Wednesday, June 30, 2010


The Final Eight are set, thanks to a pair of tense, but unexciting games.

Paraguay 0 (5), Japan 0 (3) - (penalty kicks)

Paraguay became the 4th South American side to qualify for the quarterfinals. And they did so in dramatic fashion. I watched about 30 minutes of this game, and was glad to have done so. I watched 20 minutes in the 1st half, figured it'd be a goal-less draw, checked in during extra time, saw that it was 0-0 after 120 minutes, and enjoyed the penalty kicks.

Spain 1, Portugal 0

This was the 1st goal Portugal's allowed all tournament. And it was all it took to eliminate the defensively minded side. Thank God. David Villa scored the goal for Spain, who dominated the game. The Spanish get the benefit of playing Paraguay in the quarterfinals, but they had to negotiate one of the toughest Round of 16 opponents out there, and they won.

No games until Friday. And we'll have a quarterfinal preview in the meantime. Just to remind you, these are the quarterfinal matchups:

Netherlands vs. Brazil
Uruguay vs. Ghana
Argentina vs. Germany
Paraguay vs. Spain

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


A pair of not too interesting games, with predictable results.

Netherlands 2, Slovakia 1

The Slovaks didn't score until the game was beyond over (the 94th minute). It was Robert Vittek who got that goal, his 4th, which ties him for the most in the tournament. But the Dutch got a 1st half goal from Arjen Robben, and a late 2nd half score from Wesley Sneijder. The Dutch play with a flexible and adaptable style, especially up front. They're also the only undefeated European side left.

Brazil 3, Chile 0

Chile came into the Patagonian derby riding a 7 game losing streak against Brail. They've conceded 26 goals in those 7 games (3.7 per game), so allowing only 3 is below average. The Brazilians haven't played as pretty as Brazilian teams in the past, but they've gotten the same kind of result. 5th straight quarterfinals for the blue and yellow.

Brazil will meet the Netherlands in a tantalizing meeting Friday morning.

Monday, June 28, 2010


The drama over who would go #1 or #2 sort of fizzled out as it became clearer and clearer that Edmonton would take winger Taylor Hall. The Bruins' #2 overall pick was then a no-brainer.


Get it? Plymouth WHALERS. Anyway, some Bruins fans actually seemed a little disappointed with this pick. "We have too many centahs!" Well, the Bruins are deep down the middle, but they don't have SCORING centers. Savard's a 20 goal guy, max. Krejci's a 20 goal guy, max. Bergeron's a 20 goal guy, max. Seguin scored 48 times in 63 games last season. The Bruins are now overweight at center, which in a salary cap environment means that they must be weak somewhere else (and it's on the wings). It might be time to trade Savard. Although Krejci would bring better value. And I'll be frank, Krejci's a bit too inconsistent for my liking. And how many "quarterbacking" centers does a team without "receiving" wingers need? I think one is plenty.

What will Seguin do for the Bruins right away? I think he will likely play, depending on what the Bruins do with their current top 3 centermen. He could score 20 goals right off the bat if given a full season to play. Long-term, the sky's the limit. 35, 40, 50 goal seasons are not going to be impossible for this kid.


The Bruins surprised a lot of people here. Knight was projected to go much later. His stock fell a few months ago when he was diagnosed with diabetes. But he's gotten that condition under control. He's also got the puck under control, as evidenced by his 36 goals in 63 games. He's only 18, so he's got a few years of developing to do.


Another 18 year old center who scores lots of goals. He's not big. 5' 10" and 172 pounds. But he's fast. The Bruins could use some speed, especially if the speedy guy is also the guy who can score.


The Bruins took their first winger, and took him from Milan Lucic's "alma-mater." He'll turn 20 in September. He didn't come into his own until his 4th year with Vancouver. His points totals have increased considerably with each season of experience. He had 5 his rookie season, then 25 his 2nd year, doubled to 50 in his 3rd, and doubled to 97 this last season. Then again, he was a man amongst boys at that age.


This 6' 3" 195 pound soon-to-be sophomore has a big frame that could one day house a power forward's body. There's some potential there, but he'll need a lot of work to be an NHL calibre guy. He'll also likely need to show some edge (fight), which he won't be allowed to do in college.


He'll turn 18 in August, and he's committed to play at North Dakota, a good training ground for goalies. But it's not like he was a top priority recruit either, so it won't be Zane Zeit (Zeit = German for "time") until maybe 2016.

The Bruins ended the draft with a trade. They sent Vladimir Sobotka for the rights to David Warsofsky. Warsofsky is currently playing at BU. He's 20 years old, from Marshfield, and he's a defenseman. He's only 5' 8" and 160 pounds, but he's an adept offensive player. He scored 12 goals in 34 games for the Terriers last season. He's a sophomore, and should develop well out of BU.

I was hoping Sobotka would find a spot on the 2010-11 Bruins, though. He was a tough guy, solid on the puck, hard to beat when he didn't have the puck. A guy who can play 3rd and 4th line hockey, and maybe even kill a penalty. Not a brawler, but a scrapper and a mucker. Oh well.

Zdeno Chara has 13 inches and 95 pounds on Warsofsky.


The US is out. And to be frank, they deserve to be.

