Friday, March 30, 2012

Sounders look to get off to a 3-0 start as they take on the San Jose Earthquakes

By Money Mike

The Seattle Sounders so far have taken maximum points in each of their first two matches this season. They will look to do the same here as they close out their three game homestand against the San Jose Earthquakes who are of course led by their go-to guy Chris Wondolowski. Last week, the Sounders defeated the Houston Dynamo by a score of 2-0, however after the match there was some Disciplinary action. Colin Clark was handed a three game suspension for verbally assulting one of the ball boys. Adam Moffat was handed a one game suspension for a dangerous tackle on Ozzie Alonso, which he gave him only a yellow card but the MLS Disciplinary committee thought it was red card offense and gave him a one match ban. Also, Alvaro Fernandez was fined an undisclosed amound of money for "embellishment of contact" in the 82nd minute of friday night's match.

Injury report:

San Jose Earthquakes - For the Quakes, Joey Gjertsen, who is a Tacoma native, is out after having sergery on his right knee. Tim Ward is suffering from a non-specific soft tissue injury and he is out. Sercan Guvenisik has a strained right hip flexor and is listed as doubtful. And finally, Marvin Chavez has a concussion and is listed as probable.

Seattle Sounders FC - For Seattle, of course we got a big list here. Of course Josh Ford, Andrew Duran and Steve Zakuani are out. Michael Tetteh is also out with a strained left hamstring. Babayele Sodade picked up a right knee injury while he was with Canada for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament and he is out. Eddie Johnson, Mauro Rosales and Adam Johansson also will not play against San Jose. And finally, Brad Evans picked up an injury during training and is a game time decision for this match.

Key matchup:

Chris Wondolowski vs Jhon Kennedy Hurtado - I think this is a key matchup after what happened in the last regular season home match of 2011. You never want to leave this guy open because he'll hurt you in a split second. Hurtado needs to shut him down if the Sounders are to have any chance of going 3-0.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

How Mariners management turned the magic of 1995 into a mess today

By Kshell

We all remember the magical run of 1995 that saved baseball in Seattle. The Seattle Mariners who were playing in their 19th season headed to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Now 1995 suddenly has been 17 years ago. When the Mariners defeated the New York Yankees in a best of five game series in the first round the town was crazy for the Mariners. When Ken Griffey Jr. slid into home plate for the winning run Mariners play by play announcer Dave Niehaus screamed "It just continues! My oh my!" well unfortunately that run didn't continue. The Mariners lost the next series to the Cleveland Indians in six games. With a core that featured Ken Griffey Jr, Randy Johnson, Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, and Tino Martinez who were all in their prime plus up and comer Alex Rodriguez on his way things appeared bright for this franchise. They also had a future hall of fame manager in Lou Piniella running the show as well. Instead the Mariners made the playoffs just three more times after that and are the only American League franchise to have never played in a World Series. The Mariners are currently in a rut having finished in last place six of the last eight seasons. How did this happen? In this following post I'll explain in 11 basic steps how the franchise went from a magical run to in the mess they currently find themselves in right now.

1. Traded Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson to the New York Yankees:

After defeating the Yankees in a hard fought series the Mariners ownership decided to cut back on payroll instead of go all out. Meaning a choice had to be made. The Mariners announced only one Martinez(Edgar or Tino) was going to be dealt. Since Edgar had just saved baseball Tino was dealt. Trading Tino Martinez was bad but what made this deal particularly bad was he was dealt to the New York Yankees. The Mariners also included reliever Jeff Nelson. Martinez was coming off of an All-Star season at the age of 27 years old he hit .293/.369/.551 with 31 home runs, 111 RBI's and 92 runs scored. Martinez was a former first round pick of the Mariners so this trade really hurt. Nelson who was a 28 year old reliever finally had a break out year going 7-3 in 62 appearences. He pitched 78.2 innings, saving two games, posting a 2.17 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 96 strikeouts(11.0 K's per 9). Both Nelson and Martinez would help the Yankees win four World Series titles. While what the Mariners got in return was Sterling Hitchcock who would win the 1998 NLCS MVP award as the Mariners shipped him away for Scott Sanders who they then dealt for Omar Olivares and Felipe Lira. The other piece was Russ Davis who posted a negative 1.3 WAR in his four lack luster seasons in Seattle. The Mariners help build a dynasty with a team they just defeated while potentially costing themselves from 1996-2003.

2. The Bullpen was historically awful:

After trading away Jeff Nelson and over using Norm Charlton in 1995 the bullpen suffered in 1996. After 1996 the Mariners inexplicably resigned Bobby Ayala back and let Mike Jackson go. The 1997 Mariners set the all-time home run record for a team which featured two batting champions in Edgar Martinez and Alex Rodriguez. Also featured MVP Ken Griffey Jr who belted 56 home runs that year and Randy Johnson finished that season second in the Cy Young race. The terrible bullpens of 1997 and 1998 made sure a team with Griffey Jr, Martinez, Johnson and A-Rod would never win a playoff series together in their prime years.

Ayala took most of the blame of the bullpen failures as he pitched with the Mariners from 1994-1998 posting a 27-26 record in 292 games pitched. He threw 367 innings with a 4.88 era, 1.41 WHIP and had 374 strikeouts with 56 saves. His final year in Seattle in 1998 he was 1-10 with a 7.29 ERA. In the playoffs Ayala posted a 17.47 ERA allowing 11 runs in 5.2 innings in the 1995 and 1997 playoff series combined. The bullpen struggles of 1997 not only cost them that season but put the Mariners franchise in a state of panic which cost them down the road.

3. Mariners trade away three young stars in Varitek, Lowe and Cruz Jr in 1997:

In 1997 the Mariners bullpen was killing the team as the division race was falling away. So the Mariners decided to trade Jose Cruz Jr. who was the 3rd overall pick in the 1995 draft to the Toronto Blue Jays for setup men Mike Timlin and Paul Spoljaric. Cruz. Jr at the time was hitting .268/.315/.541 with 12 home runs and 34 RBI's in 183 at bats. He would finish the year second in the rookie of the year. While Spoljaric flopped and Timlin left the Mariners after the 1998 season. Cruz Jr. posted back to back 30 home runs season in 2000 and 2001 when the Mariners lost back to back ALCS trips. In 2001 Cruz Jr hit .274/.326/.530 with 34 home runs and 32 stolen bases. He could have been the missing power the Mariners needed. What is sad is he wasn't even the worst trade that day.

Cruz. Jr stole all the headlines that day but another trade set the Mariners back. The Mariners traded former first round pick catcher Jason Varitek and pitcher Derek Lowe to the Boston Red Sox for closer Heathcliff Slocumb. Slocumb was the closer for the 1997 division champions but was ineffective. In less than two seasons with the Mariners Slocumb was 2-9 in 84 games. He threw 96 innings posting a high ERA of 4.97, a 1.63 WHIP and had only 13 saves. Meanwhile Varitek and Lowe ended the curse of the Bambino in 2004 as the Red Sox won the World Series title first time in 86 years. Varitek won another title in 2007 as he was the Red Sox captain. Varitek was named to three all-star games, won a gold glove and silver slugger award. In 15 seasons he hit .256/.341/.435 in 5,099 at bats. He belted 193 home runs while driving in 757 RBI's. 

Derek Lowe enjoyed a long career as well. Lowe is 166-146 in his career with a 3.94 era and 1.31 WHIP with 85 saves. Lowe made two all-star games where he led the league in saves in 2000 and then in 2002 as a starter finished 3rd in the CY Young race. During the 2004 playoff run Lowe was the winning pitcher in the series clinching game in all three series. The Mariners could have used Lowe as a bullpen arm in the late 1990's or used him as a front of the rotation pitcher in the 2000's. They definately could have used Varitek's power at the catcher position or Cruz Jr power in left field in 2000-2001. Instead it was all wasted away to pick up three crappy relievers.

