Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “United States”

USA finds fool’s gold at Rose Bowl

It started out so well.

But then everything went so very, very wrong.

The U.S. Men’s National Team jumped out to a surprising 2-0 lead (on goals by Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan) over Mexico in Saturday’s Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl, but couldn’t hold on as their top rival stormed back with four unanswered goals to claim the title.

“They’re as dynamic as any Mexican team I’ve played against,” Landon Donovan, who has played for the United States since 2000, said in published reports. “They’ve got a few guys who can change the game in a heartbeat.”

The “few guys” that Donovan referred to would be Giovani dos Santos and Javier Hernandez.

The back four for the Americans – especially Jonathan Bornstein – simply had no answer to dos Santos and Hernandez, who were so much quicker all night long.

“They’ve got a very good mix of attacking talent,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. “They come at you. They play quickly from the flanks. There’s a lot to deal with.”

Yeah, thanks coach. We noticed.

Read more…

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U.S. goes for the Gold against Mexico

Huge day for the U.S. as they take on Mexico in tonight’s Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl.

The winner earns a spot in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil, which serves as a warm-up for organizers of the 2014 World Cup. The U.S. earned a spot in the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa and knocked off Spain, providing the team with the confidence that carried it into the knockout stage of last year’s World Cup.

More importantly, the U.S. wants to earn a win over its biggest rival in a series that has been decidedly pro-USA for the past decade. Since losing to El Tri in Mexico City in 1999, the U.S. has gone 10-4-2 against Mexico.

That decade-long success should negate what is expected to be a home field advantage for the Mexican team playing in Southern California.

“It’s difficult. Anytime you play in the States against teams from Latin America, it’s always tough for us,” said midfielder Clint Dempsey in published reports. “We’ve gotten used to that. I think that makes us stronger as a team.”

It won’t be easy, as Mexico has scored 18 goals (to the Americans’ 7) on its way to the final, but the team needed extra time to get past Honduras on Wednesday night. So some of the early shine is off for Mexico.

There will be a lot of pressure on goalkeeper Tim Howard and the U.S. back line, especially in trying to keep Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in check. Hernandez has seven goals in the tournament so far (by comparison, Clint Dempsey leads the U.S. with 3).

The one advantage is that Howard (who hasn’t given up a goal since the second game of the tournament) knows how to play Hernandez, having faced him twice last year in the Premier League when Howard’s Everton team took on Hernandez and Manchester United.

“No player is unstoppable,” Howard said in published reports. “But they’ve got a good team. They’ve got a lot of big players. So it will take all of us to stop all of them.”

It what should be a close game, any little edge helps.

“When you come into these types of tournaments you grow along the way,” U.S. coach Bradley said in published reports. “You certainly grow when you lose and you look hard at certain things. I think that’s been important. The first round is always about advancing and using the games to figure out where you are. I think we’ve gotten better from start to finish. There’s a good level of confidence, and it’s a strong group that has been through this before.”

No matter what happens, it should be one heck of a match.

In praise of the dive

We come here today to praise the art of the dive.

In Sunday’s Gold Cup win, the U.S.’ Jermaine Jones took a dive in the second half that resulted in Jamaica’s Jermaine Taylor being given a red card.

Was it a bad call by the ref? Of course. But that is part of the game.

We were surprised, though, by the criticism leveled at Jones in the aftermath of the game. Complaining about diving is one aspect of soccer that we don’t understand.

In other sports, gaining an edge is applauded. When Derek Jeter fakes being hit by a pitch, he is “doing what it takes.” When Peyton Manning goes down untouched but gets the ref to throw a flag for roughing the passer, he is praised. When Jason Kidd slows down a quick guard with a well placed forearm or hip, he is a “wily veteran.”

But in soccer? Take a dive and people lose their minds. And ESPN mocks you in an ad.

It’s one thing if you are an Italian player falling down every two minutes like A-Rod after being hit by a pitch, but the rest is pure gamesmanship.

At least until the other guy does it, then it’s just plain wrong.

(Photo by Getty Images/mlssoccer.com)

Opportunities abound for Browns defense

Lots of interesting news swirling about some of Red Right 88’s favorite sports teams today.

