Thursday, October 28, 2010

World Series Game 1 and Carlos Tevez

It's official. Cliff Lee is no longer invincible. Last night, in Game 1 of the World Series, Lee was absolutely battered by the San Francisco Giants. He didn't last 5 innings, and gave up 7 runs, 5 of which were in his last 2/3 of an inning. Lee was THE hype going into this series, and the majority of the stories revolved around pitching. If the first game is any indication of how the rest of the series will be played, then sit back and enjoy the slugfest. The game ended 11-7 for the Giants. As much as I would love to see a high scoring series, both of these teams are known for their pitching, and tonight will likely be a turnaround to favor the pitchers. However, if we look at last night there are a couple people I feel like need recognition for their performance.

Although Juan Uribe entered with a batting average below .200, but has had some clutch hits so far in the playoffs. In the series against the Phillies, he had a walk-off sacrifice fly as well as the game winning HR in the series clinching game. Last night, in a 5-2 game, Uribe came to the plate with 2 men on base. Uribe got thrown a pitch right down the middle and he was not going to let the pitcher off the hook. He absolutely crushed it to left field and essentially put the game out of reach with the 3-run HR. He also made some unbelievable plays in the field while playing at 3rd base. When I first started watching the Giants this season, I was a little surprised seeing Uribe play 3rd. He has a little bit of a bigger build than other MLB infielders, but he has the ability and quickness as any other does. He has really surprised me so far and I look forward to watching him even more.

Tim Lincecum was the starter for the Giants in Game 1. It looked to be going in the wrong direction early for Lincecum but he was able to fight his way through 5 2/3 innings. In the first inning, the Rangers got a run and had a guy on first and third with only 1 out. Lincecum was able to get Kinsler, one of the best hitters for Texas, to ground into a double play to end the inning. The next inning, he gave up another run, but stranded a man on third again. Although he did give up 2 more runs in the 6th inning, he outlasted his opponent, Cliff Lee, and was able to register the win in his first ever World Series, at the age of only 26.

The other story, which is still developing, is about good ol' Carlos Tevez. For those of you who don't know how I feel about Tevez, let me give you a quick background. He played for one of the best Manchester United teams in recent history. A team that won the Premier League two years in a row, a team that won the European Cup. Tevez was essentially a fringe player, but came off the bench many times to score the very crucial goals for the club. He was well appreciated by the fans (as demonstrated by me buying a Tevez jersey two months before his controversial exit) but because he was not starting every single game, he asked to leave. He began to talk negatively about the club and upset a lot of fans. To even make matters worse, he went to Manchester City. That move, coupled with his negative comments, put him in the absolute dog house with anyone associated with Manchester United. I don't respect anything the guy says anymore, let alone believe any of it. He left for "first team football" but that didn't involve playing in Europe, which he had said he wanted, and he was convinced to play for City because he was paid more.

Anyways, since he started playing for City, and not winning any trophies, he has made multiple comments about how he doesn't enjoy the life of a footballer and may consider early retirement. Not just retirement from Argentina, but from football altogether. This may be horrible to say, but as a United supporter, hearing him say these things makes me happy. It reinforces the fact that United is the strongest club in the world, not just on the field, but off the field. While he was in Red, he only had positive things to say about football and how he played for the love of the game. Now he cannot say anything besides how he wants to quit. Yesterday, after picking up an injury on the weekend, he traveled home to Argentina to recover from his injury. This only brings up the question of if he will ever come back. A couple years ago, we saw Robinho leave City for a couple weeks to go home and take care of some personal issues, and never come back. I would love to see Tevez try and make it big with Boca, and of course realize a few years down the road that he should have never left England, let alone United, if he hasn't realized that already. Just another example of the intelligence and power, or lack of, that City has in their attempt to become one of the biggest clubs in the world. And in dedication to Elder Matthew Duke, "This is how it feels to be City. This is how it feels to be small. This is how it feels to be a team that wins nothing at all, nothing at all."

On a side note, I think I found my dream job, to an extent. ESPN posted a job listing for a tax accountant. I think I'm going to take my chances, and see what comes of it. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chicharito Saves The Day Again

Yesterday, United took on Wolves in the last 16 of the Carling Cup. On these nights, we typically look to play some of our young squad, or players that don't seem to be finding much first team action. Some of the players that benefited from this were Amos, Fabio, Evans, Obertan, Gibson, Macheda and Bebe. Even though we may not be as sharp in these games as those played by our first 11, I almost get more excited to watch these games. I love seeing the young guns come out and put on a good show for the crowd. They rarely get the opportunity to show what they can do, especially at Old Trafford, so it was important for their experience that they make the best of this opportunity.

