Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ozzie Alonso caps off his 100th MLS match with a game winning goal, Sounders win 2-1

By Money Mike


The Seattle Sounders have played the Colorado Rapids three times and they beat the Colorado Rapids three times. On Saturday, with the playoff race really heating up in the Western Conference, the Sounders got a big win on the road as they defeated the Colorado Rapids 2-1 at Dicks Sporting Goods Park. With a big month ahead of the Sounders with a home match against the LA Galaxy, an away match at San Jose and of course the U.S. Open Cup final match a week from now against Sporting Kansas City, it was important for the Sounders to get a big win to boost their confidence going into August.

A minute and a half into the game, Rapids fans were still filing in, still looking for their seats and already they saw their team give up a goal off a set piece. It was a corner kick from the near side taken by Mauro Rosales who swings it toward the far post and finds Eddie Johnson who gets away from Marvell Wynne, out jumps Omar Cummings and heads the ball into the far corner for his team leading ninth goal of the season and the Sounders took a 1-0 lead on, if I can remember correctly, is the quickest goal in franchise history.

Unfortunately, the lead only lasted a minute because Colorado came right back and equalised. Martin Rivero slid the ball through on the far side to Brian Mullan who sent in a low ball across the face of goal and right there was Drew Moor to slam it home for his third goal of the year and just like that the game was tied at one.

In the 15th minute, Colorado had a good chance to go in front. Drew Moor took a few seconds to look around for support before chipping the ball to Conor Casey who was just outside the penalty area. Casey made a good turn and tested Michael Gspurning with a low left foot drive. Gspurning made the save and then was able to cover the ball before Omar Cummings could even get a chance of putting away the rebound. Gspurning of course was making his return in goal after missing the last 13 games with a right hip injury that he suffered during the clubs home match on May 2nd against the Galaxy. So having him back is huge.

A couple minutes later, Martin Rivero was found on the near side with room to run. Rivero cut inside of Adam Johansson and tried to curl his shot into the far corner but it was beaten away by Gspurning.

In the 24th minute, the Sounders would've gone 2-1 up if it hadn't been for the post. Luis Zapata gave the ball straight away to Mauro Rosales. Rosales made a run to the center of the field which forced Zapata out of his left back position to cover. That gave Eddie Johnson room to create. Rosales played Johnson with a back heel, and EJ took one touch to get around Tyrone Marshall before hitting one low and hard, but the post saved the Rapids.

In the 48th minute, Luis Zapata's cross was intended for Omar Cummings and Patrick Ianni attempted clearance was instead given straight to Conor Casey who tried to bend one from 20 yards away and he came close to doing so, but sometimes close is not good enough.

In the 65th minute, the Rapids once again give the ball away and this time the Sounders make them pay. Conor Casey was looking to play the ball back to Jeff Larentowicz, but he wasn't paying attention and the ball rolled straight to Fredy Montero. Montero slid the ball through to Johnson who wanted to strike it with his left foot, but he was well defended and instead fed the ball back to Alex Caskey. Caskey looked like he was going to strike the ball from distance, but he played the ball back to Johnson who's cross to the far post found a wide open Ozzie Alonso for a left footed volley and the Sounders climbed back ahead 2-1. That was a brilliant goal by Alonso who was making his 100th league appearance for the Rave Green.

With 15 minutes remaining in the match, Conor Casey had yet another opportunity to get a goal. Martin Rivero found Casey in the box and Casey looked to slot it home, but he hit it right at goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. Had he not made the save, Patrick Ianni probably would've been there to clear the ball off the line. Casey looked like he was going to hit it with his left foot, but Ozzie Alonso tracked back and cut down the angle which forced Casey to go to his right foot. Colorado continued to push, but they could not come up with the knockout blow and the Sounders were able to hold on to get all three points.


Scoring summary:

Seattle Sounders FC - Eddie Johnson 9 (Mauro Rosales 7) 2'

Colorado Rapids - Drew Moor 3 (Brian Mullan 6) 3'

Seattle Sounders FC - Osvaldo Alonso 1 (Eddie Johnson 2, Alex Caskey 4) 65'


Misconduct summary:

NONE


Lineups:

Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning; Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez; Mauro Rosales, Brad Evans (Marc Burch 83'), Osvaldo Alonso, Alex Caskey (Andy Rose 80'); Eddie Johnson, Fredy Montero (Zach Scott 88')

Colorado Rapids - Matt Pickens; Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne, Tyrone Marshall, Luis Zapata; Brian Mullan (Andre Akpan 80'), Joseph Nane (Wells Thompson 62'), Jeff Larentowicz, Martin Rivero; Conor Casey, Omar Cummings (Kamani Hill 62')

Mariners trade League to Dodgers; Delabar to Blue Jays for prospects

By Kshell

That time of year again where the fire sale for the Seattle Mariners begins under Jack Zduriencik. This time Zduriencik traded away former all-star closer Brandon League to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two prospects and traded feel good story reliever Steve Delabar to the Toronto Blue Jays for an outfielder. League was dealt for an outfielder and a reliever as the Mariners continue to try to build their farm system. League had spent two and a half seasons with the Mariners after Zdurienick traded for him from the Toronto Blue Jays for high draft pick Brandon Morrow. League was a setup man in 2010, then became the closer in 2011 where he made the all-star team only to lose his closing job during this season which then made him very expendable. For Delabar he has a great arm and was featured on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. Delabar's problem this season has been the long ball and the Mariners have two young relievers ready to come up so this was two solid trades by Zduriencik.

League's best two moments in Seattle were when he made the all-star team in 2011 and this year against the team he is now on the Los Angeles Dodgers. League combined with five other pitchers on throwing a no-hitter against the Dodgers. For League he came into a second and third one out situation in the eighth inning were one base hit would have lost the game. League got out of the jam. In 2011 when League made the all-star team he recorded 37 saves while throwing 61.1 innings. He posted a 2.79 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP and struck out 45 hitters(6.6 K's per 9). This year he has struggled as he had just nine saves while blowing six and has just six holds. He has a 3.63 ERA while throwing 44.2 innings with a 1.50 WHIP and striking out only 27 batters(5.4 K's per 9). For his Mariners career he went 10-17 in 181 games having thrown 185 innings. He recorded 52 saves and 19 holds with a 3.26 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 128 strikeouts(6.2 K's per 9). It was time for League to move on and I would have liked to have seen the Mariners trade him a year ago so his value was high. Such is the case with this franchise they always love to trade players a year too late.

The Mariners also traded away reliever Steve Delabar to the Toronto Blue Jays. He was featured on Real Sports on HBO because he was a former teacher who made it the big leagues with the Mariners in 2011. In 2011 Delabar appeared in six games having thrown seven innings. Delabar was 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and seven strikeouts(9.0 K's per 9). This year big things were expected of him instead due to the long ball he struggled. This season Delabar while in Seattle has appeared in 34 games. He is 2-1 with three holds having thrown 36.2 innings. He is sporting a 4.17 ERA despite a 0.92 WHIP having struck out 46 hitters(11.3 K's per 9). His problem is he has allowed nine home runs(2.2 per 9 innings) which is a lot for any pitcher especially a reliever. He also pitched in nine games down in Tacoma where he went 0-1 with one save having thrown 12 innings. He posted a 3.75 ERA, 1.92 WHIP and struck out 12 batters(9.0 K's per 9). Delabar despite most media in this city making fun of him actually has good stuff and if you look past his ERA you can see his WHIP and K's per 9 is really good. In fact I'm a little bummed out about losing Delabar while I'm actually glad League and his low K's and high WHIP has been traded.