Uruguay 2, South Korea 1

The experts kept calling South Korea "unlucky," because they hit a post or two, and completed a lot of passes in the midfield. But the post isn't part of the net. Uruguay also should have been awarded a penalty which would have likely given them a 2-0 lead. But Uruguay was able to finish it off anyway. And they look like a tough side to beat offensively and defensively.

Germany 4, England 1

This game was much closer than the score indicates. England was screwed out of a goal (there needs to be instant replay in the World Cup, or at least more than 3 refs. Think about it, 3 refs for 22 players in soccer. It's 3 for 10 in basketball, 4 for 12 in hockey, 7 for 22 in football), but Germany was by far the superior team. England adjusted their 1st half defensive woes by focusing more on attack. Germany adjusted their 1st half defensive woes by playing more conservatively in the midfield. Guess which strategy worked out better? Germany, a.k.a. the 1980's Showtime Lakers, then counterattacked and did so with expertise, flair, and composure.

Miroslav Klose scored his 12th World Cup goal, and his 50th for Germany. Podolski scored his 1st of the 2010 Cup, and his 6th career World Cup tally. 20 year old Thomas Müller has only scored three times for Germany, all in this World Cup, and twice in this game.

This is Germany's 15th straight qualification for the Quarterfinals. They've made the Final 8 every World Cup since 1954.

Argentina 3, Mexico 1

Mexico once again lost their opener of the knockout stage. That's 5 straight World Cups that they've lost their first elimination game. And they lost badly. Carlos Tevez scored a pair of nifty goals, and Gonzalo Higuain scored his 4th goal of the tournament. South American teams are 12-1-4 in this World Cup, and 2 have already advanced to the quarterfinals.

Ghana will face Uruguay, and Argentina will face Germany.

Quick previews of remaining games:

Netherlands vs. Slovakia
The Dutch have been the best European side so far. They advance with ease, 3-0.

Brazil vs. Chile
The first South American team to get knocked out will be by another South American team. Brazil wins 3-1.

Paraguay vs. Japan
I haven't seen much from either team, but have to pick the South Americans to win 2-1.

Spain vs. Portugal
An Iberian derby. Spain can prove that they're as good as we all think they are. And they will. 3-2.


The good news is that the Sox took 2 of 3 from the Giants. The bad news is that injury took 2 or 3 Sox from the field.

Pedroia went down on Friday, after fouling a ball off his ankle, breaking his foot. He's likely to be out for 6 weeks, which would mean the Sox would have to play sans-sparkplug until August. Pedroia was in the midst of an insane hot streak. In his last 53 at-bats, he was hitting .490, slugging .849, with 4 homers, 13 RBI and 17 runs. I think he's been the MVP of the Sox to this point, and playing without him will be a struggle.

When it rains, it pours. 10 game winner Clay Buchholz was forced to leave Saturday's game because he hurt himself running the bases, of all things. That's just a really bad beat right there. Fuck the NL, and fuck the idea of pitchers hitting. But I guess the potential sacrifice of a Cy Young candidate is worth seeing pitchers bunt foul for strike 3. The diagnosis is a hyper-extended knee. The prognosis is that he may miss a start, but it doesn't look like a DL stint will be called for.

Bad things happen in threes. Victor Martinez fractured his thumb in Sunday's game, thanks to some foul tips. He's not expected to hit the DL, but it's perhaps still too early to tell. He'll be evaluated again today. V-Mart had also been playing well as of late, hitting .359 in June with a .409 OBP.

So some bad luck, and the stupid, antiquated, boring bad rules they have in the NL all add up to some key injuries for the Sox.


Photo Credit:
Getty Images

GHANA 2, USA 1 (aet)

Ghana is not an inherently superior side than the US. On paper, I'd give the US a slight edge. These are two teams in the same class. So when they meet, it comes down to how well they execute and use their talents. And you'd think with the considerable experience the US Team has, they wouldn't come out as nervy as they did.

Ghana's first goal was inexcusable. For some reason, Ricardo Clark started in midfield. It was Clark who was partially to blame for England's goal in the group stage. Then against Ghana, he's got the ball around midfield, and decides he'll take on the Ghanaian player head-on. This is an 11 vs 11 game, it's at the halfway mark on the field, and this fucking clown decides to be a hero. And in the 1 out of 5 times he beats the guy, does he think he's going to score a 40 meter goal?

Clark, predictably, loses the ball, and this triggers Ghana's impressive counterattack. The defenders and Howard could have done more, but it started with Clark's arrogance. Thankfully, coach Bob Bradley was willing to own up to mistake, and pull Clark after 30 minutes.

Donovan and Dempsey exploded in the 2nd. Their aggressive and composed play earned a penalty, with Donovan getting fouled in the box, and Donovan bouncing it in off the post.

But Ghana settled down, and the US lost its desperate edge. Go into extra time, and a defensive lapse gives Ghana the winning goal.

Then comes a string of countless opportunities that aren't finished. This wasn't bad luck! And the commentators on ESPN need to realize that if you miss the goal, it's a missed shot, not an unlucky shot. Jozy Altidore was crap. A purely turd performance. And an unjustly selfish one at that. Robbie Findlay was also a disappointment at the end. There was no cooperation between the strikers.

We're chokers. Sorry folks, it's true. It's one thing to lose to Brazil or Spain. Losing to Ghana in '06, and in '10 is inexcusable. And allowing all these early goals in a tournament is equally abhorrent. Do you know how long the US played with a lead in this World Cup? About 2 minutes.

