In case you were out welcoming summer by busting out the old double Dutch (and failing, because double-Dutching is really hard, guys, stop laughing) here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
The New York Knicks were eliminated in six games by the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The defeat proves their season, in which they won their first division championship since 1994 and 50 games for the first time since 2000, was an utter and abysmal failure. Their capitulation to a comparably good team that was able to steal an early game at Madison Square Garden and then hold serve at its home arena, which was among the hardest places to get a win in the NBA all season, further proves that the team needs to be torn down, because the guys on the Knicks just don't care enough. Sure, they were a magnificent block from one of the few true centers left in the game away from forcing a Game 7 at home, but I think it's clear, based on this series, that the New York Chokes (clever nickname, eh?) are the lousiest bunch of basketball players the NBA has ever seen, and they should return their salaries to team owner James Dolan before turning themselves into the NYPD for crimes against the state.
Oxbow upset Kentucky Derby winner Orb to win the Preakness Stakes after going out as a 15-1 longshot. The win was a boon for the small population of semi-literate foodies, who misread the horse's name and have little understanding of how horse racing works, as they placed large amounts of money banking on the resurgent popularity of the ingredient oxtail to carry the day. In somewhat related news, someone in Florida just won $600 million playing Powerball.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” said Landon Donovan. It was March 28, and the most famous American soccer player in the world was speaking to reporters on a conference call, his first contact with the media since retreating from the soccer world in December 2012. Earlier last week, he had rejoined the Los Angeles Galaxy, training with the team and accompanying the MLS Cup champions on their visit to the White House. President Obama had jokingly offered to let him take Air Force One down to Mexico to join the U.S. Men's National Team at Azteca. But while he didn't take the president up on his offer, he was, for all intents and purposes, back. On the phone, his voice was its familiar soft monotone, at once seemingly passive and yet entirely sincere.
Listening to the conference call, I was struck with how long Donovan had been playing professional soccer, how long he had been part of my soccer world. It was fourteen years ago, 1999, when I’d first heard of him. I was 18 — on my way to play soccer at Wake Forest University with all the glory of a “recruited walk-on” — when I heard about this 17-year-old phenom at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, scoring goals and running the "Beep Test" like Edgar Davids.
It’s been a funny few weeks with Hurricanes, snowstorms, Beckhams, and playoffs in my part of the world, not to mention the three days I spent in a darkened room as I processed the concept of Gerard Butler as a Celtic legend, and the week spent on a Manhattan Beach vision quest with Landon Donovan (before he took the decisive penalty in the MLS Cup final it occurred to me that I’d seen that squat before, just before he hurled marshmallows and peyote onto our campfire).
But the bills have to be paid, and with the second draft of my rewrite on the next Lifetime made-for-TV movie due next week (I can’t say too much about it, but the title is L’étranger and the tagline is “Lindsay Lohan IS Hope Solo”), and the confetti just about settled at the Home Depot Center, it’s time to turn our thoughts to looking back on this year’s MLS campaign.
So without further ado, here are the Designated Player 2012 MLS awards:
What's my relationship status with MLS? It's complicated. I’d like to tell you that ever since I became a supporter of the league, when it kicked off in 1996, I’ve remained loyal to it. But I haven’t. And many American soccer fans probably have a similar story. For me, it’s been hard to stay devoted to the league when you (a) don’t have a hometown team to support (I’m from Michigan), and (b) know that a better on-the-field product exists in England, Spain, Italy, Germany, etc.
But my feelings for MLS began to change last year when I moved to Los Angeles, where there are not one but two clubs to follow: the L.A. Galaxy and Chivas USA. While keeping up with the flashy and successful Galaxy and the rather feckless Goats, my love for the league has been rekindled.
