Archive for the ‘Knockout Game’ Category

Gonzalo Higuain, Juve return to Napoli eyeing a spot in the Coppa Italia final – ESPN FC (blog)

Max Allegri reflects on Gonzalo Higuain’s return to his old stomping grounds after Juve’s 1-1 draw with Napoli. Ahead of Juve’s clash with Napoli, the FC panel debate if Gonzalo Higuain’s psyche is affected when it comes to big games.

A victim of their own success, Juventus will forever be criticised unless they win every match comprehensively. Never allowed an off day, the very fact the Bianconeri opted to play a defensive style of football against Napoli on Sunday evening has resulted in doubt about the brilliance of this team.

A country obsessed by negative perspectives, it seems Juventus can never struggle and no achievement is ever applauded. They should be winning every trophy, every match and every tournament they participate in. Nothing is considered an achievement but a mandatory procedure.

It is this very attitude that has sparked Massimiliano Allegri’s anger. His accomplishments are not being properly judged and wins are expected and rarely praised. Juventus may not have been at their best on Sunday evening but many sides suffered a similar hangover after an International break. It is difficult to overcome the technical skills of Maurizio Sarri’s side, especially when Juventus were missing their best players on the ball. Paulo Dybala was not in the greatest of conditions, Juan Cuadrado had only returned from Colombia on Friday and the rest of the squad were players who proved better off the ball than on it forcing a defensive style of play.

The very fact that the Old Lady can adapt to situations is a great quality. Replacing technical brilliance with tactical discipline earned Juventus the point and while they couldn’t grasp complete control of the match, they managed to muzzle a side that gave Real Madrid a hard time. Juve were not playing Pescara, they were playing a side that won their Champions League group and currently reside in third place.

Juventus are still six points ahead of second-placed Roma in the league and against the Partenopei on Wednesday evening, Allegri is expected to play a more offensive game in the semifinal of the Coppa Italia. After all, this will be a knockout game and Juventus want to reach the final in hopes of winning another trophy.

Despite managing a 3-1 score line in Turin, they did concede an away goal and will want to score at least once to ensure a good result. With several technical players available for selection including Dybala and Cuadrado, the Bianconeri should provide Gonzalo Higuain with better service than he received on Sunday evening.

The Argentine’s return to the Stadio San Paolo dominated headlines and many expected or rather hoped he would prove his doubters wrong and score. However, he was left isolated for much of the match and unable to provide the level of impact we have grown accustomed to watching.

While Dybala’s absence proved frustrating for Higuain, the lack of service from the wide areas restricted the forward from unleashing his lethality in front of goal. Kwadwo Asamoah has struggled the last two times he has played against Napoli and simply cannot command the left lane as well as Alex Sandro. His performance proved so poor that Mario Mandzukic was tasked with contributing more to the defensive side of the game than the attack. Stephan Lichtsteiner provided even less attacking verve on the right and in a match that will require Juve to score, it seems Allegri may rely on Dani Alves to provide the goods.

The Brazilian is somewhat of a liability at the back but going forward he has proved spectacular at picking out his teammates and delivering the right pass to pierce opposing defences. His ability on the ball should help Juventus play a more attacking game even if he may expose the back line a bit. While Allegri will seemingly prefer to play Cuadrado on the right of the trident and Stefano Sturaro on the left in the upcoming match, one wonders whether it would be better to keep Lichtsteiner in the back four, but allow Alves to play further ahead, free of defensive responsibilities. With both present on the right, Juventus can command the wide area.

Cuadrado is an important player and his pace makes the difference but Alves is better at providing the width and his decision making in the final third has made the difference in the past. The Colombian is yet to put thought into his moves to ensure the runs he makes are decisive and not an experiment in expending energy.

Anything short of a win will result in even more criticism aimed at the Old Lady. Considering the squad need to be at their best and most confident for the match against Barcelona next week, Allegri will hope his players will respond on the pitch and prove why they should never be doubted.

Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.

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Gonzalo Higuain, Juve return to Napoli eyeing a spot in the Coppa Italia final – ESPN FC (blog)

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April 6, 2017   Posted in: Knockout Game  Comments Closed

Allegri lashes out at negativity surrounding Juventus’ performances – Black & White & Read All Over

Enough is enough. Massimiliano Allegri has hit his limit with the constant negativity around Juventus, from fans, media, the whole lot. If Juve win, it wasnt pretty enough. If Juve draw then its a sign of impending doom. And God forbid if Juve lose then its surely the end of the universe as we know it.

During his pre-match press conference as the Bianconeri head back to Naples to take on Napoli tomorrow in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final protecting a 3-1 lead, Allegri was less than his usual reserved self.

First of all were in a good period, because with a month-and-a-half to go were playing for the final of the Coppa Italia, for the chance to go to the Champions League Semi-Finals and were currently still first in the Scudetto race.

So right now theres nothing more we could do. Then theres this negativity, this negative aura, its the one thing I hate. I think if we could see things positively it would be better.

I think this team has played a few finals over the past few years, weve won a couple of Coppa Italia, weve won two Scudetti, then one draw and its like none of that happened.

At the end of the day, the important thing is to achieve your objectives. Its also true that you have opponents, and winning is difficult.

You say winning is the norm but no, winning is extraordinary because only one team can win. Besides, this is a team which in the past three years has been to a Champions League final, were playing for another Coppa Italia final, and were in the fight for the Scudetto.

Right now we couldnt do more, thats a fact, like it or not.

In the course of a season, just as in individual games, there are moments where you play well and moments where youre less good, the important thing is having a clear objective.

Its not easy to achieve, the lads are doing incredible things, because there are opponents, because to always win is impossible.

The team is growing in Italy, but above all on a European level and I think thats important. I think thats the best result, regardless of the Scudetti won.

Right now Juventus are a respected team, thats the most important thing.

Then I hear you say – and Ill finish with this – that Juventus have lost five finals, seven finals – how many have they lost? – seven.

If you turn that around, and say Juventus played nine finals, its different. Because others didnt play them. Then at the end of the games you win or you lose.

You can reverse things and see the positives, but here you only see the negative goddamnit. Thats not good. Buona giornata.

Luckily, Allegri had spoken in an earlier part of the press conference when he was less incensed, at which time he had talked about Mario Mandzukic being out and other team news.

Its difficult for Mandzukic to make it for the game. Well assess him today, but hes unlikely to be there. Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado are available.

As for the rest I dont know what to tell you, because well train today and after that Ill work out who will play tomorrow.

Will he take a conservative approach to tomorrows game with Juve holding a lead?

First of all theyre two different games. Sunday was a League game and this is a knockout game.

We have this important objective, to reach the Coppa Italia final for the third year in a row, then go to Rome and try to win it.

It wont be easy, because tomorrows game will be very open. Napoli are a team who played well on Sunday from a technical point of view, they caused us problems but we have everything it takes to reach the final.

We need to be very different in technical terms to what we showed on Sunday, technically we got a lot wrong and that meant we couldnt develop the play and thats why we were more defensive.

We gave away two or three shots after wed cheaply given the ball away, so we definitely need to play a different game from that point of view.

If youre technically better youll have more of the ball, which means you have to defend less.

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Allegri lashes out at negativity surrounding Juventus’ performances – Black & White & Read All Over

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April 4, 2017   Posted in: Knockout Game  Comments Closed

Roof closed for Ospreys v Stade Francais : European Rugby … – EPCRugby.com

EPCR officials have confirmed that the Principality Stadium roof will be closed on Sunday for the final quarter-final of the weekend when the Ospreys host Stade Francais Paris in the Challenge Cup (17.45 kick-off).

