Monthly Archives: June 2010

World Cup Update: Brazil, Dutch head to quarterfinal match-up

The Netherlands beats Slovakia in organized fashion, 2-1

Arjen Robben celebrates his goal against Slovakia

As stated here yesterday, the Netherlands easily defeated Slovakia, 2-1…the 1 being the result of a made penalty kick in the 93′ of the match.  My (3-1 or 2-0) two-goal win prediction was pretty accurate, though.

The Dutch team played very organized football and had the game under control from the beginning.  Arjen Robben announced his return to the starting line-up with a goal in the 18th minute and the Oranje were on their way.  His 20 yard shot was a beauty!  Later in the match, Wesley Sneijder found an empty net after a magnificent run and pass combination.

“I was pretty free in my game,” Robben said. “I know I’m not yet at my top level, but I was pretty confident today and that was a great pass by Wesley.”

The Dutch were tested, as their goalkeeper, Maarten Stekelenburg came up with two key saves in the 67th minute.  The Dutch extended their team-record unbeaten streak to 23 games.  In this tournament, the Dutch won all three of its group games, with its last loss coming to Australia in September, 2008, a run of 18 wins and five draws.

The only blemish on the game came when a penalty was called on the Dutch in the 3rd minute of extra time at the end of the match, as Robert Vittek of Slovenia scored the lone goal.  It was his fourth of the tournament, tying him with Argentina forward Gonzalo Higuain for the tournament lead.

This victory moves the Netherlands to the quarterfinals on July 2, where they will face Brazil.  The Dutch history in the World Cup is good…they reached consecutive World Cup finals in 1974 and 1978 (my prime soccer-playing years) where they lost to Germany and Argentina respectively.  They won their only major tournament in the 1988 European Championship.

Brazil Crushes Chile, 3-0

Robinho and Brazil now await the Dutch on July 2

It was as easy as you think looking at the score.  Brazil played “The Beautiful Game” today and the fans in Johannesburg’s Ellis Park Stadium sambaed along to the beat!  Again, and I will toot my own horn when I am right, I predicted a 2 goal victory by Brazil…close enough for me! 

Kaka and Robinho played freely and Brazil moved onto the quarterfinals match-up against The Netherlands on July 2.  Brazil…the team with one-name players…has not lost to Chile in their last eight match-ups…and were not challenged in this game.

Juan, Luis Fabiano and Robinho each scored a goal in this game.  Juan’s was first, at the 34th minute mark, as his header from a corner went past the Chilean goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo.  Luis Fabiano added a second goal just four minutes later receiving a one-touch pass from Kaka and dribbling past Bravo before hitting a nice shot into the open net.  Robinho scored his first goal of the tournament with a shot from the edge of the area in the 59th minute.

The five-time World Cup champions, Brazil, will now face The Netherlands in a quarterfinal match on July 2.   Brazil has now reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup every time since the 1990 tournament in Italy, when it fell 1-0 to Diego Maradona’s Argentina in the second round. Brazil coach Dunga and assistant coach Jorginho were starters in that Brazilian team.

The Brazilians won the 1994 and 2002 World Cups in that span.

Not that it would have mattered, but the game Chileans were without three of their starters due to yellow card or red card suspensions.  And it would NOT have mattered.  Brazil has the look of a team headed to the World Cup Finals.

Brazil-Netherlands Quarterfinal Match Set for July 2

Brazil’s next match, against the Dutch, will be a great test for them.  The methodical Dutch team vs. a free-flowing Brazilian squad.  Both playing outstanding football…both headed for a collision of styles.  I really like both teams, but one will be heading home next Friday.  Having sat with the Brazilian fans at World Cup matches in the U.S. in 1994, I can say these people know how to party!  The women are beautiful – and very knowledgeable about their football.  Did I mention they are beautiful?  I may really need to consider travelling to Brazil for World Cup 2014.

I will be back on Thursday with my predictions for both quarterfinal matches on July 2!

Advertisements

Today’s World Cup Preview: Netherlands – Slovakia; Brazil – Chile

Netherlands – Slovakia Preview

Netherlands' Arjen Robben, third from right, celebrates with teammates as Netherlands' Khalid Boulahrouz, right, talks to Cameroon's Geremi at the end of the World Cup group E soccer match between Cameroon and the Netherlands in Cape Town, South Africa, Thursday, June 24, 2010. The Netherlands won 2-1.

