Team USA Qualifies for 2014 World Cup
On Tuesday night, Team America beat Mexico in Columbus, Ohio 2-0 and, later in the evening, when Honduras refused to hold on and beat Panama, tying 2-2 on a goal in stoppage time, ensuring that Team USA secured a qualifying spot in the World Cup.
The Americans had lost their last game, against Costa Rica, on Friday night. They were whooped, 1-3, and they lost the mental edge of having the longest win streak in the world, at 12. Moreover, they lost Jozy Altidore, Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler for the Mexico match due to those players picking up their second yellow cards of the qualification process. Michael Bradley also sat out against Mexico, having suffered a freak injury during warmups when he sprained his left ankle.
Due to those absences—
However, when it came time to get things done, the team stepped up as a whole with their depth tested, and the team answered the call. The previous stars were particularly adept, with Eddie Johnson scoring in the 49th minute, once again off a header. He was spelled by Mikkel Diskerud in the 76th minute. Reviled when his plan didn't seem to be taking right away, coach Jurgen Klinsmann now looks like a genius, particularly when it comes to substitutions. Diskerud played a smart ball of a throw in with a deft first touch, putting the ball right in front of the Mexico goal. Clint Dempsey had a brilliant look at the clincher but whiffed his attempt. Luckily, Landon Donovan was there, as he's been for Team USA ever since making his comeback. Donovan put his goal in at the 78th minute.
When Honduras tied Panama nearly an hour after the USA/Mexico game finished, the work of the night was complete. Team USA is now officially qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It's worth noting that, of the 207 nations in the world who compete in the qualification process, only 32 make it. Eight nations have won the World Cup; the United States is not amongst that number. With this qualification, though, the United States becomes only the 13th nation to qualify for the ultimate tournament 10 times.
The Daily Word in the hatchet hitchhiker, the UNM groper and Unemployed Reporter Porter
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Killer Cuteness of the Day
Adorable dogs interrupt international soccer game
There isn’t too much that can be said about this video…except that even when dogs ruin everything, they still make it all better. It’s not certain how these two pups made it onto the field during this match between the Turkish team Galatasaray and Germany's VfR Aalen. This fact somehow makes it all the more cute.
UNM Loses in Sweet Sixteen Second Year in a Row
The University of New Mexico's men's soccer program began their season as the number two team in the country. Their successful season ended on Sunday in Storrs, Connecticutas as the number 13 Lobos fell to number 4 University of Connecticut. The Lobos scored the lone goal of the first half in the 32nd minute, but gave up an equalizer in the second half. UConn's Mamadou Diouf put a header in the back of the net in the 76th minute to knot things up. Despite coming out of the second-half break on fire, UNM never found the right mix, even missing a point blank shot with only two minutes left in regulation.
Heading into the overtime periods, the rules change from the regular season, and the Lobos had to fight for every inch, knowing that the golden goal would send whichever team scored first to the Elite Eight. Both teams only managed one shot on goal, UNM in the first OT and UConn in the second. It was this kick in the 105th minute that sealed the deal.
UConn will play in Storrs again next weekend when they face Creighton, who beat Akron with a 5-4 penalty count after 2 scoreless overtime periods. That game will be played to determine who will to make the trip to the Final Four.
UNM ended their season in the Sweet Sixteen for the second consecutive year, disappointing fans who were looking for improvement on last year's incredible, undefeated season. The bitter taste is sure to hang heavily on senior Devon Sandoval, who played a phenomenal game and had an excellent season. Sandoval, one of six seniors on the team, recorded 15 goals for the season. He had been mentioned all season as one of the top seniors in the nation, and is now considered as a possible draft pick in Major League Soccer's draw.
Although Sandoval stands out as the senior with the most prospects for the future and the Lobos are heading home earlier than both they would like, it should be noted that these six seniors helped the team equal a record set by the the 2004-2005 Lobos: 35 wins over a combined two seasons. The net result of those teams? A national runner-up spot in 2005 after losing to Maryland in the final game of the season. The lesson here is that Lobo soccer is back. Losing six seniors will hurt, but this team should be a force to reckon with for some time.
