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The Bucky Channel is making a triumphant comeback. Stay tuned for the latest.


The Bucky Channel is making a triumphant comeback. Stay tuned for the latest.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Brandon Jennings Wins Bucks Survivor

It may have gone on longer than the actual NBA playoffs, but we finally have a winner in the Bucks Survivor contest to determine which Bucks player fans feel is the most important to the success of the franchise. This year's winner is none other than rookie sensation Brandon Jennings. Jennings knocked off Andrew Bogut, the two-time defending champion, by just one vote. The voting between the two was back and forth both times we tried to run the final round - the first before the Blogger Poll application crashed, and the second which truly did declare the winner. Brandon Jennings, Bucks Survivor. Here's a rundown of the order in which players were eliminated:

Round 1 - Michael Redd

I sort of pleaded with you to kick him off first, because there is no way this guy contributes to the Bucks next season. Oh how I wish the rumor of him being traded to the Cavs would have come to fruition.

Round 2 - Primoz Brezec

He is the worst player in the league, don't let anyone say otherwise.

Round 3 - Charlie Bell

The fact that we traded him and Danny G for Corey Maggette is something I still can't wrap my head around.

Round 4 - Darnell Jackson

But will he win Bucks Summer League Survivor?

Round 5 - Royal Ivey, Dan Gadzuric, Kurt Thomas

Talk about your real Big Three.

Round 6 - Jerry Stackhouse

I'd love to see Stack come back next year, the Jim Edmonds of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Round 7 - Luke Ridnour

Could he be on his way to the Knicks?

Round 8 - John Salmons

Voted out earlier than I expected, if not because everyone assumes he is halfway out the door. However, talks between him and the Bucks are going better than expected, even with Maggette in Milwaukee. I would welcome him back for sure, but don't think that we'll do it. Hammond is quite enamored with him though, so you never know.

Round 9 - Carlos Delfino

He'll be back this year, which means I can go out and make a personalized "Del3no" jersey after all.

Round 10 - Ersan Ilyasova, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

Put up against Bogut and Jennings, it was an impossible situation for these two underrated roleplayers.

Round 11 - Andrew Bogut

I still thought he'd win the competition and go three for three, but the rookie was too strong.


Young Money!

Thanks for all of you that did vote, and thanks for putting up with this season even though it seemed to dovetail into obscurity a bit at the end. The Bucky Channel is nothing if not resilient though, so we'll keep pumping out garbage posts for you to skim through on a consistent basis. Go Bucks.

Another Loss We Can't Really Afford

Just when you think things are starting to pick up, the Brewers bring your expectations back to earth by dropping another game, and thus the series, to the Houston Astros. It's a disappointing end to a series where the Brewers just couldn't hang on to leads and their bullpen revert to problems of the past. In Wednesday's affair it was by the final of a 5-1 loss, and the Brewers fall to 35-43. The light at the end of the tunnel that is a .500 record is getting dimmer everyday, while the light that shines on behalf of the playoffs is undetectable by the human eye.

Jonathan Lucroy - who was for some reason picked up in every fantasy league I'm in today - put Milwaukee on the board first with an RBI groundout in the first inning. Dave Bush did an alright job trying to keep the lead in tact for Milwaukee, although he did surrender it in the sixth inning. On the whole, Bush went six innings and gave up just two runs across five hits. That's an outing I'll take from Dave Bush any day of the week.

Carlos Villanueva got touched up after that though, giving up three runs in the seventh inning. Villanueva has really been struggling as of late, and his ERA has now dropped to 4.62. He's not the reason that Milwaukee lost this game on Wednesday afternoon, but he certainly didn't help. Then again, how many times do you win a game when your only run is a Jonathan Lucroy groundout RBI?

The next test for Milwaukee will not be an easy one, as they now head to St. Louis to take on the redbirds for a four game set. Somehow, we are going to face the Cardinals for the entire weekend and miss a Jeff Suppan start, although I'm sure that isn't going to bother Soup too much. Seriously though, I can't believe they signed that guy. Really, I would have loved to see Suppan on the hill Thursday night against his version 2.0 Randy Wolf. That would have been something.

POTG: Wow. This one is tough, so let's give to to Cappy. We'll say it's for his 1.1 scoreless innings, but it's really for the fact that he's even on this team in the first place. Such a great comeback story, it's going to be sad to see him demoted once Doug Davis comes back.

King James Coming to The Bucks?

Okay, we know that LeBron James won't be coming to Milwaukee, but once the clock strikes midnight on Wednesday it could be possible. Obviously, it would take a huge miracle to pull this off, so don't get your hopes up. John Salmons on the other hand is a guy that did opt out of his contract, but it still sounds like Milwaukee still might try to sign him. I'm not sure if I really agree with that one with how this team is built right now. Jennings is your point guard, Maggette should start at shooting guard, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute should be your defender at the small forward, Larry Sanders would be at the power forward unless we sign a free agent, and Andrew Bogut at center.