First off, Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron sat down with the Beacon Journal‘s Nate Ulrich for a Q & A and a few points stood out to us:

  • Jauron wants a physical defense: “We really need a to step up and be a very touch and physical team, not only throughout the whole league, but particularly in our division.”
  • What about the switch to a 4-3? “There are challenges. … The personnel mix is different. The numbers are different. There’s a lot of significant differences. It’ll take some work.
  • The team likes its linebackers – to a certain extent: “We’re really happy with … the starting three, the veteran three with Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong and D’Qwell Jackson. The front three, we’re depending on those guys, really, to play like the veterans they are … and hopefully stay healthy.”

For starters, what’s not to like about a physical defense? We’re so tired of watching the Browns get slapped around by other teams and their defense not being able to dish it back out (and not in the illegal Pittsburgh way).

The Browns need to be able to take a shot and give it back just as good – in the words of Al Swearengen: “Stand it like a man… and give some back” – especially in the division. They showed late in the 2009 season that if you stand up to teams like the Steelers you can get them to quit.

Next, rebuilding the defense is going to take time and patience – no matter how tired Browns fans are of hearing that.

In his book, Take Your Eye off the Ball, Pat Kirwan said it should two years to make the switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 – if a team is smart about it. Teams generally have three to four players in their front seven with the skills that translate to the new defense. If the front office does its homework, a team can fill out the front seven in two drafts and one free agency period.

The Browns are on their way to rebuilding the front seven after drafting Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard to join Ahtyba Rubin on the defensive front. The front four the Browns should be modeling themselves after is Minnesota’s with Kevin Williams and Pat Williams at the tackle spots, and Jared Allen and Ray Edwards at the ends.

Taylor and Rubin can take up a lot of space in the middle, Sheard can hopefully put some pressure on the quarterback and the Ray Edwards role could be filled by … Ray Edwards, who is currently a free agent.

The linebackers do concern us, primarily because there is little depth behind the three players Jauron singled out. We saw what happened last season when Fujita went down with an injury; if any of those three go down again this year there’s not much on the bench to fill the void.

The only quibble we have with Jauron is his use of the word “challenging” – these are opportunities for the Browns, not challenges. The team has the opportunity to finally build a solid defense, one that isn’t an embarrassment against the run and one that can make the opposing offense react to the defense for a change.

And what’s not to like about that?

***

The magic was back at Progressive Field this weekend as the Cleveland Indians swept Pittsburgh.

Cord Phelps sealed the deal on Sunday with a three-run homer in extra innings.

We have to feel bad for Justin Masterson, though. Masterson gave up two runs in the first inning then combined with pretty much the entire bullpen to hold the Pirates scoreless for the next 10 innings. But Masterson walked away with a no decision.

The bullpen has not allowed a run in 22 2/3 innings over seven games.

Masterson, who is now 5-5 with a 3.18 ERA on the season, hasn’t earned a win since April 26. In that 10-start stretch, he is 0-5 with an ERA under 4.00 and has allowed two or fewer earned runs seven times.

He must have done something wrong, because the Tribe has scored all of 20 runs in Masterson’s last 10 starts.

It was nice to see the Indians right the ship, even if it is only temporary and was just against the Pirates. While you can’t count on the Tribe to sweep, they do need to get back into the habit of winning series so that they can start rebuilding their record.

Much like we pondered a few days ago about what the Indians should do with Fausto Carmona, Terry Pluto presented some scary numbers about Carmona in today’s Plain Dealer. According to the article:

  • Carmona’s ERA is the highest of any regular starting pitcher in the American League
  • Carmona allows 40 percent of baserunners to score, also the highest rate among AL starting pitchers
  • Carmona has already given up 14 home runs (in just 91.2 innings pitched) compared to just 17 (in 210.1 innings) last year.

Depressed yet?

The good news is the Tribe has options,with Jeanmar Gomez and Zach McAllister pitching well in the minors. If Carmona or Mitch Talbot continue to struggle, one of them could be moved to the bullpen to make room for Gomez or McAllister.