I admit it…I have liked the Dutch since the days of Clockwork Orange and Johann Cryuff.  And, I still like them, especially in the game against Slovakia.

The Netherlands ran the table, going 3-0 in Group E, scoring 5 goals while allowing only 1. 

Slovakia stunned the defending champions Thursday, by defeating Italy 3-2 in a nice game.  They are a typical European team…they are tough and can put you away if you make mistakes.  They took the game to the Italians and the Azzurri could not get going until the 79′ mark.  From then on, the teams went back and forth, with Slovakia coming away with the win.

Slovakia went 1-1-1 in Group F, finishing a point behind Paraguay and a point ahead of surprising New Zealand.  What I don’t like about Slovakia…they scored 4 goals, but surrendered 5.

That’s why I like the Dutch to win…and win convincingly on Monday…look for a 3-1 or 2-0 game.

Brazil – Chile Preview:

Brazil and Lucio (left) kept Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo quiet.

What a match-up we have here…two more of my favorite teams in the world…South American rivals going at it for the right to get to the “Elite 8” as we would call it in the States.

What’s not to like about either team…Brazil is, well, Brazil.  The Beautiful Game is not so beautiful anymore, but they sure can play futbol!  They went undefeated (two wins and a draw) in their group to win it, scored 5 goals and gave up just 2.  They looked listless against Portugal on Friday…but guess what…so did Portugal.  This seemed to be one of those games I wrote about earlier where the managers might have met for a beer or two the night before and decided a draw would get both through, so why worry about hurting anyone…

Chile…great people, great wines, great soccer!  Chile has beaten Honduras and Switzerland by identical 1-0 scores.  Then, in the third game of their group, they played one of the world’s best teams, Spain.  Should have had a wine tasting at this one.  Spain played well at first, scoring a fluke goal (a 40 yard goal by David Villa) when the Chile goalkeeper came way out of the goal area to try and kick a loose ball away from the Spanish attack.  Then, another Spain goal and a foolish red card on Chile meant the Chileans had to play much of the game with 10 men.  Chile did manage to score a very important goal in the second half, so for the last ten minutes of the match, basically content to finish the game off, Spain passed the ball around the midfield area with no challenges by Chile.

But, Brazil will win by two goals in their Group of 16 match and move on to the quarterfinals.

U.S. Dream Ends: “We have to get better.”

Project 2010: Success or Failure?

Coach Bob Bradley said it best…and nearly every member of the U.S. soccer team echoed that statement: “We have to get better.”  In light of the U.S.’ 2-1 loss to Ghana in the Round of 16, that statement is absolutely true.

Okay…I know the goal of this team was to get out of group play…and considering some of the powers that did NOT achieve that (hello, Italy and France)…they succeeded.  And, yes, I know this morning somewhere in London or Munich there will be millions of soccer fans who will feel what we felt yesterday.  An empty feeling…we’re done.

The U.S. certainly had their chances…the difference was that Ghana, a team that had played three games in the group stage and had not scored one goal in the field (yes, they scored twice on penalty kicks), did make the most of their chances.

Asamoah Gyan's quick goal in the opening minutes of extra-time, led Ghana to a 2-1 victory over the U.S.

Why, oh why, does the U.S. fall behind early in what seems to be most of their matches?  Ghana scored an early goal in the first half…and in the first 15-minute extra time.  How many times could the U.S. pick themselves up off the mat and get back into the match?  Unfortunately, Asamoah Gyan’s goal less than three minutes into the extra time the end for the U.S.

I stated I thought the U.S. would win 2-1…and that a shoot-out was a definite possibility.  Well, I was close…but not close enough.

Kind of like the U.S.  I do not believe I will ever see the U.S. have an easier chance to make the semi-finals in a World Cup tournament.  They were higher-ranked than all the teams in their bracket.  They were getting shots on goal…they were playing well when they really needed to.  Project 2010 was not as successful as U.S. Soccer had hoped.  But, if your goal was to get out of the group play…maybe it was.

I am not satisfied, as a fan, knowing this team should have been playing Friday afternoon against Uruguay…in a match they would have had a great chance to win.  But for now, I guess we need to focus on the tournament as a whole and enjoy some great action on the pitch.

And, to any friends in England and Germany, the U.S. fans feel your pain.  One of these great teams is heading home in about two hours!