The US team is better than that.

Friday, June 25, 2010


No more ties from here on out. One team wins and progresses, another team loses and goes home.

Just a reminder, if teams are tied after 90 minutes, they play a 30 minute overtime period, which is NOT sudden death. Then they go into penalty kicks if still tied after that.

10:00 AM - ESPN: Uruguay vs. South Korea
Uruguay tied France, beat Mexico, and beat South Africa. They have not allowed a goal, and they're probably playing the most efficient and disciplined of all the teams in South Africa. South Korea has some talent, but barely survived their group. Had Nigeria not blown a 1-0 lead against lowly Greece, they might not still be around. Argentina humiliated them, and I think Uruguay will beat them with relative ease. 2-0 Uruguay.

2:30 PM - ABC: USA vs. Ghana
Ghana ended USA's 2006 World Cup. And you can bet players like Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey remember that. The US has to play poised and comfortable, which they historically struggle to do more than anything. They get nervous in big games. Then they make mistakes. They let a bad break crush them. They miss easy shots. They'll hesitate, then they'll rush. I'm afraid I have to pick Ghana to win 2-1. I don't want to, but it's what my gut's telling me.

10:00 AM - ESPN: Germany vs. England
This is a titanic rivalry. England beat Germany in the '66 Final. England beat Germany in two World Wars. They've met 27 times, and England have a slight edge with 12 wins, compared to Germany's 10. When they meet, it's epic. But this year neither squad is all that good. England only scored twice in three games. Germany lost to Serbia, and barely beat Ghana. England have a bunch of overrated individualists, while Germany fields the 2nd youngest team in the tournament. But I think Deutschland's big defenders stymie the English attack, Klose scores his 12th World Cup goal, and Podolski also gets onto the scoresheet. Germany 2, England 1.

2:30 PM - ABC: Argentina vs. Mexico
Get ready for some action. Argentina might be the most offensively gifted team in the tournament. But Mexico are no slouches. But Argentina has so much talent, so many weapons, they'll wear Mexico down to a nub, and prevail 4-2.

I'll have the preview of the other 4 games on Monday morning.


It hasn't been a good tournament for traditional European powers. France is out. Spain lost a match. England's scored twice. Germany lost a match, and now it's arrivederci, Italia, as the Italians have been ousted.

Slovakia 3, Italy 2

Robert Vittek scored a brace (2 goals), and the Slovaks have a player with the first name Zdeno, so I'm doubly glad they won this match. Italy, who typically muster the best and most efficient defenses in the world, looked confused and sloppy in their back 4. At least France can point to the loss of Zidane, and the general aging of their stars, but Italy's poor showing is much more mysterious.

Paraguay 0, New Zealand 0

It's been a bad World Cup for Europe and Africa, but a great one for South America. Paraguay qualified for the Round of 16, the 3rd South American team to officially do so. And although they didn't advance, bravo New Zealand. They became the 4th team ever to go undefeated yet not advance (3 ties). They didn't score, but for the 78th ranked team in the world to earn 3 draws is worthy of a parade through the streets of Aukland. Then maybe The Shire.

Japan 3, Denmark 1
It's been a good World Cup for Asia and the Pacific too. Japan advances with a nice 3-1 win over the Danes. Japan and South Korea are both in the Round of 16, while Australia and New Zealand mounted respectable group efforts. If you speak Spanish, or can go swimming in the Pacific, it's been a good World Cup for you.

Netherlands 2, Cameroon 1
The Dutch get overlooked, but they've been the best European side in the tournament. 3 games, 3 wins. They can get goals from multiple directions, a credit to Total Football. Robin van Persie finally scored, and the Dutch will be a real threat in the knockout stage.

Speaking of which, it'll be Netherlands vs. Slovakia on Monday. And Japan faces Paraguay on Tuesday.


The bullpen tried to lose this game for the Sox. They really tried. Daisuke had a nice little return start, settling down for a 5 inning, 2 run night. Although he did allow 5 hits and yield 4 walks. That drove his pitch-count to 105. Then Delcarmen tried to blow it, then Okajima, then Atchison, and finally Papelbon.

Should the Red Sox be worried about the bullpen? YES! It's an inconsistent bunch out there. Papelbon and Bard are the only two trustworthy arms out there, and even they're not perfect. So unless the starter can go 7 (a good way to do that is to keep the pitch-count down, and a good way to keep it down is to not walk 4 guys in 5 innings), these games can get a bit hazy in the middle innings.

Thankfully, Pedroia went 5 for 5 with 3 homers, a double, and 5 RBI. Beltre also hit a homer, and knocked in 3. Daisuke hit an RBI single.

Had the Sox lost this game, it would have really hurt. Instead, they salvaged a win despite their atrocious bullpen. And you've got to do that from time to time.

Sox at Giants late night tonight. Wakefield vs. Jonathan Sanchez, who is 5-5 with a 2.90 ERA. But that sounds like a deflated National League ERA there.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


More palpatating drama as scenarios pivoted and turned around within seconds. At one point yesterday, the US was facing elimination, then within seconds and they win their Group. At one point yesterday, Ghana were secure in advancement, then suddenly within either a German goal or an Australian goal of elimination.

USA 1, Algeria 0

The US had another goal disallowed, this time for an incorrect offsides call. It's pretty sad, because FIFA encourages their officials to err on the side of offense, especially when it comes to offsides. After this, the US showed little poise, as they were handed opportunities, but blew them like Chris Farley blowing a sale in Tommy Boy.