If the team does have to make a decision between Carmona or Talbot, it will be interesting to see how much salary (Carmona makes $6.2 million vs. $431,000 for Talbot) will play into the decision.

***

The U.S. Men’s National Team finally played a solid game, beating Jamaica 2-0 to advance to Wednesday’s semifinal of the Gold Cup, where they will get a rematch with Panama.

The Americans were aggressive again on offense and were rewarded for their efforts with goals by Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey.

The bad news was Jozy Altidore left nine minutes into the game with a hamstring injury and, after the game, U.S. coach Bob Bradley said he didn’t know what Altidore’s status would be for the remainder of the tournament.

But that’s a concern for another day. For now, it’s good to see the team have its best game of the tournament heading into the semis and raise our hopes for a final date with Mexico next Saturday.

***

Oh yeah, the NBA Draft is this week. The Cavs are playing it close to the vest about what they plan to do with the first and fourth picks in the first round.

Where is our soccer superstar?

In anticipation of Sunday’s Gold Cup game vs. Jamaica, The Wall Street Journal asks an interesting question: Why can’t the U.S. build a soccer star?

The article notes that the U.S. has won more than 1,000 Olympic gold medals. It has produced 26 British Open champions, 14 No. 1 tennis players and two winners of the Tour de France. It’s the birthplace of swimmer Michael Phelps, volleyball legend Karch Kiraly and chess master Bobby Fischer.

But no soccer players that have been superstars on the international level.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Tommy Smyth, the television analyst, in the article. “I go to my local park and there’s 10 games going on all day on a Saturday, and you mean to tell me you can’t find one jewel in there?”

Smyth noted that his native country, Ireland, has produced plenty of top players (Shay Given and Roy Keane among them) even though it has a population of just six million.

Then there are countries like Trinidad (home of Manchester United’s Dwight Yorke), Togo, (Real Madrid’s Emmanuel Adebayor), Cameroon (Samuel Eto’o) and Ivory Coast (Didier Drogba).

With an estimated 15 million kids playing soccer in this country, you’d think someone would have broken through by now.

It’s not that the opportunities aren’t there. Of the 23 players on the roster for the U.S. team at the Gold Cup, 16 play at the club level internationally, at places like Everton, West Ham, Aston Villa, Rangers, Fulham, Blackburn and Wolverhampton.

Sunil Gulati, the president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, said he would have expected a U.S. player to become a stalwart for one of the world’s top clubs by now, but that he’s not “shocked” it hasn’t happened. “There are so few players at that level,” he said. “I believe it’s something that will happen over time.”

In some respects, Gulati is probably correct. When you think that soccer has only been a viable American sport for what, 30 years or so, while it is firmly in the DNA of almost every other country, it’s pretty impressive that the Americans have had the kind of success they’ve enjoyed.

***

Only 57 more days until the start of the Premier League season and what we hope will not be the only football we will be watching this fall.

Liverpool opens at home against Sunderland as the Reds look to continue the momentum they had from last season under manager Kenny Dalglish.

Taking care of business

It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but the U.S. Men’s National Team took care of business against Guadeloupe on Tuesday night and earned a place in the knockout stage of the Gold Cup.

“With group play, you’ve got to deal with each game and find a way to advance,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said in published reports. “We’re pretty hard on ourselves because we weren’t satisfied with our performance against Panama, but there are things that bring a team together.”

Jozy Altidore put the U.S. up 1-0 in the 9th minute with the kind of goal that makes him such a frustrating player. Altidore’s 25-yard blast showed just how talented he can be and makes one wonder why he can’t bring that same intensity every game.

The Americans had plenty of scoring chances, peppering the Guadeloupe goal, but goalkeeper Franck Grandel denied them repeatedly. Clint Dempsey had an off night, missing two headers, hitting the post and somehow not getting a shot off when he was all alone with the ball two yards in front of the goal.

Throw in uncharacteristic misses from Landon Donovan and Chris Wondolowski and the final score could have been much more impressive.

“We want to be better,” Donovan said in published reports. “This is a game we should have won probably 3- or 4-0, but the reality is that we won. That’s all that matters at this point.”