4. Poor drafts from 1997-2008:

Starting in 1997 and going all the way until 2008(could be even longer but the rest are too early to tell) the Mariners have done poorly in the draft. Starting in 1997 when the Mariners took 6'11" left handed pitcher Ryan Anderson with 19th pick overall. Most of baseball fell in love with Anderson as he instantly became compared to Randy Johnson. Anderson was also a top prospect for the longest time but never threw an inning in the major leagues.

Here are the list of the names of the Mariners first round picks after Anderon.
1998-Matt Thornton(did nothing for the Mariners but turned good for the White Sox after Bavasi gave him away).
1999- Jeff Heaverlo(never pitched in the major leagues)
1999- Ryan Christianson(11th pick overall, catcher never cracked the major leagues)
2001- Michael Garciaparra(never played in the majors)
2002- John Mayberry(never signed with Mariners, re-entered draft)
2003- Adam Jones(Bavasi traded him away for Bedard in 2008, currently an all-star with the Orioles)
2005- Jeff Clement(3rd pick overall as a catcher. Hit .237/.309/.393 with just 7 HR's in 219 AB's. Currently in minor leagues)
2006- Brandon Morrow(5th pick overall and was chosen ahead of hometown pitcher Tim Lincecum. Lincecum has won two Cy Youngs and a World Series. Morrow has since been traded).
2007- Matt Mangini(has had just 38 AB's with Mariners)
2007- Phillippe Aumont(11th overall pick, is still in the minors. Part of the Cliff Lee trade)
2008- Josh Fields(has yet to make the majors and is in double A as the Mariners have traded him).

Add it all up zero all-star game appearences for the Mariners, seven guys who never played one game for the Mariners and six who were traded away. Hard to win when you whiff on every single first round pick in a 12 year stretch like the Mariners did.

5. Getting rid of Randy Johnson too early:

After finishing second in the Cy Young race in 1997 Johnson was entering his final year on his contract. Johnson wanted a three year deal while the Mariners told him he didn't have three years left. During the 1998 Johnson didn't pitch up to his usual standards and was traded for Freddy Garcia, John Halama and Carlos Guillen. Now that ended up being a decent trade but make no mistake none of them were worth a Randy Johnson. Johnson proved he had several years left as he pitched until the 2009 season.

 Johnson after leaving the Mariners would go on to win four straight Cy Young's then finished second in 2004. He was also World Series MVP in 2001 as well. With the Diamondbacks Johnson was dominant over the next six seasons. Johnson went 103-49(.677) while throwing 1,389.2 innings posting an ERA of 2.65 and a 1.05 WHIP. He also had 1,833 strikeouts good for 11.87 K's per 9. The Mariners desperately needed an ace during the 2000-2003 run when Johnson was winning three of his four Cy Young's in a row and finished in second place in 2004. Even at the end of his career Johnson proved to be a quality pitcher as he won over 300 games in his major league career. The emotional scars of trading away Johnson set up a bad three year stretch for the Mariners as they saw three straight offseasons where they were asked to replace a future hall of famer.

6. Losing both A-rod and Griffey Jr in back to back seasons:

After losing Johnson the Mariners saw Ken Griffey Jr. demande a trade after the 1999 season. The Mariners traded him for Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko and two prospects who never panned out from the Cincinnati Reds. The Mariners without Griffey became Alex Rodriguez team as they advanced to the ALCS before losing in six games to the eventual World Series champions New York Yankees. Griffey who had always owned the Yankees could have been the difference that playoff series as the Mariners lost two heartbreaking games. After that series Rodriguez left the team for a record 10 year 252 million dollars to the Texas Rangers.

In 2001 the Mariners would once again get better without a superstar. The Mariners won a major league record 116 games but failed to reach the World Series. After that season the Mariners little did they know at the time would never reach the playoffs again. While Rodriguez has since joined the Yankees and won a World Series. The Mariners survived at first losing three hall of famers in three successive years but no franchise can survive that long term and the Mariners were no exceptions.

7. Stood "Pat" during the 2000-2003 trade deadlines:

The Mariners posted the best record out of any major league franchise during the four season stretch from 2000-03 yet had no World Series banners to show for it. The reason was the Mariners management refused to upgrade at the trade deadline. In 2000 the only trade was John Mabry for Al Martin(whose blunder in the outfield in the 8th inning of game two of the ALCS started the big inning for the Yankees). In 2001 the Mariners had the division title practically wrapped up by May so fans started to wonder what they need come October. Most felt the Mariners could use one more stick but most of all was a frontline starting pitcher(Randy Johnson would have been nice). The main guy on the block was Al Leiter who was in his second season of five straight seasons of having his ERA in the mid 3.00 range. Leiter had won a World Series with the Blue Jays and along with Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer could have made up a nice playoff rotation. Then Mariners general manager Pat Gillick didn't want to be another Woody Woodward from 1997 where he was known as the guy who gave away the next young prospect. Instead the Mariners stood pat and lost in the 2001 ALCS as Aaron Sele the #3 starter had to pitch games one and five and got shelled in both games. In 2002 and 2003 the Mariners once again made no moves and missed the playoffs down the stretch. Since then the Mariners have finished in last place six of the last eight seasons.

8. The roster got old and there was no young replacements ready:

The Mariners in 2004 woke up one morning and were suddenly old. After winning 90+ games four years in a row the Mariners lost 99 games in 2004. I'll list the Mariners opening day lineup in 2004 with their ages next to their name.

1. Ichiro RF(30 years old)
2. Winn CF(30 years old)
3. Boone 2B(35 years old)
4. Ibanez LF(32 years old)
5. Martinez DH(41 yeards old)
6. Olerud 1B(35 years old)
7. Aurilia SS(32 years old)
8. Wilson C(35 years old)
9. Bloomquist 3B(26 years old) was filling in for Scott Spiezio(31 years old)
SP- Moyer(41 years old)
Closer- Guardado(33 years old)

That roster was old. The Mariners didn't bring in any youthful pieces to take over for some of their veterans. Due to the poor drafting there was no up and comer to take over for when a Jay Buhner retired or when Edgar Martinez retired. Nobody to take over when Moyer or Dan Wilson got old. This franchise got old pretty quick and with steroid testing about to begin players stopped being in their prime in their mid 30's.

9. Lou Piniella left the franchise after 2002:

When the Mariners stood pat in 2002 after Piniella screamed to the press over and over he wanted one more hitter for this team. After winning 116 games in 2001 the Mariners stormed out of the gates in 2002 with the best record again after April. Due to injuries and regression to the mean the Mariners were being overtaken by the Oakland A's(the money ball season) and the Anaheim Angels. Eventually losing out the division and wildcard race to both. Frustrated with ownership and seeing that this roster wasn't getting any younger Piniella decided to leave for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

While in Seattle Piniella went 840-711(.542) in 10 seasons. The Mariners prior to his arrival had just one winning season. During his 10 seasons the Mariners had seven winning seasons, four trips to the playoffs and three trips to the American League Championship Series. Since Piniella's departure the Mariners have had just three winning seasons and six last place finishes. The Mariners are just 665-793(.456) since Piniella has left the team. It's looking more and more like Piniella made this franchise as before and after he was here the franchise has produced just four winning seasons(one of which was right after he left). The Mariners have had six full-time managers in the nine seasons that Piniella has been gone and a total of eight overall. This franchise has been a huge mess since he has left.

10. The Bill Bavasi years:

The Bavasi era really sank this franchise. He came into a difficult task as the Mariners roster was old heading into the 2004 season and like I pointed out had drafted poorly from 1997-2003(which doesn't include 1993, 1994 and 1995 first rounder A-rod, Varitek and Cruz Jr no longer part of the franchise) meaning he didn't have a great situation. So it was important that the Mariners got that GM hire correct. Instead they got it so wrong the franchise is still struggling from it. Bavasi is known as the GM who built the first ever 100 loss team from a 100 million dollar payroll. In his five years with the Mariners they went 359-451(.443) with four losing seasons all of which saw them finish in last place.