For those of you who did not see it, the first half was a complete bore. Their were a few good moves by both teams, but overall I was completely disappointed. The second half was about as good as it gets. United started strong and got a goal from Bebe, who was making his full debut for the club. Regardless of how it went in, looked to be a cross that deflected over the goalie's head, the ambition of Bebe and creativity he possessed out on the wing was very good to see.

In the typical United fashion, at least for this season, we gave up the equalizer to Wolves on a set piece. It looks as though our defending problems are across the entire squad, not just the first team. It was really surprising to me that Wolves was able to respond so quickly, as I thought we might kill the game off after getting the first goal. However, after the equalizer, we pushed forward even more. Park, who hasn't had his best season with the club to this point, scored a fantastic goal to put United ahead 2-1. He cut across the box and finished across the face of the goal, with his left foot. It had to be over with just about 15 minutes left, right?

Wrong. We conceded again. 2-2. This was really getting frustrating to see our boys give up goal after goal like they had been all season. This was already the 8th time we had given up a lead this year. Fergie looked to make some changes late on, and brought on Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez to try and take control of this game. I thought it was important to bring him on, even if it was for just a minute or two, so that the crowd could show their appreciation to him for his goals at the weekend. He had about 10 minutes to make an impact and did he ever make such an impact!! Normally a striker, he seemed to find a role right behind the front line, almost as a midfielder. He passed the ball around with such class, however it didn't seem as though we would get an equalizer and we would be heading to extra time. As the 90th minute came, so did the heroics. Chicharito picked up the ball in his own half and played a great ball to Gibson. Gibbo ran with it for about twenty yards as you could see Chicharito make the run all the way up the field. The ball was perfectly slid into the Mexican as he calmly put one defender on his butt, and then dispatched the winner past the keeper. I couldn't believe that he had done it again. He is unbelieveable, and with Rooney out with an ankle knock and in bad form, this is exactly what United needed. He now has 6 goals in 11 games, and his per minute scoring is 1 goal every 90.5 minutes, which is the best in England (Drogba 119, Berba 125, Tevez 142, Malouda 146, Rooney 457). Hernandez reminds of a United great, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. If only he is able to live up to the hype and do what Ole has done for the club. Maybe, if we can get to another European Cup Final, he can try and equal the heroics of that night in Barcelona, 1999.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reaction to the Rooney Signing

After a long day of deliberation between Manchester United and the team of Wayne Rooney and Paul Stretford, both sides agreed to terms and Rooney signed a new 5 year contract that will keep him at the club through June 2015. There is a lot to be said about this whole situation, especially after what Rooney said just a couple days ago. There are a few points that I want to look at after today's signing.

1) When Rooney put out his statement before Wednesday's game and one of the points made by him was that he was not given any assurance about the future squad, and the ability to bring top name players to the club. This has two sides to it, the financial side and the current form side. As reported, Manchester United and the Glazers are in massive debt and over the last few years have been less likely to spend on big names like they were in previous years. Watching United play over the last few weeks, it is obvious that with the likes of Scholes, Giggs, Neville and VDS soon to be finished up, there will be some replacements needed. There are some good players that are able to fill a few of those spots (Gibson, Obertan, Rafael, Fabio, Amos) but in the long run, those names will not be able to deliver the trophies that the club is known for. Yesterday, as Rooney met with Manchester United, and the Glazers, I believe that he was given these assurances and we may be looking to buy in January, and if not then, next summer. Some of the names that have been mentioned are: Sneijder, Bale, Hart, Benzema and Stekelenberg. We don't need to do that much, but we do need a goalkeeper, and at least one midfielder, preferably the attacking type.