Where is Michael Redd in that rotation you ask, well lets just say I hope he is gone. If not my guess would be that we start him (if he cares enough to get healthy), and Maggette wins sixth man of the year. But if someone is willing to take his outrageous contract that would be awesome for us. It would also be nice to get another SF/PF guy to maybe take some of the pressure off of Larry Sanders. Sanders seems to be the defender we are looking for the help this team, but to have a big guy that can score wouldn't be bad either.

Besides the interest teams might have in Salmons, Luke Ridnour may also be a target for several teams, one being the Knicks. One guy that we won't have to worry about is Carlos Delfino. Milwaukee had a team option on his contract, but it only make sense to keep him. If they didn't keep him they would have to pay him $500,000, by keeping him they have to pay his full $3.5 million for the season. So really we are paying him three million this season to play. For what we got out of him last season I would say the Bucks made another great move. On the season Delfino averaged 11 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists a game. If he can do that again three million is a steal.

I don't see Milwaukee being a big player in free agency, but for the record it does start Wednesday night at midnight. So keep checking in for any updates on where players are going.

How "LOST" Should Have Ended

While overall still satisfied enough with the LOST finale, there really still is a lot that can be criticized about this show. I mean, far and away it's the best show ever, especially if you're not a fan of logic or questions being answered. Seriously though, it's a great show. Yet, here's how it should have ended (and make sure you check out this link, great site):

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Brewers Power Back Against Houston

It's a foregone conclusion that Yovani Gallardo is an All-Star, right? I mean, that has to be the case. While he didn't have his best performance on the mound Tuesday, he did manage to get the offense rolling with a solo shot in the third inning, his third home run of the year. That's exactly as many this season as your reigning AL MVP Joe Mauer, by the way. Get this man to the All-Star game, immediately.

Again though, it wasn't Gallardo's best pitching performance as he allowed four runs across the plate throughout six innings, but he had more than enough help from the offense on this night. The main story was that the Brewers hit four home runs on the night - one from Jonathan Lucroy, one from the aforementioned Gallardo, and then two from the big man, Prince Fielder. All of a sudden here comes Prince Fielder with 17 home runs on the season. Behind him and Corey Hart, they have 35 home runs this year, and while we can dream about trading them for pitching, if we really are going to make a run then you have to wait to unload these guys in the offseason I'd think.

The Brewers really have been playing well as of late, although Monday night's giveaway loss to the Astros was a little concerning for Brewers fans. We're hoping that it was more of a blip on the radar than it is the norm, and we'll see throughout the week if that is the case. The Brewers play the 'Stros (definitely worth abbreviating, right?) on Wednesday afternoon as Dave Bush takes the mound, and it's about as much as a must win you can have for being a 35-42 ball club. I say that because if we can't win a series against Houston at home, we're not going to win too many series against anybody.

In the meantime though, the fact that we're back to seven games under .500 is a lot better than where we were two weeks ago. It's still looking like finishing over .500 is going to be the primary goal of this team, but we'll see if they don't have a good push in them yet.

POTG: Prince Fielder

World Cup Thoughts: Tuesday, June 29th

Paraguay 0, Japan 0 (Paraguay wins 5-3 on PKs)

It took 120 minutes and then some to figure out which one of these teams would advance to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in their histories, and Paraguay was the team able to get the job done. After a very chess-like (read: unexciting) two hours of soccer, the game was forced to be determined by ten shots on goal from 12 yards away. While the penalty shootout proves for great drama, I've always found it a little distracting that the game has to be settled in such an arbitrary way, but I guess if nobody can score for two straight hours then you have to do something different.

In shootouts, it's usually the team that makes the mistake that exits. Often times you'll see a shooter either miss wide or hit a crossbar before you'll see a goalkeeper come up with a big save. In this case, it was Japan's Yuichi Komano who hit the crossbar on his country's third try, and that was all that it took. Paraguay made all of their shots, and have advanced to a game against the winner of the afternoon's game, one which they will surely lose.

Spain 1, Portugal 0

Ronal-DOH! Homer Simpson said it best in the popular World Cup commercial, and now the entire country of Portugal will be saying it as well, as Portugal was eliminated from the cup by their neighboring Spain. It didn't come easy for the Spaniards as Portugal kept fighting off their relentless attack, but that shouldn't be a surprise since Portugal has yet to give up a goal this World Cup. That all changed though in the 63rd minute, when David Villa followed his own rebound off the goalkeeper to net the game's only goal and send Spain through to the semifinals.