In fact the Bavasi era was so disasterous I hope you take the time to read my blog post about the Bill Bavasi years as his era deserves a separate post. Adam Jones, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin Soo-Choo were all traded away under his watch. Jeff Clement was chosen ahead of Ryan Zimmerman, Troy Tulowitzki, Ricky Romero and Ryan Braun. He also chose Brandon Morrow with the 5th pick overall. Taken shortly after him was currenty Cy Young pitcher Clayton Kershaw who went 7th overall and two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum who was picked 10th overall. Bavasi blew payroll, lost games and developed no talent in his years. The franchise was a mess by the time he stepped away.

11. This franchise has no identity:

Jack Zduriencik was asked to take over for Bill Bavasi. Jack Z basically has walked into a room full of crap all over the walls and ceiling. So far Z has been able to clean a spot off so there is some hope but the place still is covered in crap. In Jack Z's three years in Seattle the Mariners are 213-273(.438) with 196 losses the last two years finishing in last place. The problem with the franchise now is they appear to have no identity. The Mariners are in a rebuilding mode with young prospects yet are trotting Chone Figgins out there over Kyle Seager. Ichiro will receive as much at bats as possible while Casper Wells and Trayvon Robinson rot away. The Mariners farm system far as the hitting goes is still a mess. The Mariners are just a franchise with no true identity anymore. Second straight  offseason where they did nothing after appearing to go for it in 2010 when trading for Cliff Lee and signing Figgins(which blew up in Jack Z's face). Yet in these offseasons the Mariners are signing older guys like Kevin Millwood, Miguel Olivo, Jack Cust, etc. Jack Z inherited a mess as I just explained the franchise was in the toilet well before he arrived but he isn't exactly getting them out of the toilet either. This franchise needs to full on committ to rebuilding which should start with cutting bait on the older guys and going with the young guys.

Back in 1995 the Mariners took over the city. The Sonics were in the middle of their prime and Husky football was towards the end of their run as well. Yet it was the Mariners who captured the cities heart during that time. Ever since 1995 Mariners management has slowly but surely destroyed that feeling. When the Mariners are sitting at home watching the playoffs for the 11th straight year you'll now know why it got to that point. Ever since that magical ride in 1995 the Mariners have made one key blunder after another as attendance continues to drop each season. Look for Safeco Field to be empty yet again as the Mariners continue to be lost this year. Do we compete now? Do we rebuild? Should we play the young guys and punt this year? Should we give Ichiro one last final send off? That is the problem the Mariners don't even know and they never fully commit to one solution. The Mariners are a mess and this was painful to write but felt it had to be done. Maybe on the 20th anniversary of the Mariners magical 1995 run the Mariners by then can finally compete for a playoff spot. One can only hope but knowing this ownership I have my doubts. After reading this how can anyone trust this ownership ever again? I sure as hell don't.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sounders shutout Houston 2-0

By Money Mike

With Mauro Rosales and Adam Johansson out, Sigi Schmid had to shuffle his lineup around for this match. Those losses didn't seem to be a problem for the Sounders as they shutout the Houston Dynamo 2-0. David Estrada continued his hot start to the season as he scored again. Estrada now has four goals in two MLS matches and five goals in all competitions this season. The Sounders will close out their three game homestand next Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes.

Houston got off to a good start early in the match. In the 17th minute, Andre Hainault chipped the ball into the box for Brian Ching who flicked it on to Will Bruin for a first timed shot on goal and forced goalkeeper Michael Gspurning to palm the ball over the bar. A minute later, Geoff Cameron, who has been a pain in the ass against the Sounders, had a shot blocked. The attack wasn't done yet. Brad Davis sent in another cross which found his teammate Je-Vaughn Watson, but he couldn't direct his header on target.

In the 23rd minute, the Sounders broke loose. Alvaro Ferandez took the corner from the far hash mark. His outswinger has intended for Roger Levesque, but Geoff Cameron headed the ball out of the penalty area, however the ball fell for David Estrada who volleyed it towards goal and it deflected off Colin Clark and in. At first they credited the goal to Estrada, but then later on they decided to charge Clark with an own-goal and then they changed their mind again and gave the goal to Estrada.

The Sounders doubled their advantage a couple minutes later. In the 25th minute, off another outswinger from "El Flacco", Geoff Cameron manhandles former Dynamo player Patrick Ianni and referee Baldomero Toledo wasted no time pointing to the penalty spot and awarding Seattle with a PK. Brad Evans who was 3 for 3 from the spot last season did the honors and he made no mistake, he got his foot behind the ball and smashed it into the bottom right hand side. Tally Hall did guess the right way, but it was too hot to handle and the Sounders were up 2-0.

In the 53rd minute, Houston tried to find a way back. Will Bruin forced Gspurning to make another save. Bruin headed the ball towards goal and Gspurning got down on the ground and kept the ball in front of him. 15 minutes later, Corey Ashe had a go from outside the box, but the ball drifted well wide of the goal. That was how Houston's night turned out as Seattle came away victorious 2-0.

Scoring summary:

Seattle Sounders FC - David Estrada 4 (unassisted) 23'

Seattle Sounders FC - Brad Evans 1 (penalty kick) 26'

Misconduct summary:

Houston Dynamo - Adam Moffat (caution; foul) 35'

Houston Dynamo - Brad Davis (caution; foul) 78'

Seattle Sounders FC - Alvaro Fernandez (caution; argument) 83'


Houston Dynamo - Tally Hall; Andre Hainault (Jermaine Taylor 46'), Geoff Cameron, Bobby Boswell, Corey Ashe; Colin Clark, Adam Moffat, Je-Vaughn Watson (Luiz Camargo 67'), Brad Davis; Will Bruin, Brian Ching (Macoumba Kandji 76')

Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning; Zach Scott, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Marc Burch; Roger Levesque (Leonardo Gonzalez 81'), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans (Servando Carrasco 61'), Alvaro Fernandez; David Estrada, Fredy Montero (Christian Sivebaek 90')

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sounders get set to host the Houston Dynamo

By Money Mike

The Seattle Sounders take on the Houston Dynamo in their second of three straight home matches to start the season. The match will kick off tomorrow at 7pm as NBC Sports Network makes their first trip to the Emerald City. Much like what Sporting KC went through last season, the Dynamo face a long road swing to start the year. The Dynamo will be on the road until May 12th when they open up the new BBVA Compass Stadium against D.C. United. Houston won their first two matches, however they didn't look too good in their last match against San Jose. It's important that the Sounders play their game and put pressure on the back line immediately. This will be the only meeting between these two teams this season. In nine all-time meetings, including the two games in the MLS Cup Playoffs and a U.S. Open Cup semifinal, the road team has never taken the full three points.

Injury report:

Houston Dynamo - The only injury update I have right now for the Dynamo is Corey Ashe is listed as probable, he strained his left hammie prior to the start of the season.

Seattle Sounders FC - Well we have a big list here. Of course the guys that are out are Josh Ford, Andrew Duran, Michael Tetteh, Steve Zakuani and O'Brian White. Mauro Rosales will be out for a couple of weeks after he picked up another knee injury last week. Some ridiculous fan on SeattleTimes complained about him flopping and I don't understand this. Out of all the matches I've seen him play, not once have I ever seen him flop. It was obvious, that he was kicked in the knee intentionally and the referee did nothing out it. And I can tell that fan clearly doesn't know what a flop is, but anyway, Rosales is out. Look for Christian Sivebaek to get the start on the right. Eddie Johnson did get some practice time in for the team this week after he sat out last week with a hip flexor injury, but he might sit out again this week. Right now, he's listed as doubtful. And finally, Adam Johannson will be a game-time decision after he sustained a hamstring injury during practice on Tuesday. Hopefully he'll be a go for tomorrow.