Lobo Soccer Continues to Win
UNM looks impressive despite weather delay
The No. 4 University of New Mexico Lobos looked a bit sloppy against the Houston Baptist University Huskies on Sunday, allowing a goal in the 16th minute. However, they managed to put two in the back of the net to come out on top in Houston.
The Lobos continue their march forward in the wake of last year's undefeated season—a remarkable season that, due to the odd rules of soccer, concluded in the third round of the NCAA Tournament with a match that sent the Lobos home, but did not count as a loss.
The Huskies have lost five games this season, but the Lobos have taken only a single loss. Their tenacity after a 13-hour weather delay and a site change for the game shows how focused this team is on improving last year's considerable accomplishments.
This game was the conference opener for the The Lobos and who now face nine consecutive matches with members of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation all vying for the NCAA Tournament automatic bid. UNM's last conference game will be another against Houston Baptist on Saturday, November 3. In between, of course, there will be plenty of tough matches, though none against the old giants of the MPSF, Sacramento State and Colorado. The Lobos should still brace themselves October 21 for a home battle against CSU Bakersfield, another Mountain Pacific team that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last year.
In a year full of individual accolades that continue to pile up for the Lobos, the most promising praise is the national ranking and the knowledge that, after such repeated success, this team deserves to be considered among the national title contenders.
This weekend, the Lobos will continue their assault on two in-conference visitors: Air Force on Friday and Denver on Sunday. Both matches should showcase the Lobos' talents and serve as excellent opportunities for fans to jump on the wagon and get behind a local team that could make waves come championship time.
The Daily Word in Lobo sports, European debt crises, and an ADHD galaxy cluster.
It was an excellent weekend for UNM sports. The Lobo football team gets 21-14 conference win over UNLV, Steve Alford's men's basketball team opens the season with 92-40 triumph over New Orleans, and the men's soccer team takes the conference championship over Cal State Bakersfield.
Oh, also, Monster Jam was at Tingley this weekend all vintage-style.
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Thanks to CM and CP for the help.
Lobo soccer continues to impress
Men still wear target
The women clinched the Mountain West Conference championship in the finals with a pair of goals that mirrored each other in time. Scoring nineteen seconds into the game, Natalie Jenks put away the quickest game-winner in MWC tournament history. The game ended with the Lobos on top 2-0 and they secured an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. They will begin play at UCLA on Saturday, Nov. 12. The Lady Lobos are playing in only their second NCAA Tournament and hope to surpass last year's first-round exit.
On the other hand, with its No. 1 ranking secure, and an unbeaten streak that is the talk of the town, the men's team has higher expectations foisted upon it. The men also performed admirably over the weekend, shutting out UNLV in an ugly game that saw two ejections from the opposing side in the second half. No doubt frustrated by the score, the Lobos' ability and the fact that they'd already been eliminated from the post-season, UNLV turned what had been a pretty even affair in the first half into a slogged-down, foul-filled game in the last half.
Both teams, obviously, will be cheered for, but there's no denying that, between the rankings, the press and past history, the men's team will be waiting with bated breath on Monday, Nov. 14, when the men's NCAA Tournament bracket is revealed. Because of the aforementioned circumstances, the clear hope—and expectation—is for a healthy slate of home field advantage for the early rounds of the tournament. But no matter where they play, the Lobos are sure to have a target on their backs.
Lobo soccer on the road to elusive championship
The men's soccer team, as previously mentioned, has been here before. Ranked first in the country. A team full of athletes dedicated to a common cause. The same coach. The atmosphere drowning the city. It didn't end as well as it could have. Ironically, the team that is ahead of UNM in the NSCAA poll is Maryland, the same team that beat the Lobos in 2005 for the national championship.
The Lobo soccer team is the only unbeaten team in the nation at this point, and is looking to finish up their schedule on a strong note. Two of the last three regular season games take place this weekend at the UNM Sportsplex, and tickets are still more than available.