What the Mariners got in these trades were from the Blue Jays outfielder Eric Thames who will be joining the team immediately. While from the Dodgers they acquired outfielder Leon Landry and reliever Logan Bawcom who will both spend time in the Mariners minors. Thames this year for the Blue Jays in 160 PA's hit .243/.288/.365 with only three home runs. In triple A Las Vegas Thames is hitting .330/.407/.528 in 231 PA's with six home runs. Last year was a breakout year for Thames the Blue Jays thought. In triple A Las Vegas he hit .352/.423/.610 in 241 PA's with seven home runs. Then in the major leagues he hit .262/.313/.456 in 394 PA's with 12 home runs. Thames will be a nice lefty outfield bat for the Mariners which they'll need and I would rather him play over Peguero in the outfield. Now Thames in two major league seasons has been terrible on defense posting a negative 1.7 WAR last year defensively and a negative 0.6 WAR this year defensively. The Mariners do need some hitters and in the minor leagues and in small sample size in the major leagues the 25 year old Thames has proven he can hit which should be a nice addition for the ball club right now.

As for who the Mariners got in the Brandon League trade from the Dodgers that is more interesting. First Leon Landry who was a third round pick by the Dodgers in 2010 take out of LSU Tigers. Landry this year in high A ball is hitting .328/.358/.559 in 376 PA's. Landry has eight home runs, 51 RBI's, 63 runs scored. He also brings speed to the table as he has hit 15 triples and stolen 20 bases in only 80 games. Landry will turn 23 this late September. Like Thames, Landry also is a left handed hitter who hopefully can keep developing as he is a career .297/.344/.457 hitter in 1,202 PA's with 16 home runs and 30 triples alone with 61 stolen bases in only 262 career games. The other piece the Mariners acquired is Logan Bawcom who was a 17th round pick in the 2010 draft from the University of Texas-Arlington Mavericks(you might recognize them as the Huskies defeated them in the NIT). Bawcom this season starting off in high A ball like Landry. In high A ball Bawcom was 1-1 with seven saves in 14 innings pitched. In those 14 innings he posted a 0.64 ERA, 0.71 WHIP and struck out 24 batters(15.4 K's per 9). He was them promoted to double A where so far he is 3-3 with 13 saves in 34.2 innings ptiched. In those 34.2 innings he has posted a 2.60 ERA, 1.32 WHP and struck out 36 batters(9.3 K's per 9). He'll be 24 years old this November and has always had a great strikeout rate throughout the minor leagues.

The Mariners are once again building through the farm and are hoping that these pieces will continue to prosper for them. Not all the prospects will pan out but take a look at last years Doug Fister trade where the Mariners acquired Casper Wells(hitting .249/.317/.407 in 209 PA's with six home runs) and Charlie Furbush(4-2, 34 games, 37.1 innings, 2.17 ERA, 0.80 WHP, 47 K's, 11.3 K's per 9) you are hoping for a similar result. I don't know about the Delabar deal but with Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps on their way up I doubt the Mariners will miss him. Just like the Mariners aren't going to miss Doug Fister in a few years if now. The League trade has potential to be a good steal for the Mariners as he was good last year but terrible this year. If not for the "proven closer" label I doubt the Dodgers give the Mariners some nice pieces for him. Like I said I think Delabar is better than League and I'm not upset at all about losing League. I'm curious how these three guys do in Seattle and we'll get a chance to see Thames quite a bit this year as he'll be on the big league roster. As for the other two hopefully someday I'll be getting a chance to see them as well. The Mariners aren't done by any chance as they could still be selling as today is the trade deadline.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Team USA men's basketball destroys France 98-71

By Kshell

After a slow first quarter the United States men's basketball team destroyed France 98-71. Team USA outscored the French 56-30 in the second and third quarters to put the game away. Led by rising superstar Kevin Durant who led all scorers with 22 points while also grabbing nine rebounds. Everyone on team USA scored in this contest against a France team led by NBA players such as Tony Parker, Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum, Ronny Turiaf and Boris Diaw. They also had former Sonics wing Mickael Gelabale. Team USA despite their lack of size dominated the rebounds 56-40 over France. Lebron James flirted with a triple double scoring nine points, eight assists and five rebounds before not playing at all in the fourth quarter. Kobe Bryant also scored 10 points. Team USA got a nice lift from Kevin Love off the bench as Love was the second leading scorer with 14 points. For team USA this was just business as usual in destroying their competition.

In the first quarter team USA only led 22-21 but in the second quarter they picked it up. Team USA outscored France 30-15 in the second quarter to take a commanding 52-36 lead at halftime. In the first half team USA shot 17-43(39.5%) in the first half, making 6-18(33.3%) on three pointers and 12-16(75.0%) on free throws. They out rebounded France 30-23. The U.S. was led by Kevin Durant who scored 15 points on four for eight shooting including making two three pointers. Durant also was perfect making all five free throws while pulling down five rebounds with two blocks.  Lebron James was in his sharing mode as he only had five points on two for four shooting including a three pointer. However James had four rebounds and led team USA with six assists in the first half showing why he is the best player in the world. James can beat you in so many different ways. Kevin Love was a nice spark off the bench scoring seven points on three for four shooting including a three pointer. Kobe Bryant had seven points on one for three shooting all of which were from three point range but made all four free throws. Carmelo Anthony scored five points on two for six shooting but pulled down seven rebounds. Tyson Chandler the man in the middle scored six points on two for four shooting including two for five from the free throw line. Chandler did provide muscle in the middle with seven rebounds. Team USA opened the game up in the second quarter and never looked back.

For France they played team USA tough in the first quarter but just couldn't keep up in the second quarter. France struggled offensively shooting only 11-29(37.9%) from the field, they really shot terrible from three point range making only 1-11(9.1%) from downtown. The only thing keeping France alive was they attempted 20 free throws but only made 13 of them for 65%. They were also outrebounded in the paint as well. They were led Florent Pietrus who scored eight points on two for four shooting but made all four free throw attemps. San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker scored six points on two for five shooting and made two for three free throws. When Parker left the game for a quick rest is when team USA turned on the pressure as France committed 11 turnovers while USA only had five. Other NBA players such as Ronny Turiaf played well. The former Gonzaga Bulldog had five points on two for three shooting but made just one for four on free throws. He did have four rebounds. Then Portland Trail Blazers win Nicolas Batum was terrible scoring only two points missing all four field goal attempts which were all three pointers. Batum's play had to concern Blazers fans who recently matched him to a long term deal.

Team USA had a big third quarter outscoring France 26-15 to lead 78-51 after three quarters. Team USA would then cruise to a 98-71 victory. For the game USA shot 31-72(43.1%) from the field, 8-25(32.0%) from three point range and made 28-38(73.7%) from the free throw line. They out-rebounded France 56-40 including 18 offensive rebounds. They were led by Kevin Durant who scored 22 points on 6-13 shooting including three three pointers and a perfect seven for seven at the foul line. Durant also grabbed nine rebounds. Kevin Love scored 14 points on five for eight shooting including a three pointer with three rebounds in only 14 minutes. Kobe Bryant scored 10 points in only 12 minutes. Lebron James scored nine points, eight assists and five rebounds with only one turnover. Russell Westbrook who had foul trouble first half scored nine points with four rebounds and three assists. Carmelo Anthony finished with nine points and nine rebounds. Tyson Chandler scored eight points with nine rebounds.  Deron Williams finished with only three points but six assists. This was a nice victory for Team USA in routing a very talented French team.

For France who is ranked 12th in the world this had to be a frustrating day as they struggled offensively. France shot only 26-66(39.4%) from the field while making 2-22(9.1%) from three point range. They shot 17-27(63.0%) from the free throw line while committing 18 turnovers. Tony Parker finished with 10 points on 4-11 shooting with only one assist and four turnovers. Boris Diaw scored nine points and had six rebounds. Ronny Turiaf scored seven points and pulled down nine rebounds. Former Sonic Mickael Gelabale scored four points with four rebounds. While Nicolas Batum finished with seven points on two for six shooting and showed why the Blazers were dumb to match that offer. Team USA proved to be too big, too athletic and too skilled. Team USA also was too tough defensively especially on the wings. Far as the NBA goes only Parker is a star even though Batum is being paid like one. Diaw is a nice role player on the Spurs while Turiaf piggybacked an NBA title recently with the Heat. France just doesn't have the talent compete with the United States but getting blown away when at times the U.S. looked bad has to be concerning.