World Cup Previews: U.S. – Ghana; Uruguay – Korea

FIFA World Cup Enters Knock-Out Stage

U.S. – GHANA PREVIEW

Gyan of Ghana and Donovan of the U.S. hope to lead their teams to the World Cup quarterfinals with a victory Saturday

 I am going to be blunt about this, so take it like a man: The U.S. is NOT the underdog in tomorrow’s game.  Ghana is.  We have more money to spend on our national program…more soccer players to choose from…more experience in World Cup action than the last African country standing, Ghana.

 The U.S. is favored, but, with the game being on home soil for Ghana, not by much.  I am confident that the U.S. can score goals.  Ghana has scored on penalty shots so far.  The U.S. has one of the best goalkeepers on the planet, Tim Howard.  He looked very comfortable in the Algeria match, and I suspect he is healing very quickly from the first game’s rib injuries.

History Lesson: The U.S. lost to Ghana in 2006 in the Germany during the last World Cup.  Revenge game?  Possibly.  But, once again, the U.S. fell behind in that game and couldn’t come   back.  this seems to be in the USA DNA…give up the early goal and fight to get it back.  Let’s  hope we don’t do that tomorrow.

The big difference…and there are a couple including the U.S. confidence level…is that the Ghana Black Stars’ outstanding midfielder, Michael Essien, is not available, due to a knee injury.  In the 1-0 group match loss to Germany, Ghana showed they can counter very quickly.  Their striker, Asamoah Gyan appeared to be a bit rushed on his play, but certainly could cause problems for the U.S. defenders with his speed.

 This game marks a terrific opportunity for the U.S. on the world stage.  Only one time since the first World Cup in 1930 has the U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals.  We beat Mexico 2-0 in the second round eight years ago, but then were eliminated by Germany, 1-0 in the next match.

 This year could be different.  There may be something special happening to the U.S team.  Scoring opportunities have been there…I mean, we have already had two goals called back on bad decisions by referees…but the Yanks keep making good passes and taking a lot of shots.  Keep shooting, U.S.

 My prediction…the United States advances, with a 2-1 win…possibly in a shoot-out.  If we score an early goal, don’t look for a shoot-out, however.

URUGUAY – KOREA PREVIEW

Uruguay's Diego Forlan applauds after the World CUp Group A soccer match between Mexico and Uruguay

 Uruguay has looked very good in the tournament – improving with each game.  They tied a team

in disarray (although we really didn’t know it at the time), France, 0-0 in their opener…defeating host South Africa 3-0 in the second game and defeating a good Mexico team, 1-0, in the game that decided who would win their group.

 Korea beat Greece in the opener, 2-1, lost badly to group winner, Argentina, 4-1 in a game where they looked totally overmatched and tied Nigeria, 2-2, in the group finale, to claim second place in their group.

 Uruguay has superior players and will defeat the Koreans, 3-1.  Now we’re playing for keeps…win and you keep playing, lose and you go home.  The Uruguayan team looks far superior to this squad, and will be advancing to the quarterfinals to meet the United States, in what could be a tremendous match.

Strasburg Loses; Epic Wimbledon Match Ends; Italy Booted from World Cup Tournament

Nats Phenom Strasburg Sparkles in Loss

Stephen Strasburg was good...real good...against Kansas City yesterday

This just in…Stephen Strasburg is STILL good!  Yes, he finally was defeated by a good Triple-A Kansas City Royals team.  He gave up an entire RUN.  Too bad the Washington Nationals did not score during this matinee game played at Nationals Park yesterday. 

How good is he?  Strasburg threw 95 pitches in six innings…75 of which were strikes.  He had nine strike-outs (and along the way picked up his 41st K in his fourth start…another MLB record) and did not walk anyone.  The lone earned run he gave up came in the fifth inning when the Royals put three hits together.  Strasburg did give up nine hits (more than in his previous three starts combined) and lowered his ERA to 1.78.

Epic Wimbledon Match Over: Isner Wins in 5th set: 70-68

And it only took 11 hours...John Isner celebrates winning the fifth set 70-68

Just amazing…these guys (American John Isner and France’s Nicholas Mahut) played tennis for more than 11 hours.  Into the fifth set…which lasted 138 games.  They played so long, that the match was suspended for darkness…for two consecutive nights.  Isner won 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68.