By the way, earlier today, the Sounders bought out O'Brian White's contract for 2012, so he will no longer occupy a roster spot or count against the Salary Budget. White has been dealing with multiple blood clot sergeries in his leg. It looked like he would return in the middle of 2011, but he suffered a setback and now it looks like his tenure with the Sounders is just about over.

International absenses:

Houston Dynamo - Alright, currently away on international duty for the Dynamo is Kofi Sarkodie who is currently with the U.S. under-23 national team for the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament which kicked off today. By the way, the U.S. won their first match 6-0 over Cuba.

Seattle Sounders FC - The Sounders have two guys away for the same reason. Rookie Babayele Sodade is currently with Canada, who kicked off their campaign against El Salvador. Unfortunetly, he was left on the bench. The other guy is Cordell Cato with Trinidad and Tobago who kick off their campaign tomorrow against Mexico.

Key matchup:

Alvaro Fernandez vs Andre Hainault - This is the only key matchup I have for this one and this is the matchup that I think will decide this game. So far in this young season, Ferandez has been a playmaker on the left side of midfield. If he can get Andre Hainault backpeddling here, that means Geoff Cameron is gonna have to come over from his central defensive position and help out and if Cameron slides over, that would leave room for David Estrada or Fredy Montero to run diaginally across the Dynamo box. San Jose and Chivas haven't managed that, if Seattle does, that would increase their chances of winning. Fernandez has done all the dirty work while Steve Zakuani has been out recovering from his fractured leg and looking to get back to full fitness and I'm pretty sure Zakuani would've had the same job against this Houston Dynamo back four.

Huskies advance to NIT final four with 90-86 win over the Ducks!

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(24-10,14-4) are advancing to New York City to play in the NIT final four after ending the Oregon Ducks(24-10,13-5) season 90-86. The Huskies were led by Terrence Ross scoring a game high 24 points which had to anger Oregon fans as Ross is from the state of Oregon. For the second straight year the Huskies split the regular season with the Ducks each winning at home and the Huskies winning the third game in postseason play. The Huskies are going back to Madison Square Garden in New York City where they played earlier in the  year losing to two top ranked teams by a combined nine points to Marquette and Duke.  The Pac-12 champions Huskies who made history by being left out of the NCAA tournament are taking advantage of the NIT and are finally coming together as a team. Ross and Tony Wroten are playing terrific ball while C.J. Wilcox has been key off the bench. Abdul Gaddy is starting to show flashes of why he was such a sought after recruit coming out of high school. For the Huskies to end the Ducks season in itself was a big moment as these schools don't like each other. Now the Huskies can pack their bags as they are heading back to Madison Square Garden hoping to cut down the nets and erase the bad memories of their first trip to New York City.

In the first half was a high paced half with tons of lead changes. After being tied at six the Huskies went on a 6-0 run to lead 12-6. The Ducks quickly responded with a 12-2 run to lead 18-14 over the Huskies. After trailing 23-19 Abdul Gaddy went on a 5-0 run to give the Huskies a 24-23 lead over the Ducks. With the Ducks leading 41-39 they went on a 5-0 run to lead 46-39. The Ducks would lead at halftime 46-42 over the Huskies. In the first half the Ducks shot well making 16-30(53.3%) from the field, 4-10(40.0%) from three point range and 10-12(83.3%) on free throws. They were led by E.J. Singler who scored 15 points on four for seven shooting including three for four on three pointers and four for five on free throws. He also had six rebounds and two assists. Tony Woods scored 10 points making all five baskets with a block shot. Olu Ashaulou scored eight point son two for three shooting and made four for five free throws. Devoe Joseph for the second straight game at Washington struggled scoring only three points on one for five shooting making just one for four on three point baskets. The Ducks who won the CBI last year were just 20 minutes away from going to Madison Square Garden and ending the Huskies season.

The Huskies trailed by four points and were in the game due to their rebounding. They outrebounded the Ducks 19-14 including 9-3 on offensive rebounds. They shot 15-34(44.1%) from the field, 4-13(30.8%) on three point range and 8-12(66.7%) on free throws. The Huskies were led by Terrence Ross who scored 12 points on 5-10 shooting including two for five from three point range. Tony Wroten scored nine points on two for five shooting but made five for eight free throws. He added two rebounds, two assists and a steal. Abdul Gaddy had a five first half scoring five points on two for five shooting with a three pointer. He also had six assists, three rebounds and a rare block shot. Darnell Gant playing in his final home game of his Huskies career scored four points on two for four shooting but had six rebounds which included four offensive boards. The Huskies for the second time in this NIT found themselves 20 minutes away from their season being over.

The Huskies began the second half going on an 8-2 run to lead 50-48. Ross would later hit a three pointer to give the Huskies a 66-60 lead with 10:30 left in the game. The Ducks immediately went on a 5-0 run to cut the lead to 66-65. Wilcox would hit a three pointer to cap a 9-0 run to give the Huskies a 75-65 lead with 7:07 left in the game which had the Huskies thinking of New York. After Wroten's tip in to give the Huskies an 80-71 lead with 3:54 left in the game is when the game got interesting. Garrett Sim would hit a three pointer after a Ducks  offensive rebound to cut the lead to 80-74. In fact the Ducks went on a 6-1 run to cut the lead to 81-77. After cutting the lead to 82-79 on the end bound play the Huskies almost turned the ball over instead Ross poked the ball ahead as Wroten had the breakaway dunk to give the Huskies an 84-79 lead with under a minute to go. That is when the slumping Joseph finally woke up drilling a three pointer to cut the lead to 84-82 with 42.4 seconds left. After almost turning the ball over C.J. Wilcox was finally fouled with 29.4 seconds left in the game. Wilcox sank both free throws giving the Huskies an 86-82 lead. The Huskies would get a key defensive stop and then Wroten would immediately pass the ball back to Wilcox who sank both free throws giving the Huskies an 88-82 lead with 20.6 seconds left. The Huskies would win 90-86 as the Ducks scored one final tip in at the buzzer. For the Ducks their season ended in Seattle as for the Huskies they are going to New York City to take on the Minnesota Gophers.

For the Ducks their shot disappeared in the second half making only 3-15(20.0%) from three point range. For the game the Ducks shot 31-69(44.9%) from the field, 7-25(28.0%) from three point range, and 17-22(77.3%) from free throws. They were led by Olu Ashaolu who scored 20 points off the bench on 7-12 shooting and made six for seven free throws. He had nine rebounds including six offensive with two block shots. E.J. Singler who had a big first half was quiet in the second half scoring 19 points(only four in the second half) on 5-12 shooting including three for six on three pointers. Singler fouled out with nine rebounds and four assists. Woods scored 15 points on seven for nine shooting. Devoe Joseph scored his points late scoring 12 points on 4-15 shooting including 3-10 from beyond the arc. The Ducks season which during the year had hopes of an NCAA tournament instead ends in the NIT in Seattle to their bitter rivals as the Huskies celebrated right in front of them.