For team USA there was no reason to gloat or celebrate as this was just simply business as usual. For USA you either win gold or it was a failure there is no inbetween. This was a nice dominant win for USA over a very solid France team who matched up well for the U.S. as France strengths are their wings which is what USA is the best in the world at. Should be interesting what team USA does against teams with some size going forward but for now this was a great way to open up the Olympics as USA crushed the team France in this opening game 98-71.

Observations:

- There was a special guest at the game which was first lady Michelle Obama the wife of United States president Barack Obama. In the Olympics you'll see this as former president George W. Bush was at the games in 2008. This is the time of year where patriotism comes out and we all cheer on our athletes why I enjoy the Olympics so much. As we all know president Obama's go to sport is basketball and quite a few of these guys have already played against him in pick up games in the past. Obama is to basketball what Bush was to baseball. Every president has their sport of choice and for Obama it's basketball. So it was refreshing to see the first lady interacting with several of the players before the game. It was nice to see her involved and like I said quite a few of these guys have had good relationships with the president during his past four years.

- Lebron James can beat you in so many different ways as he showed in the NBA playoffs. With so many great players on this roster look for James to rack up the assists. Despite having Chris Paul(9.8 APG career) and Deron Williams(9.2 APG career) I think James is the best passer on the team. James is trying to complete the best season since Michael Jordan in 1992 where you win the regular season MVP, NBA Finals MVP and win the gold medal. Jordan so far is the only player to ever do that. James will score when he has to but this game he didn't have to instead he found his open teammates and had eight assists. If this was a closer game James would have finished with a triple double but he didn't play at all in the fourth quarter as coach K rested him knowing he is going to need James to log some big minutes in a few games.

- The reason James and Kobe Bryant can take a back seat in some games is because of Kevin Durant. Durant who is already a matchup nightmare in the NBA because of his size(6'1l") combined with his great shooting ability is virtually unstoppable in international play. The three point line is closer and the only wings who could even stand a chance of defending him are on team USA. Durant scored 22 points while pulling down nine rebounds in this win over France. For Durant who was the MVP of the World Games in 2008 he is quickly putting the NBA Finals loss behind him. This Olympics with his teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden is only going to make him a better player. Kind of a scary thought for the rest of the league knowing that Durant can somehow get better. Look at Lebron James in 2008 he was already a great player then noticed Bryant's work ethic on defense then became the best defender in the NBA. Look for some of James and Bryant to rub off on Durant.

In the end I love the Olympics because I get to see Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant all be on the court at the same time. We haven't had a trio like this since the 1992 games where you had Jordan, Bird and Magic all top 10 players of all-time. I have a feeling 20 years from now James, Bryant and Durant will be top 10 players of all-time. In fact I'd put Bryant and James in that top 10 right now. Team USA was impressive in their opening win over France and look for them to continue. In 2008 they were only challenged in the gold medal game against Spain. This team will have moments where they are being tested but if they were to lose that would be the biggest upset in international play history. I just don't see a team with James, Durant and Bryant losing. This was a good blowout win over a team that had four current NBA players so look for the United States to keep on blowing out their opponents as the Olympics goes on.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

USA defeats Colombia 3-0, clinches a spot in the Quarterfinals

By Money Mike


The United States in their second group game of the 2012 Olympics completely dominated the entire match from start to finish and come away with a well deserved 3-0 win over Colombia to book their place into the quarterfinal round. The U.S. still have one more group game to go, which takes place on Tuesday at Old Trafford against North Korea. The U.S. would win with at least a draw in that one. I'm not gonna go through the scenarios, we'll just have to wait until the final match to find out who they're playing, when they're playing and where they're playing.

The opening goal didn't come until the 33rd minute for the USA. Colombia failed to get the ball out of their own area and Alex Morgan found Megan Rapinoe out wide. Rapinoe took a couple of small touches and from about 20 yards out, just curls it over the head of goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda in to the net to put the United States ahead 1-0.

Six minutes later, we had a controversial moment and I got to tell you, Colombia are lucky not to pick up a red card. The United States were on the counter attack and off the ball, Colombian player Lady Andrade threw a forearm right into Abby Wambach's face and the referee somehow didn't see it. After the referee blew the play dead, you could see Wambach's right eye was swelling up. I don't understand how the referee didn't see that or why the assistant referee or fourth official weren't paying any attention to that because that's violent conduct and that should've been a red card. Now, the last thing I heard regarding this was that FIFA was reviewing this play. So by the look of things, Andrade could be banned from international play for a while. I mean that was just stupid and uncalled for.

In the 74th minute, the U.S. doubled their advantage.  Abby Wambach, who stayed in the match despite picking up a black eye, worked a brilliant give and go with Tobin Heath as she beat two Colombian defenders to the ball and slots it home to make it 2-0 USA.

Three minutes later, the U.S. would add one more for good measure. Carli Lloyd made a great run down the center and was found by Megan Rapinoe and she slots the ball away with ease for her second goal of the tournament and that was all the United States needed as they defeat Colombia 3-0 and clinches a birth in the Quarterfinals.


Scoring summary:

United States - Megan Rapinoe 1 (33')

United States - Abby Wambach 2 (74')

United States - Carli Lloyd 2 (77')


Misconduct summary:

NONE


Lineups:

Colombia - Sandra Sepulveda; Nataly Arias, Natalia Gaitan, Kelis Peduzine, Yulieht Dominguez; Tatiana Ariza (Liana Salazar 71'), Carmen Rodallega (Ana Montoya 71'), Maria Usme; Ingrid Vidal (Melissa Ortiz 86'), Orianica Velasquez, Lady Andrade

United States - Hope Solo; Heather Mitts, Christie Rampone, Rachel Buehler, Kelley O'Hara; Heather O'Reilly (Tobin Heath 67'), Carli Lloyd, Lauren Cheney, Megan Rapinoe (Amy Rodriguez 81'); Abby Wambach (Sydney Leroux 78'), Alex Morgan


Now I may be a couple days late with this video because I didn't see it until today, but here's a little trailier on the U.S. women's journey to another Olympic Gold Medal...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sounders sign German midfielder Christian Tiffert, trade Alvaro Fernandez to the Chicago Fire

By Money Mike


The MLS summer transfer window officially closed today and normally during this period the Seattle Sounders would not make any moves, but not this time. Earlier today, the Sounders made a couple of big moves as they signed German midfielder Christian Tiffert to a DP contract. MLS clubs are allowed only three Designated Players and the prior to the deal, Seattle's three DP's were Fredy Montero, Alvaro Fernandez and Mauro Rosales. To free up that last DP slot, the Seattle Sounders traded Alvaro Fernandez to the Chicago Fire for Allocation Money. Remember Fernandez was originally linked with a loan move to Fredy Montero's former Colombian club Deportivo Cali, but that deal eventually fell through. That looked to be the only move they made, but it appears that 22 year old Honduran international Mario Martinez has signed with the Sounders on loan from Real Espana, but that deal hasn't been confirmed yet. Martinez is currently with the Honduran national team in London for the 2012 Olympics.

When I got up earlier in the morning, I read on Seattle Times that the Sounders reportedly signed Christian Tiffert as a Designated Player which was confirmed at that time by his club 1. FC Kaiserslautern and his agent. Since then I've been keeping track of all the reports regarding this. What the Sounders would do to free up a DP slot. Then about 12:30, the Sounders say the deal wasn't officially done yet which almost makes you wonder if the deal would ever be completed. Then about 1:45, I read a tweet that stated that there was a big trade to announce and it apparently involved the Sounders as they traded Fernandez to Chicago. The former German under-21 international is a talented player, very good on the ball, but he's coming off a disappointing season. Obviously it wasn't just him, 1. FC Kaiserslautern absolutely sucked last season which saw them Relegated from the German Bundesliga.