Looking back at my initial World Cup predictions, I ended up getting six of the eight teams in the quarterfinals (even though I mistakenly referred to it as the semis because I don't proofread enough), and I actually got two of the matchups right. Here were my predictions matched up with the actual pairings:

Prediction: England over Uruguay
Actual: Uruguay vs. Ghana

Prediction: Netherlands over Brazil
Actual: Netherlands vs. Brazil

Prediction: Argentina over Germany
Actual: Argentina vs. Germany

Prediction: Spain over Italy
Actual: Spain vs. Paraguay

I'm really trying to figure out why I haven't been betting this thing along the way...

Another Reason to Love Brandon Jennings

Seeing Brandon Jennings get doused with silly string at Summerfest has to put a smile on your face, because it shows that you have a guy committed to the city he is playing in. John Hammond took a huge risk drafting Jennings with the tenth pick in last years draft. You had to be worried when a guy goes overseas to play, and then he gets no playing time. It did run through my head that he could be a little rusty, but scoring 55 points in his seventh game I guess I was wrong to think that. When these guys don't go to school sometimes the fame can easily get to their head. I have to give a lot of credit to the college coaches that form these guys from boys to men in just four years of college ball.

None of those problems seem to be the case with Brandon so far. He is really down to earth for being just 20 years old, and having one season in the NBA under his belt. Just the little things he does around and for Milwaukee really tells you he just enjoys playing the game and helping out. During the draft he did a live blog online that was something he didn't have to do, but took the time to answer questions fans had. Now he is at Summerfest signing autographs, hanging out with fans, and also having some fun with Bango. Later that night he went to Miller Park to throw out the first pitch Monday night against the Astros.

Brandon seems to be the team player that every team hopes for, and it looks like the Bucks have one hopefully for a long time. Another thing Hammond has to like about having a guy like Jennings is it is one less spot you have to worry about when offseason rolls around.

Sabres Offseason News

After a disappointing playoffs to end the 09-10 season, the Buffalo Sabres were anxious and ready to draft and reload their squad in hopes of a better run next year. Their draft picks will be joining some very respectable coming though, as acknowledged by the NHL awards that were handed out last week.

Goaltender Ryan Miller won two awards for his efforts in the 2009-10 season. The first was the NHL Foundation Play Award, as well as the big one, the Venzina, which is the award for the top goaltender. You can't say enough about what Miller did for this team this season, as well as how strong he played for America in the Olympics. He was all Buffalo had this season in goal, so if he knew if was was to have a bad game he would most likely still have to stick it out. In the midst of all this, he also lead the USA to the gold medal game in the Olympics, although they ended up taking just silver. He proved to be a guy that helped garner attention about hockey with how well he played in the Olympics.

Tyler Myers on the other hand took home the Calder Cup, which is awarded to the rookie of the year. He was the only Sabre to play all 82 games of the season. He was fifth on the team in total points with 48, which tied him for 11th out of all defensemen in the league. This is just the start to what could be a great career for the twenty year old. Also a plus is that for how big and physical he can be, he did keep his penalty minutes down. It always helps when you stay out of the box. With his 37 assists last season, I can't wait to see what he does this season.

Another congrats to those two for winning those awards that they much deserved. Lets hope that they not only make the playoffs this upcoming season, but get into the later rounds of it. What do they need to do to make it farther into the playoffs you ask, well that would be getting some defenseman with size. That is what they did with their first round pick in the draft. Mark Pysyk may have been injured last season, but put up great stats in his 47 games for a defenseman. He finished the season with 7 goals and 17 assists in just 48 games played. He might be a work in progress, but he should fit in well with how the Sabres defense plays.

With no second round pick, the Sabres might have got a steal in the third round by picking Jerome Gauthier-Leduc. Many teams had him on their radar in the second round, but no one took him till the Sabres did with the 68th pick. He should be more physical than Pysyk, so this is what Buffalo wanted to address. I always like when a team has a game plan and goes into the draft to execute it. I'm not sure when you will see either of these guys wearing a NHL jersey, but it looks like the Sabres got a few defensemen with upside. As for the rest of your picks:

3rd round, 75th pick - Kevin Sundher - Center

3rd round, 83rd pick - Matt Mackenzie - Defenseman

4th round, 98th pick - Steven Shipley - Center

5th round, 143rd pick - Gregg Sutch - Right Wing

6th round, 173rd pick - Cedrick Henley - Right Wing

7th round, 203rd pick - Christian Isackson - Right Wing

7th round, 208th pick - Riley Boychuk - Left Wing

Steven Shipley is a guy that fits the 'jack of all trades, master of none', but that isn't a bad title for guy if you can put him on the second or third line to be consistent. So that might be another guy to keep an eye on. Also Riley Boychuk had an amazing 157 penalty minutes in 66 games. Craig Rivet led the Sabres with 100 penalty minutes last season in 78 games, so if Riley keeps it up in the pros it will be something Buffalo is not used to. It's always hard to say after the draft how your team did, but I think Sabres got what they wanted.