I caught a bit of the last 45 minutes of play on ESPNU this morning, while watching Italy go down in flames over in World Cup action…and it was fascinating to see both players stay on service…There were only 3 service breaks in the entire match, including the last one that Isner won.  They were either great servers or poor at returning serve.  Whatever it was, it was epic…and if you like tennis, I hope you had a chance to see this one – or at least part of it!

World Cup Shocker: Italy Booted

The defending world champion, Italy, lost 3-2 today to Slovakia.  Simply put, they have been eliminated from the 2010 FIFA World Cup competition.  And, because of the tie between Paraguay and New Zealand, Paraguay wins this group competition and advances along with Slovakia, to the knock-out round.

Slovakia plays Monday in Durban against the winner of Group E.  New Zealand, considered one of, if not the weakest team in the tournament, went undefeated.  They ended up with three draws, a remarkable accomplishment for the All-Whites.  The Azzuri (Italy) finished last, the first time they’ve ever finished at the bottom of an opening-round group, and the first time since 1964 they have not advanced out of the qualifying group.

Surprising Factoid:

This is the first time the previous World Cup finalists both failed to advance in the next tournament when both qualified. France, which lost to Italy on penalty kicks for the 2006 title, went out earlier this week in Group A.

Dramatic U.S. Win Puts Yanks into Knock-Out Round at World Cup

Cardiac Kids: U.S. Advances in Extra Time

U.S.' Landon Donovan scored the winning goal in extra time to lead the Yanks into the next round of World Cup play.

No need to review how we had yet another goal called back…nor do I need to go into detail about the three (at least) outstanding scoring opportunities for the United States.  All I know is that thanks to four extra minutes of play following the second half (which I thought was way too many), and Landon Donovan’s goal, the U.S. has advanced, as has England, from Group C.  Another group called correctly, by the way.

On a personal note, just a few minutes before kick-off, three of us went down to a local sports bar/restaurant, because they had been telling everyone they were opening early for the U.S. games.  Well, I guess the staff did not get the menu, but thanks to the manager of the Hickory Tavern, they opened the doors to us (and allowed us to bring Starbucks coffee and pastries in) to let us enjoy the games on any of their 71 televisions.  We had U.S. – Algeria on a huge screen directly next to England – Slovenia, so we could watch both easily.

Within minutes, there were nearly 50 soccer enthusiasts joining us, and we had a great time.  Especially in the 92nd minute.  One of our friends, a woman from England, was very loud when England scored, but did manage a U-S-A cheer later on.

What I Learned From This Game:

1. Don’t count the U.S. out of any game…ever.  For the first time in this year’s matches, the U.S. did not fall behind early…thanks to the crossbar that saved one certain Algerian goal. 

2. The U.S. CAN score.  With the offensive line-up put in by Coach Bob Bradley, Algeria had to look at Clint Dempsey up top in the second half, Edson Buddle, an outstanding scorer replacing Maurice Edu with lots of time remaining and DaMarcus Beasley who came on late replacing first-time Cup starter Jonathan Bornstein.  Bradley HAD to make these moves, especially knowing that England was beating Slovenia, and if we tied this game, we were done.  It paid huge dividends.

3. This was the first time since 1930 that the U.S. has won its group.  Now, the Yanks move on.  Their next game will be at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, against the second-place finisher in Group D, Ghana. Yes, I said Serbia would finish second, but they LOST to Australia’s Socceroos today, and are going home.

4. The U.S. defense did a great job…allowing just a few shots.  Tim Howard looked VERY relaxed…I said that the opening minute.  I have a lot of confidence in him right now.

Group C Review and Preview – Yanks, Brits to advance

GROUP D REVIEW AND PREVIEW:

Underachieving England faces MUST WIN game; U.S. needs to score early – and often

Advancing: United States and England        Going Home: Algeria and Slovenia

If U.S. goalie Tim Howard is perfect, the Yanks should advance

Let’s face it…the U.S. is really in a must-win situation, although a tie could get them into the round of 16, if everything else goes perfectly…but why chance that?   A victory Wednesday against Algeria sends the Yanks into the knock-out round…probably against Germany (but that has not been decided yet).  If the U.S. ties, everyone better hope that England also ties or loses their game against Slovenia, or we go home.