The truth at this point, though, is that UNM has got to start thinking about the NCAA tournament and, perhaps, let some of the thoughts regarding its now-record-breaking win streak go by the wayside. The MPSF tournament comes first and a respectable finish there is more than just hoped for by now – it's expected. The team will refuse to look past opponents, giving everyone their due respect, but we have the luxury of looking ahead.
When the Lobos were making their earlier runs, they had the benefit of some serious home-field advantage. We can hope for the same here, but it's only useful if the stadium is packed. With the lofty goals of a sport-starved city foisted upon them, the Lobos certainly have more-than-ample excuse to crumble. These men, though, seem up to the challenge. The season is almost over and the time for marking true accomplishments is practically here. Make sure to get out to the Lobo soccer field to see what happens.
Lobo football is on the rise ...
The other kind of football, that is
Pressure Breaks U.S.
Japan wins World Cup
Team U.S.A. prided itself on succeeding with its back against the wall. It wanted the pressure. In the final match of the 2011 Women's World Cup, that pressure might have proven to be too much.
The U.S. played a better game at every single point of the game that mattered, until the part that mattered the most. Up by one in regulation and then again up by one in overtime, the Women's team twice let its lead evaporate and eventually headed to penalty kicks. The only other Women's World Cup that had gone to penalty kicks was the famous 1999 Brandi Chastain-imprinted win. When it came time to shoot down those echoes of the past, however, this team simply could no do it.
When the game started, it looked as though it was going to be a US-dominated affair. Lauren Cheney got things off on the right foot with a quick run up the left side within the first minute. Megan Rapinoe continued the US pressure with a killer cross to Cheney in the 8th minute and Carli Lloyd almost had a neat clean-up at the 11th minute. Cheney passed to Rapinoe for a fantastic straight-on shot only 20 seconds later.
After an advantage call in the 28th minute, Abby Wambach had a shot bounce off the top of the crossbar, in a dramatic instance that would be repeated time and time again. Despite numerous chances, the United States did not seem as though they'd be able to capitalize.
Things started to pick up for Japan when Shinobu Ohno got a good shot in the 30th minute, but U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo cut off that effort easily. In the 2011 Women's World Cup, three of Japan's 10 goals had previously come on set pieces. And at the 37th minute, despite being outplayed for virtually the entire first half, they got a corner kick where they might have had another one of those set piece goals. One minute later, Japan got a great service for Kozue Ando, but Solo came off her line quickly and successfully.
As the first half ended, the momentum appeared to have shifted, albeit slightly. The United States had more chances—all missed—but they couldn't capitalize at any point. They played so well for almost the entire half, but they could not come out ahead. It was at this point that the question of pressure had to be rising in many people's minds.
To counter that doubt, coach Pia Sundhage started the second half by removing Cheney and putting in Alex Morgan, who almost put in a cross to the short corner a mere four minutes into the second half. After the referee incorrectly called an offside offense against Japan, Heather O'Reilly hit Wambach with a lift in the 64th minute that Wambach nearly headed just above the Japan keeper.
In the 68th minute, super-sub Morgan got an excellent feed from Rapinoe. Morgan took one touch on the ball and blasted a left-footed shot into the lower right hand corner to take the lid off the goal for the Americans.
In the 80th minute, though, Japan got an equalizer from Aya Miyama and put on non-stop pressure. With two more chances in the next minute for Japan, it seemed as though the U.S. was on its heels. Making it through the last ten minutes of the regulation game was its own blessing, though, and the World Cup Final went to overtime.
Team U.S.A. got overtime started in a similar fashion, with an on-target header from Wambach that was halted by Ayumi Kaihori. However, as the first half of the overtime period moved toward its conclusion, in the 103rd minute, Morgan sent a small cross sailing past the Japanese goal which Wambach redirected masterfully into the back of the net off a header.