It will be the first European knockout game for the Ospreys in seven years having set a record in qualifying by taking the maximum 30 points from their six pool matches. Stade Francais, who beat RC Toulon in Paris last weekend in the TOP 14, will be returning to the Welsh capital six years on from their one point defeat to Harlequins in the 2011 final.

“We are all excited about Sunday’s game and what promises to be a cracking contest. Stade Francais are a big, powerful team packed with world class players and they will come to Cardiff at the weekend full of confidence after defeating Toulon,” said Ospreys Rugby Managing Director, Andrew Millward.

“This is our first European quarter-final since 2010 and it’s going to be a wonderful occasion. Closing the roof will only make it more enjoyable for everybody, keeping the noise in and helping to create a great atmosphere for what we hope will turn out to be a memorable 80 minutes for all the right reasons.”

Although the game kicks off at 5.45pm at the Principality Stadium, there is a full afternoon of activity next door at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park to keep everybody entertained in the build up to the big game.

The iconic venue, home of Cardiff Blues, will host a special tag rugby festival in conjunction with Ospreys in the Community, with 45 teams at U7, U8, U9 and U10 levels from 14 clubs involved. The festival will support the WRU’s Half a Game initiative, launched last year to encourage and grow participation among younger children, guaranteeing game time for all young players.

All supporters are invited to use the Arms Park as their base for the day with the club house open for business from 2.00pm, providing a convenient meeting point for those heading to Cardiff. The tag festival will be followed by live entertainment at the club house from 4.30pm.

There will also be an appearance from non playing squad members and a Q&A ahead of kick-off to help you get in the mood for the big match.

Tickets for Sunday’s game remain available to purchase from the Liberty Stadium Ticket Office and the WRU Ticket Office on Westgate Street in Cardiff, as well as online at www.ospreysrugby.com/buytickets priced at just 10 (U16s 5).

On the day of the game tickets will be on sale at the WRU Ticket Office right up to kick-off. Supporters are advised to buy in advance to avoid any last minute queuing.

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Roof closed for Ospreys v Stade Francais : European Rugby … – EPCRugby.com

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Video Assistant Referees could be used in EFL Cup first round next season – Eurosport.com

Video Assistant Referees could be deployed in English football as early as August when the EFL Cup first round takes place.

The Football Association has indicated VARs could be trialled in next season’s FA Cup, beginning in January 2018 with the FA Cup third round when Premier League teams join the competition.

But, if a trial is approved by the EFL board, VARs could be used in the EFL Cup from as soon as the first round.

EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey said on Wednesday: “As part of a trial the board will consider allowing the EFL Cup to be utilised.

“There are a number of rounds of the EFL Cup prior to that (the FA Cup third round).

“Theoretically it could happen from the first round of the EFL Cup, which would be a team no higher than the Championship down to League Two.”

VARs are currently being trialled, with FIFA president Gianni Infantino keen to employ the system during the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The video official in Tuesday night’s friendly between France and Spain corrected two wrong decisions – disallowing an offside effort by Antoine Griezmann and awarding a goal for Gerard Deulofeu after an incorrect offside flag. Spain won 2-0 in Paris.

Approval for VARs to be employed in the EFL Cup could come as soon as May.

There is likely to be a longer wait before VARs can be utilised in the Championship, League One and League Two, due to the lack of cameras currently available across stadia.

Although some stadia will have the capacity to utilise VARs in the league, the EFL believe it is important for the same facilities to be available throughout.

Goal line technology is likely to come into the Championship for the first time next season.

Harvey, who on Wednesday spoke at SportsPro Live where he talked about new streaming product iFollow, added: “One of the real challenges is the integrity of the games.

“If you don’t have the technology available at every single game in the competition, does that potentially have a negative impact on the competition as a whole?

“Ultimately (in the EFL Cup) it doesn’t matter then if it’s not used at every single game in that round because each individual game is a knockout game in its own right.

“Technology’s got to work with the EFL as well and be possible as part of the whole, not just in part.

“But that should never be interpreted as the EFL not wanting to embrace technology or being against it.

“It’s just the absolute practicalities and the cost effectiveness of being able to implement it.”

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Palace chairman Parish urges England to learn from Zaha switch to Ivory Coast – Eurosport.com

England must learn from Wilfried Zaha’s switch to the Ivory Coast and “love” and nurture prospects from smaller clubs, according to Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish.

Zaha, 24, played two friendlies for England and represented them at age group levels but reverted to the country of his birth in time for January’s African Nations Cup.

England manager Gareth Southgate has pledged to focus on players who are “desperate to play for England” as he addresses the dual-nationality question.

But Parish declared himself devastated to see a “ludicrous” talent slip away and called for a fresh approach.

“The whole England set-up gave Wilfried no love and it is a shame that we lost him,” he told the Times. ” Wilfried was waiting and waiting for that call.

“It is devastating for us as we always thought we would see him in an England shirt. We need to learn our lessons. You would not see Brazil let a player like that go.”

The proportion of English-qualified players in Premier League line-ups hovers around the one-third mark and Parish warned that those who do break through must be appreciated.

He said: “If we constantly neglect these kids, as their face does not fit or they are not maturing at the rate we want them to, then you can’t tell the Premier League that we have to have more and more English players playing.

“It has a lot to do with the less glamorous clubs. Every now and then, a club like Palace throws up a gem. Our gems do tend to be a bit rough around the edges when they start out, they need to be honed.

“Anybody who watched Wilfried will tell you some of the things he does are ludicrous. Do we not want that? I can’t believe there was not a role for Wilfried at England.”

A statement issued by Zaha’s agent Will Salthouse on Tuesday took issue with questions over his passion and insisted the player had never set a deadline for an England call-up – the “disappearing egg-timer” referenced by Southgate on Monday.

And Parish took aim at former England defender Danny Mills’ suggestion on Tuesday that the winger took “the easy way out” by switching allegiance.

“What is easier, travelling thousands of miles every time you have to play a game?” he said. “Put England in a knockout game against Ivory Coast and it is not going to be 4-0 to England, is it? They will give England a game.”

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Leinster have improved this season, warns Gopperth – Irish Independent

The Premiership leaders face Leinster in the Champions Cup quarter-final on Saturday and the former Blues out-half is expecting a much tougher challenge this time around.

“It (last season) hasn’t been brought up once,” said Gopperth. “Leinster are playing like a different team and Stuart (Lancaster) coming in has really given them some steel.

“They have a lot of the younger guys, (Garry) Ringrose, Adam Byrne and Tadhg (Furlong), who have really stepped up in the last 12 months so they are totally different team.

“They are a class outfit at the minute and we are not taking them lightly. Last year is gone.

“We know what’s coming and it will certainly be a very physical challenge. The likes of Seanie (O’Brien) I’m sure will be lining me up to give me one or two.

“We just have to make sure we are mentally switched on because it is going to be a knockout game played at an international standard.”

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Leinster have improved this season, warns Gopperth – Irish Independent

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Hawkeye force winner-take-all Game 3 – The Manila Times

Cignal-San Beda pulled off a gritty 89-86 win over Tanduay Rhum in Game 2 of their best-of-three semifinals series forcing a knockout match in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) D-League Aspirants Cup on Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.

Former La Salle forward Jason Perkins unloaded 12 of his 15 points in the second half allowing the Hawkeyes, who withstood the late run of the Rhum Masters to tie the series at 1-all.

Benedict Adamos had a double-double performance with 13 markers and 13 boards while Robert Bolick Jr. contributed 13 markers for Cignal.

We are still alive. At least, we have another day to live. Credit goes to the boys who really stepped up today, said Cignal coach Boyet Fernandez.

Carrying a 12-point advantage after the third period, 70-58, the Hawkeyes became complacent and allowed Tanduay to unload a 19-7 run capped by Lester Alvarezs eight straight points to tie the game at 77-all with 4:30 left in the game.