It took them 91 minutes, but they finally scored. Landon Donovan had the final touch, but it was a team goal, earned by a team through 90 minutes of hard play.

This was the first time the US has not lost their final group game. This was the first time since 1930 that the US won their group. It was the latest goal the US has scored in their World Cup history.

England 1, Serbia 0

The English also needed a result, and they also got one. Jermain Defoe got into the scoring ledger with the game's only goal. While England finally won a match, and advanced to the Round of 16, they've still only scored 2 goals. Which is pretty bad for a team so stocked with offensive talent.

Germany 1, Ghana 0

Another thrilling 90 minute spectacle. Both Germany and Ghana created strong offensive opportunities, and some defensive lapses creating some breathtaking counterattacks. Mesut Özil, born in Gelsenkirchen but of Turkish descent, scored his first World Cup goal, and it was a doozey, both in quality and importance. Germany's win in the game gave the win in Group D. This is the 4th straight World Cup that they've won their Group, and the 17th time that they've advanced to the Round of 16 (out of 18 attempts to do so).

Australia 2, Serbia 1
The Aussies and New Zealanders might be going home early, but they can go home with some pride. Australia goes home on tie-breakers, thanks in large part to their 4-0 loss to Germany.

So it will be USA vs. Ghana on Saturday at 2. That's a rematch of what was essentially an elimination game for the US in the '06 Cup. And you've got to be happy with drawing Ghana in the Round of 16. And if they were to beat Ghana, they'd get either South Korea or Uruguay. Again, an excellent draw.

And there will also be Germany vs. England, ancient rivals on the field and off. The South African police might be the only ones not excited about this pairing, as English hooligans will try to reenact the Battle of the Somme in Bloemfontein.


The Sox had come from behind against the best pitcher in baseball, given themselves a 6-5 lead. Even John Lackey contributed to the offense, going 2 for 3 with a double, and scoring the go ahead run. All they needed was a scoreless 9th from Papelbon, and they would have been only the 2nd team to give Ubaldo Jimenez a loss.

Look, Papelbon is still quite clearly this team's Closer. And this was only his 2nd blown save of the season. Then again, it was also his 4th loss. The fact of the matter is, he's not invulnerable anymore. It happens with closers. He has an ERA of 3.64, and a WHIP of 1.21. Not horrible, but not magnificent. So we should expect games like this.

And we should brace for an entire season like this. These guys can find ways to win, like they did against the Dodgers. They can also find ways to lose, like they've done against the Rockies. They are an inconsistent bunch of variables. So try not to get so high when they win 6 in a row, and try not to get so low when they blow a game like this one.

Daisuke returns tonight against Jason Hammel.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


This is why soccer fans love this sport. Sure, there's no scoring for 90+ minutes, but that's the excitement. There's tension, anxiety, like the last 30 seconds of a basketball game, only it lasts for 90 minutes.

Tim Howard started it with a top notch save, then an instant release, a quick counterattack against a worn Algerian midfield, and thoroughly abused defense, then Donovan nailed it home. In a matter of seconds, USA went from an early flight home to winners of Group C.

This was the first time the US has won their Group since 1930. And they'll face the 2nd place team from Group D.

-The Commodore


We started to officially cut down the field yesterday. And although there was some drama, Day 13 ended up as planned.

Uruguay 1, Mexico 0

Uruguay wins their first Group since 1954. And it will be their first trip to the Round of 16 since 1990. Mexico, meanwhile, advances for the 5th straight World Cup. However, they are 0-4 in their elimination matches during that stretch.

South Africa 2, France 1
South Africa became the first host nation to fail to get out of the group stage. That shouldn't be too much of a shock, they were ranked 83rd. But at least the went out with a bang. The French, on the other hand, were ranked 9th. But they haven't won a major game since Zidane left the team. They're not that talented anymore, they don't cooperate, and they don't try. I haven't seen Frenchmen lay down like this since 1940.

South Korea 2, Nigeria 2

South Korea advances for the first time away from their home soil. Nigeria could have advanced with a win, but their weaknesses really showed in this game.

Argentina 2, Greece 0

Maradona benched 7 starters, and that's why they only scored twice. That and a good Greek goalie. Argentina won Group B going away.

So we know two of the matchups in the Round of 16. Argentina will play Mexico (a rematch from the '06 World Cup). And Uruguay will face South Korea.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The Bruins made a pre-draft trade today, sending Dennis Wideman and their 15th overall pick to Florida for winger Nathan Horton, and center Gregory Campbell.

Horton scored 20 goals for the Panthers last year. He only just turned 25, and has three seasons left on a deal worth $4 million a year. His production has actually fallen off the past few years. He scored 28 in his first full season, then 31 the next year. Then it's been slowly downhill with 27, then 22, then 20.

But unlike Blake Wheeler, or Michael Ryder, he's at least kept himself above that minimum 20 goal level. And it's not like the Panthers have playmakers to help him out, either. He lead his team in assists with 37. And the Panthers had the 3rd worst offense in the League.

Gregory Campbell is most notable for being the son of NHL Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. The Bruins might use him to be a 4th line center, but apart from that he serves little purpose. He'll be a restricted free agent this off-season.