2) No one has a stronger influence on a player than Sir Alex does. So many people had completely written this off, and it appeared Sir Alex had himself when he did the interview with MUTV. He was emotional, taken back and by the comments he made, it really seemed as though United had lost the battle with Rooney and he was on his way out. Then it was a complete "Roo-turn". Referring to Rooney's statement Ferguson laughed and said, "haven't I won about 30 trophies or so in my time?" The man is a complete legend, and is arguably the greatest manager of all time. He has 35 trophies since taking over for United back in 1986, including 11 Premier League titles and 2 Champions Leagues. Ferguson had another interview with MUTV after the signing today and you could see the attitude change. He was strong, and you could just see it in his eyes that he was not going to let the boy leave. He doesn't get bullied by players, especially a 24 year old. He makes the decisions at the club.

3) Rooney has a lot of work to do to make amends with the club and the fans. In his statement earlier in the week, he referred to the club as "MUFC". As someone who lives in the United States, I saw this as disrespect towards the club. I can only imagine how someone who grew up in Manchester saw this. Rivals' fans, the media and other teams refer to us as "MUFC" but everyone who is within the club knows that we are "United". There is the famous phrase that is said in Manchester, "There's only one United" that shows the passion our fans show to make this name ours. This may seem like a little issue to those who aren't as attached to this club as I am, but I am not the only one to be taking exception to this reference. By putting out his statement and saying he wanted to leave, Rooney was trying to be bigger than the club. No one is bigger than Manchester United. He will have to show the fans that he can perform on the field and he deserves to be here. He needs to shut his mouth and show us he cares.

4) Lastly, I think it is important to point out how dumb the City fans are. In the past, we have seen Kaka tattoos, European Champions tattoos, and Champions League banners (when they don't even make the top 4). Now, we see a City fan posting a picture of himself in a Rooney jersey in front of Wastelands, oh wait, I mean Eastlands. Of course, the idiot posts the picture online and now everyone can see how dumb he is. I cannot wait until November 10th and we get to watch the Manchester Derby and once again we will see that there is only one team in Manchester, and that team wears red. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Champions League Recap and MLB Playoffs

Yesterday was a little bit of a slow sports day. There were some big matches throughout the day, however there weren't as many as we sometimes may see. However, it was a good one nonetheless. The day started off with the last round of Champions League games for Matchday 3. Some of the notable fixtures included: Manchester United 1 Bursaspor 0, Inter Milan 4 Tottenham 3, and Barcelona 2 Copenhagen 0. In Manchester, as well as everywhere else in the soccer world, the lead story of the day was once again the Wayne Rooney story. In the last couple days, Sir Alex Ferguson has responded to the initial reports, and yesterday Rooney also made a statement regarding the issue. (Tomorrow, I will write my full reaction on this) However, there was an important match to play and United looked to prove they could be fine without Rooney. Bursaspor is not a powerhouse team by any means, but it was vital for United to get the win after a couple draws in a row in domestic play. With a game at Stoke this coming weekend, Ferguson fielded a young squad with the likes of Macheda, Rafael, Smalling, and Anderson. United started strong and after only 7 minutes got a goal from Nani. It was a great strike from about 20 yards out and the keeper really had no chance to save it. The rest of the game was a little bit of a bore, with United controlling the possession but not creating many chances. Late on, Gabriel Obertan and Javier Hernandez brought a little spark to the team but weren't able to finish anything off. Overall, it was a solid performance, especially on the defensive side for United.

The next match, and by far the most exciting, took place at the San Siro, in Milan. Inter started the match by getting a goal from Javier Zanetti after just 1 minute. A few minutes later, Spurs' keeper Gomes took down Biabiany in the box and was sent off. To add to the troubles, it was also a penalty kick and Samuel Eto'o scored go up 2-0. By halftime, the game was at 4-0. Inter were absolutely cruising in this match and at this point, it was just damage control by Tottenham. Early on in the second half though, Spurs midfielder, Gareth Bale, scored a magnificent goal after making a run over half of the field and then firing low past Julio Cesar. As injury time approached, Bale netted almost an identical goal as his first one to get the game back to 4-2. Soon after that, he finished his hat trick by netting his third. Unfortunately for Spurs, there was only one minute left in the game after Bale's last goal, and Inter just held out to get the win. It was a wonderful hat trick by the young Welshman, and Spurs have to be happy with the result in the end. They will get Inter at White Hart Lane in just a fortnight, with a full squad and their star players, Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric, back in the lineup.

The last game didn't have much to talk about, Between Barcelona and Copenhagen. It was a great match and Copenhagen did have their chances to score. They hit the post once, and missed a couple sitters. However, in the end, Messi finished with 2 fine goals and Barcelona took all the points to go top of their group.