But Perkins hit back-to-back triples to sandwich the split of Rhum Masters Bong Quinto and the basket of Jaymo Eguilos to take an 83-80 lead with two minutes remaining.

Adrian Santos pushed Tanduay within striking distance with a basket, 84-85, but Pamboy Raymundo and Perkins sealed the win for the top seed Cignal with crucial baskets sending the series to a knockout Game 3 on Tuesday.

It is a matter of who wants it more who really wanted it more. We are up by 13 points so the other guys were just walking. I hope this situation will open their minds that if you have big lead, it is not a sure lead, added Fernandez.

Eguilos chipped in 18 points and six rebounds while Alvarez produced 15 markers, 10 came in the fourth quarter, for Tanduay.

Paul Sanga had 11 points while Kier John Quinto and Mark Cruz contributed nine and eight points, respectively, for the Rhum Masters.

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Why the World Baseball Classic should be a March Madness-style knockout tournament – CBSSports.com

Download the CBS Sports Apptoday and get instant NCAA tournament news and alerts,plus get the latest picksand upsets from SportsLine!

The World Baseball Classic is entertaining, somewhat flawed, and still new enough to have the whiff of novelty about it. When you encounter such a confluence, you are of course duty- and honor-bound to concoct a piece in which you declare how the event in question could be improved. This is one of those pieces. Stop now if you wish.

Its impossible to ignore the potential of the WBC when you see the enthusiasm in the seats, especially among the Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Japan rooters. However, its just as impossible to miss the logistical challenges and shortcomings in the execution of the tournament. Wielding my robustly negligible authority and imagined plenary powers, Im here to tell you how to make the WBC a better experience for players and fans while also making it into a thing in which more players might be willing to participate. Now for the big reveal: Make it a 16-team, single-elimination bracket.

Think of it as akin to the World Cup knockout stage or the presently very relevant Sweet 16 in college basketball. Its a seeded bracket, perhaps determined by a committee that evaluates the 16 finalized rosters. To simplify matters, you could grant 12 automatic berths to what could be considered the legacy powers of the sport: in no particular order, the United States, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Japan, South Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Canada, Netherlands, Colombia and China. Maybe you make room for Australia in that group. For the remaining slots, the qualifying process could continue in its current form. Thats not a great departure from how things are now, as 12 automatic berths are given out based on performance in the previous WBC. (No, China does not have a particularly rich baseball history, but growing the game there is a priority for MLB. Consider this a nod to that.) Anyhow, those legacy berths mean the teams with the most major-leaguers on the roster wont need to slog through qualifying rounds — a burden that would no doubt hurt participation.

I see the 16-team, single-elimination format conferring a few positives when it comes to the WBCs viability moving forward

This year, the WBC plays out over a span of 16 days. If youre an MLBer and your team advances all the while to the final, then youre missing more than half the spring schedule and seeing your camp routines altered in a major way.

Under this proposed format, though, you could complete the tournament in a span of two weekends or less. While weekend programming would be desirable, if necessary the schedule could be further shrunk to finish all games inside of a week, with just the semifinal and final rounds taking place on a weekend.

Heck, you can even go start to finish in a span of just four days — say the rounds of 16 and eight on Thursday and Friday and then the semifinals and final on Saturday and Sunday. To make travel manageable under that scenario, you would need four ballparks for the opening two rounds all located reasonably close to one another and in locations suitable for spring baseball. Fortunately, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Petco Park in San Diego, Angel Stadium in Anaheim, and Chase Field in Phoenix all meet the criteria. Yes, this would be unfair to all those countries accustomed to hosting the early pool rounds such as South Korea and Japan, but theres no ideal way to pull off such a beast as the WBC. Winnowing this down to the span of a week or less has some costs, yes, but it could serve to make superstar participation more likely. Frankly, that strikes me as the tourneys biggest concern right now.

So we have that reduced time commitment noted above, and similarly we also have a reduced commitment when it comes to the number of games. At most, a given players team will play four games in the WBC, and thats only in the event that said team reaches the final. The teams that reach the championship game under the current format play at least twice as many games as that. Again, when it comes to asking players to take leave of their training regimens (and assume risk injury) in order to play games that dont advance the prevailing goal of winning the World Series, the less of an obligation the more likely widespread participation will be. Ideally, it wouldnt be this way. Ideally, the worlds best players would lay aside their concerns and suit up regardless of the tournament structure. However, thats not happening, at least on the U.S. side.

On that point, what would an ideal-world U.S. team look like in 2017? Maybe a little something like this

We can quibble, of course. Maybe Nolan Arenado belongs in there, and a case for Brandon Crawford over Seager can be made. Maybe David Price and Justin Verlander are in the discussion. Maybe you fade Harper for his out-of-character struggles in 2016. Maybe you favor Paul Goldschmidt over Rizzo. And maybe Adam Jones gets a lifetime roster pass for that catch . The point is that the actual 2017 Team USA roster is missing a lot of these names. Asking less of those star players, particularly the U.S. players, might persuade more to take part.

To be sure, the current U.S. squadron is a darned fine one, but coming as close as possible to putting the best roster out there should be the goal. The 16-team, single-elimination format makes that more likely to happen.

Along those same lines, the four games in four days mean that the worlds aces will be asked to make only one start in each WBC. If you space the final four out a bit more, then you could still decree that pitchers may make no more than one start in any WBC. Maybe, for instance, Clayton Kershaw or Johnny Cueto or Masahiro Tanaka would be willing to commit to five innings in one late-March game.

Such a rule would also add a layer of strategy. Do you, say, burn Kershaw in that first game against a low-seeded team, or do you hold him back for the later rounds and thus risk elimination with your best starting pitcher on the bench?

Blessedly, MLBs postseason is replete with best-of series. This is how it ought to be. Theres of course even talk that MLB will eventually turn the wild-card game into a best-of-3 affair. That said, the knockout game has all that built-in drama. Sure, it doesnt have the momentum and arc of a Game 7, but the win or take leave of this place intensity is unmistakable. I dont like the wild-card game for the absurdity of reducing a 162-game haul to nine innings, but its good for baseball to seek out ways to import the intensity of a one-and-done. This proposed WBC format does that without corrupting the more important MLB postseason.

Part of what made Adam Jones miracle catch so arresting was that it happened in a game in which everything was on the line. Under this format, every game would have everything on the line.

This ones obvious, but it bears mentioning. The WBC tiebreaker rules are dumber than a sack of asses . Switch to this, and they are no more.

The most obvious drawback is that youre asking countries to cobble together rosters and, in some instances, travel across the world for possibly only one game that counts. Theres no massaging that one. We can keep those spring exhibitions against MLB teams in the mix, of course, but one-and-done is a real possibility even for, say, a powerhouse like Japan that would be hopping the globe to take part. Time for some spin: Consider that another raising of the stakes. Also consider it incentive for teams to lean on MLBers to participate — those who would already be stateside for spring training. The Japanese team, for instance, included just one active MLBer on its roster this time around. Either way, this is the most obvious counterpoint to the single-elimination idea.

On another level, we all know that baseball is weird and has some structural parity and such a proneness to luck-based outcomes that one-and-dones are in no way the best method to determine the best team. Heck, best-of-7s are no way to determine the best team. If you want truer results, then a larger sample of games is needed. Thats simply not going to happen in the WBC, though.

No doubt, shifting from pool-based play to single elimination will lead to more fluke-ish outcomes — any team can beat any other in any given game. I would submit, however, that the minuscule sample size involved here isnt that much worse than the almost-minuscule sample size featuring less than full-strength rosters of the current setup. As well, this format opens up the belt and the title to Cinderella runs like the one that Israel enjoyed this year. Its more likely well have an underdog that plays for the championship under this format. As appeal and fan engagement go, thats a plus and mitigates some of those related concerns.

