to honor Charlie Davies with a letdown loss in the last game of qualifying.

The US had the lions share of possession and continued to attack, wave after wave. However, they could not break through in the first half and had several squandered chances that the in-the-zone CR goalkeeper was able to somehow stop. Costa Rica bunkered down even more in the 2nd half while the US actually played beautiful possession soccer. But I was just yelling at every missed cross and venting in frustration at every mis-hit shot. Torres finally saw the field again in what I would consider meaningful minutes when he entered in the 63rd minute. It is fitting that he gets a chance to play again after his first start in the disastrous game vs CR earlier in this qualifying round. His distribution and ability to keep the ball moving satiated my anger at some of the subpar midfield play mostly from Benny Feilhaber. Robbie Rogers also came on as a surge of energy to replace Stuart Holden in the 69th minute.

Both newcomers contributed to the attack immediately and it was no accident that the US pulled 1 back with Bradley's 74th minute put back. Landon actually pulled off a nice dummy move and squeezed a shot off through traffic which the keeper couldn't hold onto. Bradley was in the perfect place at the right time and luckily kicked it off the keeper for a goal. You could feel the momentum abruptly shifting. CR's confidence looked shot and they obviously played anxious soccer. They also began employing time wasting techniques, which was apparent when Gooch hurt his knee in the 83rd minute. The Costa Rican players began to frantically wave for medical help, more desirous of wanting to waste more time than out of concern for Gooch, I am sure of that. Unfortunately, Gooch has a torn patellar tendon which is supposed to rule him out for 3-4 months. As for the game, we had used all 3 subs so we were down to Even the CR coach was timewasting in his substitutions and was subsequently ejected by the referee.

So Mexico had somehow managed to only draw with T&T 2-2 and Honduras had done their job and won 1-0 vs El Sal. Basically, WE REALLY NEEDED TO SCORE.

By the time the 5 minutes of injury time hit, I was practically convulsing every time the attack got near the box. I will always remember the game tying goal from the beginning. With less than a minute left, Torres tracked a CR time waster back to our own corner and quickly and cleanly dispossessed him with a quick stab of his left leg. Torres immediately started a counter-attack and Donovan subsequently was able to launch a cross toward Jozy, which a CR defender escorted out for a US cornerkick.

With just 10 seconds left, Robbie Rogers' perfect cornerkick found the improbable charging Jonathan Bornstein for an emphatic header home. I tore off my t-shirt and threw it down. I can honestly say I've never done that before. The US players were besides themselves.

If you had asked me to guess who would've scored that goal, I would've guessed Bornstein last out of all the field players. So the players donned champion shirts and draped themselves in US flags and #9 tribute flags. Tim Howard even put on a cowboy hat while they danced on the field. The fans set off red-white-blue smoke bombs. On this night, a draw was just as good as a win. And the timing of it set off celebrations that an assured victory by halftime never would have. It was an emotional catharsis that I hope Charlie Davies enjoyed from his hospital bed. Get well Charlie.

Not only did the goal set off wild celebrations in the stadium, it created pandemonium as well as in Honduras. Pavon, the goat from missing that PK last game, redeemed himself and scored the only goal to send Honduras to their first World Cup in nearly 3 decades. Costa Rica now has to battle Uruguay for the 1 spot left for the Americas.

As for the US players performances, I thought that Jozy played out of his mind and Donovan was again the most effective attacking player. Casey did some things well but was nonexistent at other times. Cherundolo was a workhorse all night on the right side while Bornstein put in another strong defensive performance, regardless of that timeless goal. Gooch and Boca however were shaky and it will be interesting to see who gets the call in Gooch's absence. Sadley, Gooch had really progressed in his game this year and was a clear standout until his move to the AC Milan bench which seemed to result in indecisiveness on the pitch. The central midfield with Bradley and Feilhaber weren't all that effective until Torres entered into the game for Benny. Holden and Rogers seem to bring about the same positive qualities to the wings.

In the end, a game that seemed meaningless on Sunday took on the upmost importance by Wednesday. And it could not have turned out better.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Happy 99th Birthday Coach Wooden!