The MLB Playoffs continued yesterday, with both matchups taking place. So far, the playoffs have been very entertaining and today's games were no exception. The first game of the day was the Yankees vs Rangers, in Arlington, Texas. The Yankees sent their ace, CC Sabathia to the hill, looking to extend the series back to New York for a sixth game. Early on, the New York side was able to hit CJ Wilson all over the park. In the 3rd inning, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano hit back-to-back HRs to get the Yankees going. From there on out, the Yankees avoided any major slip ups and CC was able to scatter a bunch of Rangers' hits. The Yankees won the game 7-2 and look to Game 6 starter Phillip Hughes to extend the series even more.

The late game was Game 4 of the NLCS between the Philadephia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants. Both teams sent fairly young pitchers to the mound, and the Giants were able to get on the board first. They led 2-0 going into the 5th inning and the Phillies were able to take the lead with 4 runs after some big hits from Shane Victorino, and Placido Polanco. The Phillies were looking to even up the series, but couldn't hold the lead for long. Over the next two innings, the Giants were able to score 3 runs and take the lead back heading into the last few innings. The Giants' bullpen, with a few guys promoting "Fear the Beard" with their big black beards, is usually very solid, but Sergio Romo gave up a run in the top of the 8th inning and it allowed the Phillies to tie the game. Going into the 9th inning, the Giants brought on their closer, Brian Wilson to face a strong Phillies lineup. He was able to get all 3 batters out that he faced and set up a dramatic conclusion in the bottom of the ninth. Roy Oswalt, one of the three Phillies aces, came out of the bullpen to pitch the 9th inning. After getting the first batter out, he gave up a single to Aubrey Huff and then a double to young Buster Posey. Juan Uribe, who had just recently came into the game in the 9th inning, was able to recover from a missed call by the home plate umpire after he was hit on the hand by an Oswalt pitch, but the umpire called it a foul ball. Two pitches later, Uribe hit a fly ball to left field to allow Huff to come in on the sacrifice fly to win the game. It was bedlam in San Francisco as they won the game 6-5 and took the lead in the series 3-1. They will look to close out the Phillies tonight, as they send their ace Tim Lincecum to the mound to face the best from the Phillies, Roy Halladay.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Champions League, MLB Playoffs and RSL vs Cruz Azul

Yesterday was the first installment of matches for Champions League this week. Some of the notable results were as follows: Chelsea 2 Spartak Moscow 0, Arsenal 5 Shakhtar Donetsk 1, and Real Madrid 2 AC Milan 0. In both the Chelsea and Arsenal matches, the English team was fairly comfortable throughout. Arsenal continued their fine form in the group stages for a second year running. However, it is important to note that Arsenal tend to get a fairly easy draw in the group stage so they typically cruise to the knockout rounds every year. Whether this easier schedule will help or hurt them as the tournament progresses remains to be seen. Though, if you are an Arsenal supporter, you have to be happy with what you have seen, especially with the young squad that Arsene Wenger puts out.

Chelsea was able to put the past behind them after returning to the Luzhniki Stadium for the first time since failing to win the Champions League there in 2008. Two first half goals from Nicholas Anelka and Yuri Zhirkov put the game out of reach by halftime. Chelsea have nearly reached the "10 point plateau" that is usually enough to qualify for the knockout stages, and will look to do so in the return leg between these two clubs at Stamford Bridge.

Lastly, was the face-off between Real Madrid and AC Milan at the Bernabeu in Madrid. Real got the start to the game that any team looks for when Cristiano Ronaldo scored a free kick in the 13th minute. Only one minute later, Ronaldo turned from scorer to provider and set up Mesut Ozil for Madrid's second goal. Although Milan had their share of chances to close the gap, Madrid proved too good for the Italian side. Milan will look to rebound when the two sides play again at the San Siro, in two weeks time. The match in Milan will be very important for the Italian team as they now are tied for second and looking to qualify for the knockout stages for the second year running.