One of the reasons Florida were so willing to give the Bruins Horton was that he has a no-trade clause that kicks-in after the off-season. So the Bruins are stuck with him.

That being said, Horton and Wideman consume about the same cap space. And even though Wideman had a great postseason, his regular season was abysmal. He had two seasons left on an inflated deal, and the Bruins are deep at defense as is.

I'd say this is an improvement, and overall a good deal.


South American teams remain undefeated, and some powerhouse European sides finally showed up.

Portugal 7, North Korea 0

This was a 1-0 game at halftime. And Portugal scored 3 in the last 10 minutes. But don't get on them for running up the score. Goal differential is a tie-breaker, and the Portuguese have to play Brazil next. They have a 9 goal edge on Ivory Coast in the goal differential department and may need it, as the IC take on North Korea next.

Chile 1, Switzerland 0
The Chileans have been a nice surprise. They clinch advancement with a tie against Spain, or if Switzerland can't beat Honduras. They can also clinch on goal differential, which is +2.

Spain 2, Honduras 0

The Spanish came alive today. David Villa scored twice and was a missed penalty shy of a hat-trick.

So we're down to the final round of group play. That means games will be played simultaneously, and we'll be treated to 4 matches a game. Here's a quick shakedown of the various groups:

Group A (games played Tuesday):
Mexico and Uruguay can each advance with a tie, and they play each other, so they'll probably tie. France and South Africa each need to win and get help, and win by a few goals to beat the Mexicans or Uruguayans in goal differential. Mexico and Uruguay should advance.

Group B (Tuesday):
Argentina leads and can clinch winning the group with a tie or a win. South Korea and Greece each need to do better than the other (example: if Greece ties, SK advances with a win. Or if Greece wins by 2, SK can advance with a win by 3). South Korea faces Nigeria, Greece faces Argentina. Argentina should win, and South Korea should finish 2nd.

Group C (Wednesday):
Slovenia can advance with a tie against England, or if USA doesn't beat Algeria. All four teams can finish in any of the four spots. I think England wakes up and beats Slovenia, and the US beats Algeria, and both Anglophone nations advance.

Group D (Wednesday):
Germany essentially needs to beat Ghana. In fact, everyone needs to play for a win in order to advance. Germany's +3 goal differential will probably propel them into the Round of 16, along with Serbia.

Group E (Thursday):
The Netherlands are through no matter what. Cameroon is out no matter what. They play each other. Denmark and Japan play each other for the 2nd spot. Japan advances with a tie thanks to goal differential. But I think they'll beat the Japanese and it'll be Dutch and Danish from Group E.

Group F (Thursday):
Paraguay can advance with a tie or a win against New Zealand, who will probably still be hungover from their big draw against Italy. The Italians should be able to advance with a tie, so long as New Zealand doesn't tie/win.

Group G (Friday):
Brazil meets Portugal and will win the group with a tie or win. But Brazil is in the Round of 16 no matter what. Portugal also has one foot in, as they clinch advancement with a tie/win, and can only be eliminated if the amount of goals they lose by, plus the amount of goals Ivory Coast beats North Korea by, equal 9 or more. So if Portugal loses by 4, IC has to beat NK by 5.

Group H (Friday):
Chile and Spain sit atop the group, and will meet to determine the winner. Chile advances with a tie, Spain might need a win because the Swiss are playing the uninspired Hondurans. It's ironic because Chile is such an aggressive, offensive minded team, and they'll be playing for a tie. I say Spain and Switzerland advance.

Confused yet? Just a refresher, the first tie-breaker is goal differential, then total goals scored, then head-to-head results, then BCS ranking.

Monday, June 21, 2010


We've seen more than a fair share of upsets in this tournament. We've also seen a great deal of tying. If these trends continue, the knockout stage should be most entertaining and random.

Serbia 1, Germany 0

An overactive Joe West kind of ref put his mark on this game by issuing 9 cards, including a red to Germany star Miroslav Klose. That being said, Lukas Podolski missed numerous chances to score, including a softly taken penalty shot. Germany is one of many favorites who will be up against it in their 3rd match.

USA 2, Slovenia 2
Give credit to FIFA for quickly knocking out referee Koman Coulibaly for his still unexplained disallowance of an American goal in the 85th minute. The NBA could learn something there. The US was robbed of a win, but also shouldn't have found themselves down 2-0 to Slovenia at halftime. With all the tying in Group C, the 3rd pair of matches will be most intriguing.

Algeria 0, England 0
The English cannot score. Algeria is one of many underdogs to frustrate a favorite with excellently executed defensive play. Results like this demonstrate that the World Cup will go to a the side most capable of adapting to various tactics employed against them.

Netherlands 1, Japan 0

The Netherlands might be that adaptable team. This win wasn't pretty, but compared to what's been happening to the other Top 8 (7-5-2 combined record so far, that's Wins-Draws-Losses) teams, the Dutch will take it, and also be one of the first teams to clinch a spot in the Round of 16.

Australia 1, Ghana 1
Ghana's been a disappointment, as have most African teams, playing on their continent for the first time in World Cup history.

Denmark 2, Cameroon 1

Cameroon are perhaps the biggest of all the African disappointments. They were the first team eliminated from the 2010 World Cup with this 2-1 loss to the Danes. Denmark and Japan will vie for the second advancement from Group E.

Paraguay 2, Slovakia 0
It's been a bad tourney for Africa, but good for South America. That continent is undefeated at 7-2-0.