FIFA did one thing right (obviously they cannot find ONE competent referee from the U.S., but found possibly the LEAST-COMPETENT one from Mali) this Cup.  Each group’s  third game will be played simultaneously.   This means the U.S. and England will both be on the pitch at the same time, against different opponents,  in different stadiums in South Africa.  Each team is desperate for a win…and scoreboard watching will be exciting for fans and the teams as well.  In the past, one of these games would have been played at different times, which lead to some strange things happening in the later games, since the teams knew EXACTLY what they needed to do – or not do – to get through to the Round of 16.

England has been shocked with two ties (U.S. and Algeria) so far in the Cup.  The U.S. also has two ties (England and Slovenia), but we have scored two more goals than England, so we are technically ahead in a tie-breaker.

Team USA is confident as they enter tomorrow's crucial match against Algeria

Here is the breakdown:

IF the U.S. WINS – they go onto the Round of 16 no matter what England does.

If the U.S. TIES – they go onto the round of 16 if England loses or ties.  If England wins, the U.S. goes home.

If the U.S. LOSES – we go home no matter what happens in the England-Slovenia game.

In a nutshell, just go out and get an early goal and keep pouring it on.  WIN…and we’re IN!

Landon Donavan looks to score early...and often...against Algeria

Algeria presents a different kind of opponent…not an easy team by any means, as England found out.  They lost by one goal to Slovenia, so Algeria has just one point.  The U.S. and England have two and Slovenia, controls their fate as well, has four.

“If Algeria plays to its potential, we don’t need to worry about our opponents,” midfielder Karim Matmour said Sunday.  “If we play our style of football, we can beat anyone.”

The Desert Foxes know it will be difficult playing a higher-ranked U.S. team (14th vs. 30th for Algeria).  Team captain Anther Yahia said, “Our strength is playing collectively.  We know if we don’t play as a team we can’t win.”

Let me tell you something else…the U.S. feels EXACTLY the same way.  We may not have the better individual players (compared to England) but collectively, as a team, they knew they were superior.  Yes, with just two ties to show for themselves, it is ultimately  a team game.   Each team has a lot at stake – the U.S. has the usual hopes of a nation…we keep waiting for soccer to explode here (I have been hearing this since my high school days) and if we keep advancing, it will be better for the game in the states.

Algeria wants to advance to the knockout stage for the first time ever in the World Cup.  They want to do it on African soil. 

One problem for Algeria – they have yet to score a goal…but, on the other hand, the U.S. has yet to have a clean sheet.  Sounds like a dream match-up, doesn’t it.  I just don’t want to see the U.S. get down a goal or two and HAVE to come back.  Why not do what they did in the Confederation Cup against Egypt…go out and score some early goals…and see if the other team can come back.

I am predicting a U.S. VICTORY in this game…and a victory for England, who is really under the gun back home, over Slovenia.  As I said in an earlier article…the U.S. and England will advance, even though it has been a much tougher group than imagined when the selection show was presented last year.

Group C

Team Matches     Wins     Draws     Losses     Goals For     Goals Against     Points
Slovenia                 2         1          1          0            3                2          4
United States       2         0          2          0            3                3          2
England       2         0          2          0            1                1          2
Algeria       2         0          1          1            0                1          1

McDowell Surprises at U.S. Open

U.S. Open Review

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell surprised everyone with his one-stroke victory in the U.S. Open

Phil Mickelson said it was a thrill to be in the hunt.  But, again, he did not win the one major he really wants to complete his resume.  Instead, the U.S. Open was won by…Pebble Beach.  Yes, the course just crushed the pros this week.  Open champion, Graeme  McDowell of Northern Ireland shot 3 over par in the last round and won by a shot over unknown and 391st ranked Gregory Havret of France.  It was the worst final 18 holes in a U.S. Open since Andy North won it back in the ’80’s.  And poor Dustin Johnson...he lead by three shots going into the final 18 holes…and shot an 82.  No wonder amateurs like myself just shake our heads when we play golf.

As I have said before, if the best pros in the world struggle, we non-pros are better off trying to keep up with the beer cart.

Pebble Beach was certainly a different course.  The weather was a non-factor…just a little breezy, but nothing like some of the weather you can see along the Monterey Peninsula.  McDowell played steady golf and seemed to really be enjoying himself.  The victory celebration after he holed his par putt on the 72nd hole was joyous.  His father came over from Northern Ireland to share in the day.  And, since the Open always is scheduled to end on Father’s Day, it was indeed special.

Also special was Ton Watson, with his son on the bag, walking up 18 to a tremendous ovation.  Watson, who won his only Open at Pebble, is 60 years old, and received a special exemption to play this year.  With tears visible, one could sense this is the last time he will play in the U.S. Open.