Just like the NBA, the NHL's free agency starts July 1, so we will see if Buffalo brings in any new names that way. It seems to me that size is the key for this team in the offseason, so lets see if they address this with a free agent.

World Cup Predictions: Tuesday, June 29th

Paraguay vs. Japan - 9am - ESPN

Paraguay won the weakest group in the tournament (especially because of the performance of a disappointing Italy), while Japan got here with wins against Denmark and Cameroon, which was actually a bit impressive if you ask me. As good as Japan looked though, I just still don't take them seriously. Besides Ghana (grumble), I think the final eight is going to be made up of teams from either South America or Europe, and if you've ever seen a globe before you know that wouldn't include Japan. Paraguay will win because they are a stronger team attack from the side, or up the middle, or something, I don't know. Paraguay wins.

Paraguay 1, Japan 0

Spain vs. Portugal - 1:30pm - ESPN

It's a border battle as little brother Portugal takes on big brother Spain, and this could very well be one of the tournament's best matches. Portugal is just coming off a match that could have been, but neither they or Brazil really had anything to play for. Spain is coming off a nice comeback run with wins against Honduras and Chile after falling to Switzerland in their first game. Portugal still has a lot of people talking after what they did against North Korea, but I picked Spain to win this thing coming in and I'm not ready to change my mind just yet.

Spain 2, Portugal 1

Monday, June 28, 2010

Nothing Like Making the Astros Look Good

Alright, guys. Either you are going to put a run together or you are not. I'm not quite sure what you have decided, but giving away a game to the Houston Astros is not conducive to making a push back towards .500 and possibly the playoffs. Let's not dwell on this one though, let's put it behind us and take the next two games of this should-be easy series at home, alright?

Things did start promising for the Brewers actually, as Manny Parra did got off to a pretty good start, and before you knew it he had a four run cushion by the end of the second inning. Ryan Braun delivered an RBI in the first inning, and then Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart brought a few more home in the second. That's when Houston's Michael Bourn decided to have his first decent game of the season though, as he hit his first home run of the season and would attribute to three of the Astros' runs.

Manny Parra did make it into the sixth inning after giving up a couple of runs in the third, but he was quickly chased and tagged for four runs on the evening. Parra has been pitching well since becoming a starter once again, but he doesn't look like he's quite stretched out all the way. It's as if he is somewhere in the middle between a long reliever and a starter, and with Narveson stepping up his game it could be Parra that goes back to the bullpen once Doug Davis returns. Certainly when that happens, we'll see a demotion of Chris Capuano, I mean where the hell has he been (although apparently he pitched tonight, but I don't think too many people were left at the ballpark to witness it).

Once Parra got chased though, it was over, as the Brewers bullpen fell off the wagon a bit and struggled on Monday night. Five more runs were given up, although not all of them earned. Actually David Riske gave up a pair of runs scratching is clean sheet for the season as well. Not a great night for the bullpen, but not a good night for the Brewers a whole.

If this Brewers are going to get back to being a respectable club in the MLB this season this really is the time to do it. They have another two games against the Astros at Miller Park before they travel to St. Louis and come back for another seven home games before the stretch. Plenty of good baseball tickets are still available for that and other MLB contests. I'd kind of like to get down to the game next Tuesday against Madison Bumgarner and the Giants, but we'll see how lazy I am that day.

POTG: Ryan Braun

World Cup Thoughts: Monday, June 28th

Netherlands 2, Slovakia 1

The Unofficial Football World Championship stays in possession of the Netherlands, as the Dutch cruised to a 2-1 victory over Slovakia on Tuesday morning. Even if you don't care about me pushing this fake title down your throat, what you should take away from that fact is that the Oranje have won their last eight games and are unbeaten in their last 23. As we'll see in a minute though, that streak is about to be tested in the toughest possible way.

The Dutch actually got a pretty good test from Slovakia, although Maarten Stekelenburg kept the Slovaks scoreless until a Vittek penalty kick in the 90th minute. But by that time the game was already in possession of the Dutchmen, as they picked up goals of their own in both the 18th and 84th minutes. Even though they might be predicted to lose in their next matchup, I think they are one of the four best teams right now (Brazil, Germany, Argentina, with Spain just missing the cut). Oddly enough, the teams I think are the four best will all be playing each other next weekend because...

Brazil 3, Chile 0

I thought Chile would be able to put up a fight against Brazil because of their familiarity with them, but that couldn't have been more of a falsehood. Chile dropped a 3-0 decision to the mighty Brazilians, which means that in their last eight games against Brazil they have been outscored 29-3. So much for getting better against a team the more you play them.