Legendary Coach John Wooden celebrates his 99th birthday today. Having won 10 championships and touched the lives of every player he's coached, John Wooden is the greatest coach of all time in all of sport.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thoughts on US 3 - Hon 2

My WC qualifying viewing experience:

Even though only 4 bars in all of California were showing this game in English, 2 were within 45 miles of my house. Still, the prospects of fighting through LA traffic, hunting down a parking spot on the street, forking up a $20 cover charge plus more for beer, all to possibly stand shoulder to shoulder with smelly, drunken and/or unshaven fans for 2-3 hours, if I could even get in to begin with, just did not sound that appealing. Plus, there's the whole principle of not financially encouraging the Honduras Federation's decision to only show the cable on closed circuit bars. So I stayed home.

To my surprise, there were several internet streams of this game available. However, with the number of viewers trying to get on, most of the 1st half was just really choppy. Since it maddeningly would cut out or freeze every few seconds, I just decided to follow play by play updates. Then when I saw that Honduras had scored first, just minutes into the 2nd half, I figured I would try my luck at getting back onto a stream since I guessed that a lot of viewers would've stopped watching. From then on, the stream was relatively uninterrupted until the end. Again, what a freakin ridiculous way to watch such an important World Cup qualifier. Fifa really needs to ensure that these games are available on cable television, at the very least.

According to the play by play, it sounds like the US could not retain much possession in the 1st half and could only muster counter-attacks. Like most US fans, I'm getting tired of us chasing the opponents around until we win possession only to boot it downfield for them to attack again. However, of the 3 goal-scoring opportunities that I saw in the choppy 1st half stream, 2 of them came from the US. Charlie Davies had a powerful header stopped by the keeper and he proceeded to excitedly launch the rebound over the crossbar. Bocanegra also missed a wide open sitter off his head.

After Honduras scored on a free kick, which by all accounts was likely a foul drawn from a dive, thoughts of the earlier El Salvador and Costa Rica away qualifiers flooded my mind. We didn't even have possession, so how are we really going to score not just 1 but 2 goals to win it? Remember, a draw vs Honduras doesn't do anything for us since we'd still have to draw or win in our last game vs Costa Rica either way.

Conor Casey's 1st goal was just a matter of desire and size, and he was able to throw himself into a 50-50 situation and win the ball. Even better, the US possession surprisingly picked up seemingly after each of our goals. Now, I'm one of the critics who immediately questioned Bob Bradley's decision to start Casey. I thought it should've been Davies-Altidore or at least Davies-Ching, if Jozy was really out of form. If not some combo of those 3, then I figured Kenny Cooper, who has been a revelation in Deutschland, would be the only tall white guy to get a look. But Conor Casey? The MLS bum who has been completely worthless in every appearance for the USMNT?

The second goal was setup by Donovan on a exquisite pass through a tight window to Casey's feet. It reminded me of a Peyton Manning pass that squeezes past the flailing arms of a closing safety right into Dallas Clark's hands. What a sweet pass by Landon. Casey managed to one touch it into space in front of him with only the keeper to beat. Then he managed to quickly control the ball and deftly place it around the incoming keeper with great touch. He made it look so easy.

But it was US' 3rd goal that I thought, at the time, had finally sealed the game and booked our place to South Africa. This time it was Casey who setup the goal scoring chance and drew a foul just outside the box. When Landon was lining up the shot, I thought to myself that here he had a chance to finally put all the doubters to rest. It was a free kick which Landon has not really been all that impressive at up to this point. Many critics have lambasted the fact that he seems to take most of the free kicks. And he has never really been that clutch in terms of goal-scoring either, especially in the biggest moments. So I thought this was a real chance to make his mark. The last thing I thought before he struck the ball was that he couldn't have helped but to have learned something from spending all this time with the greatest free kick specialist who has ever played the game: David Beckham. Sure enough, Landon curled the ball around the jumping wall and back inside the farpost, smacking the net. He did it with power and touch. Amazing. How fitting. At that point I thought it was over.