In the 111th minute, Team U.S.A. survived a scare, as Solo came off her line, missed the ball and then two defenders collided while attempting to clear the ball. But Japan could not convert. Shortly after, Rapinoe got subbed out in favor of Tobin Heath finishing the game with fresh legs. The threats were not over, however, for the United States, as Yukari Kinga broke toward the goal off a feed from Homare Sawa. Solo was hurt and remained on the ground, but captain Christine Rampone was there to clear the goal. Unfortunately, on the resulting corner kick in the 116th minute, Sawa put in the cross to knot things up 2-2.
There would be no more points scored in the overtime period. And while Japan converted three of its first four penalty kicks, Team U.S.A. was only able to put in one of five, total.
As the pressure finally cracked, nothing good came of it. There was no tremendous release, no dismissal of the specters of the past. There was a better finish for Team U.S.A. than in the previous two World Cups. That's the silver lining. But for the game they played, the way they executed, the near-perfect—minus goal-scoring—team effort, it's hard to focus on that silver lining. For a team that was aiming for a championship or bust, second place cannot be anything other than first loser.
U.S. advances to World Cup final
They did it again.
After a mesmerizing win Sunday against Brazil in penalty kicks, the U.S. women's team pulled out a 3-1 win against France that had the U.S. side looking in peril in the second half of the game.
The match started with a U.S. goal by Lauren Cheney in the ninth minute off a beautiful cross from Heather O'Reilly. That was the first half's only goal.
The French came out the agressors to begin second half play, with Sonia Bompastor scoring from 30 yards out in the 55th minute.
It was at this point the the U.S. team began to falter. While they never trailed, they were constantly on their heels for the first 25 minutes or so of the second half.
But everything changed in the 79th minute. Abby Wambach, who scored the equalizer against Brazil that eventually sent the game into PK's, had another brilliant header to put the U.S. up 2-1.
A breakaway goal with ten minutes left by Alex Morgan only sealed the deal.
The U.S. will face the winner of Japan vs. Sweden on Sunday at noon, Mountain time. At the time of this post, that semifinal game was scoreless in the early stages.
Team USA Takes the First Step
Team USA took its first step in the march back to World Cup supremacy on Tuesday, beating Korea 2-0.
The US Women, as previously noted, have had a comparatively rough time of it lately in the World Cup; after winning the inaugural competition in 1991, taking third place in 1995 and winning it all again in 1999, with the memorable finish from Brandi Chastain, we've been stuck in third place since. (This, of course, discounts the success the women's national team has had in the Olympics: winning gold in 2004 and 2008 makes it hard for anyone to feel like we've not been performing.)
But before thinking about winning it all once again, the team had its hands full with the first round of pool play. Korea proved a capable opponent, despite being ranked only eighth in the FIFA World Rankings to Team USA's first. The first half of action was a sloppy affair, as neither side was able to connect for a goal.
In the second half, the big story got its traction. Lauren Cheney put the ball in the back of the net with a header from an Abby Wambach cross. Cheney was not a normal starter for Team USA, but got the nod for this game from coach Pia Sundhage over Megan Rapinoe. As the Women's World Cup was still being built up to, there were whispers among many soccer fans about the inconsistencies of this squad. Coach Sundhage knew that something had to change and took a bold risk in inserting the more-recently experienced Cheney over Rapinoe. She also demonstrated the kind of leadership that recognizes Rapinoe as the type of player to overcome what some might see as an insult. The gambit obviously paid off, and Team USA now has something positive to focus on, instead of subliminally addressing those whispers.
Team USA has plenty more ground to cover in order to be mentioned with some of the classic teams that came before them, but what we saw on Tuesday (in the second half, at least) is a positive sign of things to come. The women get their next chance to prove their mettle on Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPN 2 at 10 a.m. local time, and will be simulcast on ESPN3.com.