New Zealand 1, Italy 1
This was the biggest result in the history of the All Whites. New Zealand are ranked 78th by FIFA, just below Wales, and only two spots above Iraq. Yet they deservedly drew with the 2006 World Cup winners. It's true their goal was offside, but it's also true that Italy won a soft penalty. These two teams are now tied with 2 points in Group F.

Brazil 3, Ivory Coast 1

Brazil haven't clinched advancement, but they're as close as you can get. If North Korea doesn't win today, Brazil are in the Round of 16.

The 2nd round of Group matches complete today, then it's time for some pivotal 3rd matches.


After starting the season 19-20 (.487), the Red Sox have won 24 of their last 32 games (.750), and have just completed an impressive 8-1 homestand. They've risen from 4th place into a tie for 2nd, only 1 game behind the Yankees. This also makes them tied for the 2nd best record in all of baseball.

Who do we have to thank for this turnabout? Clay Buchholz for one. Last night he gutted through his 10th win of the season, struggling early, but working through it, settling down, and getting the ball to Bard-Papelbon.

The resurgence of Dustin Pedroia is also a key reason behind the recent success. He was 3/4 last night with a triple, a run, and some heads-up baserunning. The Laser Show is back on as he's gone 23 for his last 64 (.359), and 20 for his last 40 (.500).

There's been the steady offensive performance of Marco Scutaro, filling in for Ellsbury atop the Sox lineup. There's been the surprising contributions of Daniel Nava, who's 10 for 27 since being called up.

In short, everything's going right for the Sox. In those first 40 games, they found ways to lose. Now they're finding ways to win.

But as I said, the Sox started 19-20, and are 24-8 since then. Reality lies somewhere in between. The Sox are not a below .500 team. Nor are they a .750 team. I'll be the wet blanket and try to temper some exuberance. The Sox have had a juicy schedule to feast on the last few weeks.

Not only do the Diamondbacks suck, they were cold when they came to Fenway. They'd lost 16 of 20. The Dodgers are your token NL "contender." And the Phillies are in the midst of an 11-19 stretch.

So while the Red Sox have gotten hot and soared up the standings again, let's not lose our minds here. Daniel Nava is not going to finish the season with a .370 average.

Then again, it's still enjoyable to watch the overrated Rays (I'll admit to overrating them myself) fall to Earth. But this season looks like it will be a turbulent roller coaster ride, and not for the faint of heart. And whoever's on their way up come October will get the jewelry.

Sox go to Denver to play the Rockies. Lester vs. Jhoulys Chacin Tuesday night.

Photo Credit:

Friday, June 18, 2010


The first round of group play came to an end, and the second phase began. Some teams are sitting pretty, and some are in desperate trouble.

Chile 1, Honduras 0
A slight upset here. I had Honduras as a contender in Group H, but now they're in early trouble with Spain and Switzerland left to play.

Switzerland 1, Spain 0

Biggest upset of the tournament so far. The Swiss had NEVER beaten the Spanish in something like 15 meetings. Gelson Fernandes scored the game-winner. He doesn't look Swiss, his name doesn't sound Swiss. He was born in Cape Verde but moved to Switzerland when he was 5, so he's not one of those mercenaries that some international squads hire.

Uruguay 3, South Africa 0
The Vuvuzelas have made me hate South Africa, so I'm glad to see Uruguay crush them. Uruguay didn't even qualify for 3 of the last 4 World Cups, and they haven't advanced to the Round of 16 since 1990. They're on the verge of doing so in 2010.

Argentina 4, South Korea 1

Look out, Argentina has woken up. Gonzalo Higuan scored a hat-trick, but was greatly assisted by Lionel Messi. But Argentina's defense looks to be having trouble making decisions, and may ultimately be their undoing. But not quite yet.

Greece 2, Nigeria 1
Nigeria made mistakes, Greece capitalized.

Mexico 2, France 0

France fucking sucks. They still haven't scored a goal. And even down 2-0 in the 80th minute, they kept Thierry Henry on the bench. How's that strategy working out?

Mexico and Uruguay are in the driver's seat to advance to the Round of 16. And they play each other on June 22, both needing a draw to advance. So look for some defensive soccer in that game. But even if one team beats another, they can still advance if France and South Africa draw, or if their goal-differentials remain superior (Uruguay is +3, Mexico is +2, France is -2, South Africa is -3).


The Celtics had never lost a Game 7 to the Lakers, or in the NBA Finals until last night. But the series wasn't lost in Game 7 alone. It was lost in Games 1 and 6, when the Celtics put forth lackluster efforts, were inexcusably flat, and allowed the Lakers to walk all over them.

Let's get one thing straight: the Celtics didn't choke. The Lakers were the favored team in this series. And the fact that the C's advanced so deep into the playoffs is commendable. Despite the disappointing Games 1 and 6, the Celtics gave their maximum effort in Game 7. They simply didn't execute as well as the Lakers.

I'm going to rip Ray Allen for a bit. Defensively, he had an exemplary night. But offensively, he was a cancer. 3 for 14 from your biggest shooting threat is shameful. I know shooters can have off-nights, but he had 5 off-nights in this series. He was 33 for 90 (36.7%) from the field and 12 for 41 (29.3%) for three. Exclude Game 2's record-setting performance, and he was 22 for 70 (31.4%), and 4 for 30 (13.3%).