For the Huskies they shot much better in the second half and played championship defense. The Huskies shot 28-62(45.2%) from the field, 7-19(36.8%) from three point range and 27-35(77.1%) from the free throw line. The Huskies outrebounded the Ducks 37-34 including 14-12 on offensive rebounds. The Huskies once again in the NIT were led by Terrence Ross who perhaps played his final home game as a Husky. Ross scored 24 points on 9-18 shooting including making three for eight on three pointers and all three of his free throws. Tony Wroten scored 22 points on 6-15 shooting and made 10-14 on his free throws. Wroten added seven rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block shot. C.J. Wilcox came on strong off the bench once again scoring 17 points on 4-10 shooting including three for six on three point range. He was a perfect six for six on free throws while dishing out three assists with two block shots. Abdul Gaddy played his best game as a Husky scoring 11 points on three for seven shooting with a three pointer also dished out 10 assists with seven rebounds. He also held Joseph to 4-15 shooting while recording a block shot. Darnell Gant playing his final home game scored six points on three for five shooting also grabbed seven rebounds including five offensive. Aziz N'Diaye who picked up his fourth foul with over eight minutes to go rewarded Romar's trust by sticking with him and didn't foul out. N'Diaye scored five points on one for two shooting but made three for four on free throws. He also added seven rebounds as well. Austin Seferian-Jenkins was a big boost off the bench playing 15 minutes scoring three points on one for three shooting with three rebounds while having four fouls. This was a total team win for the Pac-12 regular season champion Huskies.

For the first time in program history the Huskies are advancing to the NIT final four. Sure the Huskies would rather be playing in the NCAA tournament but hopefully this experience of advancing deep in a tournament can help them for next year. The Huskies offseason will be defined as successful if Ross and Wroten come back. If they choose to leave for the NBA at least this NIT gave Wilcox, N'Diaye and Gaddy a chance to improve their game. The Husky fan base has to feel better about their chances next year due to this NIT than they did a few weeks back. The NIT was a good thing for the Huskies who have hopes of winning the whole tournament. The Huskies are the highest seed remaining in the tournament and will be the favorites to cut down the nets in the mecca of basketball which is Madison Square Garden in New York City.


- Was this Tony Wroten's final home for the Huskies? I guess we'll answer that question for another time. If this was what a way to go out for Wroten. Wroten scored 22 points making 10 for 14 on the free throw line with seven rebounds. Since the disaster ending against the Oregon State Beavers where Wroten missed his final four free throws he has made 13-19(68.4%) which isn't good but a lot better than his season average of 58.4%. In the NIT so far Wroten is averaging 11.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 5.7 APG. He is also averaging a steal a game and 1.3 blocks per game as well. Wroten is playing well this NIT and impressing NBA scouts in the process.

For the season Wroten is now averaging 16.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 3.8 APG. He is also averaging 1.9 steals per game while shooting 45.0% from the field. Wroten during this game also passed up his mentor Isaiah Thomas for most points scored in a single season by a Huskies freshman. If he had just made two of his four final free throws against the Beavers he would have had the greatest freshman season in Huskies history. Most intelligent fans like myself will realize Wroten had a great season this year for the Huskies. To remember him for those missed free throws is ridiculous and ignoring all the good plays he made for this program.

- After slumping in the first half Wilcox came through once again scoring 17 points off the bench making three three pointers and hitting six clutch free throws including four down the stretch. If Wilcox doesn't get injured in the middle of the year the Huskies are playing in the NCAA tournament. Wilcox in his last five games is averaging 18.0 PPG and 4.0 RPG. He is shooting well too in that stretch making 29-55(52.7%) from the field, 15-33(45.5%) from three point range and 17-21(80.6%) from thre free throw line. He is making on average three full three pointers a game during that stretch.

In the NIT he is averaging 17.3 PPG and 3.7 RPG. He has made eight three pointers during this tournament as well. For the year Wilcox is averaging 14.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks. He is shooting 43.8% from the field, 41.1% on three pointers making 2.3 a game and 84.6% on free throws. Wilcox last year was a shooter but this year he has turned into a scorer. Depending on what Ross and Wroten do Wilcox might have to be the main guy next season. Wilcox has shown when he is healthy the last two years he is capable of that as he is a terrific shooter.

- Abdul Gaddy who had a disappointing junior season has really came on strong lately. Gaddy scored 11 points against the Ducks while dishing out 10 assists and pulling down seven rebounds. He also held Joseph to 4-15 shooting in the process. Gaddy has played well as of late in his last seven games he has averaged 9.4 PPG, 7.1 APG and 2.7 RPG. In this NIT Gaddy is averaging 8.7 PPG, 7.7 APG and 3.7 RPG. He is shooting 9-18(50.0%) from the field and 4-10(40.0%) from three point range.

For the season Gaddy is averaging 8.1 PPG and 5.2 APG. He is shooting 40.4% from the field and 33.3% on three pointers making 0.9 a game. Gaddy has came on strong down the stretch giving me hope he'll have a productive year as a senior. Remember Justin Dentmon? He was a player Husky fans couldn't wait to graduate as he was killing the team as a sophomore and a junior. Then his senior year he was first team all pac-10 as he had a big time senior year. Matthew Bryan-Amaning also came out of nowhere with a first team all pac-10 type of season as well as a senior. Not saying Gaddy will be first-team but he could be honorable mention next year.

- Darnell Gant's home career is officially over. No Husky has played in more games or won more games than Gant has. With the win over Oregon Gant is now 7-3 against the hated Ducks. He is also 7-2 against the Cougars and 8-2 against the Beavers which meant in his four years at Washington the Huskies dominated the Northwest. This win also gave the Huskies 100 wins in Gant's career meaning no other player has ever reached that milestone in 110 years of basketball for the Huskies which Gant just did. When fans look back at Gant's career they'll remember all the wins which is what they should remember. He also had a pretty good game scoring six points and grabbing seven rebounds. He defended Singler in the second half holding him to just four points on one for five shooting. Gant is a versatile defender and he proved it once again.

In his last six games Gant is averaging 6.8 PPG and 8.3 RPG. This NIT he is averaging 6.3 PPG and 7.0 RPG. For the season Gant is averaging career highs in both 7.0 PPG and 5.3 RPG. He is shooting 45.7% from the field and 32.4% on three pointers making 0.7 a game.  Gant has the chance to end his career on a five game winning streak something no other Husky has ever done with two more wins at Madison Square Garden.

- Terrence Ross continued playing like a man who wants to play in the NBA. This was most likely the final home game for Ross who torched his homestate team by scoring 24 points on 9-18 shooting with three three pointers. Ross this NIT is averaging 26.3 PPG as he has scored over 20 points in all three games. He is averaging 5.3 rebounds per game as well. He is shooting lights out making 28-54(51.8%) of his field goal attempts including 12-30(40.0%) from three point range while making all 11 free throws as well. Ross has improved his stock quite a bit in this NIT. For the year now Ross is averaging 16.3 PPG and 6.4 RPG. He is also averaging 1.2 steals per game and 0.9 blocks per game. He is shooting 46.1% from the field and 36.9% on three pointers making 2.0 a game. Ross is the real deal and the Husky fans should be appreciative to have seen such greatness for two years. We are all just hoping we could have seen one more year. I have a feeling Ross just played his final home game as a Husky.

- Like he did on Friday Lorenzo Romar thanked the fans after the game. More than 9,000 fans showed up to see the Huskies end the Ducks season. For Romar now he improves to 10-1 all-time at home against the Oregon Ducks as the Huskies finished this season 18-2 at home. In his career against the Ducks Romar is now 15-8 which shows the domination he has over his rivals from the south. The Ducks have still yet to defeat Romar in a season series and he has been coaching the Huskies for 10 seasons now. Just like with Gant pretty incredible achievement for Romar to win his 100th game in a four year span. The Huskies are now 100-40(.714) the last four years including 50-22(.694) in conference play. The Huskies led by Romar have been the kings of the conference the last couple of years. Now if Romar can get the Huskies to the real final four is the obvious next step. This postseason run has been nice to see a Huskies team string some wins together and Romar deserves all the credit for keeping his team focused on the task that had to be done.