Donovan’s right – we would have like to have seen the U.S. convert more of those scoring chances, but in tournament play the objective is to advance, and that’s what the team did.

Now we’re left to wonder which team will show up on Sunday to face Jamaica – the Group B winner that has yet to give up a goal.

“Be careful what you wish for, but I actually think that’s the kind of game we need now,” U.S. goalie Tim Howard said in published reports. “We need a game where the tempo is high and teams aren’t sitting in. They’re coming out feeling like we’re a wounded animal and they’re gonna get us, and that’s when we catch them.”

The Americans have yet to play a complete game in the tournament, but they have been able to do just enough to get by. That was OK in group play, but they are going to need to bring a full 90-minute effort from here on out – especially with a date with Mexico looming somewhere on the horizon.

The slate has now been wiped clean. What the U.S. team does now is up to them.

Photo courtesy of si.com

***

Randy Lerner’s Aston Villa have gotten themselves into a twist in their attempts to hire Alex McLeish as their new manager.

According to The Guardian, McLeish held talks with Villa officials at a secret location in London on Wednesday ahead of a proposed defection across the city on a three-year, £2m-a-year contract. At the same time a crowd of Villa supporters gathered in protest outside Villa Park while lawyers acting for Birmingham, McLeish’s former club, drew up plans to pursue their rivals for compensation and to defend the club against an anticipated charge of constructive dismissal from McLeish.

Birmingham claims that Aston Villa struck a deal with McLeish before he resigned from Birmingham on Sunday – a resignation that Birmingham has not yet accepted.

And the fans are less than thrilled, with one spray painting the message “Bluenose scum not welcome” on a wall at Villa’s training ground.

Oh Randy.

***

Liverpool has unveiled its third kit for next season, taking inspiration from the club’s jersey of 120 years ago.

It’s strange seeing blue incorporated into the jersey – kind of like if the Browns brought black-and-gold into their color scheme – but we see the historic nature of the kit.

What is there left to say?

The Cleveland Indians lost again on Sunday, falling to the Yankees by the score of 9-1

The Tribe has now lost 14 of its last 18 games.

The offense struggled … again … some more on Sunday against New York.

The past two days the Indians have faced Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, who are a combined 150 years old and were pulled off the scrap heap by the Yankees.

In 13.1 innings against the duo, the Tribe managed nine hits and one run, while striking out a dozen times.

Sheldon Ocker of The Beacon Journal assures us that the offensive slump will end. He’s covered the Indians for decades, so if you can’t trust the Socker who can you trust?

But it’s hard to see how the team will get this turned around.

Terry Pluto at The Plain Dealer followed our lead in wondering what the Tribe will do about Fausto Carmona, adding this nugget: The batting average against Carmona with no one on base is .212. With runners on base, .343. With the bases loaded, batters are 5-of-7. Yes, it is a matter of controlling emotions and confidence.

Luckily for the Indians, the Tigers also lost on Sunday, so the team’s remain tied for first place in the Central Division.

Worse-case scenario is the Tribe heads for Detroit after Monday night’s game against the Yankees trailing the Tigers by just one game.

With everything that’s gone wrong for the past few weeks with the Indians, that’s really not all that bad.

***

Switching to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jason Lloyd in The Beacon Journal posits that the team may be looking to trade point guard Ramon Sessions if the Cavs, as expected, draft Kyle Irving with the first pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

Sessions’ agent, Chubby Wells (hey, he may just be big boned) hasn’t requested a trade for his client, but that could change after the draft.

The thinking is that Baron Davis will mentor Irving and keeping Sessions as a third point guard is a luxury that won’t work out.

We see one big problem with that scenario: it is highly unlikely that Davis will make it through a full season without getting hurt.

The 32-year-old Davis has only played a full 82-game season once in the past nine years. On average, he makes it through 62 games a year.

So what happens when Davis goes down to an injury this year and there is no one to share the load with Irving?

Yeah, that’s what we thought.

***

Finally, our latest on the situation the U.S. Men’s National Team finds itself in at the Gold Cup.