I figured we'd have to dodge a few bullets but the last 20 minutes was ridiculous. They scored a goal out of the chaos in our defense. Then they got a handball call and a penalty kick which Carlos Pavon managed to Roberto Baggio over the top. Then Pavon missed an wide open header.

Shockingly, the US was able to maintain possession in injury time and waste it away as good teams usually do. For what I saw, Landon was man of the match.

What a great accomplishment. 6 straight World Cup appearances (though we hosted in 1994 and got an exemption) is no small feat and only a handful of countries have done the same. I still remember going to the first US qualifier of this cycle last summer against Barbados and wondering if this road would be a breeze or a battle. Even farther than that, I remember going to Bob Bradley's first game as US coach in Jan of 2007 and wondering if he was the right choice for the job instead of giving into Klinsmann's requests. Looking back, its never easy to qualify so we fans should be very happy indeed. Congrats to the USMNT.

In my opinion, Coach Bradley did what he was supposed to do and more in spite of all the criticism leveled against him from day 1. He successfully replaced several retired veterans and brought in a younger group of players into the team's core including his son Michael, Feilhaber, Spector, Davies, and Altidore among others. He led the US to the 2007 Gold Cup championship, booking our place in this year's Confed Cup. He developed the team's experience with tough friendlies vs world class teams like England, Spain, Argentina and Brazil. He continued our dominance vs Mexico on home soil (and no, the 2009 GC final doesn't mean squat). He lead the US to maybe the biggest non WC win ever vs the unbeatable #1 ranked Spain. And most importantly, he's led us back to the big dance. Personally, no matter how we do in South Africa, I'd still like to see a coach like Guus Hiddink take over after next summer to take us to the next level, whatever that may be for a country that's only 20 years young in its soccer development. I think we honestly have no idea.

Our qualification celebration was a little more toned down this time, instead of the wild celebration in 2005 when we did it at home vs hated rivals mexico. But to my surprise, it seems that the Honduran fans actually applauded the US' qualification. And in the post game hug, Bob Bradley seems to have promised the Honduran coach that we would play our hardest in the last game vs Costa Rica since the last automatic spot will be earned by one of those 2.

I do hope we do play most of our best players in the true spirit of gamesmanship. It is no small feat for a country like Honduras or Costa Rica to qualify and it should be earned.

My lineup for Costa Rica on Wed:

Donovan - Feilhaber - Bradley - Holden
Hejduk --- Boca --- Gooch ---- Dolo

For subs: I'm hoping Torres and Casey will be rewarded for their contributions.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


We're in! USA 3 - Honduras 2. Awwwww Yeaaaaaaah!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Not quite a Holiday

So I won a work raffle for tix to yesterday afternoon's NLDS Game 2 Dodgers-Cards game. The $250 per seat tickets included access to the club restaurant which is essentially a mini buffet, as well as all you can eat dodger dogs, which aren't that good. Fortunately, we sat next to a couple Cards fans in our box so at least we didn't have to endure the endless Dodger chatter all night.

The Dodger's slogan this year is "This is my town", which is an interesting strategy since LA (and perhaps NY) has the most transplants from other cities. I guess they're trying to capitalize on the natives' sense of ownership in their team. George Lopez threw out the first pitch and surprisingly threw it pretty hard - low and outside. It reminded me of how Obama, who throws like a girl, lofted a weak looper that Pujols had to dig out of the dirt in this year's allstar game. Slash did the honors and lamely plunked through the national anthem. Does any other country allow their national anthem to be butchered by random artists in whatever fashion they please? I still despise Roseanne for what she did to the national anthem. If it were me, I'd fly in Josh Groban for every important national anthem in sports. Just sing it. Don't get creative. But whatever, this is America. So the real question is: is baseball still America's past time?