Now, all meaningful relationships will have their day of reckoning. And I believe that for conflicted MLS fan like me, it has arrived: the L.A. Galaxy will play the Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup this Saturday, and the match holds such potential for greatness, and whether you're an MLS monogamist or just keeping it casual, I believe we all must witness it. Here’s why:
Sunday night, the L.A. Galaxy gathered in the cold rain on a stage on Century Link Field, amid a chorus of boos from the remaining Seattle Sounders fans, waiting to receive the trophy as the MLS Western Conference champions. They had just beaten the Sounders 4-2 in aggregate goals in a two-game series and earned a spot in the MLS Cup, where they will be playing to defend their 2011 championship. The team’s captain for the night, Robbie Keane, waited atop the podium to receive the trophy from MLS executive vice president of competition Nelson Rodriguez. Beside Keane was the team’s usual captain, Landon Donovan, who missed the game with a hamstring injury. Next to Donovan stood the man who built this Galaxy team, the club’s general manager and head coach, the most successful coach in American soccer: Bruce Arena.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Note: Due to an ongoing labor dispute at Grantland, today's joke will be written by a group of replacement writers called up from the Grantland's Division III staff in Des Moines, Iowa.
Cristiano Ronaldo's 90th-minute goal completed a stunning comeback as Real Madrid topped Manchester City 3-2 in Champions League group play. Hey, are we sure this guy isn't named Ronaldo McDonaldo? Because after that match, those Real Madrid players must have had one heck of a happy meal!
In the fourth in a series of posts on the future of U.S. soccer, Andrew Lewellen looks at Major League Soccer's hotly debated Homegrown Player rule. For Part I of the series, on the recent changes in high school and youth soccer, click here. For Part II, on the 1990 World Cup's impact on the U.S. soccer psyche, click here. For Part III, on the state of the college game, click here.
On November 17, 2010, Juan Agudelo made history for the United States Men’s National Soccer Team. You might know one of the reasons: That day, in his international debut, he became the youngest player ever to score for the USMNT when he netted the winning goal against South Africa in the Nelson Mandela Classic. He was six days shy of his 18th birthday.
But Agudelo made history for another reason that day: He became the first MLS Homegrown Player to appear in a USMNT game. At the time, he was a member of the New York Red Bulls and was one of 18 Homegrown Players in MLS.
In the first of a series of posts on the future of soccer in the United States, Andrew Lewellen looks at the U.S. Soccer Federation's efforts to centralize the development of youth talent. Check back next week for Part II, when Andrew takes a look at a pivotal moment in U.S. soccer history — the 1990 World Cup — and how it changed the trajectory of the sport in the States.
On a hot and hazy June Saturday in Los Angeles, two high-school-aged boys' soccer teams are taking the field for their final regular-season game. One team is playing for the conference title. Sounds pretty basic. All across the country at this moment youth soccer teams are competing — kids in cleats and shin guards dribbling and slide tackling and yelling things like “Good ball!” and “Switch it!” while a team parent organizes a postgame snack of Capri Suns and grocery-store cupcakes.
But this game is different. The two teams are members of U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy. The game is being played at the Home Depot Center, and the complex’s 27,000-seat soccer stadium — home to Major League Soccer’s L.A. Galaxy and Chivas USA — towers in the distance. The home team, the one playing for the conference title, is the Galaxy’s under-18 academy side. If they win, they’ll advance to the national playoffs. If they lose, it will be the end of a season that began 10 months ago, in August. For all that time, the boys on both teams have trained four times a week, competed in one game a week, and played for no other team — not even their high schools. And that’s the way U.S. Soccer wants it.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
The Texas Rangers reached a deal with Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish worth approximately $60 million. When he heard the news that he'd be going to Arlington, Darvish immediately learned the English translation for "T-Bone steak," "dude ranch," and, "I'm Japanese, so please stop calling me 'Jorge' in a vaguely menacing way."
According to a source, Tim Tebow sustained serious injuries in the third quarter of the Broncos' loss to the Patriots. He soldiered on despite torn rib cartilage, a bruised lung, and fluid buildup. He laid pretty low on Monday, but gave hope and solace to his followers when he was back up and about on the third day.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
In a battle of the top-ranked teams in college football, LSU beat Alabama 9-6 in overtime. The whole game was like a chess match, with both teams playing cautious, slow football with an emphasis on defense. Also, Les Miles kept referring to quarterback Jarrett Lee as "my b-pawn."