What can you say about Brazil though, they are the world's soccer power. Other teams come and go (cough cough France), but any time you play Brazil you know you have to bring your best, if not more. Brazil got on the board first in the 34th minute with a great header by Juan, something I've been waiting to see this whole Cup. We've been seeing a lot of players try to cross it in to the mob of people awaiting in the box, either on a corner or a free kick, but nobody ever seems to get their head on the ball. Juan did so though, and beautifully, and the Brazilians ran away with this from there. I can not wait to see them go up against the Netherlands on Friday morning.

Bucks Putting Together Summer Roster

The NBA Las Vegas Summer League doesn't get underway until Friday, July 9th (the Bucks start on the 12th), but now with the draft concluded the rosters are already taking shape. For the Bucks, you can expect all of their draft picks - Larry Sanders, Tiny Gallon, and Darington Hobson - to be in attendance, as well as one holdover from last year's roster Darnell Jackson. There should be some familiar named for Wisconsin fans on the roster as well, as Alando Tucker will be in attendance and Trevon Hughes could be as well. We'll have more info once everything becomes official, but for now head on over to Bucksketball to take a deeper look at who could be representing the Bucks in Sin City.

How Long Does Donovan Stay in the MLS?

Major League Soccer is hoping that their league can capitalize on the buzz provided by the American's performance, and rightfully so. But I'll tell you right now that is unlikely to happen. I don't doubt that a handful of people will be tempted to check out their product because of all the hoopla, but unfortunately many will be disappointing when they do. There were two MLS games on this weekend, I watched both of them, and the quality of play is just vastly different than what you've seen in the World Cup. That's to be expected of course, because the Cup has nothing but the finest players in the world, but I fear the drop-off in quality is too drastic for any casual soccer fan.

I'm sure there will be a spike in viewership of one team in particular though, and that would be the Los Angeles Galaxy as people will be anxious to continue to watch Landon Donovan play. But how long exactly will Donovan stay in this league? Landon has said that he loves playing in LA because it's home and he's comfortable, but the offers are going to start coming in to get this guy to play overseas.

The front runner in the Donovan sweepstakes - if there is going to be such a thing - has to be Everton of the English Premier League. Donovan did join his buddy goalkeeper Tim Howard there earlier this year on loan, but came back to America just in time for the MLS season to begin. Based on what he's said in the past, I don't expect Donovan to go anywhere but Everton if he was to leave.

There is another team though that has already thrown their hat into the ring, and that would be Manchester City also of the EPL. Manchester City has often been over looked by the other team that occupies that town, Manchester United, but in the recent years they have began spending money like crazy as they found themselves under new ownership. They are putting together a pretty decent squad, which includes guys you may have discovered in the World Cup such as Shaun Wright-Phillips (England), Jerome Boateng (Germany), and Carlos Tevez (Argentina). Man City is ready to offer Donovan a $4 million yearly contract, which is twice as much as he makes now.

I'm not sure that Donovan will ultimately accept this deal, as again when it comes down to it I see him playing stateside for awhile yet. He has been very committed to the MLS, although the league would figure to earn about $16 million in transfer fees if Donovan was to sign elsewhere, so that would be one positive to letting him walk. But Donovan is a homebody, and I see him staying on this side of the Atlantic. At least for now.

World Cup Predictions: Monday, June 28th

Netherlands vs. Slovakia - 9am - ESPN

The Unofficial World Football Championship is on the line once again, as the Netherlands will try to defend it against Slovakia. They probably don't really care about that though, but rather will have their sights focused on making it to the quarterfinals of World Cup play. On paper, the Netherlands look like they should be able to pull this victory off, although Slovakia did earn a trip to this game after a quite surprising win against Italy. Still, I think the favorite prevails here, and the Dutch move on, keeping their UWFC title run alive, of course.

Netherlands 2, Slovakia 0

Brazil vs. Chile - 1:30pm - ESPN

Chile is the only South American club to lose so far in this tournament, but that was to Spain and they finished with six points in their group and advance, so I doubt they're doing much complaining. Still, a matchup with Brazil isn't the best reward for teams when they do get out of group play, but I don't think that will bother the Chileans. Brazil is a team that just saying their name would bring shivers to must, but South Americans teams are probably a little sensitized to their allure by now. Chile fared very well in the qualifying to get to the Cup in the first place, although one of those games was a 0-3 loss to Brazil. I don't think they lose that bad tonight but they will be putting up a good effort. Still, Brazil wins.

Brazil 1, Chile 0

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Narveson Caps Off Strong Week For Milwaukee

Chris Narveson has been historically bad in the first inning of baseball games this season, although he usually settles down to at least get a quality start out of the outing. We're constantly left to wonder though just how good this guy might be if he could have a decent first inning. I think we found that out on Sunday afternoon, as Narveson not only got through the first inning but went well into the eighth. Over those eight innings, he allowed zero runs on four hits and struck out seven batters. Not bad Chris, not bad.