Slumping Indians look for reinforcements

Welcome to the big leagues, Cord Phelps.

The struggling, slumping, sinking Cleveland Indians – losers of 11 of their last 15 – finally made a move, reaching into the minor leagues and promoting Phelps.

Phelps will platoon at second base with Orlando Cabrera.

“The kid’s going to get an opportunity to play, and we’re going to have to see if he’ll take advantage of it,” Indians manager Manny Acta said in published reports. “For now, he’s going to play second base, and we’re going to give him the opportunity to play the majority of times against right-handed pitching.

“Orlando’s been there, done that. You can’t rule out Orlando coming back and playing every day. But this kid deserved a shot based on the way he’s played the last two years at Columbus.”

Phelps batted .299 with seven homers, 40 RBI and 31 runs at Columbus, playing shortstop (28 games) and second base (13 games).

Phelps got the start on Wednesday and fit right in with the current offense, going 0-for-4 in his debut.

“You’ve got to earn it,” Phelps told The Plain Dealer. “I was a little nervous at the start, but that’s to be expected. Overall, I felt pretty good. It was exciting.”

The Tribe is currently in a woeful offensive slump. In their last six games they have only scored eight total runs and barely avoided being swept by the last-place Minnesota Twins. Pretty much everyone not named Michael Brantley or Asdrubal Cabrera is struggling right now and it limits what Acta can do.

Look at the batting averages in Wednesday’s lineup: Grady Sizemore (.256), Carlos Santana (.228), Shin-Soo Choo (.240), Matt LaPorta (.240), Jack Hannahan (.231) and Lou Marson (.207).

The manager can move people around in the batting order all he wants, but if no one is hitting it doesn’t make much difference.

Phelps clearly isn’t going to turn the team around by himself, but at least the Tribe did something to try and right the ship.

The move certainly can’t make things any worse than they currently are.

***

Even though the NFL lockout is still going on, that doesn’t mean Browns general manager Tom Heckert isn’t thinking about all the things he can do once the league comes to its senses.

All the extra time has made him more prepared than ever for free agency – whenever it begins.

Most importantly, the Browns:

  • Will not trade for Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb: ”You can dispel that,” Heckert said. ”We’re not trading for a quarterback. That one I’ll say.”
  • Will not look to sign Plaxico Burress, late of the New York state penal system.
  • Will look for a free safety: “Right now, Mike Adams is penciled in as a guy who’s going to play almost all safety for us, but we’ll see,” Heckert said. “There’s a few guys in free agency and we’ll see what happens with the undrafted rookies, so we still have a couple of options out there.”
  • Haven’t closed the door on fullback Lawrence Vickers: “It’s hard to tell,” Heckert said. “We didn’t really have a chance to talk to him once free agency started because of the rules. It never started. We’ll have to make all of those decisions once everything opens up.”
  • Haven’t decided what to do with quarterback Jake Delhomme: “Whenever the thing opens up, we’ll sit down with Jake and talk to him and decide what’s the best for him and for our organization,” Heckert said. “We have to wait until that happens.”

Knowing all that certainly makes it easier for us to sleep at night.

***

Check out this cool graphic showing NBA titles represented by championship rings.

(h/t Uni Watch)

***

Finally, our post on the U.S. opening game win over Canada in the Gold Cup is up at MLS Talk. Be sure to check it out.

Flashes can’t hook the Horns

The Kent State baseball team finally ran out of steam in the 100 degree heat on Monday, losing to Texas to miss out on the first visit to the Super Regionals in school history.

The Golden Flashes had two chances to advance, but lost to the host Longhorns, the No. 5 team in the nation, Sunday night, forcing Monday’s winner-take-all game, which Texas won, 5-0.

Kent made the Longhorns use six pitchers in the shutout, including their top two starters, but couldn’t break through against any of them.

“We’re disappointed to be in the position that we are in,” said KSU coach Scott Stricklin. “To have to be beat twice, it’s tough to handle, it really is. We felt like we were in good shape, and we were. We had a chance to be in both games, and we just couldn’t come up with the big hit. A lot of credit obviously goes to Texas’ defense and its pitching.”