WHAT I WILL REMEMBER FROM THIS OPEN

1. Dustin Johnson’s epic flame-out.  His caddy said how Johnson flat-lines when he plays.  Yesterday, unfortunately, the pressure really got to this young man.  He couldn’t do anything right.  His caddy would never have let him hit driver after driver…hand him a three-wood…a five-wood…and let him get the ball in the fairway.  I don’t think this is the last we will hear from Johnson.  He can play…but this experience will make him better.

2. Tiger Woods is still in denial.  He said afterwards he only hit one bad shot.  Not the way I saw it…drive after drive into the rough.  He didn’t putt exceptionally well…his short game is still not there.  But, on Saturday, we saw the Tiger of old.  He was brilliant making shot after shot.  If Tiger really believes he hit only one bad shot, he will be heading to St. Andrews for the British Open next month as one of the favorites to win it all.  St. Andrews is his favorite course (except maybe for Torrey Pines and Pebble) and loves playing links golf.  I hope he is getting back.  It was a great Saturday…but his play Sunday was less than inspiring and made for some tough watching.

3. Who is Gregory Havret?  And will we ever hear from him again?  I don’t no…and probably not.  This was a fluke…like Paul Lawrie winning the British Open years ago…hasn’t been seen since.

4. Ernie Els…was this his last hurrah?  I love watching Big Easy…he has such a fluid swing and seems to be a really good guy.  Like Tiger and Phil, great to have him in the mix on Sunday.

5. I would have loved for NBC to interview McDowell’s father on the back nine.  I think this had to have been the thrill of his lifetime, and, instead of spending so much time watching Tiger scowl and Phil look like he just wasn’t sure why we wasn’t winning…it would have been great television.  And speaking of television, why is it that NBC had the hushed tones when announcing…like this is a sacred event.  It isn’t The Masters…ESPN seemed to have much more life to their telecast than NBC…But then again, Sunday was a quiet kind of day.

Lakers Win NBA Title – Post-Game Review

As predicted here, the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA Championship Thursday night, defeating the Boston Celtics in a low-scoring game, 91-87.  They won by playing a gritty, grind-it-out game.

NBA Finals MVP Kobe Bryant Celebrates the Lakers' Win

“This one is by far the sweetest, because it’s them,” Kobe Bryant said after the Lakers beat Boston for the first time in a Game 7.  “This was the hardest one by far. I wanted it so bad, and sometimes when you want it so bad, it slips away from you. My guys picked me up.”

Lakers coach Phil Jackson also has his 11th championship, matching Boston great Bill Russell’s total and possibly putting a cap on Jackson’s remarkable career if he decides to leave the Lakers. Will he try for a three-peat next season…if that is something he really wants, he’ll be back, otherwise look for the Zen Master to retire to spend more time with his family.

Following the game, Jackson spoke to the media, saying, “Well, it’s done.  It wasn’t well done, but it was done,” Jackson said.  “I thought our defense was terrific.  We were able to step in and play the kind of defense that we’ve established as a calling card for this team, and we found a way to generate some points.”

Bryant discussed his feelings during the game…the one he knew would cement his status as one of the all-time greats: “I was just lying to you guys…but you guys know what a student I am of the game.  I know every series the Lakers have played in, and I know every Celtics series. I know every statistic.  It meant the world to me, but I couldn’t focus on that. I had to focus on playing.”

And when Bryant was asked what the title means to him personally, he answered without self-censorship:  “Just got one more than Shaq.  You can take that to the bank. You know how I am.  I don’t forget anything.”

Boston faces even more offseason uncertainty than the Lakers, with Ray Allen’s free agency and coach Doc Rivers’ decision atop the list.

“There’s a lot of crying in that locker room,” Rivers said.  “A lot of people who care.  I don’t think there was a dry eye.  A lot of hugs, a lot of people feeling awful.  That’s a good thing.  Showed a lot of people cared.”

Congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers…and to the Boston Celtics for a very entertaining NBA Finals this year. 