Alvaro Fernandez has left the team after making 55 league appearances for the Rave Green and scoring 13 goals. When Fernandez joined the team in late July 2010 following the trade of Freddie Ljungberg, Fernandez was almost an unknown because at the start of his career, he's been traveling everywhere looking for a club. I mean, he spent time with seven clubs in his first five seasons of his career and following the World Cup there was a report saying that the Sounders were gonna sign Fernandez and following the Ljungberg trade, the Sounders used a DP tag on him. He didn't get that much playing time late in 2010 however because the Sounders still had a young kid named Sanna Nyassi. In 2011, Fernandez started the first two games but then he was dropped to the bench and a lot of us were beginning to think that his guy is useless, but then we lost Zakuani to a major injury, Fernandez stepped in and scored nine goals which is his career best. 2012, has been a rough year for Flaco, but he did score in his last two matches. Fernandez finishes his Sounders career with two U.S. Open Cup titles in his resume.

I think the Sounders front office did a great job today. Tiffert is a guy who brings leadership to this team, much like Mauro Rosales, considering he was the team captain over at 1. FC Kaiserslautern. Fernandez will be missed in Seattle for sure, but with Zakuani close to 100% and the struggles that Fernandez has gone through, I think the move had to be made.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

U.S. women rally from two down with four unanswered goals to defeat France 4-2

By Money Mike


So we all know that the Olympics don't officially start until Friday. However, the only exception to that is Olympic soccer kicked off with the women's tournament today. Six women's matches were played today but the only match I care about is a match that features the United States. Like earlier today at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, and yes folks this was an official Olympic game. This U.S. came back from two goals down as they scored four unanswered goals to defeat France 4-2. Good way to kick off the 2012 Olympic tournament for the two time Olympic Champions. Despite the result, I wasn't overly impressed with the midfielders. Most the game, they just seem to have a knack on giving the ball away to the opposition and other times, their teammates just fall asleep at the wrong time. Hopefully USA head coach Pia Sundhage can work with her team in that area during practice leading up to their next match on Saturday.

It took only 12 minutes for the deadlock to be broken, unfortunately, it was France who struck early. France's long ball was headed away by Amy LePeilbet but right to Gaetane Thiney and from 20 yards out Thiney strikes the ball brilliantly in to the back of the net to put France ahead 1-0. Hope Solo did get a fingertip to it but not enough.

Two minutes later, the U.S. we're two goals down. Elise Bussaglia took the corner for France on the far side of the pitch. The U.S. fail to clear the ball out of their area and Marie-Laure Delie makes them pay as she rips her shot into the net to put France up 2-0 over the two-time defending Olympic Champions.

The United States would climb back into this one in the 19th minute. Megan Rapinoe, who is one of four players from the Sounders Women's team, took the corner from the near side and what we all know is that if the corner kick finds the head of Abby Wambach, it's more than likely going to be a goal and that's what happened here. Rapinoe floated the ball to the far post and it was Abby Wambach who got up and headed the ball back across and inside the left post cut the French lead to one.

With just over a half an hour gone by, the United States would equalise and it was another one of four Sounders Women on this team, you guys may have heard of this person before, her name is Alex Morgan. Following an offside call against France, Hope Solo (speaking of the Sounders Women), booted the ball into the French half which missed the head of Abby Wambach but ball found Alex Morgan in the box. Morgan waited for ball to bounce right in front of her before chipping the ball over the head of French goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi and in to back of the goal to tie this baby up at two goals a piece. Remember last year following USA's World Cup defeat to Japan, I talked a little bit about Alex Morgan and why she should've started and went ahead and stated that she was the future of this U.S. Women's team. Of course she was just making a jump to the international level and she had nine international goals. Now fast forward to July 25, 2012, and the 23 year old has become one of the best in the game. That equalising goal was Alex Morgan's 28th in her international career in her 43rd cap and I'll bet she's gonna reach 100 caps way before the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.

In the 56th minute, the United States would get their third unanswered goal to take their first lead of the match. Megan Rapinoe poked the ball in the middle for Carli Lloyd and remember the goal she scored against Brazil in the 2008 Gold Medal match in Beijing? When she took one touch and just cracked one inside the far post? Well, this goal against France was no different. Rapinoe fed the ball to Lloyd who took one touch and then BANG!! Right footed from outside the area and the goalkeeper had no chance of stopping that one and the U.S. who were 2-0 down earlier in the game were now 3-2 up.

10 minutes later the U.S. would add a fourth. Once again, Megan Rapinoe was involved in the play as she played the ball long to the far side of the pitch and French defender Corine Franco made a mistake by sliding in to try to break up the play which gave Tobin Heath so much space to run at the French defense. Heath took it toward the end line and squared the ball across which missed Abby Wambach but right there was Alex Morgan at the far post to tap it in for her second of the game to make it 4-2 for the U.S. and that's how it would end.


Scoring summary:

France - Gaetane Thiney 1 (12')

France - Marie-Laure Delie 1 (14')

United States - Abby Wambach 1 (19')

United States - Alex Morgan 1 (32')

United States - Carli Lloyd 1 (56')

United States - Alex Morgan 2 (66')


Misconduct summary:

NONE


Lineups:

United States - Hope Solo; Amy LePeilbet, Rachel Buehler, Christie Rampone, Kelley O'Hara; Megan Rapinoe (Sydney Leroux 84'), Shannon Boxx (Carli Lloyd 17'), Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath; Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan (Amy Rodriguez 74')

France - Sarah Bouhaddi; Corine Franco, Wendie Renard, Ophelie Meilleroux (Laura Georges 46'), Sonia Bompastor; Camile Abily (Sandrine Soubeyrand 71'), Louisa Necib (Eugenie le Sommer 46'), Elise Bussaglia; Elodie Thomis, Marie-Laure Delie, Gaetane Thiney

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ichiro traded to the Yankees!

By Kshell

Many thought this day would never come but shockingly it has. The Seattle Mariners traded away Ichiro Suzuki to the New York Yankees for two pitching prospects. What the Mariners received at this point doesn't matter what matters is the fact the face of the franchise since 2001 has been traded away. Since 2001 Ichiro has occupied mostly right field and some centerfield while batting leadoff for the Mariners. He had 10 consecutive 200+ hit seasons for the Mariners but his production has dramatically declined in 2011 and this year. Ichiro actually was the one who asked to be traded as he probably would like to win to end his career. Jack Zduriencik didn't receive much in this deal but two b-list pitching prospects. This was a trade that was more about addition by subtraction. This trade was so the Mariners franchise can finally move forward. So the new faces behind Felix Hernandez can finally emerge. Much like the Seahawks last year getting rid of Matt Hasselbeck so the youth can take over this roster the Mariners are doing just that with today's trade. The Mariners franchise led by for better or for worse Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong are showing they are allowing Zduriencik to do what he wants. For that you have to be excited knowing our general manager has no restrictions and most likely never did.

As if Zduriencik's job hasn't been hard enough in Seattle under his watch the two greatest Mariners of all-time had awkward endings. Ken Griffey Jr. the Mariners greatest player ever had a nice comeback in 2009 but in 2010 was horrible. Griffey ended up turning the clubhouse against manager Don Wakamatsu which cost him his job as Griffey quit midseason. I do believe Ichiro is the second greatest Mariner of all-time. He'll finish his Mariners career with .322 career batting average, 2,533 career hits, and 438 stolen bases. He won the MVP and rookie of the year in 2001. He has won two batting titles in 2001 and 2004. He has led the league in hits seven times including 2004 when he had 262 hits which is a major league record breaking George Sissler's record back in 1920. Ichiro has won the All-Star game MVP in 2007 as he was selected to 10 all-star games and won 10 gold gloves. He also won three silver slugger awards in Seattle. Like Griffey and most athletes for that matter his career didn't have that fairy tale ending. Instead his ending leaves a sour taste in your mouth but that is sports. Sadly this is the typical ending we must endear as a fan base when one of our beloved heroes is at the end of his career.