As well, you would be justified in calling the lack of starpower mostly a U.S. problem (although Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt lamented the absence of some of that countrys leading baseball lights). After all, the Dominican Republic, for instance, certainly wasnt lacking roster headliners. That said, putting out something less than the best each country has to offer undermines the tournament.

Really, its a matter of priority. Is it more important to have a tournament of larger scope or to have one in which the best players are more willing to take part? Thus far, these have been mutually exclusive. The single-elimination format doesnt make the WBC any less inclusive — its still 16 teams — but it does make it of a smaller scale and thus more likely to attract the best. Informal polling of MLB players — Hey, would you be more likely to suit up for your country under this format? — would be an obvious first step.

Or maybe some superstar watching from his Florida or Arizona spring accommodations saw that Adam Jones grab and thought, Hey, I wanna do that.

In the event that Jones didnt save the WBC, then maybe this will.

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ASN article: Fabian Johnson Injured, Emerson Hyndman Thriving – AmericanSoccerNow.com

As a monumental international break approaches, ASN’s Brian Sciaretta looks ahead to the weekend action abroad with an eye on promotion candidates, relegation fodder, and U.S. national team players.

THE FINAL WEEKEND before the international break has arrived and many Americans are at pivotal moments as the U.S. men’s national team prepares for its most important game in years.

Some Yankslike Christian Pulisicare on the ascendancy while others, including Bobby Wood and Emerson Hyndman, could be looking for different clubs soon.

Then, of course, you have the promotion-contenders, including Tim Ream, Julian Green, and DeAndre Yedlin as well as relegation-battlers like Wood, Alfredo Morales, and Aron Johannsson.

Here’s what I’ll be tracking in the next few days.

The United States national team camp has not even opened but already it might have suffered its first casualty. On Thursday Fabian Johnson was forced out of Borussia Monchengladbachs Europa League knockout game vs. Schalke in just the 16thminute.

Johnson left under his own power but upon first glance it did appear it was a right hamstring injury that forced him out. As of this writing it is not certain how much time, if any, Johnson will miss but hamstring injuries often require a player to miss several weeks. For Monchengladbach, that would force him out of Sundays game vs. Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich.

For the United States national team, it would be even worse. Already reeling at the fullback position with injuries to DeAndre Yedlin and Eric Lichaj, along with the suspension of Timothy Chandler, U.S. coach Bruch Arena would be further hampered if Johnson missed the two matches.

Without Johnson, one of the top two or three players in the U.S. player pool, the Yanks are going to have to dig even deeper to find a way to win.

Christian Pulisic gave yet another strong outing for Borussia Dortmund in Tuesday’s German Cup match, breaking a scoreless deadlock with a 57th-minute goal against Sportfreunde Lotte.

Pulisic now has five goals and eight assists for Dortmund across all competitions this season.

On Friday, Pulisic and Dortmund will have a golden opportunity to enhance its grip on third place in the Bundesliga, and perhaps inch closer to second place Leipzig, when it hosts relegation fodders Ingolstadt and its American midfielder Alfredo Morales.

Under Jurgen Klinsmann, Morales received occasional national team call-ups but never really fit into to the team. Under Arena, his name is rarely mentioned. If Morales wants an international career he has to produce standout performances now because next year he will likely play in Germany’s second tier. In central midfield, other American players like Emerson Hyndman, Kellyn Acosta, and Sebastian Lletget are stepping up both domestically and abroad.

Tim Ream has enjoyed a strong 2016-17 season for Fulham and the St. Louis native is now squarely back in the U.S. national team picture. He’s got a lot going on at the club level too.

Fulham now sits in seventh place in the English Championship and is desperately trying to claw into the top sixthe last spot for the promotional playoff tournament.

The Cottagers had their chance on Tuesday in a home game against Blackburn but blew it. It was a game that a promotion hopeful has to win and Ream should have registered an assist. In the opening minutes when he got on the end of a free kick and sent a header to Sone Aluko in front of the goal. Unfortunately, the Nigerians shot when just wide.

With Fulham up 2-1 in the fourth minute of stoppage time, Ream lost Lucas Joao in the box and the Blackburn man headed home the equalizer with just second left. For Fulham to squander two points at home to the 21st-place team is a huge disappointment.

On Saturday, Fulham host Wolverhampton and it is another big chance to climb into the top six. A win would likely do the trick as sixth place Sheffield Wednesday and fifth place Reading face off. With one of those two dropping points, the door is once again open for Fulham to get back into the playoff picture.

It will be an important test for Ream.

When the United States national team assembles next week in California ahead of its crucial World Cup qualifier against Honduras, Geoff Cameron will be arriving on the heels of an important match as Stoke City hosts Premier League leaders Chelsea on Saturday.

Cameron should once again be in the starting lineup for the Potters. Since returning from injury he has been playing predominantly in defensive midfield although that is unlikely where he will play for the Yanks.

Under Klinsmann, Cameron was a first-choice central defender despite stints at right back and defensive midfield. But with DeAndre Yedlin and Eric Lichaj injured, the Graham Zusi at right back experiment likely over, and Timothy Chandler not called up due to suspension, dont be surprised if Arena plays Cameron at right back due to his experience and maturity.

Two players heading in opposite directions will be facing off on Saturday when Timothy Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt host Bobby Wood and Hamburg SV on Saturday.

Eintracht Frankfurt has been in a tailspin the past month, suffering through five consecutive losses. Chandler has not performed well during this difficult span and has dropped in form after beginning the season playing great soccer.

Meanwhile, Wood is playing the best soccer of his career and Hamburg can finally move clear of the relegation zone for the first time this season. Last Sunday, of course, Wood scored a late match winner as HSV upset Borussia Monchengladbach 2-1.

On Wednesday, Wood also received a bit of good news when Hamburg sporting director Jens Todt said that Hamburg are ready to begin talks about a new contract.

Wood, 24, currently earns 1.5 million per year and his contract runs through 2020. The fact that HSV wants to give him a new contract reflects just how highly the clubs front office rates him. Its easy to see why: His numbers are very strong despite Hamburgs 16th-placestanding in the Bundesliga. Across all competitions, Wood has nine goals in 1,637 total minutesone goal every 181 minutes.

Also this week it was reported that Wood hired super-agent Volker Struth to represent him. Struths clients include Mario Gotze, Toni Kroos, Benedikt Howedes, Omer Toprak, Josip Drmic, and Marco Reus. Woods move to Struth is a clear indication that Wood is going to be expensive and clubs bigger than Hamburg might be interested in the near future.

DeAndre Yedlin has had a great season so far for Newcastle United, a club expected to rejoin the Premier League despite stumbling lately. Yedlin has been out for most of March and what was initially reported as a knock was later revealed to be a hamstring pull.

Yedlin was left off the U.S. men’s national team roster yesterday and it was revealed he would miss five more weeks with this injuryjeopardizing the rest of his 2016-17 campaign.

Emerson Hyndman is currently in a great run on loan with Rangers. He is starting every week and is heavily involved in goals, assists, and overall offensive production from his central midfield position.

Last week he earned accolades among Rangers faithful for his performance in the final 20 minutes against Celtic when he helped Rangers draw leaders Celtic 1-1 in the Old Firm derby. It was Hyndmans shot that forced a rebound that led to the equalizer.

Rangers supporters are making it known that they desperately want to keep the Texan who is on loan from English Premier League club Bournemouth.

The problem is that last year Hyndman agreed to a four-year deal with Bournemouth so any buyout to make a permanent deal to Rangers is going to be costly. After the financial wreck Rangers have been mired in the past six years, management is unlikely to spend big on any one player.