Thankfully he got some run support in the process from his mates offensively, and it started right away when Rickie Weeks hit a patented lead-off home run. The Brewers added two more runs in the fifth inning courtesy of Prince Fielder and Corey Hart, and Narveson had more than support he needed. He would go those aforementioned eight innings, a career high, before John Axford stepped in and picked up his seventh career save.

The win caps off a very nice week for the Brewers as they went 5-1 in their last two series against Minnesota and Seattle, and have improved to 34-41 on the season, and are actually just 7 1/2 games back of Cincinnati in the NL Central. We'll take those as positives, as like we've talked about the Brewers are in the middle of a very favorable stretch of games. Next up is a three game stretch against the Astros, before they travel to St. Louis for their last road series before the break. After that, it's back home against the Giants and the Pirates, and then we'll see what happens next.

So Margaret, marry me, because I'd like to date you.

World Cup Thoughts: Sunday, June 27th

Germany 4, England 1

The better team ended up winning the game, but this contest will forever be known for the would-be goal by Englishmen Frank Lampard that never showed up on the scoreboard. After the Germans took a 2-0 lead, Matthew Upson brought England back to within one in the games 37th minute. Then, not one minute later, Lampard seemed to have tied things up as his shot his the bottom of the crossbar, bounced a good yard or two into the goalmouth, only to come back out onto the field of play. The play was never stopped however as a goal was never given, despite everyone in the world realizing what had just happened. Everyone that is, but the officials. A goal there definitely would have been able to change the pace of this game for the Brits.

"It's incredible," England coach Fabio Capello said. "We played with five referees and they can't decide if it's a goal or no goal. The game was different after this goal. It was the mistake of the linesman and I think the referee because from the bench I saw the ball go (in)."

Nobody really argued with that point, not even the German coach. But FIFA is again being quiet on the issue, as they just seem to revel in controversy like this. With all the problems there have been regarding the officials in this World Cup, I really believe that the discussion of whether or not to have instant replay in soccer is going to be the biggest storyline heading into the 2014 World Cup (which is in Brazil, and I need to figure out how I'm going to get there).

As initially stated though, the better team did win, as this German team was just younger, faster, and more efficient than an aging English side. The Germans did get goals from their usual suspects though - one each from Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski, and two from Thomas Muller. Their victory over England puts them in the quarterfinals for a record 15th straight World Cup, while this was the worst loss England has ever endured at this level.

Argentina 3, Mexico 1

With the Americans out of the Cup, it's time to find a new club to root for, and I believe I have with Argentina. I love everything about this team right now, from the way that Diego Maradona celebrates every goal like they have won the tournament to just how remarkable many of those goals are. They are a very eccentric squad, and have so far cruised through this tournament. They have what should be an incredible game against Germany next Saturday, and I'd love to look forward to it except for the whole working weekends thing.

Despite the win, it was another game mired with controversy as Carlos Tevez was more than just in an offside position when he scored the game's first goal off an assist from Lionel Messi. This goal didn't make quite the difference that I feel the Lampard one would have, but it was still something for the Mexicans to complain about nonetheless. They had good reason too, and it is a shame that so many teams are being sent home with valid reasons to be upset. But I in the World Cup you have not just be good, but a little lucky as well.

Look At That, People Do Watch Soccer After All

Since I've been old enough to really get into the World Cup as a fan, I'd have to say that by far this seems to be the most popular one I've watched on a national level. There is a growing trend in America to really rally around and watch big ticket events. Ratings for pretty much any major event is up these days - the Olympics, NBA Finals, NHL Finals. You name it, more people than ever are watching it, and that seems to be a trend that has included this year's World Cup.

Ratings on ESPN and ABC are higher than ever, and this weekend's game between the United States and Ghana was no exception. Granted, all these people tuned in to see the Americans lose a game they should have won, but hey, we're trying to look at the positives here. The game earned a 9.9 household rating on ABC Saturday afternoon, and earned about 10% more viewers than the game between America and England. If you don't know much about ratings, just let me tell you that a 9.9 rating for soccer is incredible. That's about 19 million people tuning in, and that doesn't count the Univision broadcast either.

It now remains to be seen if the ratings will suffer because the States are out of the tournament, or if people are now invested enough to follow this thing until the end.

World Cup Predictions: Sunday, June 27th

Honestly, does this even matter now that the U.S. has been knocked out of the competition? You bet it does. Two more Round of 16 matches take place today, both destined to be good ones. The question is does anyone in this country care anymore now that our guys have been taken out? We'll see.