In 2001 the Mariners had just lost Randy Johnson in 1998, Ken Griffey Jr after the 1999 season and Alex Rodriguez after the 2000 season. The Mariners were desperately looking for the new star and they got that in Ichiro Suzuki who came over from Japan. In 2001 Ichiro took the league by storm as he become only the second Mariners player to ever win the MVP award as he led the Mariners to a record tying 116 wins. During that season he hit .350/.381/.457. Had 242 hits, 8 HR's, 127 runs, 69 RBI's and 56 SB's. He took home the rookie of the year award, batting crown, all-star game, gold glove, silver slugger and of course MVP. During that postseason Ichiro hit 16-43(.421) with three RBI's, seven runs scored and 3 stolen bases as the Mariners lost to the New York Yankees in the ALCS.  In 2001 that was a magical time for Ichiro as he came in so mysterious like and immediately dominated the game of baseball. That year would start a run of 10 straight seasons where he had 200+ hits, made the all-star team and won a gold glove. Ichiro due to being such a great player in 2007 was resigned for 5 years at 90 million paying him 18 million per year. The Mariners have been restricted due to that wage and Ichiro's production fell off as he is now 38 years old. Ichiro has declined which is natural but what he gave this franchise in 2001 shouldn't be forgotten as that was the last great moment for the Mariners.

Ichiro was traded for right handed pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. Mitchell this year for the Yankees has appeared in four games having pitched 4.2 innings with a 3.86 ERA, 2.14 WHIP and 2 strikeouts. This year in the minor leagues he appeared in 15 games making 14 starts where he is 6-4 having thrown 85.2 innings he has a 5.04 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 72 K's(7.6 K's per 9). For his career he has appeared in 94 games making 87 starts. He has thrown 538 innings sporting a 3.56 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 421 K's(7.0 K's per 9). Farquhar has been in three different organizations this year in the minor leagues and has pitched only two innings in the major leagues giving up three runs. In his minor league career he has appeared in 208 games where he is 14-17 with 59 saves in 282.2 innings. He has a 3.06 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 290 K's(9.2 K's per 9). The Mariners didn't receive much as currently Ichiro is no longer the player he was. Ichiro this season is hitting .261/.288/.353 with only 15 stolen bases. Ichiro last season was worth 0.3 WAR and this year he is at 1.4 due to mainly his defense not his bat. The Mariners didn't receive much and would have gotten more had they dealt him back when I suggested in July of 2010 but that isn't the point. The point is this franchise is moving forward which should be rewarding to so many fans who have questioned this managements leadership over the years.

This day is a bittersweet day for me. Ichiro for years was my favorite Mariner and if I were going to the Mariners-Yankees game tonight I'd cheer Ichiro as he deserves to be cheered. He has done a lot for this franchise and will be our second first ballot hall of famer. Still his production has fallen and this was a move that had to be made. Hopefully Ichiro can finally taste some team success being in New York and hopefully the Mariners young kids can finally grow to be what we had hoped. Zduriencik didn't receive much for Ichiro and they pretty much released him. That shouldn't be held against Jack Z though as Ichiro is 38 with a big contract and is declining fast. He no longer brings in fans as Mariners attendance has been dwindling for some years now. Ichiro will leave Seattle like Matt Hasselbeck, Ken Griffey Jr, Gary Payton and many other stars before him on awkward terms. Saying goodbye to your superstar is tough to do especially when he still views himself as a superstar when in reality he is no longer that guy. The Mariners had to make this move, this move doesn't hurt or help the Mariners right now and I'll always remember the great run Ichiro gave this franchise. I wish Ichiro luck and more importantly I hope the Mariners can start playing some meaningful games in September something they haven't done since 2003.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My experience at the Everett AquaSox game

By Kshell

This weekend for the first time in my life I went and saw the Everett AquaSox in person. The reason I saw this short season single A team was the Mariners #3 draft pick overall Mike Zunino was set to make his pro debut. The AquaSox are a short drive for me so I decided to go check out our single A affiliate up in Everett. With the Seattle Mariners struggling and the Tacoma Rainiers probably too far of a drive for me to make consistently I'll probably be attending more AquaSox games which by far as the best mascot I've seen. The atmosphere at these games are fun and for a single A ball park I really enjoyed it. A dream of mine was to have a single A team play in my hometown of Longview, Washington. Since I've moved I'll just enjoy the AquaSox instead. In this particular game the AquaSox were taking on the Tri-City Dust Devils(Colorado Rockies affiliate) in what was going to be Mike Zunino's pro debut set for July 13th, 2012 on a Friday. As is usually the case in this state the weather played a factor for me as the game on Friday night was rained out. It was a shame as I would miss Zunino's pro debut as the tickets for my section were sold out on Saturday. I exchanged my tickets on Sunday for root beer float day instead.

For $6 you can drink all the root beer floats that you would like. I had three root beer floats for this game as relievers Mark Bordonaro(25th round pick 2012 draft) and Marcos Reyna(43rd round pick 2011 draft) signed my cup. The root beer floats were pretty tasty and it was nice talking to the players. They enjoyed it up here in Everett like I pointed out to them some single A teams are in the middle of nowhere at least Everett you can still have somewhat of a night life being close to Seattle. Unlike the rainy day on Friday the weather on Sunday was beautiful and my cup that was signed is now hanging on my shelf. For the guys down in single A they are still years away from the major leagues. They are still enjoying the game and having fun. They haven't quite gone through the grind of this being work which was refreshing to see in talking with the players before the game. Eventually some will move on to higher levels, few to the major leagues. While for most of these guys they'll never reach the majors that is just the harsh reality. Playing professional baseball is still fun and I'm glad to see these guys are enjoying themselves. Also the root beer floats I fully endorse that giveaway especially on a nice sunny July game. After I had my first one though it was time to watch the game as our AquaSox were ready to take on the Tri-City Dust Devils.

With the game started I was interested in seeing the Mariners 3rd pick overall Mike Zunino out of Florida. I also curious to see former Praire High School and Washington State Cougar Taylor Ard play. The picture to my right is of Ard and I felt he had a good day at the plate. In his first at bat he worked the count full before ripping a double down the third base line for a stand up double. He fouled out away some two pitch strikes which was nice to see him stay alive at the plate. In his second at bat Ard had the count in his favor as the pitcher fell behind 3-0 and after throwing Ard back to back strikes it was full count once again. Ard this time grounded out weakly to shortstop for the out. In his third at bat in the 7th Ard worked the count to 2-1 in his favor before flying out to right center field on a good swing. Overall I liked Ard's three at bats as I was impressed with his eye. I liked Ard's swings at the plate and someday he could be a nice player for this organization. The only problem I have with Ard is he is right handed and to date doesn't appear to have great power up until now. He has plenty of ways to go such as everyone on this club. Mainly I was impressed with Ard's at bats and the former Cougar is trying to be another productive Cougar first baseman for the Mariners like John Olerud was.


The main reason I went to the AquaSox game in the first place was to see prized prospect Mike Zunino. Zunino who was the third pick overall this past draft in 2012 out of the University of Florida. Zunino the previous day in the double header had a double his first at bat and since this game has homered three times in two games. In this particular game Zunino had a mixed result as he batted 5th and was DH all weekend. The first at-bat he saw just two pitches before grounding out. What I liked what right when he came to the dugout due to my seats I saw him telling the coach what the pitch was and the location showing he knew what it was just missed it. In his second at-bat he led the inning off with a base hit to center which was a rope. He had a good swing on the ball and it was a good solid base hit. His third at bat was a rough one as he struck out on a pitch in the dirt. I don't care if you are the #3 pick overall the draft or drafted in the 40th round you are going to have at-bats that makes you look silly. Overall I liked what little I saw of Zunino and hopefully his future in Seattle someday is very bright. The Mariners haven't had a catcher since Dan Wilson and the hope is Zunino can be that guy.