U.S. – Slovenia in Dramatic World Cup Tie: MY LIVE BLOG

This post is going to be very different…it is my live thoughts as the United States plays Slovenia this morning at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.  My comments WILL NOT be changed or edited (other than spelling) after the game.  This is my take on the game:

Landon Donavan scored the first U.S. goal vs. Slovenia

1′ KICKOFF   U.S. kicking off to begin the game in Johannesburg, where it is 55 degrees and sunny.  U.S. wearing their all blue throw-back (1950) uniforms…Slovenia wearing white with green Charlie Brown sweater-type (to look like mountains) design on the front.

1′   Dempsey plants an elbow on Ljubijankic but does not draw a card…lucky break for the U.S. very early in the first minute of play.

U.S. starting slowly…Slovenia great cross into the box (6′).  U.S. showing nothing much so far. 

12′  GOAL Slovenia… Birsa on a 25 yard shot.  Not marked at all and Howard didn’t even react to it.  This is terrible news for the U.S. who are 0-15-3 when giving up the first goal.  Howard was on the 6  yard line to cut the angle.

15′  U.S. set play into the box, two U.S. players there Bocanegra and Dempsey, cleared by Slovenia.

17′ Findley to Altidore…good run up the left, but just missed Jozy’s foot on the pass.

18′  Bradley long shot but well over the goal…keep pushing, U.S.

23′ Good looking ball to the back post, but U.S. unable to capitalize.

23′  Nice run by Slovenia up the right side, but U.S. shuts it down.

The game has really opened up after the goal by Slovenia.  SLovenia seems to have a lot of confidence and looks superior to the U.S. in every aspect now.  Possession is 54-46 in Slovenia’s favor now.

29′  Free kick by Slovenia right into the box, Howard slides out and kicks the ball out over the sideline.  Throw-in Slovenia.

Ian Darke (play-by-play) and John Harkes (color) on the ESPN call this morning.  Fans wrapped in U.S. flags seem to be in good numbers today.

35′  Altidore makes run into box…YELLOW CARD called against Cesar of Slovenia, who kicked Jozy as he ran past him.  Set piece for the U.S.

36‘  Tremendous shot by Jose Torres from the set piece, but the Slovenia goalie blocks it over the end line.

37′  Corner kick, U.S. missed as Slovenia deflects out and on the deflection U,.S. heads it towards the goal, but over the net.

The U.S. needs Dempsey and Donavan to settle down…more defense needed by Dempsey

39‘  Steal by Donavan who passes to Findley who crosses badly to the middle of the box.  Ball over the end line – corner kick, U.S.

40′  U.S. misses great opportunity on corner kick, but Findley draws a YELLOW CARD, which means he is not going to play in the next match.  Looks like ball hit him in the face, and the ball accidently touched his arm… not hand ball…BAD CALL by the referee…Even Ian Darke said it was the absolute worst call of the tournament.  The U.S. luck is going this way.

41′  U.S. just misses ANOTHER great opportunity with three – four players…just missing, again. ..Corner kick, U.S.

41′  Corner kick was not effective at all.  Ball cleared to midfield…Slovenia in charge.

42′ GOAL SLOVENIA…This could be the end of the U.S in the World Cup…another  play where the Slovenia scorer, Ljubijankic  was unmarked again. THIS IS AS BAD AS IT CAN BE…NOW THE U.S. NEEDS TO SCORE AT LEAST TWO GOALS TO HAVE ANY CHANCE TO ADVANCE.  Terribly disappointing for a country of 310 million to lose to a country of only 2 million.  Boy am I a homer…

45′ Two minutes of extra time in the first half.  I don’t know what Coach Bradley will say ht the half, but whatever it is, the team MUST respond.

45′ HALFTIME U.S. down 2-0.  They will need to score early to get some confidence and get back into the game.  The thought of the Americans NOT going through to the knock-out round is not good.  They certainly had their chances, and if they can get that quick goal and keep pressure on Slovenia, maybe we can get something out of the game after all.  Slovenia has been attacking and they may begin to play a little more defense how that they are ahead by 2 goals.

SECOND HALF:

45′  Benny Feilhaber and Maurice Edu coming into the came to start the second half replacing Jose Torres and Robbie Findley.  Urgent substitutions to get some needed scoring.  No Edson Buddle?  The quick-scoring artist who is needed now more than ever

47′  Donavan and U.S. in the box with changes, but Jokic of Serbia clears the ball.  U.S. on the offense.

48′  GOAL U.S.!!! Landon Donavan from the right side of the box with a beautiful right-footed shot into the upper  left corner on a very tough angle.  “NOW the momentum is with them,” Ian Darke tells the ESPN audience.  He is only the third American to score in two World Cups.  He scored twice in the 2002 World Cup.