Either way, Hyndman is in a great spot. The quality in the Scottish Premier League has been on a decline the past decade but Hyndman will attract interest from other clubs should Bournemouth decide to sell or loan him out again. Most likely he will be playing at a higher level but taking a big role at Rangers is not the worst option at the moment either.

On Saturday, Hyndman will look to continue on with his nice run when Rangers host Hamilton Academical FC at Ibrox.

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ASN article: Fabian Johnson Injured, Emerson Hyndman Thriving – AmericanSoccerNow.com

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March 17, 2017   Posted in: Knockout Game  Comments Closed

Gonzalo Higuain, Juve return to Napoli eyeing a spot in the Coppa Italia final – ESPN FC (blog)

Max Allegri reflects on Gonzalo Higuain’s return to his old stomping grounds after Juve’s 1-1 draw with Napoli. Ahead of Juve’s clash with Napoli, the FC panel debate if Gonzalo Higuain’s psyche is affected when it comes to big games. A victim of their own success, Juventus will forever be criticised unless they win every match comprehensively. Never allowed an off day, the very fact the Bianconeri opted to play a defensive style of football against Napoli on Sunday evening has resulted in doubt about the brilliance of this team. A country obsessed by negative perspectives, it seems Juventus can never struggle and no achievement is ever applauded. They should be winning every trophy, every match and every tournament they participate in. Nothing is considered an achievement but a mandatory procedure. It is this very attitude that has sparked Massimiliano Allegri’s anger. His accomplishments are not being properly judged and wins are expected and rarely praised. Juventus may not have been at their best on Sunday evening but many sides suffered a similar hangover after an International break. It is difficult to overcome the technical skills of Maurizio Sarri’s side, especially when Juventus were missing their best players on the ball. Paulo Dybala was not in the greatest of conditions, Juan Cuadrado had only returned from Colombia on Friday and the rest of the squad were players who proved better off the ball than on it forcing a defensive style of play. The very fact that the Old Lady can adapt to situations is a great quality. Replacing technical brilliance with tactical discipline earned Juventus the point and while they couldn’t grasp complete control of the match, they managed to muzzle a side that gave Real Madrid a hard time. Juve were not playing Pescara, they were playing a side that won their Champions League group and currently reside in third place. Juventus are still six points ahead of second-placed Roma in the league and against the Partenopei on Wednesday evening, Allegri is expected to play a more offensive game in the semifinal of the Coppa Italia. After all, this will be a knockout game and Juventus want to reach the final in hopes of winning another trophy. Despite managing a 3-1 score line in Turin, they did concede an away goal and will want to score at least once to ensure a good result. With several technical players available for selection including Dybala and Cuadrado, the Bianconeri should provide Gonzalo Higuain with better service than he received on Sunday evening. The Argentine’s return to the Stadio San Paolo dominated headlines and many expected or rather hoped he would prove his doubters wrong and score. However, he was left isolated for much of the match and unable to provide the level of impact we have grown accustomed to watching. While Dybala’s absence proved frustrating for Higuain, the lack of service from the wide areas restricted the forward from unleashing his lethality in front of goal. Kwadwo Asamoah has struggled the last two times he has played against Napoli and simply cannot command the left lane as well as Alex Sandro. His performance proved so poor that Mario Mandzukic was tasked with contributing more to the defensive side of the game than the attack. Stephan Lichtsteiner provided even less attacking verve on the right and in a match that will require Juve to score, it seems Allegri may rely on Dani Alves to provide the goods. The Brazilian is somewhat of a liability at the back but going forward he has proved spectacular at picking out his teammates and delivering the right pass to pierce opposing defences. His ability on the ball should help Juventus play a more attacking game even if he may expose the back line a bit. While Allegri will seemingly prefer to play Cuadrado on the right of the trident and Stefano Sturaro on the left in the upcoming match, one wonders whether it would be better to keep Lichtsteiner in the back four, but allow Alves to play further ahead, free of defensive responsibilities. With both present on the right, Juventus can command the wide area. Cuadrado is an important player and his pace makes the difference but Alves is better at providing the width and his decision making in the final third has made the difference in the past. The Colombian is yet to put thought into his moves to ensure the runs he makes are decisive and not an experiment in expending energy. Anything short of a win will result in even more criticism aimed at the Old Lady. Considering the squad need to be at their best and most confident for the match against Barcelona next week, Allegri will hope his players will respond on the pitch and prove why they should never be doubted. Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.

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Allegri lashes out at negativity surrounding Juventus’ performances – Black & White & Read All Over

Enough is enough. Massimiliano Allegri has hit his limit with the constant negativity around Juventus, from fans, media, the whole lot. If Juve win, it wasnt pretty enough. If Juve draw then its a sign of impending doom. And God forbid if Juve lose then its surely the end of the universe as we know it. During his pre-match press conference as the Bianconeri head back to Naples to take on Napoli tomorrow in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final protecting a 3-1 lead, Allegri was less than his usual reserved self. First of all were in a good period, because with a month-and-a-half to go were playing for the final of the Coppa Italia, for the chance to go to the Champions League Semi-Finals and were currently still first in the Scudetto race. So right now theres nothing more we could do. Then theres this negativity, this negative aura, its the one thing I hate. I think if we could see things positively it would be better. I think this team has played a few finals over the past few years, weve won a couple of Coppa Italia, weve won two Scudetti, then one draw and its like none of that happened. At the end of the day, the important thing is to achieve your objectives. Its also true that you have opponents, and winning is difficult. You say winning is the norm but no, winning is extraordinary because only one team can win. Besides, this is a team which in the past three years has been to a Champions League final, were playing for another Coppa Italia final, and were in the fight for the Scudetto. Right now we couldnt do more, thats a fact, like it or not. In the course of a season, just as in individual games, there are moments where you play well and moments where youre less good, the important thing is having a clear objective. Its not easy to achieve, the lads are doing incredible things, because there are opponents, because to always win is impossible. The team is growing in Italy, but above all on a European level and I think thats important. I think thats the best result, regardless of the Scudetti won. Right now Juventus are a respected team, thats the most important thing. Then I hear you say – and Ill finish with this – that Juventus have lost five finals, seven finals – how many have they lost? – seven. If you turn that around, and say Juventus played nine finals, its different. Because others didnt play them. Then at the end of the games you win or you lose. You can reverse things and see the positives, but here you only see the negative goddamnit. Thats not good. Buona giornata. Luckily, Allegri had spoken in an earlier part of the press conference when he was less incensed, at which time he had talked about Mario Mandzukic being out and other team news. Its difficult for Mandzukic to make it for the game. Well assess him today, but hes unlikely to be there. Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado are available. As for the rest I dont know what to tell you, because well train today and after that Ill work out who will play tomorrow. Will he take a conservative approach to tomorrows game with Juve holding a lead? First of all theyre two different games. Sunday was a League game and this is a knockout game. We have this important objective, to reach the Coppa Italia final for the third year in a row, then go to Rome and try to win it. It wont be easy, because tomorrows game will be very open. Napoli are a team who played well on Sunday from a technical point of view, they caused us problems but we have everything it takes to reach the final. We need to be very different in technical terms to what we showed on Sunday, technically we got a lot wrong and that meant we couldnt develop the play and thats why we were more defensive. We gave away two or three shots after wed cheaply given the ball away, so we definitely need to play a different game from that point of view. If youre technically better youll have more of the ball, which means you have to defend less.