My experience at the AquaSox game was great. Like I said even though we lost 7-0 the AquaSox are still in first place in the Northwest League. It was nice to see the future of this franchise compete at the minor league league level. More importantly with the Mariners being so down it was nice to go to a baseball game and enjoy myself. I didn't care about the score as I cared more about having fun and just watching some good ole baseball being played. That was the most important part of my trip is that it was a fun game and the future appears bright for our Seattle Mariners. I hope someday to see some of these guys at Safeco Field in the next coming years!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sounders come away with a point against the New York Red Bulls, 2-2 draw

By Money Mike


The Seattle Sounders looked to pick up where they left off from their Open Cup semifinal victory against Chivas USA during midweek and pick up three points against the New York Red Bulls in their final trip to the east coast this season, but in the end both teams settled for a point. The Sounders didn't get the win, but they did come away with a valuable road point after a 2-2 draw against the New York Red Bulls in Harrison, New Jersey. The Sounders return home this Wednesday for a friendly match against European Champions Chelsea. Their next league game won't be until July 28th when they travel to Dicks Sporting Goods Park to take on the Colorado Rapids.

The Sounders had control of this match early on and their first real opportunity came in the 11th minute. Brad Evans fed the ball to Eddie Johnson who did very well to get around Rafa Marquez. Evans continued his run and Johnson found him with a great through ball and Evans had a chance to put it away but Bill Gaudette came out and got a hand to it. This is the second time the Sounders faced Gaudette this season. The first time they faced him was when the LA Galaxy traveled to Seattle. Gaudette, who was acquired a couple days ago from the Galaxy, was making his Red Bulls debut in replace of rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara who was out with a hip injury.

Five minutes later, the Sounders would open the scoring. Adam Johansson joined in on the attack and was found by Ozzie Alonso. Johansson took one touch before setting himself up to whip in a very good cross to the far post and Alvaro Fernandez was there to volley it home for his second goal in as many matches and the Sounders took a 1-0 lead. Brandon Barklage got caught at the wrong place at the wrong time and Johansson read it perfectly and found a wide open Fernandez and there was nothing Bill Gaudette could do there.

In the 21st minute, the Red Bulls had to make a change defensively. Rafa Marquez, who has been criticised by the media all season, left the game with a hip injury and was replaced by Wilman Conde, Jr. After the sub the Red Bulls changed their tactics offensively with Thierry Henry pushing up top. By the way, that was the only sub the Red Bulls made in the game. That just goes to show that head coach Hans Backe doesn't trust his bench.

In the 24th minute, the Red Bulls pulled one back and leveled this match up. Joel Lindpere poked the ball to Connor Lade who maneuvered around Adam Johansson. Lade fed Kenny Cooper who gave it a go from 25 yards out which was punched away by Bryan Meredith, but right there was Sebastien Le Toux to tap home the rebound and level it up on his Red Bulls debut against his old club. Le Toux was acquired by the Red Bulls from the Vancouver Whitecaps in exchange for Dane Richards, so we won't see him in Seattle this year. As a matter of fact, his return to Seattle last year during his time with the Philadelphia Union may be his last visit because his contract expires after this season and there are rumors that suggest that he'll move to Europe during the winter. Anyway, on the play that resulted in the goal. It looked like Marc Burch wasn't paying any attention. You cannot expect Bryan Meredith to do all the dirty work defensively, when he punches the ball aside, somebody has to get over there and clear the ball out of danger.

In the 32nd minute, the mistake nearly led to a Sounders goal. Connor Lade gave the ball straight away to Alvaro Fernandez. Fernandez sent Eddie Johnson away down the left hand side. Johnson put on the breaks and slowed things down before cutting to his right foot and drilling a shot to the far post which forced a big time save from Bill Gaudette. That mistake in the midfield showed that Connor Lade, who signed with the Red Bulls as a homegrown player during the offseason, has quite a bit to work on as the season progresses as well as his young career.

The score remained level until the 61st minute when the New York Red Bulls took advantage of a mistake in the midfield and took a 2-1 lead. The Sounders started the second half with some sloppy passing and the Red Bulls would make them pay as Brandon Barklage found Joel Lindpere who was kept onside by Jeff Parke and Adam Johansson. Lindpere cut inside of Jeff Parke and slid the ball inside the near post for his third goal of the season. You may think that Bryan Meredith could've made the save, but two things here. One, when Lindpere cut to his left foot, Meredith started to cheat toward the far post. And Two, as the shot came in, Meredith was screened by Jeff Parke which resulted in a late reaction by the goalkeeper because he couldn't see where Lindpere was going.

Following that goal, the Sounders brought on Fredy Montero in place of Mauro Rosales and in the 67th minute, the Colombian would make an impact. Adam Johansson found Brad Evans making the good run down the right hand side. Evans squared the ball across for Fredy Montero to slam it home for his fifth goal of the season and his fifth against the New York Red Bulls. There were a few more chances on both ends of the ball, but in the end, the Sounders come away with a good point on the road in a tough venue. They still sit in third place with a record of 8-5-7.


Scoring summary:

Seattle Sounders FC - Alvaro Fernandez 2 (Adam Johansson 1) 16'

New York Red Bulls - Sebastien Le Toux 5 (unassisted) 24'

New York Red Bulls - Joel Lindpere 3 (Brandon Barklage 4) 61'

Seattle Sounders FC - Fredy Montero 5 (Brad Evans 1, Adam Johansson 2) 67'


Misconduct summary:

Seattle Sounders FC - Marc Burch (caution; foul) 44'

New York Red Bulls - Connor Lade (caution; foul) 53'

Seattle Sounders FC - Andy Rose (caution; handball) 66'

New York Red Bulls - Thierry Henry (caution; dissent) 74'


Lineups:

Seattle Sounders FC - Bryan Meredith; Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Marc Burch; Brad Evans (Servando Carrasco 85'), Osvaldo Alonso, Andy Rose (Leo Gonzalez 77'), Alvaro Fernandez; Mauro Rosales (Fredy Montero 62'), Eddie Johnson

New York Red Bulls - Bill Gaudette; Brandon Barklage, Markus Holgersson, Rafa Marquez (Wilman Conde 21'), Roy Miller; Joel Lindpere, Dax McCarty, Connor Lade; Sebastien Le Toux, Kenny Cooper, Thierry Henry

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Breaking down 2012 vs 1992 dream team: Who wins?

By Kshell

This past week Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant made the controversial statement that this 2012 U.S. men's olympic basketball team could defeat the vaunted 1992 "Dream Team" which featured 11 NBA hall of famers and became the first team inducted into the basketball hall of fame. That statement of course caused some back lash from the 1992 members in particular Michael Jordan who found the comments laughable and Scottie Pippen who said the 1992 team would defeat this team by 25 points. In this upcoming post I'll break down the teams and give some perspective of how the players were at the time of the games. I actually think this hypothetical game would be a lot closer than many want to believe. What is hurting the 2012 team is the fact the 1992 team was so dominant, has some legendary names, everything in the past is viewed as being better than the present and more importantly injuries. The 2012 team is without Dwight Howard(6-time all-star, 3-time defensive player of the year, 5-time first-team all-nba, 4-time first-team all defensive) , Derrick Rose(NBA MVP, Rookie of the year, 3-time all-star, first-team all NBA), Dwyane Wade(8-time all-star, NBA Finals MVP, all-star game MVP, 2-time first-team all-nba) and Chris Bosh(7-time all-star). Howard, Wade, and Bosh all helped team USA win Olympic gold in 2008 while Rose helped team USA win the World Championships in 2010. If those four were on this current team that would make the game interesting and I'd maybe take the 2012 team to win. Now that we have established those guys aren't on the team we'll still break down both rosters.