Sensational start for the U.S.  Pressure boys!

51′  Landon chips into the goal area and the U.S. just misses another goal from a set piece.

52′  Howard stretches to knock a ball away…a critical touch over the end line…corner kick Slovenia.  Nothing much out of that…Koren misses a long shot.

58′  Altidore streaking to the center of the field and is taken down just outside the box as he tried to get a shot off.

59′  Donavan; on a set piece, hits the ball to the front of the box…a good opportunity missed, as Dempsey and a Slovenian wrestle each other to the ground.  No foul called…both players fighting for the ball.

61′  Slovenia free kick fisted out by Howard.

63′  Altidore knocked to ground by Shuler…again – no call.  Jozy  looked for the call…

64′  Howard clears shot easily…needs to control the pace of the game and make sure U.S. players are set for offense before releasing the ball.

65′  Possession: U.S. 51 – Slovenia 49…we need more!  U.S. continuing to press on offense.

69′  FOUL and YELLOW CARD on Suler of Slovenia on a hard foul on Altidore just a yard outside of the 18…Altidore wanted a red on Suler. 

70′  Set piece by Donavan at the 19…Altidore nearly has a goal after the strike from Donavan was not cleared.  Nice save by Slovenia’s goalie.

20 or so minutes left…what does Bob Bradley have up his sleeve?  Where is Edson Buddle?

72′  Kirin – Yellow Card for foul on Cherundolo.  Set piece flicked off by Feilhaber easily grabbed by the goalie.

74′  Pecnik for Ljubijankic substitution for Slovenia. Throw in by U.S. into the goal area, Jozy missed again…referee calls a foul…but where was it.

75′  Another Yellow Card on Slovenia (Jokic) for a hard hit on Donavan from behind.  They are mounting up.  Slovenia is very physical.  Dempsey misses a left foot volley on the set piece.

Tactical change for U.S.: Donovan is now on  top with Jozy…hoping for more offense…

81′  Hercules Gomez now entering the game for the U.S. replacing Oguchi Onyewu.  Cherundolo moves to the center.  Gomez needs to score on the biggest stage of all.  3-4-3 lineup for U.S. – a switch from 4-4-2.  Michael Bradley hits a shot on goal but easily handled by the goalie.  Another

82′   GOAL MICHAEL BRADLEY USA TIED THE GAME – the coach’s son has scored the equalizer on a tactical goal.

Will the U.S. stick with this offensive tactical line-up?  We have a point in hand now…can we get the win and get three?  Is it worth the gamble?  That’s why Coach Bob Bradley is paid the big bucks.

85′  Altidore knocked down again…The U.S. is on the offensive…Set piece for Donavan.    OFFSIDE US on goal…this is NOT OFFSIDE…another horrible call…who are these refs? “THAT IS HORRIBLE”, said Harkes.  I agree.  THAT WAS A GOAL!  Michael Bradley was fouled, but NO CALL?  In the box?  Even Ian Darke, a neutral Englishman said this is terrible.

87′  Slovenia substitutes for Birko

88′  Header by Slovenia stopped by Howard!  Whew!  They are not giving up.

89′  Hard, long shot by Slovenia with a great save by Howard who is furious, imploring his defenders to get going!

Reply of non-goal by U.S. shows NO OFFSIDES AND A FOUL BY SLOVENIA ON BRADLEY.  Either it is a goal or a penalty kick…but the ref saw nothing, apparently.

90′  THREE MINUTES OF EXTRA TIME

Dempsey and Pecnik collide near the center of the field with seconds to go in the game.  I think we are looking at another tie.  The U.S. really was (screwed, hosed, jobbed, robbed…take your pick) on their third goal.  They deserved to WIN this game based on the second half play.

90′ GAME OVER…We get a point…Altidore is chasing after the referee and is livid.  “A remarkable performance by the United States”, said Ian Darke.  Possession: U.S. 52 – Slovenia 48.  Good comeback.

This was the 21st time a team has been down by 2-0 at half and has come back to get at least a point.

Thanks for reading, I hope you got a sense of the game…Wow!  Now the U.S. is in a MUST-WIN situation next Wednesday against Algeria.  I need time to relax before watching England-Algeria this afternoon.  And they say soccer is boring…watch both of the U.S. games so far and you will see how tense this sport is.