The Celtics couldn't find offense, and that's one of the big reasons they lost Game 7. And Ray Allen's offensive contribution was negligible. Certainly not worth $18.8 million.

The most glaring Celtic deficiency and Laker proficiency was rebounding, particularly LA's offensive rebounding. The Lakers hauled in 23 offensive boards. That's 23 times the Celtics could have triggered their breaking offense, 23 times that LA got an extra shot.

The Lakers didn't shoot well (32.5%), but were allowed to shoot often (81 field goal attempts).

The Celtics also put the Lakers to the line far too often. I've already heard grumblings from Celtics fans about the officiating, but it was a superbly refereed game. Very few mistakes. They let the players play. The Lakers actually struggled at the line, but they got there more often. 20 times more often.

The Celtics bench didn't do much, but neither did LA's. Then again, the C's bench was a matchup that favored the Celtics, so a draw serves as a win for LA.

The defense was excellent, especially the help-defense that clamped down on Kobe Bryant. Unfortunately, he got help from his friends. Ron Artest had the game of his life with 20 points, Gasol had 19 along with his 18 rebounds, Fisher's 10 points all seemed to come at key moments. Bryant finished with 23, but only 12 of those came from the floor. The other 11 came at the line. He did have 15 rebounds.

Maybe the Celtics missed Perkins in the paint, and perhaps that contributed to the Lakers' getting so many offensive rebounds. Then again, Perk was averaging only 5.8 rebounds per game this series, 3.5 of which were defensive. His replacements, Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis, each had 9 and 8 rebounds, respectively. So excuse-mongers, look elsewhere.

The Lakers played better; in Game 7 and in the series as a whole. There's nothing to do right now but mourn and look ahead to 2010-11.

Photo Credit:
Getty Images

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


It looks like the Big XII has survived their showdown with the Pac-10, as conference juggernaut Texas has decided to stay put.

“This is a long-term and unequivocal commitment. We’ve decided the Big 12 provides the best long-term opportunity for our university.”

That's University of Texas President William Powers Jr.'s verbal commitment to the Big XII.

What prompted the decision was the promise of more TV revenue, particularly for headlining programs like Texas and Oklahoma. Texas will also be able to start its own TV station, broadcasting its sports across the country. Something which the Pac-10 wouldn't have allowed.

What really broke apart the Pac-10's power grab was a Mexican standoff between the Big XII, Pac-10, and SEC. Just like the end of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The Pac-10 didn't just want Texas. They wanted Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech to defect. But they needed all five to agree to it. Then A&M and Oklahoma started leaning toward the SEC. This dissolved the unanimity of The Big Five, and broke up the Pac-10's scavenging.

Sweetening the deal for Texas to stay was that they, along with Oklahoma and A&M, will likely split the money surrendered by Nebraska and Colorado for leaving the conference. Smaller Big XII members like Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas State will divert their shares of the buyout money to the big members of the Big XII.

I have to say that I'm glad the Big XII is remaining, even though it will be a 10 team conference, with no more title game. Texas and Oklahoma playing Oregon in a conference game is simply wrong. I do think the notion of conferences is antiquated for college football, but I'm also glad to see the gluttonous Pac-10 thwarted.

AP via Yahoo!


Lots and lots of surprises in group play, especially for goaltenders. Very few seem to have a good gauge on the ball.

Netherlands 2, Denmark 0

Nobody's really talking about the Dutch, who are always competitive and bring deep teams to the Cup. They're ranked 4th by FIFA for a reason.

Japan 1, Cameroon 0
This is a huge upset, as the Japanese had never won a World Cup game away from their home soil.

Italy 1, Paraguay 1

If not for a goalkeeper's error, Italy would have lost its opener 1-0. The Italian National Team are like Maseratis. They're sleek, expensive, fast, but wholly overrated, completely unreliable, and you're better off spending your money on a Ferrari, Porsche, or Aston Martin.

New Zealand 1, Slovakia 1
This was New Zealand's first point EVER at the World Cup. So in their minds, they've already won and can go back to focusing on rugby.

Ivory Coast 0, Portugal 0
In the Group of Death, you just want to avoid losing your opener. Both teams played defensively sound, and neither were able to break through to score. It's to be expected.

Brazil 2, North Korea 1

Brazil didn't score until 54 minutes in. If they hadn't beaten North Korea, the undisputed bitch of Group G, they would have been in a world of hurt.


Don't look now but Clay Buchholz is tied for the League lead in wins. He recorded his 9th over the Diamondbacks last night as the Sox rolled to a solid 6-3 victory.

The usual suspects knocked in runs for the Sox. Ortiz's 13th homer netted him RBIs 40 and 41. Youkilis kept pace with his 41st. Pedroia knocked in his 32nd, and Victor Martinez his 35th.

I don't have much to say about this game except I wish the Sox could play NL teams more often. Of course, with the Yankees continuing to win, anything short of a sweep over the 5th place team in the NL West is shameful.

The Sox also moved up the start time of Thursday's game to 6:10pm, which will allow fans in attendance to enjoy most of Game 7, which tips off after 9.

Jon Lester opposes 2-5 Rodrigo Lopez tonight.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


I don't think the 89-67 pounding the Lakers gave the Celtics was as bad as the score suggests. But it was still pretty bad. The Lakers dominated the inside game, outrebounding the C's 40-28 (the ratio was much worse before garbage time). The Celtics missed 2 dunks and 3 lay-ups in the 1st half alone. LA's bench outshined Boston's, scoring 25 points, compared to 13 from the C's. The difference was 24-0 at one point in the 3rd.