Today, there are eight more games scheduled in the Champions League, which are: Inter Milan vs Tottenham, FC Twente vs Werder Bremen, Lyon vs Benefica, Schalke vs Hapoel Tel Aviv, Manchester United vs Bursaspor, Rangers vs Valencia, Barcelona vs Copenhagen, and Panathinaikos vs Rubin Kazan. The groups on this side have been a little more tightly contested, with some of the bigger clubs dropping unexpected points in the first couple groups. However, the likes of Manchester United, Inter Milan and Barcelona will all be looking to get wins. In the United match, the team from Manchester will look to extend their lead at the top of the group after getting a big win against Valencia last time out. With Wayne Rooney out with an ankle injury, and soon to be departure from the club, United will look to the likes of Dimitar Berbatov and Nani to lead the Reds to a much needed win.With their domestic form being far from perfect, this win could get United back on the right track.

The other marquee matchup of Wednesday's games will see Tottenham Hotspur travel to Milan and face the defending European champions, Inter Milan. With Rafael van der Vaart out with an injury, Spurs face a mighty task but look to continue their good run in their first ever Champions League season. So far, they have 4 points out of 6 and are tied for top of the group with Inter. This game could be a step in direction towards qualification, if the London side are able to get a result in Italy.

Yesterday, also featured two great matchups in the respective League Championship series', as the Giants faced off against the Phillies in Game 3 of the NLCS, and the Yankees faced off against the Rangers in Game 4 of the ALCS. Matt Cain took the mound for the Giants, and had a magnificent perfomance to lead the Giants to a 3-0 victory. They now hold a 2-1 series lead over the Phillies and look to extend that lead today in San Francisco.

As for the matchup in New York, the Yankees got out to an early lead but couldn't hold on. The much debated start of Yankees pitcher, AJ Burnett, ended up hurting the team in the end. He gave up 5 runs in 6 innings and without any help from the Yankees hitters, Burnett took the loss at Yankee Stadium. The Rangers' bats have been on fire this series and without one good inning from the Yankees in Game 1, the Texas side would have been closing out the Yankees in a sweep last night. The game finished 10-3, to the Rangers, and now the series stands at 3-1. The Yankees will send out their ace, CC Sabathia, in hope that he can help get the team back on track and send this game back to Texas. If CJ Wilson, Rangers pitcher, pitches like he did in Game 1, the Yankees could be staying home after tonight to think about a season that could have been something great. The New York team will be missing power hitter and golden glove first baseman, Mark Teixeira, after he pulled up with a hamstring injury, and will need to look to their bench for some production in that spot.

My personal favorite game from yesterday was between Real Salt Lake and Cruz Azul in the CONCACAF Champions League, at Rio Tinto Stadium. I attended this match, and had the most personal tie to this one as well. It was the last match in the group stages, and both teams had already qualified for the knockout round. RSL had to win the game to win the group, and consequently, get home field advantage in the quarterfinals next spring. With a big match in the league this weekend, RSL fielded a reserve team and I didn't expect them to do well against the Mexican powerhouse. However, RSL was able to get the victory 3-1. Even though it was a home game for RSL, it felt as though we were the road team as more than half of the stadium was wearing blue and supported the team from Mexico. The atmosphere was electric and it probably was the most exciting RSL game that I have ever attended in my life (maybe the MLS Cup Final last year wasn't bad either). Paulo Jr, the young star from Brazil, made his first start for RSL and had 2 goals to lead the way. Colleen Warner also had a goal after an unbelievable individual move by RSL veteran, Andy Williams. It was great to see the players from Salt Lake play with such passion against a great side like Cruz Azul. It also showed how much this competition meant to the players, and the opportunity to showcase their talents at such a high level. With the win, RSL became the first MLS team to ever win the group in CCL history. I look forward to February, when the tournament will resume, and hope that RSL can become the first MLS team to ever win the competition. The draw for the quarterfinals will take place on November 1st.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

ALCS Game 3, and a Champions League Preview

Game 3 of the American League Championship Series was at Yankee Stadium and it pitted Andy Pettitte, who had the most wins in playoff history, against Cliff Lee, who had never lost in the playoffs. Lee is a free agent at the end of this season and most of the talk has been about how he will be a Yankee next season, so I saw this as his unofficial tryout for the Yanks. There was a lot of pressure on him, as many people already chalked this game up as a Texas win, and he lived up to the hype. Lee pitched 8 innings, gave up 2 hits, 1 walk and had 13 strikeouts. He would have pitched the 9th inning to finish off the complete game, but the Rangers were scoring at will in the top half of the inning, therefore giving Lee too much time to possibly tighten up. It also gave the young closer Neftali Feliz, for the Rangers, an opportunity to pitch against the best Yankee hitters, even though at that point it didn't mean anything for the current game. He struck out Jeter, got Texeira to ground out and struck out A-Rod. Not bad for a 22 year old kid. The performance by Lee was one of the best I have ever seen. Yes, Halladay pitched a no hitter, and Lincecum had 14 strikeouts in one of their postseasons starts, but for Lee to have this game against the Yankees, at Yankee Stadium, just shows how great he is. The Yankees losing is something I will be happy about, but unfortunately, he all but locked up his position in the Bronx for next season.