Germany vs. England - 9am - ESPN

I actually wouldn't have minded if the United States ended up taking second in their group, if for the sole reason they'd still be in this competitive instead of losing yesterday. This a game more than worth waking up for though, as the two European rivals clash once again. I'm having a hard time deciding who to root for, because my whole life I thought I was of German decent, but after a recent family study it turns out I'm mostly English and Irish. With the way England has struggled, you have to think that Germany will have no problem getting the victory, but I'm not sure. I think we see our first penalty shootout of the World Cup (maybe not, this is just an impossible game for me to predict so I wanted to spice it up a bit).

England 1, Germany 1 - England advances on PKs

Argentina vs. Mexico - 1:30pm - ABC

Diego Maradona and his boys look like they are on a mission, and I don't see that run stopping against Mexico. The Mexicans have a good unit, but I think the attack of Argentina is too strong, and we've yet to see the best of Lionel Messi. This contest has the makings of an outstanding affair, but Argentina should come out on top.

Argentina 2, Mexico 0

Streak Ends for Brewers

On a day when the United States was booted from World Cup play, all I wanted after that game was to watch the Brewers win their sixth straight game. Unfortunately, it just didn't turn out to be my kind of day. After rattling off five wins in a row, the hammer had to drop sometime on the Milwaukee Brewers, and that day was Saturday after the Brewers lost to Seattle by a score of 5-4.

For the second straight night against Seattle, the Brewers found themselves down early, but a big third inning changed all that. Corey Hart hit a double to score Randy Wolf and Rickie Weeks, and then ended up making it home himself in a similar fashion that Carlos Gomez did earlier in the year as he made it from third base to home plate courtesy of an errant throw. Prince Fielder then followed up that performance with a shot to deep center, and the Brewers found themselves ahead 4-2.

That lead didn't last long though, as Randy Wolf continued to struggle on the mound for Milwaukee, especially at home. Wolf gave up three runs in the fourth and that would end the scoring for the day. Our supposed number two starter just has not been able to keep his pitches from going out of the ballpark, and that is killing us. I have not been confident with Randy Wolf on the mound yet, and that is not a good sign for a guy we're spending $30 million on. I think the Brewers need to make a new rule that we don't break the bank on veteran pitchers ever again, because that does not seem to be very successful.

After Wolf was finally pulled from the game, the Brewers were halted due to some Mariners reliever that hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2006. Figures. Brian Sweeney is on the last legs of his baseball career at age 36, but he sparkled on Saturday for the Mariners going four innings and giving up just one hit to Milwaukee. No matter how it ended though, I'm impressed that this team was able to put together five wins in a row, and for now, it gives me a little sense of optimism yet about their future.

POTG: Corey Hart

Saturday, June 26, 2010

This Is Why I Don't Believe in Anything

Alright, so maybe I'm overreacting with the title here, but what a heartbreaking loss it was for the United States on Saturday. Even though the circumstances were different, the result was the same - a 2-1 loss to Ghana has eliminated the United States from the World Cup.

I know that once things settle and I look back at this World Cup I'll remember it for how miraculous some of the things that happened to the USA were, and that it was a great time where the nation really started to rally together around this team. From the Clint Dempsey goal against England, to the Slovenian comeback, to the Donovan goal in extra time against Algeria, it really has been quite amazing what has happened to and for this team. But the fact remains that even with that, even with all the luck on our side, another team I root for not only has their run come to and end, but it ends in heartbreak.

For many of you, watching this game may have been a decent way to spend an afternoon, but tomorrow you'll be back in your regular sports mode where soccer is on the backburner. But for me, soccer is a big deal. This national team is a big deal. Watching them try to improve their position in these World Cups every year since 1994 has been a big deal for me, and it's just gut wrenching to watch the Americans exit a little earlier than they should have, again.

In 2002, there was a non-called handball in the box by the Germans, but it went undetected and the Americans were sent home. In 2006, it was a disappointing loss to Ghana that kept us from advancing out of group play, losing because of a unquestionable penalty kick that was awarded to the opposition. This year, it was the fact that 120 minutes was just too much for these team, as they had already been pushed to the brink both physically and emotionally. In every one of these Cups though, the U.S. could have done better, and I keep waiting for the Cup where they do in fact do better. This year just isn't the year.

It makes me wonder - as all heartbreaking ends often do - why I even root this passionately for this stuff. The Packers loss to Arizona left me in shambles, and that's pretty similar to how I feel today. There's just a feeling of emptiness, a feeling of frustration, a feeling of wondering when all this fan heartache is going to finally pay off with a championship of any kind. As stupid as it sounds, it's hard being a sports fan, especially when you really do put a lot of your own emotion into the battles that someone else is fighting for you. It's a strange phenomenon really, how affected we are by sports.