Then again, Perkins only logged 7 minutes before leaving with a sprain. Then Sheed got himself into foul trouble. This allowed the Lakers to really pour it on. That being said, even a healthy Perkins and the Celtics still lose this game convincingly.

We've seen this kind of game before. The Celtics offense depends on defensive success in order to really get going, particularly Rondo. But the Lakers seemingly hit every shot. Hell, Ron Artest was 6 for 11, and 3 of 6 beyond the arc. When Ron Artest is making jumpshots, it's just not going to be your night.

But the rebounding also killed the Celtics. 5 of Gasol's 8 rebounds came off the offensive glass. Those kind of second chance opportunities kill both the Celtics defense, and slow down their offense.

The Celtics only attempted 10 free throws. The Lakers had 19. To me, that demonstrates the Celtics forfeiting that inside game. And without your starting center, you can't really blame them. But the Celtics need to get to the line, and need to get key Lakers in foul trouble to disrupt LA's defensive scheming.

The Lakers played about as good as they can. Although Kobe is capable of more than 26 points, as we well know. And the Celtics played almost as poorly as they can. 33.3% from the field, 21.7% for 3. No bench contributions, mediocre defense, no rebounding. All the ingredients of a blowout loss. But they can improve. And they must.

Ironically, the regular season comes into play here. All post-season, we've repeated the following mantra in Boston: "See, the regular season doesn't matter." Now it does, with Game 7 on LA's court, where they've won 10 of 11 playoff games.

Game 7 Thursday night. Will Perkins play? Will Bynum? Lots of questions to be answered, but that's what Game 7s invariably do.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Monday, June 14, 2010


Last night the Celtics became the first team to win consecutive games in this series, as they outlasted the Lakers 92-86.

The best player of the game was undoubtedly Kobe, who scored 38. But the best team was the Celtics, who had 4 players in double-figures, and three who scored 18+. Meanwhile, Kobe's 38 was complimented by only 48 total from the rest of the Lakers. And despite amassing all those points, Kobe was -6 on the night.

Paul Pierce had his best night of the post-season, dropping 27, but more importantly his play down the stretch was sheer desire and heart. He ripped a rebound from Kobe, he leaped in the air to catch Garnett's Hail Mary inbounds pass (into double coverage), he incessantly did the "little things," that champions do.

Meanwhile, KG scored 18, with 10 rebounds. Rondo came close to another double-double, with 18 points and 8 assists. Ray Allen had 12, despite missing all 4 of his 3-pointers. Nate Robinson only played 10 minutes, but in those 10 he scored 4 and had 4 assists. He's really fit in with the Celtics' team concept.

So the series shifts back to LA, and rather quickly. I'm surprised the NBA didn't want to stretch this out and play Game 6 on Wednesday, then a possible Game 7 on Saturday. Oh well.

But this was close to a must-win for the Celtics, because needing to win back-to-back in LA is a tall task. The Lakers were 34-7 at home, and 9-1 at home in the playoffs. Then again, that 1 loss came against the C's.

Game 6 Tuesday night at 9.

Photo Credit:
The Canadian Press


I'm sick of hearing those Vuvuzela horns. That's the only part about this World Cup that hasn't been spectacular. Look, I know that there's an impetus to promote South African culture during this tournament, but would they allow thousands of bagpipes to play if the World Cup were in Scotland? So ban these instruments of obnoxiousness! Let them play for the games featuring the South African team, but when Germany is playing Australia, I want to hear crowd noises.

USA 1, England 1

The NY Post conjured up an amazing headline Sunday morning: "USA Wins 1-1; Greatest Tie Since Bunker Hill." And while England's goaltending gaffe ultimately allowed for this tie to occur, it was US goalie Tim Howard and some excellent defending that prevented England from making it a 2-0 game.

South Africa 1, Mexico 1
The South Africans experienced a lot of home-team hospitality when a Mexican goal was incorrectly disallowed for an offsides. There's a reason why the host team has always advanced past the group stage.

Uruguay 0, France 0
France simply refused to adjust their offense to Uruguay's defense. Imagine an offensive coordinator that kept calling for HB Dive or HB Slam, even though there are 10 defenders in the box. That's how France dealt with Uruguay's central clogging defense.

South Korea 2, Greece 0

Ever since the '02 World Cup in Korea, these guys have gotten better and better. More and More Koreans are playing for European club teams every season.

Argentina 1, Nigeria 0

An Argentinian with a German last name like Heinze? People who know their history know why that irks me. Argentina willfully became a haven for ex-Nazis after World War II. That's the part of Evita that was edited out.

Slovenia 1, Algeria 0
Slovenia was the first European team to win at the World Cup. How fucking crazy is that? And it was also Slovenia's first win in any major tournament... ever.

Ghana 1, Serbia 0
A stupid handball penalty allowed Ghana to take this pivotal win.

Germany 4, Australia 0

There were lots of questions about Germany's quality in this competition. Those questions remain, because Australia looked awful. Miroslav Klose scored his 49th goal for Germany, and his 11th career World Cup goal, tying him for 5th all-time (the record is 14, held by fellow German Gerd Müller).