Thankfully, the Champions League is back this week. To me this is, hands down, the greatest sports competition in the world. I will watch any game, even if United is not playing in it. And having been to a few Champions League games, I can say there is no atmosphere like at a match on a European night. Today's games include: Spartak Moscow vs Chelsea, Roma vs Basel, Bayern vs CFR Cluj, Marseille vs Zilina, Ajax vs Auxerre, Real Madrid vs AC Milan, Arsenal vs Shakhtar Donetsk and Braga vs Partizan Belgrade. A couple of these games I am extremely excited to watch.

The first is the Chelsea game in Moscow. This is the site of 2008 Champions League Final, where I can proudly say that United beat Chelsea in a shootout after Tiny Tears (aka John Terry) slipped on a banana peel before he took his kick to win it. This is the first time Chelsea has been back to that stadium, and I am sure there will be some interesting feelings for them. Another point about this game is an unfortunate one, racism. There is a well documented history of racism in Russian football, and I would not be surprised to hear some of it shown tonight. It's really hard to see this kind of stuff, regardless of the team you support. But with Chelsea, who will likely have some of Drogba, Malouda, Anelka, Mikel, Cole, Essien, Ramires in their squad today, could be a victim of abuse. In an Italian league game this past weekend, the fans at Calgilari chanted racist things, and booed every time Samuel Eto'o touched the ball for Inter Milan. The referee actually stopped the match and there was an announcement over the public address that if the racism didn't stop, the referee would abandon the match. My hope is that the game today doesn't get to that point, but I guess we will have to sit tight and see for ourselves. Regardless of all of the off field notes, I expect Chelsea to win this game. My prediction is 3-1 for the Blues.

The next match, which is definitely the biggest of today, is between Real Madrid and AC Milan. These two were matched up in the group stages just last year, and the match today should be just as exciting, if not more. It will be contested at the Bernabeu in Madrid, which I think will allow it to be much more free flowing and open than if it was at the San Siro in Milan. The fact that both teams are playing extremely well just makes this game that much more attractive. I watched both of these teams play on the weekend and Milan was about as good as I have seen them in a long time. Pato is unstoppable, Pirlo and Ronaldinho are back to the form that made them two of the best players in the world at times in their career, and when you also have Zlatan, Robinho, Seedorf and Zambrotta, it is just a good side to watch. Now for Madrid. As good as the squad looks for Milan, any team could be seen as inferior against Madrid. Their starting team from the weekend, which should be similar to what we see today, was: Casillas, Carvalho, Pepe, Marcelo, Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso, Khedira, Higuain, Ozil, Ronaldo, and Di Maria. Every single player in that squad has the firepower to make magic happen out on the field. Add to the amazing squad a man they refer to as "The Special One", Jose Mourinho. Arguably, the best coach in the world. He won everything with Chelsea in England, won everything with Inter in Italy, and now he will likely win in Spain with Madrid. Let's hope this game lives up to the hype. My prediction is Madrid to win 3-2.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Merseyside Derby, NFL, Jazz vs Lakers, and the Rooney Transfer Rumors

Yesterday, I started off my day waking up at 6:30 am to watch the Merseyside Derby. For those of you who aren't that well versed in soccer terminology, the Merseyside Derby is one of the biggest games in all of the world. It is between Everton and Liverpool. Both teams are in the same town and their stadiums are only 5 miles apart. Think of BYU vs Utah, times about 100. There was a lot of pregame hype heading into Sunday's match, whether it was about the John Henry and New England Sports Ventures' purchase of Liverpool last week, or that both teams were in the bottom 4 and desperately needed a win. The game was at Goodison Park (Everton's home stadium) and was great from the start. There are very few games in the world that demonstrates the passion in both the players, and the fans, than this derby match typically does. In the end, the talisman pair of Cahill and Arteta each got a goal for Everton and they won 2-0. This left Liverpool tied for bottom of the table, and on goal differential they stand second from the bottom. It moved Everton up to 11th on goal differential and they will to push forward in hopes of challenging for a spot in Europe. Personally, I loved this result because I really do appreciate when Liverpool do poorly (as does my good friend Steve, who is a dedicated Everton fan).