The Huskies are going back to New York City where they have a chance to prove to everyone that they were indeed an NCAA tournament team. I think the Huskies have already proved that fact and it has been nice seeing this team play their best basketball of the season. It has been nice seeing guys like Wilcox and Gaddy playing so well heading into next year. Been nice seeing Ross and Wroten having great moments so my final image of them will be positive. It has been especially nice seeing Gant go out the way he is going out. This Huskies team can only play the games on their schedule and right now they are taking advantage of that by advancing to the NIT final four. The Huskies will have a chance to bring home their first ever NIT or NCAA championship in their 110 year basketball history. Winning the NIT although not the ultimate prize is still a huge accomplishment especially for a program like the Huskies.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Seahawks sign former Packers backup quarterback Flynn to three year deal

By Kshell

The Seattle Seahawks are hoping to strike gold once again at the quarterback position. The Seahawks signed Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn to a three year 19 million dollar deal that can be up to 26 million with 10 guaranteed. I wrote about this scenario last month about is Matt Flynn the answer? Well Pete Carroll is hoping he is the answer as his career in Seattle will be defined by what Flynn will do. Carroll whiffed on Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson. He is hoping now that Flynn can produce for him much like Matt Hasselbeck produced for Mike Holmgren. Now that Flynn is in Seattle fans are wondering just who is Matt Flynn? Where did he come from and why are fans so excited about acquiring him?

Matt Flynn was a seventh round pick by the Green Packers out of LSU Tigers. Current Seahawks General Manager John Schneider did give Flynn a fourth round grade. Flynn in his career at LSU passed for 3,096 yards(7.1 YPA) with 31 touchdowns to 13 interceptions while completing 56.1% of his passes. His first three years he sat behind eventual #1 pick overall JaMarcus Russell. During his senior year at LSU in the 2007 season Flynn completed 56.3% of his passes for 2,407 yards(6.7 YPA) with 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. He also led the Tigers to a national championship that year as the Tigers defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes to win the national championship. Flynn like I stated wasn't a big prospect coming out of college as he fell to the 7th round being the 209th pick overall. Flynn was drafted by the Packers not knowing if he'd even make the team since Brett Favre was coming off a pro bowl season and Aaron Rodgers who was already a first round pick had been sitting for three seasons. The Packers also chose Brian Brohm from Louisville in the second round to compete with Rodgers just in case Favre were to retire. Basically Flynn was a complete after thought of that draft. Then Favre retired that offseason then came back but the Packers decided to cut Favre loose opening a roster spot for Flynn.

In Flynn's first two years in Green Bay he sat behind Aaron Rodgers and had attempted only 17 pass attempts. Then during the third year Rodgers got a little banged up which allowed Flynn to make a start against the New England Patriots who had the best record in the NFL. In that game the Packers barely lost on the road 31-27 on Sunday Night Football but Flynn had made a name for himself. Flynn in that game was 24 for 37 passing(64.9%) for 251 yards(6.8 YPA) for three touchdowns to one interception. Then during the 2011 season Rodgers was enjoying an MVP season. As the Packers had wrapped up the #1 seed in the NFC the final game of the year was Flynn's chance to shine as he started against the playoff bound Detroit Lions. The Packers won that shootout 45-41 as Flynn impressed many scouts during that win. Flynn was 31 for 44 passing(70.5%) for 480 yards(12.6 YPA) with six touchdowns(new Packers record) to just one interception. That is when most figured Flynn was in for a big payday this offseason.

The market ended up drying up for Flynn as teams were scared that he could bust out like Matt Cassell and Kevin Kolb recently did. Due to those quarterbacks struggles the Seahawks signed Flynn to  a fair market deal and are hoping this is their new quarterback of the future. Flynn was signed by Schneider a guy who had drafted him in the 7th round but gave him a 4th round grade. Carroll has no acquired three quarterbacks in Seattle all of which were backups the year before. Unlike the previous two Flynn has actually showed some promise in the NFL. The Seahawks are a 7-9 team with five pro bowlers which features a top 10 defense. Flynn can be the guy to get the Seahawks over the hump much like Hasselbeck was this past decade.

The Seahawks made the smart safe move on a position that badly needed to be addressed. Carroll isn't emptying his checkbook on Flynn which will allow the Seahawks to boost their other needs in the draft and through free agency. Now with the 12th pick overall the Seahawks are now in a position to draft the best player available instead of reaching for a quarterback. I predict the Seahawks will draft a quarterback still probably in the third-fifth round range to develope him just in case Flynn doesn't work out. The great part about this deal is if Flynn doesn't work out the Seahawks are paying him slightly above good backup quarterback money so they can still acquire another quarterback. If Flynn works out he'll earn his bonuses therefore he'll be happy in Seattle. This was a move that had to be done and I'm glad the Seahawks have a new quarterback in town.

Ross scores career high 32 as Huskies destroy Northwestern 76-55 in NIT sweet 16

By Kshell

Terrence Ross put on a performance for the ages scoring a career high 32 points making six three pointers as the Washington Huskies(23-10,14-4) advanced to the elite 8 of the NIT winning over the Northwestern Wildcats(19-14,8-10) 76-55. The Huskies finally played up to their abilities in blowing out the Wildcats. The Huskies offense started off slow in the first half but still led at halftime by seven points. In the second half the offense woke up as Ross and C.J. Wilcox combined to make 10-23 from three point range. The Huskies dominated the rebounding battle this game 42-24 against the undersized Wildcats and both their PG's Tony Wroten and Abdul Gaddy had seven assists in the game. The Pac-12 regular season champions showed why they should be playing in the NCAA tournament as they are a deep team who can beat you in so many different ways. The Huskies feature two high NBA talented players in Ross and Wroten. The Huskies also have good NBA prospects down the road in Aziz N'Diaye and Wilcox. For Lorenzo Romar to have his team still focused on the task that needs to be done speaks a lot about this team. The Huskies now have just one home game left then hopefully they'll make a return trip to New York City.

The game started off slow for the Huskies as they found themselves trailing 17-9 to the Wildcats. That is when the defense picked up as the Huskies started to force turnovers going on a 23-6 run to lead 32-23 eventually leading at halftime 39-32. The Wildcats trailed despite shooting well making 11-19(57.8%) from the field, five for eight(62.5%) on three pointers and five for nine on free throws(55.5%). The Wildcats were led by John Shurna who scored 14 points on four for five shooting including three three pointers also had five rebounds. They were also led by JerShon Cobb who scored six points on two for four shooting. The Wildcats main problem was 11 turnovers in the first half.

For the Huskies they shot poorly making only 13-37(35.1%) from the field, 5-21(23.8%) on three point range and were perfect on eight free throw attempts. The Huskies outrebounded the Wildcats 19-14 including 11-2 in offensive rebounds. They were led by Terrence Ross who scored 15 points on 4-10 shooting including three for seven on three pointers. He was perfect on four free throw attempts grabbing five rebounds. Aziz N'Diaye scored six points on three for six shooting with two rebounds. Tony Wroten had just two points on one for five shooting but provided five rebounds with four assists. C.J. Wilcox scored nine points on three for nine shooting with one three pointer and three rebounds. The Huskies would look to extend that lead in the second half hoping their shots would finally fall.

In the second half the Huskies put the Wildcats away as Ross began the second half hitting three straight three pointers. Then C.J. Wilcox poured in on the action drilling three straight three pointers as well. The Huskies outscored the Wildcats 37-23 in the second half to win 76-55 in one of their most complete efforts of the season. The Wildcats cooled down in the second half making only 7-32(21.8%) from the field giving them 18-51(35.3%) overall. They shot 9-24(37.5%) from three point range and 10-17(58.8%) from free throws. They were led by Shurna who scored 24 points on 6-12 shooting from the field, five for seven on three pointers while making seven of nine from free throws. He also pulled down six rebounds with four steals and a block shot.