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Roof closed for Ospreys v Stade Francais : European Rugby … – EPCRugby.com

EPCR officials have confirmed that the Principality Stadium roof will be closed on Sunday for the final quarter-final of the weekend when the Ospreys host Stade Francais Paris in the Challenge Cup (17.45 kick-off). It will be the first European knockout game for the Ospreys in seven years having set a record in qualifying by taking the maximum 30 points from their six pool matches. Stade Francais, who beat RC Toulon in Paris last weekend in the TOP 14, will be returning to the Welsh capital six years on from their one point defeat to Harlequins in the 2011 final. “We are all excited about Sunday’s game and what promises to be a cracking contest. Stade Francais are a big, powerful team packed with world class players and they will come to Cardiff at the weekend full of confidence after defeating Toulon,” said Ospreys Rugby Managing Director, Andrew Millward. “This is our first European quarter-final since 2010 and it’s going to be a wonderful occasion. Closing the roof will only make it more enjoyable for everybody, keeping the noise in and helping to create a great atmosphere for what we hope will turn out to be a memorable 80 minutes for all the right reasons.” Although the game kicks off at 5.45pm at the Principality Stadium, there is a full afternoon of activity next door at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park to keep everybody entertained in the build up to the big game. The iconic venue, home of Cardiff Blues, will host a special tag rugby festival in conjunction with Ospreys in the Community, with 45 teams at U7, U8, U9 and U10 levels from 14 clubs involved. The festival will support the WRU’s Half a Game initiative, launched last year to encourage and grow participation among younger children, guaranteeing game time for all young players. All supporters are invited to use the Arms Park as their base for the day with the club house open for business from 2.00pm, providing a convenient meeting point for those heading to Cardiff. The tag festival will be followed by live entertainment at the club house from 4.30pm. There will also be an appearance from non playing squad members and a Q&A ahead of kick-off to help you get in the mood for the big match. Tickets for Sunday’s game remain available to purchase from the Liberty Stadium Ticket Office and the WRU Ticket Office on Westgate Street in Cardiff, as well as online at www.ospreysrugby.com/buytickets priced at just 10 (U16s 5). On the day of the game tickets will be on sale at the WRU Ticket Office right up to kick-off. Supporters are advised to buy in advance to avoid any last minute queuing.

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Video Assistant Referees could be used in EFL Cup first round next season – Eurosport.com

Video Assistant Referees could be deployed in English football as early as August when the EFL Cup first round takes place. The Football Association has indicated VARs could be trialled in next season’s FA Cup, beginning in January 2018 with the FA Cup third round when Premier League teams join the competition. But, if a trial is approved by the EFL board, VARs could be used in the EFL Cup from as soon as the first round. EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey said on Wednesday: “As part of a trial the board will consider allowing the EFL Cup to be utilised. “There are a number of rounds of the EFL Cup prior to that (the FA Cup third round). “Theoretically it could happen from the first round of the EFL Cup, which would be a team no higher than the Championship down to League Two.” VARs are currently being trialled, with FIFA president Gianni Infantino keen to employ the system during the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The video official in Tuesday night’s friendly between France and Spain corrected two wrong decisions – disallowing an offside effort by Antoine Griezmann and awarding a goal for Gerard Deulofeu after an incorrect offside flag. Spain won 2-0 in Paris. Approval for VARs to be employed in the EFL Cup could come as soon as May. There is likely to be a longer wait before VARs can be utilised in the Championship, League One and League Two, due to the lack of cameras currently available across stadia. Although some stadia will have the capacity to utilise VARs in the league, the EFL believe it is important for the same facilities to be available throughout. Goal line technology is likely to come into the Championship for the first time next season. Harvey, who on Wednesday spoke at SportsPro Live where he talked about new streaming product iFollow, added: “One of the real challenges is the integrity of the games. “If you don’t have the technology available at every single game in the competition, does that potentially have a negative impact on the competition as a whole? “Ultimately (in the EFL Cup) it doesn’t matter then if it’s not used at every single game in that round because each individual game is a knockout game in its own right. “Technology’s got to work with the EFL as well and be possible as part of the whole, not just in part. “But that should never be interpreted as the EFL not wanting to embrace technology or being against it. “It’s just the absolute practicalities and the cost effectiveness of being able to implement it.”

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Palace chairman Parish urges England to learn from Zaha switch to Ivory Coast – Eurosport.com

England must learn from Wilfried Zaha’s switch to the Ivory Coast and “love” and nurture prospects from smaller clubs, according to Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish. Zaha, 24, played two friendlies for England and represented them at age group levels but reverted to the country of his birth in time for January’s African Nations Cup. England manager Gareth Southgate has pledged to focus on players who are “desperate to play for England” as he addresses the dual-nationality question. But Parish declared himself devastated to see a “ludicrous” talent slip away and called for a fresh approach. “The whole England set-up gave Wilfried no love and it is a shame that we lost him,” he told the Times. ” Wilfried was waiting and waiting for that call. “It is devastating for us as we always thought we would see him in an England shirt. We need to learn our lessons. You would not see Brazil let a player like that go.” The proportion of English-qualified players in Premier League line-ups hovers around the one-third mark and Parish warned that those who do break through must be appreciated. He said: “If we constantly neglect these kids, as their face does not fit or they are not maturing at the rate we want them to, then you can’t tell the Premier League that we have to have more and more English players playing. “It has a lot to do with the less glamorous clubs. Every now and then, a club like Palace throws up a gem. Our gems do tend to be a bit rough around the edges when they start out, they need to be honed. “Anybody who watched Wilfried will tell you some of the things he does are ludicrous. Do we not want that? I can’t believe there was not a role for Wilfried at England.” A statement issued by Zaha’s agent Will Salthouse on Tuesday took issue with questions over his passion and insisted the player had never set a deadline for an England call-up – the “disappearing egg-timer” referenced by Southgate on Monday. And Parish took aim at former England defender Danny Mills’ suggestion on Tuesday that the winger took “the easy way out” by switching allegiance. “What is easier, travelling thousands of miles every time you have to play a game?” he said. “Put England in a knockout game against Ivory Coast and it is not going to be 4-0 to England, is it? They will give England a game.”

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Leinster have improved this season, warns Gopperth – Irish Independent

The Premiership leaders face Leinster in the Champions Cup quarter-final on Saturday and the former Blues out-half is expecting a much tougher challenge this time around. “It (last season) hasn’t been brought up once,” said Gopperth. “Leinster are playing like a different team and Stuart (Lancaster) coming in has really given them some steel. “They have a lot of the younger guys, (Garry) Ringrose, Adam Byrne and Tadhg (Furlong), who have really stepped up in the last 12 months so they are totally different team. “They are a class outfit at the minute and we are not taking them lightly. Last year is gone. “We know what’s coming and it will certainly be a very physical challenge. The likes of Seanie (O’Brien) I’m sure will be lining me up to give me one or two. “We just have to make sure we are mentally switched on because it is going to be a knockout game played at an international standard.”

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Hawkeye force winner-take-all Game 3 – The Manila Times

Cignal-San Beda pulled off a gritty 89-86 win over Tanduay Rhum in Game 2 of their best-of-three semifinals series forcing a knockout match in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) D-League Aspirants Cup on Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City. Former La Salle forward Jason Perkins unloaded 12 of his 15 points in the second half allowing the Hawkeyes, who withstood the late run of the Rhum Masters to tie the series at 1-all. Benedict Adamos had a double-double performance with 13 markers and 13 boards while Robert Bolick Jr. contributed 13 markers for Cignal. We are still alive. At least, we have another day to live. Credit goes to the boys who really stepped up today, said Cignal coach Boyet Fernandez. Carrying a 12-point advantage after the third period, 70-58, the Hawkeyes became complacent and allowed Tanduay to unload a 19-7 run capped by Lester Alvarezs eight straight points to tie the game at 77-all with 4:30 left in the game. But Perkins hit back-to-back triples to sandwich the split of Rhum Masters Bong Quinto and the basket of Jaymo Eguilos to take an 83-80 lead with two minutes remaining. Adrian Santos pushed Tanduay within striking distance with a basket, 84-85, but Pamboy Raymundo and Perkins sealed the win for the top seed Cignal with crucial baskets sending the series to a knockout Game 3 on Tuesday. It is a matter of who wants it more who really wanted it more. We are up by 13 points so the other guys were just walking. I hope this situation will open their minds that if you have big lead, it is not a sure lead, added Fernandez. Eguilos chipped in 18 points and six rebounds while Alvarez produced 15 markers, 10 came in the fourth quarter, for Tanduay. Paul Sanga had 11 points while Kier John Quinto and Mark Cruz contributed nine and eight points, respectively, for the Rhum Masters.