The NFL had all but one of their weekly matchups, and there were some pretty good games. I am competing in a fantasy football league this year, for the first time in my life, so I am watching NFL a lot more than I normally would in a season. I typically don't have a "favorite" team, but I do like Peyton Manning and I will follow the former BYU players as well. I do, however, dislike the Broncos and the Cowboys, so I obviously hope for both of them to lose. So, as a result, I followed my fantasy players more than watching any game in particular during the day, but I did closely watch the Colts vs Redskins game on Sunday Night Football. The Colts got out to an early lead with some absolutely clinical work by Peyton and his receivers. Austin Collie, former BYU receiver, caught one of Manning's early TD passes. After three lost fumbles, a couple missed FGs and some poor tackling by the Colts, the Redskins were right back in the game. They had the ball with a minute left and about 80 yards to go. They needed a FG to tie. Donovan McNabb, QB of the Redskins, threw a bomb to Santana Moss but it was intercepted by Aaron Francisco, also a former Cougar, on an acrobatic catch. The game ended 27-24, in favor of the Colts. I have one side note about my fantasy team, and the Cowboys game this week that must be mentioned. My fantasy team didn't have a great week, but did alright and I felt like I was in pretty good shape to get the win after Roy Williams only caught two balls all day for the Cowboys, both for touchdowns. I sat on 96 points as the Cowboys game wound down. The Cowboys trailed by 3 and relied up a "hail mary" play with lots of laterals to make their way up the field. In this play, Williams caught one of the laterals, ran back a few yards (8 to be exact) and then lateraled to another player. This negative yardage got me -1 points for the play. For some reason, I had a feeling that point would hurt me. Oh yes, it did. I ended up tying my match, which I didn't think was possible in fantasy leagues. Frustrating, but I guess it is what it is. As a friend of mine says, "You win some, you lose some", and I guess you tie some too.

Late Sunday, the Jazz played the Lakers in some sort of preseason tournament championship. We had beaten the Clippers the day before, and the Lakers had beaten the Nuggets, so we faced off in the final. I didn't know the NBA had this sort of thing, but it added a little to another Lakers/Jazz showdown, even though it is only preseason. Deron Williams was still nursing a calf injury and so he didn't play. I was a little worried we would get thrashed but we actually did pretty well. We started out well, played a great second quarter and led by 5 going into halftime. Then Kobe, who had 0 points at the half, scored 19 in the third quarter. I was literally terrified. Luckily for us, our bench is better than theirs and the fourth quarter was essentially bench vs bench, with the exception of Millsap and Miles for the Jazz and Gasol and Odom for the Lakers. The Lakers at one point of the third quarter led by 11, after Kobe went off, and I thought it was over. However, we fought back and took the lead about midway through the fourth quarter, and held on for a victory. Gordon Hayward, the rookie from Butler, had 26 points to lead the Jazz to their 6th win in six games. I know this is only preseason, but I will celebrate any victory of the Lakers.

The last thing I want to talk about from yesterday are the rumors surrounding Wayne Rooney and his apparent bust up with Sir Alex, and the possible sale of Rooney in the January transfer window. I know there was no game to talk about with this one, but personally, this was the biggest news that came out yesterday. Last season, Rooney was scoring at will against whoever he wanted. He had about 2 years left on his contract, which is typically the time United will begin negotiations for a players' new contract. There were talks about setting up a contract for Rooney to be at United "for life". However, with the World Cup looming, United said they would let Rooney focus on that and then once he returned to Manchester they would get his new deal set up. He went to the World Cup, and did poorly and so far, he has been awful this season. It is almost embarrassing the way he has been playing. Add to that the story that came out about Rooney getting with a prostitute while Colleen, his wife, was pregnant with their first child. Ferguson, in the last couple weeks, has come out in defense of Rooney's personal issues and said that the media needs to lay off of him. He has also come out and said that Rooney has an ankle injury and that is why he isn't playing as much as normal. The media then questioned Rooney about the injury and he denied it, saying Ferguson was lying about the injury because he had nothing wrong. The latest news is that Rooney has essentially quit United, saying he will not sign a new contract and wants out in the January transfer window. This brings up the next issue about where he will land. The teams that I see in the running are City, Madrid and Barcelona, and a longshot is Chelsea. Of all of those teams, I think the favorite to get Rooney would be Madrid, based on his friendship with Ronaldo, and also his desire to get away from England and their tough media. However, Madrid's officials have come out this morning and said they do not really have a place in the team for Rooney, so they do not know if now is a good time to make a move for Rooney.