The Flashes ended the season 45-17, becoming just the second team in school history to reach the 45-win mark, joining the 1992 team at the top of the school’s rankings.

They are ranked No. 24 in the nation, earned a No. 3 seed in the national tournament for the first time in school history, won their 11th MAC regular season title and ninth tournament title (their third in a row) and are the first team to win the regular-season and tournament titles in the same year since 2005.

And to think they did it without cheating or lying.

***

So linebacker Matt Roth is resigned to leaving the Browns as a free agent?

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out of town.

We’re sure the Browns can find a way to replace the personal fouls and silly penalties Roth committed on a regular basis last year (on second thought, let’s hope they don’t).

And there’s no doubt they can live without his 3.5 sacks (2 against Cincinnati in one game, 1.5 the remaining 15 games of the season).

Roth is one of those players who thinks he is better than he is; so if this is the end, farewell.

The Browns will be fine without him.

***

Now that Plaxico Burress is out of prison, people are going to try and put the Browns as one of the teams that should sign the wide receiver.

While there’s little doubt the team needs help at receiver, we just don’t see Burress as the answer.

He’s a 34-year-old receiver that hasn’t played the game in two years and who hasn’t actually been in a situation where he could stay in game shape. We remember when Jamal Lewis was released from prison reading stories about how prison diets are intentionally loaded with the types of foods that keep inmates sluggish.

And with training camps most likely going to be shortened this year because of the ongoing lockout, the last thing the Browns need is to wait for Burress to work himself into shape.

With a rookie head coach in Pat Shurmur and a second-year quarterback in Colt McCoy running the offense, the Browns don’t fit what would appear to be the right situation for Burress.

We just don’t see him as being worth the effort for this team right now.

***

Spain definitely taught the U.S. a lesson over the weekend in its 4-0 beating in a friendly at Gillette Stadium.

“Spain is a great team,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. “It is a tough test to play them any time. We have always chosen to take these kind of challenges and to play the best teams and it is the best way, to see what the game at the highest level is like, and to improve.

“When you challenge yourself against the best teams, you have to expect difficult moments. If we couldn’t handle that, we wouldn’t play them.”

The U.S. opens group play in the Gold Cup on Tuesday against Canada, which should be a good cure for any hangover from the Spain game. The two teams haven’t played each other since 2007. Canada washed out at the qualifying stage for last year’s World Cup and the Canadians are not exactly a powerhouse.

With the tournament being held at home, the U.S. team has a good chance to right itself and build on some of the public attention it received during last year’s run in the World Cup.

Let’s hope they are quick studies.

They’re not the world champs for nothing

“He doesn’t know it’s a damn show! He thinks it’s a damn fight!”

Apparently someone forgot to tell Spain this was supposed to be an exhibition.

The reigning World Cup champions dismantled the U.S. on Saturday, 4-0.

The friendly, before more than 64,000 at Gillette Stadium, was the first time the two teams have played since the U.S. shocked Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup.

Spain clearly did not forget.

Santi Cazorla scored twice, and Alvaro Negredo and Fernando Torres also scored for Spain.

As for the U.S., Landon Donovan (illness) and Carlos Bocanegra (coaches decision) did not play, while Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Steve Cherundolo only saw action as second-half substitutes.

The U.S. was clearly holding players back in advance of Tuesday’s Gold Cup opener against Canada.

While winning a tournament is more important than winning a friendly, we have to wonder what the thinking was in scheduling Spain just a few days before the Gold Cup.

The only way the U.S. team is going to get better is by taking on teams like Spain, but if the top players don’t see the field, where is the value? Presumably the experience was still there for the second-level players on the team who saw game action, so that’s a positive.

And it’s not like Donvan, Dempsey, Bradley, etc., are lacking in big-game experience.

We still would have liked the U.S. team to enter the Gold Cup on a bit more of a positive note, as this loss puts more pressure on the team to put on a good showing.

Because if they don’t at least make the finals of the Gold Cup, today’s loss against Spain could have a lasting impact that the team was not expecting.

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