This current squad I'll break it down by how I'd have the starting lineup. At point guard you'd have Chris Paul who just made the all-star team this year, was first-team all-nba and first-team all defensive. He also finished third in the MVP vote. In his career he has made five all-star games, won the rookie of the year, been selected first-team all defensive twice and been selected first-team all-nba twice. At shooting guard you'd have Kobe Bryant who also made the all-star team, was selected first-team all-NBA, second-team all defensive and finished 4th in the MVP race. In his career Bryant has been named to 14 all-star games, has won the MVP award, was NBA Finals MVP twice during his five NBA championships. He has been all-star game MVP four times, been selected first-team all-NBA 10 times, first-team all defensive team nine times and has won two scoring titles. At small forward I'd go with Kevin Durant who also made the all-star team, was selected first-team all-NBA, was All-Star game MVP, won another scoring title and was 2nd in the MVP race. Durant has made three all-star games, won three scoring titles, won the Rookie of the Year and was first-team all-NBA three times. Then at power forward I'd start Lebron James who is in his prime right now coming off an all-star game appearance, winning another MVP award, finally winning his first NBA championship where he was finals MVP, was named first-team all-NBA and first-team all defensive team as well. For his career James has been selected to eight all-star games, won the rookie of the year, has been a three-time MVP selection, two-time all-star game MVP, six-time first-team all-nba, and four-time first-team defensive selection. Rounding out my five would be center Kevin Love(remember no Howard) who made the all-star game this past year and was second-team all-nba. He has been to two all-star games and won most improved player.

I think the 2012 starting five can stack up with the 1992 starting five if not be better than the 1992 starting five. The problem is the bench for 2012 isn't very deep at all. The bench consists of forward Carmelo Anthony who made the all-star game this past year and was selected third-team all-nba. He has made five all-star games in his career. Center Tyson Chandler who is actually starting in these games just won the NBA defensive player of the year award and was second-team all defensive this past year. He was also third-team all-NBA. He also won a championship the year prior with the Dallas Mavericks as their starting center. Point guard Deron Williams is coming off of another all-star game appearance and is a three-time all-star. Russell Westbrook was an all-star and named second-team all-NBA this past year in helping lead OKC to the NBA finals. He has made two all-star games so far in his brief career. Teammate guard/forward James Harden also made the team and just won the sixth man of the year award. Andre Iguoudala was just selected to his first all-star game this past season. Recently dropping out was forward Blake Griffin who made the all-star team for the second straight year and was selected second-team all-NBA. He also won the rookie of the year award last season. Taking his spot is #1 pick overall from national champion Kentucky Wildcats Anthony Davis who just won the college basketball player of the year award.

Now the 1992 squad which features 11 hall of famers has a pretty hefty resume as well. I'm only going to mention their resume as of 1992 so keep in mind these numbers are from then. At point guard I'd start Magic Johnson who didn't play the previous season due to being HIV positive. He did however win the all-star game MVP in 1992. In his career he was selected to 12 all-star games, won the MVP award three times, won Finals MVP three times as he won five championships, was all-star game MVP twice and selected first-team all-NBA nine times. At shooting guard I have Michael Jordan who was in his prime. Jordan was selected to the all-star game, won another MVP award, another scoring title, won another Finals MVP, was first-team all-nba once again and first-team all defensive once again. His career up until that point saw him go to eight all-star games, win the rookie of the year, win three MVP's, win two Finals MVP's as he had won two titles, all-star game MVP, defensive player of the year, six scoring titles, six-time all-nba first-team, five-time all defensive team first team. At small forward I'd start Clyde Drexler who was an all-star, was selected first-team all-NBA leading the Blazers to their second NBA finals in three years, and he finished second in the MVP race that season. Drexler was a six-time all-star and was first-team all-nba once. At power forward I'd start Karl Malone who was an all-star, first-team all-NBA and finished 4th in the MVP voting. Malone was a five-time all-star, all-star game MVP and been first-team all-nba four times. At center the 1992 squad would start David Robinson who was selected to the all-star team, was first-team all-nba, first-team all defensive team, defensive player of the year and finished 3rd in the MVP race heading into the Olympic games. For his career he had been selected to three all-star games, won rookie of the year, won defensive player of the year, was twice selected first-team all-nba and all defensive team.

This is where the 1992 team would have the major edge is the bench production as they have some real fire power off the bench. Leading the bench would be Charles Barkley who was selected to the all-star game, was second-team all-nba. Barkley was a six-time all-star, all-star game MVP and four times selected first-team all-nba. Scottie Pippen was also an all-star, was second-team all-nba, first-team all defensive team. Pippen had won two NBA titles with the Bulls and had made two all-star games. At center they also had Patrick Ewing who was selected to the all-star team, was second team all-nba and all defensive team. He also finished fifth in the NBA voting. At forward Larry Bird who was an all-star but had only played in 45 games. Bird was a 12-time all-star, rookie of the year, won three straight MVP awards, two-time finals MVP as he won three titles, all-star game MVP and was selected first-team all-NBA nine times. Forward Chris Mullin had his best season as he was selected to the all-star team and was first-team all-nba finishing sixth in the MVP vote. He was also a four-time all-star in his career. John Stockton was an all-star that year as he was selected second team all-nba and all defense. He was a four-time all-star. The final selection was college star Christian Laettner from Duke who was the college basketball player of the year as he led the Duke Blue Devils to their second straight national championship.


The 1992 team has a deeper roster and the greatest player to have ever played the game in his prime in Michael Jordan. So how does the 2012 team even compete? Well I think the 2012 team has the next three best players in  Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant on their roster. In the case of James and Durant there is nobody who can guard either one as they are freaks of the game. Durant is a 6'10" forward who can bomb three's away from anywhere on the court, while Lebron James is a 6'8" 240 lb guy who averages 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists for his career. As for Bryant he is still make first-team all-nba selections and has missed only two all-star games in his career which was his rookie season and 1999 which was cancelled due to a players strike. Under my lineup for now Magic who was retired would have to cover Chris Paul who is quick which always gave Magic problems, Jordan would be able to lock up Bryant but Bryant led the 2008 Olympics in assists so he'd realize that. Drexler who was never known for his defense would be forced to guard Durant which would spell trouble for the 1992 squad while Malone would have to guard James. James is at the point in his career like Jordan was where you can't guard him. Even Robinson would have trouble with Love who is a perimeter center. The 1992 team was never challenged so we never saw their weaknesses but covering this athletic perimeter team of the 2012 squad would give them trouble.

Eventually the 1992 team would have to make a counter move which would be to swap Magic out for Pippen and swap Drexler out for Barkley. Have Pippen run the point forward. Sure Durant will still go off but now you put the 2012 team in a hole that forces them to pull Chris Paul as he has nobody he can guard. Who is Durant going to guard? Barkley or Malone? Good luck there. Who is going to guard David Robinson who is just entering  his prime? If 2012 puts in Chandler to guard him then 92' can float Robinson as Chandler isn't a threat to score. Even though Bird and Magic were just names at that point with Stockton out due to a broken leg the 92' team was deeper. I have yet to even mention Mullin who was first-team all-nba that year or Patrick Ewing who was also in his prime. Ewing who I believe is better than Dwight Howard and I know David Robinson is. The 12' team could hang with the 92' team but I see the 92' team pulling away as the game progresses with their depth and winning by 10-15 points.

Two things in my life as a sports fan I just barely missed out on due to my age(born in 1985) that I regret. One was the 1991 Washington Huskies national championship team. I would have loved to have enjoyed that season live as it happened. The other is the 1992 Dream Team which changed basketball forever as the world saw first hand the greatness of men's basketball. Due to those games guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, both Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka have grown to love the game of basketball. There will never be a dream team in our lifetime ever again as these guys were all all-stars that season. The 1992 team had the star power that this team has as well but it's not the same. If Howard, Wade, Bosh and Rose were healthy then this 2012 team could compete and perhaps even win. Since they don't the 1992 team would win the game. I learned back in 1998 as well never bet against Michael Jordan especially a Jordan in his prime. This 2012 team should start worrying more about Spain and France as there is no guarantee this team will win the gold. While the 1992 team won the gold the minute their plane landed in Barcelona, Spain.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Seahawks release Mike Williams

By Kshell

The Seattle Seahawks have announced that they have released wide receiver Mike Williams. Once again Pete Carroll is proving the myth that he is loyal to his former USC Trojans is false. Williams who had a decent sized contract and coming off of an unproductive season in 2011 meant he was on the chopping block. For Carroll he has the right attitude that all NFL teams must have which is "what have you done for me lately?" Now Williams who was a big part of the Seahawks winning the 2010 NFC West championship and had a productive playoffs was beaten out by younger guys in 2011. Williams production dropped off big time and he showed up to mini-camps in April fat which is what got him bounced from the NFL the first time around.