That's all news, now for what I think on it. He cannot go to City. They do have the money, but I have loved Rooney for so long and there is no way I could respect him if he left to the blue side of Manchester. Also, no one is bigger than Manchester United. We have let Paul Ince, Jaap Stam, David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Carlos Tevez all walk from United. We have survived and done fine without them. If Rooney does in fact leave, which I think all the problems can still be sorted out, I will still love my club. And with exception of one league title between Beckham and Ruud at Real Madrid, none of those players have won anything once they left United, and United continue to win trophies. Also, Ferguson knows best. He has been around for 24 years and has seen it all. He essentially brought United out of the dust back in '86 and his credibility is more than any player or coach in the entire world. I trust him and if he benches Rooney, its what is best for the team. Anyways, its time to let this story take its course. We'll never die, we'll keep the red flag flying high.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

United, BYU, RSL, and MLB Playoffs...Another great sports Saturday

Welcome to my blog...I'm gonna try and write about some of the sports I watch and give a few thoughts about what I think. Who knows if anything I write is valid but here goes nothing...

It is such a great time of the year because of all of the different sports going on right now. European soccer is just getting into the swing of things, football games are a little more important now that a few games have been played, the MLS season is wrapping up and playoffs are on the horizon, and MLB playoffs have now begun. Also, the NBA preseason has started and in less than two weeks, the regular season will be here. Here are some of my highlights from yesterday:

United played West Brom to a 2-2 draw. Chicharito kept his scoring streak going and Nani had a great goal after a good move between him and Berba. An absolute shocker by Van Der Sar gifted West Brom their equalizer. Even though we have been struggling as of late, I still love my team and am sure they will sort it all out and get things rolling in the next few weeks. A side note, Rooney started on the bench and came on late. Hopefully Rooney can put his personal problems aside and regain the form that allowed him to score 30+ last season.

The Cougars played at TCU, and I didn't expect much out of the game. Although we lost 31-3, I felt our defense played pretty solid. Jake Heaps made a few mistakes, but he could use a little help from his receivers who seem to drop 2 or 3 potentially big plays, each week. At the same time, you can't expect a true freshman quarterback to do much against the #1 defense in the nation. I lost all respect for Gary Patterson, coach of TCU, after he went for 4th down (up 24-3) with 4 minutes left in the game. All in all, it's been a rough season for the Cougs.

RSL played at home against FC Dallas in a possible playoff preview. Dallas had their unbeaten streak (19), and RSL had their home unbeaten streak (24). It was such an amazing game. Both teams played good soccer, and it was a very high paced and physical game. Grabavoy scored his first ever "header" goal and then Morales had a goal late on to seal the deal. 2-0 was the final score, and coupled with a Rapids win at the Galaxy (3-1), RSL moved to within 1 point of LA in the race for the Supporters' Shield. In the last game of the season for each team, RSL plays at Colorado and LA plays at home to Dallas. I'm hoping we get it done, and get a little help from Dallas, that way we can lock down home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The MLB League Championship Series' started and although I should care more, the Red Sox are not involved so I don't really care who wins, just as long as the Yankees don't win. The Rangers blew the first game after leading 5-0 late. However, they got it done in the second game and head to New York with Cliff Lee in game 3 and 1-1 series. As a Sox fan, I'm hopeful that the Rangers can get it done in the Big Apple. In the National League, last night was advertised as "the greatest pitching matchup in playoff history". Roy Halladay vs Tim Lincecum. The game didn't live up to the hype in that respect, however it was a great game. The Giants got some clutch hits from some of their young guns, and held on late for a 4-3 victory. Game 2 is tonight in Philly.