The baseball regular season really is hard to watch. I realize that I'm not a fan of the game as much as I am a fan of my team. While I can practically watch any 2 NFL teams play any given Sunday, I can pretty much only watch the Giants, the Red Sox and maybe the Yankees during the regular season. Maybe Pujols and Josh Hamilton. And really only a few innings at a time. But the postseason is more compelling. Perhaps its the fact that only 4 teams in each league get in, which is stupid in itself. But the other ridiculous thing about MLB playoffs is that the first series is only 5 games. So let me get this straight. Teams battle through 162 tedious games to get into the playoffs but 5 games is all you need to determine the best team in the first playoff series? haha. I think a 11 game playoff series makes so much more sense. Its baseball, just play everyday and twice on Saturdays. At least there's a greater chance the best team will emerge. Anyway, I went to Game 1 of the 2002 World Series when Barry Bond's HR helped to beat the Angels. Phenomenal experience. So was the Dodger's elimination game vs the Phillies last year.

Usually Manny Ramirez hits a HR whenever I go see him. He hit one both times I saw him with Boston at Angel Stadium a few years ago, he hit one at Fenway last year in that brawl game vs Tampa Bay, and he hit one in the NLCS game last year. So naturally, I expected him to crank one last night too. It looks like he's not the same player now that he's off the juice. And his timing looks off. (His 9th inning shot only sailed to the warning track.) Going into the game, I hoped to see both a Manny HR and a Pujols HR, the latter preferably being the game winning shot.

In person, Pujols is a mountain of a man. He's barrel-chested and his thighs look as thick as my torso. But the other Cards player that stuck out to my friend, who's an A's fan, is Matt Holiday. He is almost just as thick as Pujols though he doesn't appear that way on TV. My A's fan friend dejectedly pointed out how he was on fire after the A's traded him this year.

So Holiday homered to left early on but the Dodger's answered with a HR of their own to tie the game a few inning later. While the Dodger's only managed 2 hits before the 9th inning, they were able to keep the Cards from scoring more than 2 runs. Wainwright pitched an absolutely fabulous 2 hitter game through 8 innings and was replaced by their closer. Up comes the bottom of the 9th.

2 outs. A sailing shot out to LF. Holiday runs up toward it with his glove extended upward. Then at the last second, he turned the glove downward but couldn't handle ball, which bounced off his lower abdomen to the grass and kept the Dodger's evening alive. You could feel the fans coming alive too. Then the improbable happened: a well earned walk, then the game tying base hit. Delirium. Then a passed ball and another walk to load the bases. Mark Loretta, who was something like 0-16 lifetime vs Franklin, then hits a game winning line drive up the middle. Bedlam. Absolute bedlam. It was one of those hug-a-stranger moments in sports - I can't tell you how many dodger fans I had to fend off. I wouldn't have felt right even weakly raising a hand to be high-fived by the enemy. But I couldn't help but turn and face the fans to see the mass of pure euphoria.

In retrospect, I have 2 thoughts. The bottom of the 9th made the game an unforgettable moment. Otherwise it would have been just another boring game. I was glad my friend and I saw a great baseball moment. (I had to laugh when I heard Colin Cowherd say this morning that he wished he could have been there for that game. That bandwagoner would say that).

But secondly, I can't believe LA fans always get to win everything. First the Lakers, now the Dodgers, and the trojans are perennially good. Makes me want to throw up in my mouth. Or maybe that's the all you can eat dodger dogs...

Monday, October 5, 2009

49ers 3-1!

They punked the Rams 35-0 yesterday. It's one of those wins that the good teams show up for against inferior competition. Before this season, we had no idea how good the 49ers would be. Many experts predicted a 7-9 or thereabouts kind of season. The Rams were probably a 4 or 5 win team. So an early "upset" at the Cardinals and then consecutive NFC west wins over the Seahawks and now the Rams puts the 49ers at a 3-0 record in the division with high hopes of their first playoff appearance in 8 years.

I personally think last week's last second heartbreaker vs Favre's Vikings will be a blessing in disguise. Had the 49ers won that game, we'd be 4-0 now and hyped nationally as one of the contenders, etc. With expectations that high, it would have been difficult to meet them especially since the team is young and inexperienced in nearly all aspects. Coach Singletary is still in his first full season and Shaun Hill hasn't started a full season either (impressively 10-3 as a starter). It is essentially in its first year of true progress and rarely are Superbowls won during the first rebuilding year. But hopefully next season or the following year will be our time.