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Why the World Baseball Classic should be a March Madness-style knockout tournament – CBSSports.com

Download the CBS Sports Apptoday and get instant NCAA tournament news and alerts,plus get the latest picksand upsets from SportsLine! The World Baseball Classic is entertaining, somewhat flawed, and still new enough to have the whiff of novelty about it. When you encounter such a confluence, you are of course duty- and honor-bound to concoct a piece in which you declare how the event in question could be improved. This is one of those pieces. Stop now if you wish. Its impossible to ignore the potential of the WBC when you see the enthusiasm in the seats, especially among the Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Japan rooters. However, its just as impossible to miss the logistical challenges and shortcomings in the execution of the tournament. Wielding my robustly negligible authority and imagined plenary powers, Im here to tell you how to make the WBC a better experience for players and fans while also making it into a thing in which more players might be willing to participate. Now for the big reveal: Make it a 16-team, single-elimination bracket. Think of it as akin to the World Cup knockout stage or the presently very relevant Sweet 16 in college basketball. Its a seeded bracket, perhaps determined by a committee that evaluates the 16 finalized rosters. To simplify matters, you could grant 12 automatic berths to what could be considered the legacy powers of the sport: in no particular order, the United States, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Japan, South Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Canada, Netherlands, Colombia and China. Maybe you make room for Australia in that group. For the remaining slots, the qualifying process could continue in its current form. Thats not a great departure from how things are now, as 12 automatic berths are given out based on performance in the previous WBC. (No, China does not have a particularly rich baseball history, but growing the game there is a priority for MLB. Consider this a nod to that.) Anyhow, those legacy berths mean the teams with the most major-leaguers on the roster wont need to slog through qualifying rounds — a burden that would no doubt hurt participation. I see the 16-team, single-elimination format conferring a few positives when it comes to the WBCs viability moving forward This year, the WBC plays out over a span of 16 days. If youre an MLBer and your team advances all the while to the final, then youre missing more than half the spring schedule and seeing your camp routines altered in a major way. Under this proposed format, though, you could complete the tournament in a span of two weekends or less. While weekend programming would be desirable, if necessary the schedule could be further shrunk to finish all games inside of a week, with just the semifinal and final rounds taking place on a weekend. Heck, you can even go start to finish in a span of just four days — say the rounds of 16 and eight on Thursday and Friday and then the semifinals and final on Saturday and Sunday. To make travel manageable under that scenario, you would need four ballparks for the opening two rounds all located reasonably close to one another and in locations suitable for spring baseball. Fortunately, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Petco Park in San Diego, Angel Stadium in Anaheim, and Chase Field in Phoenix all meet the criteria. Yes, this would be unfair to all those countries accustomed to hosting the early pool rounds such as South Korea and Japan, but theres no ideal way to pull off such a beast as the WBC. Winnowing this down to the span of a week or less has some costs, yes, but it could serve to make superstar participation more likely. Frankly, that strikes me as the tourneys biggest concern right now. So we have that reduced time commitment noted above, and similarly we also have a reduced commitment when it comes to the number of games. At most, a given players team will play four games in the WBC, and thats only in the event that said team reaches the final. The teams that reach the championship game under the current format play at least twice as many games as that. Again, when it comes to asking players to take leave of their training regimens (and assume risk injury) in order to play games that dont advance the prevailing goal of winning the World Series, the less of an obligation the more likely widespread participation will be. Ideally, it wouldnt be this way. Ideally, the worlds best players would lay aside their concerns and suit up regardless of the tournament structure. However, thats not happening, at least on the U.S. side. On that point, what would an ideal-world U.S. team look like in 2017? Maybe a little something like this We can quibble, of course. Maybe Nolan Arenado belongs in there, and a case for Brandon Crawford over Seager can be made. Maybe David Price and Justin Verlander are in the discussion. Maybe you fade Harper for his out-of-character struggles in 2016. Maybe you favor Paul Goldschmidt over Rizzo. And maybe Adam Jones gets a lifetime roster pass for that catch . The point is that the actual 2017 Team USA roster is missing a lot of these names. Asking less of those star players, particularly the U.S. players, might persuade more to take part. To be sure, the current U.S. squadron is a darned fine one, but coming as close as possible to putting the best roster out there should be the goal. The 16-team, single-elimination format makes that more likely to happen. Along those same lines, the four games in four days mean that the worlds aces will be asked to make only one start in each WBC. If you space the final four out a bit more, then you could still decree that pitchers may make no more than one start in any WBC. Maybe, for instance, Clayton Kershaw or Johnny Cueto or Masahiro Tanaka would be willing to commit to five innings in one late-March game. Such a rule would also add a layer of strategy. Do you, say, burn Kershaw in that first game against a low-seeded team, or do you hold him back for the later rounds and thus risk elimination with your best starting pitcher on the bench? Blessedly, MLBs postseason is replete with best-of series. This is how it ought to be. Theres of course even talk that MLB will eventually turn the wild-card game into a best-of-3 affair. That said, the knockout game has all that built-in drama. Sure, it doesnt have the momentum and arc of a Game 7, but the win or take leave of this place intensity is unmistakable. I dont like the wild-card game for the absurdity of reducing a 162-game haul to nine innings, but its good for baseball to seek out ways to import the intensity of a one-and-done. This proposed WBC format does that without corrupting the more important MLB postseason. Part of what made Adam Jones miracle catch so arresting was that it happened in a game in which everything was on the line. Under this format, every game would have everything on the line. This ones obvious, but it bears mentioning. The WBC tiebreaker rules are dumber than a sack of asses . Switch to this, and they are no more. The most obvious drawback is that youre asking countries to cobble together rosters and, in some instances, travel across the world for possibly only one game that counts. Theres no massaging that one. We can keep those spring exhibitions against MLB teams in the mix, of course, but one-and-done is a real possibility even for, say, a powerhouse like Japan that would be hopping the globe to take part. Time for some spin: Consider that another raising of the stakes. Also consider it incentive for teams to lean on MLBers to participate — those who would already be stateside for spring training. The Japanese team, for instance, included just one active MLBer on its roster this time around. Either way, this is the most obvious counterpoint to the single-elimination idea. On another level, we all know that baseball is weird and has some structural parity and such a proneness to luck-based outcomes that one-and-dones are in no way the best method to determine the best team. Heck, best-of-7s are no way to determine the best team. If you want truer results, then a larger sample of games is needed. Thats simply not going to happen in the WBC, though. No doubt, shifting from pool-based play to single elimination will lead to more fluke-ish outcomes — any team can beat any other in any given game. I would submit, however, that the minuscule sample size involved here isnt that much worse than the almost-minuscule sample size featuring less than full-strength rosters of the current setup. As well, this format opens up the belt and the title to Cinderella runs like the one that Israel enjoyed this year. Its more likely well have an underdog that plays for the championship under this format. As appeal and fan engagement go, thats a plus and mitigates some of those related concerns. As well, you would be justified in calling the lack of starpower mostly a U.S. problem (although Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt lamented the absence of some of that countrys leading baseball lights). After all, the Dominican Republic, for instance, certainly wasnt lacking roster headliners. That said, putting out something less than the best each country has to offer undermines the tournament. Really, its a matter of priority. Is it more important to have a tournament of larger scope or to have one in which the best players are more willing to take part? Thus far, these have been mutually exclusive. The single-elimination format doesnt make the WBC any less inclusive — its still 16 teams — but it does make it of a smaller scale and thus more likely to attract the best. Informal polling of MLB players — Hey, would you be more likely to suit up for your country under this format? — would be an obvious first step. Or maybe some superstar watching from his Florida or Arizona spring accommodations saw that Adam Jones grab and thought, Hey, I wanna do that. In the event that Jones didnt save the WBC, then maybe this will.