Hangover Sports Roundup
Mexico surprises U.S., Kongo beats Berry in amazing UFC comeback
2011 Gold Cup
Soccer has gained more mainstream coverage within American sports the last couple of years—Team U.S.A. had relative success in the 2010 World Cup and there's been a growing interest in Major League Soccer. So when the United States faced Mexico in the finals of the Gold Cup, the U.S. was poised to give American soccer some much needed creditability. 93,420 fans filled the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., to witness the U.S gain a quick two goal lead. But Mexico turned up the pressure and overwhelmed the U.S with four unanswered goals to capture the title, 4-2. Along with the loss, many of the fans were rooting for Mexico, jeering the Americans with insults throughout the match. While Mexico earned a birth in the 2013 Confederations Cup, the U.S will look for answers to improve in time for the 2012 Olympic Games.
UFC on Versus
There was little excitement surrounding the original main event of Nate Marquardt versus Rick Story. And on Saturday afternoon the main event fell apart after Maquardt failed his medical tests. Then UFC President Dana White fired him and named Charlie Brenneman as the last second replacement. Despite all the troubles with this card, the fights delivered some awesome finishes. Former NFL standout Matt Mitrione KO'd Christian Morecraft and Brenneman pulled off the upset by earning the decision against Story. Pat Berry and Cheick Kongo moved into the main event and delivered one of the best comebacks in the history of MMA. Berry caught Kongo with a series of punches and almost finished him, but the referee didn't stop the fight. Eventually Kongo gained his composure just enough to nail Berry and win the fight. The comeback victory could give Kongo some momentum to make one more run at the heavyweight title.
The Summer of Our Discontent
In the bleakest of sports times, there may still be reason to cheer
This is the worst time to be a sports fan.
Late June to early August has always been a tough time. There are years when we have the Summer Olympics to get us by. There's a brief respite for the Tour de France, although it's lost some of its luster recently. And yes, I am excited about both the upcoming Women's World Cup as well as the 15th WNBA Season. But there's no denying these are dark times.
The NBA, NFL and NHL are all done with their seasons. MLB, for those who care, hasn't really picked up any steam yet by this point in the season. But most importantly, for now, the two behemoths of American sports, basketball and football, seem to be on a collision course with no righting in sight.
The NFL is already locked out and the NBA appears to be heading in that direction. As though sports fans weren't already mired in what is traditionally the worst time of the year, that slog is now compounded by the fact that it might stretch on even longer.
There's already been extensive coverage of why this is happening in both of these leagues, so for now, let's focus on the positive: There are reports that the NFL sides might be close to reconciliation. The NBA can learn from this NFL experience and perhaps avoid actually locking out.
But even more importantly, we can shift our focus from those leagues to the alternatives. The aforementioned Women's World Cup features not just a strong U.S. team, but a hungry one. The Tour de France, free from those Americans that some claim the French love to hate, might have a chance to stand on its own, as opposed to being hounded by the WADA for violations; focusing on the actual sport and its real winner could prove to be a successful formula. And the WNBA is becoming a refined product on its own, not merely the little-sister-league of the NBA.
The WNBA is trying to make summer–the ironic winter of sports–its time to shine: By celebrating 15 years of existence, the league gets to simultaneously advertise its product as well as remind viewers that this league is no longer an experiment. Love it or hate it, the WNBA appears to be here to stay. The human aspect of sports is really what captivates people, and the inclusion of fan voting on the top 30 WNBA players of all time seems a great place to start.
Bicycling Magazine says that of the 200-plus riders who will take place in this year's Tour de France, Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer, two Americans, are some of the most worthy riders to watch. Perhaps America will once again have riders come from seemingly out of nowhere to challenge for the yellow jersey, enabling us to focus on the sport and the will of those who participate.
The Women's World Cup, taking place in Germany, presents a similar opportunity for the American women to take on the shadow that's been hanging over their program–in this case, for the last twelve years. In 1999, Brandi Chastain sealed a victory for America with her iconic penalty kick and celebration, but Team USA has been mired in mediocrity since then. The U.S. is ranked first in the world currently but needs to perform in order to maintain the enthusiasm that is beginning to dwindle.
So while the millionaires of the NBA and NFL fight with their billionaire owners, take some time in this traditionally dark period to try to get back to the great storylines that make us truly care about sports.
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