When Mike Williams came to Seattle in 2010 he was a former first round bust that his old college coach in his first year gave a chance to. Williams was an instant hit that season playing in 14 games making 13 starts he caught 65 passes for 751 yards(11.6 YPC) with two touchdowns. He became Matt Hasselbeck's favorite target that season as he played so well in the preseason the Seahawks cut T.J. Houshmanzdeh  and later traded Deion Branch away. Williams was productive especially against the divisional rivals Arizona Cardinals who had beaten the Seahawks four games in a row. Williams against the Cardinals caught 22 passes for 232 yards with a touchdown as the Seahawks finally swept the Cardinanls. In his first playoffs with the team in two games Williams caught nine passes for 83 yards with three touchdowns. The Seahawks rewarded Williams with a three-year contract after that terrific season.

Then the lockout happened, Hasselbeck was let go and the Seahawks signed Sidney Rice. They also brought in a new quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and Williams numbers declined. In 12 games, Williams made 10 starts he had only 18 receptions for 236 yards(13.1 YPC) with just one touchdown. Williams was held without a reception four times that year and had just one reception in two games. After the first game when he caught four passes he would never catch more than three passes in a game again. Rice was injured some but undrafted rookie Doug Baldwin came in with 51 receptions for 788 yards(15.5 YPC) with four touchdowns. Ben Obomanu and Golden Tate also outproduced Williams during the season as well. The Seahawks are also high on Ricardo Lockette who caught a 61 yard touchdown pass in the final game of the season, Deon Butler and Kris Durham who are mid round draft picks. There just wasn't room for Williams who had an awful season last year. I felt Jackson didn't look his way enough like Hasselbeck did but Williams was slow as well which hurt him.

I'm sad to see Williams go because he gave the Seahawks a wonderful 2010 season and had appeared he had turned it around. I do like this move because Carroll once again proves that what you did yesterday doesn't matter for today. Williams was an all-american receiver for him at USC and gave him a great comeback season in 2010 then after a bad year Carroll showed him the door. That is how Carroll operates with the Seahawks if a guy isn't being productive or there are younger guys willing to take his spot he'll show them the door regardless of what they have done for this team. The Seahawks although short on big names will be fine at the wide receiver spot. Carroll once again is continuing to clean house and rid this roster of lazy guys who are resting on their past achievements. If you are Marshawn Lynch you know that if you have a bad season there is a chance Carroll shows you the door so you have to come to camp ready to reproduce that season. That is what I love about the Seahawks, Carroll isn't afraid to cut a player who the fan base is attached to. He is simply here to do one job and one job only which is to win. For Mike Williams he helped this franchise win in 2010 but he isn't going to help this team in 2012 which I'm fine with.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Smoak and Mirrors

By Kshell

The Seattle Mariners are struggling once again in the Jack Zduriencik regime which shouldn't come as a shock since they have lost 196 games the last two seasons.  The Mariners struggles have become so bad that I stopped writing or caring about this team. With the second half of the season approaching this is a critical time for the Mariners young core. Now I'll talk about Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero for a later time. For now I'm going to focus on Texas Rangers former top prospect and current Seattle Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak. Smoak who will be 26 years old in December is having for the third straight year in the major leagues a terrible season. Smoak has actually regressed from last season and his having his worst season of his career so far. With Smoak struggling this really puts the rebuilding into question and more importantly for Jack Z his tenure in Seattle could be ending.

So far Smoak's claim to fame was he was the guy traded to the Mariners from the Rangers for Cliff Lee. Now when the Lee deal broke I was out floating the river so one of my writers broke down the trade at the time with this thoughtful piece . At the time everyone loved the trade and I'll admit so did I since the Mariners were acquiring Smoak who was the 13th rated prospect in the majors. The Mariners just grabbed a top tier prospect from a division rival for a rental player. Instead what ended up happening was Cliff Lee helped the Rangers reach their first every World Series in 2010. Lee in the ALDS series win over the Tampa Bay Rays was 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA having thrown 16 innings with 21 strikeouts. Then in the ALCS win over the New York Yankees Lee won his game three start going eight shutout innings allowing only two hits with 13 strikeouts. Lee would bolt in the off-season but the Rangers were able to pick up two first round draft picks. The Rangers also became a legitimate franchise with that World Series appearance which allowed them to sign all-star third baseman and former Seattle Mariner Adrian Beltre. That trade actually helped the Rangers more than anyone could have imagined at the time while to date has hurt the Mariners.

Justin Smoak was a highly touted prospect for the Rangers. He was the Rangers first round pick(11th overall) in the 2008 draft out of South Carolina. He was the #23 prospect in the minors in 2009 and #13 in 2010. Smoak was seen as the next Mark Teixeira type who was a switch hitter with great defense. In the minor leagues he was rushed through the system as he only had 773 plate appearances which he hit .283/.401/.458 with 24 HR's and 93 RBI's. In triple A though he has only had 477 PA's where he has hit .253/.379/.414 with 13 HR's and 53 RBI's. In the minors he should decent power with a good eye. Still one had to think if he truly was this great prospect why would the Rangers even risk trading him to a division rival for a rental player? At that time that was something that didn't quite pass the smell test. As we are finding out now with Smoak perhaps he wasn't that good to begin with which is why the Rangers rushed him through the system. By rushing him through the system that enhanced his value as he was drafted in 2008 and was on the major league roster in 2010 having played in 70 games for the Rangers. The Rangers in 2011 used that World Series momentum from 2010 and went back to the World Series, while the Seattle Mariners lost 95 games after losing 101 the previous year.

So far in Smoak's major league career in 1,214 PA's he is hitting .220/.302/.370 for a .672 OPS with 39 HR's(HR/27.5 AB's). He has struck out 265 times(21.8%) and walked 127 times(10.4%). He has a negative 0.9 WAR in three seasons and a negative 2.0 WAR defensively(every year has been negative). To say Smoak has been a disaster would be an understatement. Sure those at Mariners Nation may think he is "slumping" but they are also the laughing joke of the Seattle sports scene. Smoak this year is having his worst season to date in 328 PA's he is hitting .203/.265/.332 for an OPS of .597 which is pathetic. He has 11 home runs(HR/27.3 AB's) with 69 strikeouts(20.4%) and 26 walks(7.9%) on the season. He currently has a negative 0.8 WAR which ranks last among all everyday first baseman. He isn't walking at all like he did in the minor leagues and his power is very average. Plus defensively he is bad as every year in the majors he has been a negative WAR defensively. As time is moving forward it is becoming more and more clear Zduriencik isn't a good general manager. It is becoming even more obvious that Smoak isn't the future either. The sooner the Mariners cut their losses on him and ship him while he still has a little bit of value the better.

The Rangers hustled the Mariners like all good teams do to bad teams. They had the Mariners thinking they were giving up a top prospect for a rental which would hurt their franchise and help the Mariners franchise for a decade. Instead just the opposite happened the Rangers used that trade to land Lee which landed them in the World Series. They then used that momentum to go back to the World Series while the Mariners are on pace to go 67-95 which would be the first this franchise has lost 95 plus games three years in a row since their expansion days when they lost 95 plus their first four years of existence from 1977-1980. Zduriencik was supposed to clean up this mess that Bill Bavasi left him instead he has made this mess even worse. Justin Smoak is the poster boy of why this franchise's hope from 2010 to now has disappeared. Smoak was supposed to be that switch hitting power hitting first baseman that was made for Safeco Field. Instead the Rangers are laughing at the Mariners misery as they are going to win their third straight division title. Yes come to find out Justin Smoak was simply a "Smoak and Mirrors" prospect all along.