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March 22, 2017   Posted in: Knockout Game  Comments Closed

ASN article: Fabian Johnson Injured, Emerson Hyndman Thriving – AmericanSoccerNow.com

As a monumental international break approaches, ASN’s Brian Sciaretta looks ahead to the weekend action abroad with an eye on promotion candidates, relegation fodder, and U.S. national team players. THE FINAL WEEKEND before the international break has arrived and many Americans are at pivotal moments as the U.S. men’s national team prepares for its most important game in years. Some Yankslike Christian Pulisicare on the ascendancy while others, including Bobby Wood and Emerson Hyndman, could be looking for different clubs soon. Then, of course, you have the promotion-contenders, including Tim Ream, Julian Green, and DeAndre Yedlin as well as relegation-battlers like Wood, Alfredo Morales, and Aron Johannsson. Here’s what I’ll be tracking in the next few days. The United States national team camp has not even opened but already it might have suffered its first casualty. On Thursday Fabian Johnson was forced out of Borussia Monchengladbachs Europa League knockout game vs. Schalke in just the 16thminute. Johnson left under his own power but upon first glance it did appear it was a right hamstring injury that forced him out. As of this writing it is not certain how much time, if any, Johnson will miss but hamstring injuries often require a player to miss several weeks. For Monchengladbach, that would force him out of Sundays game vs. Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich. For the United States national team, it would be even worse. Already reeling at the fullback position with injuries to DeAndre Yedlin and Eric Lichaj, along with the suspension of Timothy Chandler, U.S. coach Bruch Arena would be further hampered if Johnson missed the two matches. Without Johnson, one of the top two or three players in the U.S. player pool, the Yanks are going to have to dig even deeper to find a way to win. Christian Pulisic gave yet another strong outing for Borussia Dortmund in Tuesday’s German Cup match, breaking a scoreless deadlock with a 57th-minute goal against Sportfreunde Lotte. Pulisic now has five goals and eight assists for Dortmund across all competitions this season. On Friday, Pulisic and Dortmund will have a golden opportunity to enhance its grip on third place in the Bundesliga, and perhaps inch closer to second place Leipzig, when it hosts relegation fodders Ingolstadt and its American midfielder Alfredo Morales. Under Jurgen Klinsmann, Morales received occasional national team call-ups but never really fit into to the team. Under Arena, his name is rarely mentioned. If Morales wants an international career he has to produce standout performances now because next year he will likely play in Germany’s second tier. In central midfield, other American players like Emerson Hyndman, Kellyn Acosta, and Sebastian Lletget are stepping up both domestically and abroad. Tim Ream has enjoyed a strong 2016-17 season for Fulham and the St. Louis native is now squarely back in the U.S. national team picture. He’s got a lot going on at the club level too. Fulham now sits in seventh place in the English Championship and is desperately trying to claw into the top sixthe last spot for the promotional playoff tournament. The Cottagers had their chance on Tuesday in a home game against Blackburn but blew it. It was a game that a promotion hopeful has to win and Ream should have registered an assist. In the opening minutes when he got on the end of a free kick and sent a header to Sone Aluko in front of the goal. Unfortunately, the Nigerians shot when just wide. With Fulham up 2-1 in the fourth minute of stoppage time, Ream lost Lucas Joao in the box and the Blackburn man headed home the equalizer with just second left. For Fulham to squander two points at home to the 21st-place team is a huge disappointment. On Saturday, Fulham host Wolverhampton and it is another big chance to climb into the top six. A win would likely do the trick as sixth place Sheffield Wednesday and fifth place Reading face off. With one of those two dropping points, the door is once again open for Fulham to get back into the playoff picture. It will be an important test for Ream. When the United States national team assembles next week in California ahead of its crucial World Cup qualifier against Honduras, Geoff Cameron will be arriving on the heels of an important match as Stoke City hosts Premier League leaders Chelsea on Saturday. Cameron should once again be in the starting lineup for the Potters. Since returning from injury he has been playing predominantly in defensive midfield although that is unlikely where he will play for the Yanks. Under Klinsmann, Cameron was a first-choice central defender despite stints at right back and defensive midfield. But with DeAndre Yedlin and Eric Lichaj injured, the Graham Zusi at right back experiment likely over, and Timothy Chandler not called up due to suspension, dont be surprised if Arena plays Cameron at right back due to his experience and maturity. Two players heading in opposite directions will be facing off on Saturday when Timothy Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt host Bobby Wood and Hamburg SV on Saturday. Eintracht Frankfurt has been in a tailspin the past month, suffering through five consecutive losses. Chandler has not performed well during this difficult span and has dropped in form after beginning the season playing great soccer. Meanwhile, Wood is playing the best soccer of his career and Hamburg can finally move clear of the relegation zone for the first time this season. Last Sunday, of course, Wood scored a late match winner as HSV upset Borussia Monchengladbach 2-1. On Wednesday, Wood also received a bit of good news when Hamburg sporting director Jens Todt said that Hamburg are ready to begin talks about a new contract. Wood, 24, currently earns 1.5 million per year and his contract runs through 2020. The fact that HSV wants to give him a new contract reflects just how highly the clubs front office rates him. Its easy to see why: His numbers are very strong despite Hamburgs 16th-placestanding in the Bundesliga. Across all competitions, Wood has nine goals in 1,637 total minutesone goal every 181 minutes. Also this week it was reported that Wood hired super-agent Volker Struth to represent him. Struths clients include Mario Gotze, Toni Kroos, Benedikt Howedes, Omer Toprak, Josip Drmic, and Marco Reus. Woods move to Struth is a clear indication that Wood is going to be expensive and clubs bigger than Hamburg might be interested in the near future. DeAndre Yedlin has had a great season so far for Newcastle United, a club expected to rejoin the Premier League despite stumbling lately. Yedlin has been out for most of March and what was initially reported as a knock was later revealed to be a hamstring pull. Yedlin was left off the U.S. men’s national team roster yesterday and it was revealed he would miss five more weeks with this injuryjeopardizing the rest of his 2016-17 campaign. Emerson Hyndman is currently in a great run on loan with Rangers. He is starting every week and is heavily involved in goals, assists, and overall offensive production from his central midfield position. Last week he earned accolades among Rangers faithful for his performance in the final 20 minutes against Celtic when he helped Rangers draw leaders Celtic 1-1 in the Old Firm derby. It was Hyndmans shot that forced a rebound that led to the equalizer. Rangers supporters are making it known that they desperately want to keep the Texan who is on loan from English Premier League club Bournemouth. The problem is that last year Hyndman agreed to a four-year deal with Bournemouth so any buyout to make a permanent deal to Rangers is going to be costly. After the financial wreck Rangers have been mired in the past six years, management is unlikely to spend big on any one player. Either way, Hyndman is in a great spot. The quality in the Scottish Premier League has been on a decline the past decade but Hyndman will attract interest from other clubs should Bournemouth decide to sell or loan him out again. Most likely he will be playing at a higher level but taking a big role at Rangers is not the worst option at the moment either. On Saturday, Hyndman will look to continue on with his nice run when Rangers host Hamilton Academical FC at Ibrox.

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March 17, 2017   Posted in: Knockout Game  Comments Closed


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