For the Huskies they shot 27-63(42.9%) from the field including 14-26(53.8%) from the field in the second half. The Huskies shot the three ball plenty making 11-32(34.4%) from beyond the arc and 11-14(78.6%) from the free throw line. They out rebounded the Wildcats 42-24 including 19-8 in offensive. They were led by Ross who scored 32 points on 10-21 shooting including 6-14 from three pointers while making all six of his free throws. Ross grabbed eight rebounds while having two steals and a block shot. C.J. Wilcox off the bench scored 20 points on 7-13 shooting while making four for nine on three pointers and made both free throws. Wilcox also had six rebounds including four offensive. Aziz N'Diaye scored 11 points on 5-11 shooting with seven rebounds and two steals. Abdul Gaddy scored five points on two for six shooting with a three pointer. He did fill up the stat sheet with four rebounds, seven assists, a steal and a block shot. Tony Wroten only scored two points on one for five shooting but had eight rebounds. He also had seven assists with two blocks. Desmond Simmons scored four points making his only shot with two rebounds. Martin Bruenig brought down the house with two points on an athletic dunk. Darnell Gant was held scoreless missing all five of his shots but had four rebounds including three offensive. This was a big win for the Huskies who played one of their most complete games of the season.

For the first time in school history the Huskies are advancing to the elite 8 in the NIT. The Huskies will have one more home game left in the season and they will host one of their rivals the Oregon Ducks. The Huskies who did win the Pac-12 regular season championship are continuing their good play as of late. The Huskies are proving that the loss to Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament was just a fluke. The Huskies can't control what the selection committee thought they didn't do all they can control is the games they are playing in the NIT. So far the Huskies are playing good basketball games which hopefully can translate into next season for the NCAA tournament.


- Wilcox had his stroke going once again drilling four three pointers as he scored 20 points while grabbing six rebounds. Wilcox was in line for a big year before the injury set in. After that injury he struggled coming back but has been in a groove now for over a month. In the past four games Wilcox is averaging 18.3 PPG with 4.8 RPG. He is shooting 25-45(55.5%) from the field during this four game stretch which includes 12-27(44.4%) from three point range averaging three three pointers a game. He is also 11-15(73.3%) on free throws during that stretch.

For this season Wilcox is now averaging 14.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks. He is shooting 43.9% on field goals, 40.8% on three pointers and 83.5% on free throws. He is making 2.3 three pointers a game. Had Wilcox not missed those three games more importantly that California game the Huskies would be playing in the NCAA tournament. For Wilcox who will for sure be back next season this NIT experience is good for him to work on his game for next season.

- It was nice to see Aziz N'Diaye break out of his slump. In the previous three games N'Diaye had averaged just 6.0 PPG and 5.0 RPG with 4.3 fouls per game. N'Diaye has been fighting foul trouble lately but not this game. In this game N'Diaye played 30 minutes for only the fourth time this season. In those 30 minutes N'Diaye scored 11 points on 5-11 shooting with seven rebounds and two steals. N'Diaye like Wilcox will be another player who will be here next season so this game experience is good for N'Diaye who will be expected to have a big year next year. N'Diaye was selected first team all defensive team.

For the year N'Diaye is averaging 8.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.1 blocks per game and 0.6 steals per game in 23.5 minutes per game. He is shooting 53.1% from the field. N'Diaye has played two seasons with the Huskies now mostly as a starter will have one more year left. His presence in the paint allows the Huskies to use more defensive looks because he is such a force in the middle. Now N'Diaye is starting to improve as a scorer as he has scored in double figures this year in 11 games out of 31. He has also grabbed double figures in rebounds in seven games as well. N'Diaye improvement for next year will be a big determining factor if the Huskies make the NCAA tournament next season or not.

- Darnell Gant scored zero points in his second to last home game as a Husky. Yet Lorenzo Romar praised Gant after the game because like usual Gant was guarding the other teams best player. Although Shurna still scored 24 he didn't go off on the Huskies like Ross did to the Wildcats. That is what the Huskies will miss most in Gant is his versatility on defense much like Justin Holiday last season. Gant didn't put up huge numbers but he is more valuable than some fans may think.

For the season now Gant is averaging 7.1 PPG, 5.3 rebounds per game, 0.4 steals and 0.2 blocks. Gant is shooting 45.4% from the field while shooting 32.9% from three point range making 0.7 three pointers a game. Gant will now be playing in his final game at home this Tuesday against the Oregon Ducks as the Huskies have won 99 games in Gant's career.

- Tony Wroten for the second straight game in the NIT didn't look to score but make his teammates better. Wroten scored a career low two points making only one of five field goal attempts. He did record eight rebounds, seven assists with two blocks. He also had five turnovers as he is showing why he should come back for another year. Interesting note on Wroten in games he shoots the ball under 10 games the Huskies are 6-2 including winning their past five games. Wroten is averaging 5.7 assists per game in his last six games as he is working on that part of his game.

For the year Wroten is averaging 16.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.9 steals and 0.4 blocks per game while shooting 45.2% from the field. In the NIT in two games Wroten is averaging only 5.5 PPG but 7.5 APG. He is also averaging 4.5 RPG. Look for Wroten to be more aggressive next game against the Oregon Ducks as he is averaging 15.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG and 4.5 APG this year as the teams split the season series.

- Terrence Ross had one of those special games that makes you think us Husky fans won't get to enjoy anymore. Ross was terrific scoring 32 points on 10-21 shooting, making 6-14(43.6%) on three pointers while grabbing eight rebounds. Ross got the Huskies back in the game in the first half then in the second half put the Wildcats away. Ross has been on fire as of late. In the last five games Ross is averaging 21.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.6 steals and 0.8 BPG. During that stretch he is shooting 40-79(50.6%) from the field and 17-39(43.5%) from three point range making 3.4 three pointers a game. In this two game NIT Ross is averaging 27.5 PPG and 6.5 RPG. He has made nine three pointers so far. Ross on the year is averaging 16.0 PPG and 6.5 RPG. He is shooting 46.0% from the field and 36.9% from three point range making two full three's a game. Ross is a terrific talent and is projected to be a late first round pick in this loaded draft. Hopefully Ross returns to the Huskies like his teammate Tony Wroten so the Huskies can make some noise this upcoming season.

- I'll give Romar credit for having his team prepared to play in a tournament that nobody wanted to play in. The Huskies are proving the selection committee wrong and should be in the NCAA tournament. Romar isn't letting his team be distracted and they are focused. The Huskies are playing some of their best ball of the season in the last 1.5 games which has been sad to see. Romar has seen his team win 99 games over these four years. The Pac-12 coach of the year now must do his biggest recruiting job this offseason. Unlike most recruiting pitches where you beg kids to come to your school Romar will be begging two kids in particular to stay at his school in Ross and Wroten. If those two come back next year the Huskies won't be playing in the NIT elite 8 instead could be in the NCAA tournament elite 8. As is the Huskies are one win away from Madison Square Garden in New York City.

All the Huskies have to do now is beat the Oregon Ducks at home something they have done two years in a row and 10 of the last 11 at home. The Huskies have dominated the Ducks in the Romar era but also dominated the Oregon State Beavers as well but that didn't stop them from losing to the Beavers in the Pac-12 tournament. Only one home game is left this season and both the Ducks and Huskies are proving they were more than capable of doing well in the NCAA tournament. The Huskies are playing well especially at home where they are 17-2 and with one more win they'll have a return trip to Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Huskies are making the most of this NIT opportunity and are now one game away from going to the mecca of basketball. If Ross keeps playing the way he is playing the Huskies will keep winning and he'll be a very rich man next season.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

David Estrada's hat trick seals a 3-1 win in the season opener

By Money Mike

Seattle's third year pro out of UCLA celebrated his first MLS goal. As a matter of fact, he celebrated two more. With Eddie Johnson out with a hip flexor injury, David Estrada was asked to partner up again with Fredy Montero, and he delivered in a big way. Estrada became the third player to record a hat trick in Sounders FC history and even better, the Sounders got off to a three point start in their new season by defeating Toronto FC 3-1. The Sounders have put their disappointing Champions League loss behind them and in front of their home crowd have picked up where they left off last season, scoring goals.