Vernon Davis may have emerged in the last 2 weeks as the go-to-player the 49ers drafted 6th overall in 2006. Though he was sent to the showers by Coach Singletary last season after a stupid personal foul and then memorably lambasted to the media in Singletary's "nope, can't do it" speech, he has discovered a new work ethic and even earned a team captain title this year.

Patrick Willis (pictured above), whose 3rd quarter INT for a TD against the Rams was the game-over moment, however, may be the team's best player. Singletary has said that Willis has the potential to be one of the game's elite LBs in history. National writers are calling the 49ers' leading tackler and defensive leader a young Ray Lewis. For us fans, he's the on-field representation for Singletary's rejuvenation of a once proud franchise badly in need of jump start. Hopefully a playoff appearance will do just that.

Friday, October 2, 2009

US v Honduras not on TV, roster announced

Its ridiculous that the US-Honduras qualifier isn't on TV - either English or Spanish stations. Its not even on PPV, which would be pathetic in itself. Its only available in closed circuit in what are predominantly Honduran friendly bars. Reports are that only 20-30 bars across the entire United States may carry this game in English. All bars will have to charge a hefty cover charge, possibly $20, just for admission to recoup the cost they paid for the game - which may be around $2000.

Personally, I plan to boycott watching this game. The Honduran Federation should not be rewarded for this kind of decision. In the future, FIFA should allow each federation their own rights to broadcast within their country. There's no reason US Soccer's World Cup qualifying games should not be on the ESPN networks. no reason at all.


The US roster for the last two critical WC qualifiers away at Honduras and at home vs Costa Rica have been released.

GKs: Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. Its mildly surprising that a 3rd keeper wasn't called in. I would probably play Gooch between the posts if catastrophe befalls us.


RBs: Jon Spector, Steve Cherundolo, (edit 10/06) Frankie Hejduk added
These 2 are no brainers. The question is, who starts?. Spector and Frankie can both play on the left.

CBs: Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Jimmy Conrad, Clarence Goodson
Gooch, Boca start. Conrad's a solid, experienced call-up since DeMerit and Marshall are both injured.

LBs: Jonathan Bornstein
US fans are probably clamoring for Edgar Castillo to at least make the camp roster. Tough for Bradley to incorporate new faces now though. Boca is a backup option at LB here but more likely Spector or Hejduk.


RM: Clint Dempsey, Stuart Holden
No brainer picks. - (Edit 10/05 - with Dempsey's shoulder injury, Holden is a candidate to get the nod. Either him or Feilhaber.)

CM: Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Benny Feilhaber, Francisco Torres
Clear top 4 options. It would have been interesting to see if Bob Bradley would have picked Jermaine Jones, even though he's new, if he was healthy. Maurice Edu still not healthy either.

LM: Landon Donovan, Robbie Rogers
Rogers was a bit of a surprise but it highlights our weakness on the left flank. Oh Beasley, where art thou (form)? Not being displayed for the Rangers, that's for sure.


Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies, Brian Ching, Kenny Cooper, Conor Casey
Jozy and Charlie should start but Bob might opt for Brian Ching's experience. Kenny Cooper's play in Deutschland has earned him a call-up but neither Cooper nor Casey will likely see any time. At least 1 if not both will not make game-day roster.

The fact remains that a tie or win over Costa Rica in the last game secures our passage to South Africa. Therefore, many US fans are discounting our chances to win this game at Honduras. Many have even gone as far as to suggest that Donovan should sit out this game since he is in yellow-card peril and would miss the last and most important game left. However, I think we need to play to win. Its not like Landon is a defensive fouling machine like the younger Bradley.

I like that we have gone with essentially the same roster that led us to prominence in the Confederations Cup. It is too late to make drastic changes now. New faces can always be evaluated in the 7 months after qualification. Bob has already said that he intends to schedule friendlies vs top competition in the months leading up to SA. (Seeing how we have played friendlies vs Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Sweden, etc during Bob's tenure, I think the US program is much better for it.) This will give new faces like Jermaine Jones a chance to integrate with the team.

We have clearly not played very well on the road so far so even a draw in Honduras would be a positive result for us. But with everyone doubting us, I'm predicting a 2-1 victory. Not that I will see any different.