Estrada got it rollin' in the 18th minute. After some fancy footwork from Alvaro Fernandez that led to a collision between Ty Harden and Richard Eckersley, Fernandez sent a low ball to the near post for Estrada. Now at first it looked like Terry Dunfield broke up the attack, but Estrada was able maintain possession, dribble it around Milos Kocic and slot it home. It was a scrappy goal, but who cares? It counts all the same, 18 minutes gone and the Sounders were up 1-0.

In the 25th minute, TFC suffered a big blow. David Estrada had a breakaway opportunity, but their captain Torsten Frings broke up the attack from behind and forced a corner. However, Frings ended up hurting himself in the process and he had to leave the match early.

In the 51st minute, after linking up well with Alvaro Fernandez, Marc Burch sent David Estrada behind the TFC defense and calmly placed it perfectly past Milos Kocic to make it 2-0 Sounders.

Estrada was in the best form out of all the players on this team coming out of the preseason and he has shown that in this match, scoring his 2nd of the match and third in all competitions this season. After seeing limited playing time in 2010 and 2011, will this be the start of something new for David Estrada and the Seattle Sounders?

Toronto FC got one back in the 62nd minute on a curling ball to the far corner from Ryan Johnson who rediscovered his goalscoring touch since being traded to Toronto from San Jose last season. However it was short lived and one more time, it was David Estrada. After a give and go with Alvaro Fernandez, Estrada popped into the penalty area and slammed home his third goal of the match to complete his hat trick and the Sounders 3-1 victory over Toronto in the opener.


Once again, another sellout at CenturyLink Field just as always. The Fanbase here in Seattle continues to grow and grow every year. Tonight we had 38,709 in attendance after they opened up the Hawks Nest and for 90 minutes the crowd got behind the team in full voice and just as always, proved that Seattle is the #1 Soccer City in the U.S. and as long as this continues, that will never ever change. The fans are always out here doing their part to prove that soccer is a big deal in Seattle.

After watching David Estrada's career night, I start to wonder when Eddie Johnson recovers from his hip flexor injury what do you do? Do you keep Eddie on the bench for a while? Do you still bench David Estrada? Do you put Estrada in an attacking midfield possession? So many options for Estrada, but he is proving to be a difference maker for the Seattle Sounders.

I'm very happy about the win, it was a great performance after a rough trip to Mexico during the midweek, but Seattle came into this game like they were ready to play and they get the three points.

Scoring summary:

Seattle Sounders FC - David Estrada 1 (unassisted) 18'

Seattle Sounders FC - David Estrada 2 (Marc Burch 1, Alvaro Fernandez 1) 51'

Toronto FC - Ryan Johnson 1 (Miguel Aceval 1) 62'

Seattle Sounders FC - David Estrada 3 (Alvaro Fernandez 2) 63'

Misconduct summary:

Seattle Sounders FC - Osvaldo Alonso (caution; Persistent Infringement) 26'

Seattle Sounders FC - Patrick Ianni (caution; Foul) 53'

Toronto FC - Aaron Maund (caution; Foul) 93'+


Toronto FC - Milos Kocic; Richard Eckersley, Ty Harden (Danny Koevermans 46'), Miguel Aceval, Logan Emory; Terry Dunfield, Torsten Frings (Aaron Maund 25'), Luis Silva; Nick Soolsma, Ryan Johnson, Eric Avila (Joao Plata 57')

Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning; Adam Johansson, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Marc Burch; Mauro Rosales (Roger Levesque 79'), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Alvaro Fernandez (Christian Sivebaek 65'); David Estrada (Servando Carrasco 87'), Fredy Montero

Friday, March 16, 2012

Seattle Sounders open up their 2012 campaign at home against Toronto FC

By Money Mike

The Seattle Sounders return home after an unsuccessful trip to Torreon and kick off their fourth season in Major League Soccer this Saturday. The Sounders take on Toronto FC in their only meeting this season due to the unbalanced schedule being put into place during the offseason. Last season, the Sounders swept the season series against Toronto. In their first meeting on April 30th, the Sounders were playing their first match without their 2009 #1 overall draft pick Steve Zakuani and former TFC player O'Brian White who both underwent season ending surgeries during the week. However, the Sounders prevailed and struck three times to come away with three points in a 3-0 shutout victory. In their second meeting at BMO Field in Toronto, the Sounders were reduced to 10 men when Jhon Kennedy Hurtado picked up his second yellow of the match a minute into the second half, but Seattle still came out on top after Fredy Montero's free kick proved to be the difference in Seattle's 1-0 win. Seattle is 4-1-1 so far against TFC.

Toronto comes to Seattle with a much different look, and a much better team than what I've seen in their first five seasons in MLS. Toronto is coming off a memorable 4-3 series win over the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Champions League quarterfinal, making them the first Canadian team to reach the semifinal of that stage. LA's preseason struggles have carried on to the regular season, and I tell you if they don't solve their defensive problems soon, they're gonna have a rough ass time on their title defense this season. But again, TFC comes in with a different look that has led them to success in their Champions League win over LA, led by former German international Torsten Frings leading the back line, they also have Joao Plata and their top scorer form last season Danny Koevermans up front along with Ryan Johnson. One more player you can add to that list is a young rookie named Luis Silva. So Toronto looks like they have everything in place.

All odds still favor Seattle. Despite their recent form, the home field advantage looks like it's still too tough to handle for the visitors. Toronto will give Seattle all they got, but it doesn't look like it will be enough.

Injury report:

Toronto FC - Alright for Toronto, Nicolas Lindley, one of their homegrown players, is still recovering from surgery on his left knee. He missed all of last season and he will miss this match as well. Dicoy Williams is also recovering from the same surgery, but only on his right knee and he is also out. Also out is one of their newest offseason acquisitions, former Portland Timber Jeremy Hall. Right now Hall is recovering from Sports Hernia Surgery so he won't be around. And lastly, Adrian Cann is recovering from right knee surgery. However, he is listed as questionable.

Seattle Sounders FC - For the Men in Rave Green, Josh Ford has been dealing with pain in his knee since the end of training camp. Rookie Andrew Duran will be out until about late April after undergoing knee surgery. Remember, he suffered a couple of major knee injuries during his college career. Michael Tetteh is out with a hamstring injury. Steve Zakuani has been making progress in his recovery, he's aiming to return around the middle of the season. Eddie Johnson suffered a hip flexor injury in the Champions League match against Santos. He is listed as doubtful, so hopefully he'll be back soon. And lastly, O'Brian White is still recovering from his second blood clot surgery in this leg. There will be a decision tomorrow on whether or not the FO will buy out his contract, as of right now, he is on the DL.

Key matchups:

Joao Plata vs Adam Johansson - If you see the smallest player on the field, then you know it's Joao Plata. He is known for his quickness and creativity on the ball. He gave James Riley a few problems in Seattle's visit last season. Johansson will have to keep an eye out for this kid at all times. This is where one on one defending becomes huge. Johansson has done very well in one on one defending during his career over in Sweden, but this is a guy that he's never seen or heard of, so I hope he's been at home doing his homework because he's got a huge task against this kid. I think this matchup looks pretty even.

Fredy Montero vs Ty Harden - First of all, you people need to lay off Fredy Montero. Sure he had a poor performance in the Champions League, but seriously he's one of the most, if not the most consistant strikers we've had so far. By the way, Ty Harden better be ready because if he's not and Montero catches him napping, watch out. Montero has had a great preseason and his form is right where it needs to be and I think the Colombian has the edge in this matchup.