But if I'm feeling this way, God knows how the players are feeling. Even though it's one and done in the knockout stage, you really have to be proud of these guys. They fought hard, came back to tie the game, and ended up running around a soccer field for 120 minutes, just one goal short. Hopefully people realize how special this team was, instead of retreating back to pissing all over soccer again.

The game itself started just like any other typical U.S. game as of late, as they gave up an early goal when Kevin-Prince Boateng scored in the game's fifth minute. It was a goal that had many questioning the starting nod to Ricardo Clark by Coach Bradley, and why Bradley didn't go with the lineup that looked so strong against Algeria. The defense was cut up on the play, the ball squeaked past Tim Howard on the near side, and the Americans once again found themselves needing a comeback.

They were granted with one when Clint Dempsey was ripped down in the box, setting up a penalty kick for Landon Donovan. Donovan barely made this kick, using the inside of the right post to guide the ball into the back of the net. At that point, the U.S. was in control of the game, and they had plenty of chances to take the lead. But just like the first ninety minutes of the game against Algeria, no matter how good the chance the U.S. just couldn't convert.

With the game tied at one and the final whistle blown, the stage was set for extra time. Thirty more minutes were to be played, no matter what. If the game was still tied, we were going to the penalty mark. But again, Ghana found a way to shred the defense and score early, as Asamoah Gyan somehow was able to keep his balance and lift a ball just over Howard. From that point on, the Ghanaians used every time-wasting tactic in the book, but it didn't matter. This game was over from the moment that ball hit the net, and the U.S. just didn't have anything left in them to comeback once more. There were some chances late, but when you run out of gas you run out of gas, and the tank was empty for Uncle Sam.

This wasn't a team that was going to win the World Cup by any means, but they did have a great opportunity to at least make it to the semifinals and play on the final weekend of this World Cup. Ghana will now take on Uruguay (winners over South Korea) in the quarterfinals in what has to be the weakest quadrant of this tournament's knockout round. Both teams are deserving, for sure, but both could have been beaten by the United States. Especially Ghana, although they were ready to capitalize when they had opportunities while the United States could not.

In the next couple of days, Bradley will be questioned for his lineup, I will be questioning why Jozy Altidore thinks he's a wide receiver instead of a top striker, and people will go back to not caring / hating soccer. Things will revert back to normal, and you won't hear from this sport again until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

In the next four years, the United States better hope the young guys have learned from this experience while grooming new members to step in, because one of these times we can no longer be waiting for a future where we are a soccer powerhouse. We should have the team that wins a game like this, and we should have the type of team that is playing after this weekend. We need to do everything in our power to make sure we keep developing players and building the sport. Because soccer in this country is never going to be more than a four year event until we have a team that can consistently make a deep run every four years.

Thank you though, to all of you that have hopped on the bandwagon. You may all now return to your normal everyday activities. I'll be in the corner crying, waiting for the heartbreak to pass.

World Cup Predictions: Saturday, June 26th

The group stage is behind us, and now it's do-or-die team. The World Cup is now in Sweet Sixteen mode, and we start with the U.S.'s portion of the bracket. The Americans have the second game of the day, but let's start with them.

United States vs. Ghana - 1:30pm - ABC

When the United States last met Ghana, it was in the final game of their group stage in the 2006 World Cup. With a win, the U.S. would have advanced to the round of 16, although it would have been a matchup with Brazil. Still, Ghana was able to beat the Americans and knock us not only out of the Cup, but left us sitting last in our group.

Four years later, it's a whole different set of circumstances except for one - if the U.S. loses, their World Cup run is once again over. It's amazing how the Americans got to this point, with all the controversy, comebacks, and strokes of luck that went both for and against this team, but they did win their group and here they are. Ghana is no walkover, but I'd much rather be facing them than Serbia (who finished third in their group), or Germany (the group winners). It's the most favorable draw for our guys, but now they have to get the job done.

Ghana is going to be a challenge though, as they are faster and probably more physical than this American team. But they do have one overarching problem. Ghana only has two goals in this tournament, and they both game the same way - via the penalty kick. All I think the Americans need to do to win this game is score within the first 45, while keeping Ghana off the board. If we can get the lead first, I think the only African nation to get past the group stage will resign to it's fate, but if not, we might have another cardiac classic on our hands. With this favorable bracket, I see a potential semifinal run for Uncle Sam. They could very easily blow it tomorrow, cite the fact that the group stage was too emotional and they are worn out, but I see a U.S. victory.

United States 2, Ghana 0

Uruguay vs. South Korea - 9am - ESPN

Really what you have here is two surprise teams, especially Uruguay who looked a lot better than the other teams in their group, especially France. Uruguay topped Mexico and beat South Africa after what was basically a tuneup game against the Frenchmen, and now they have a prime opportunity to go far in this tournament. South Korea is definitely going to give them fits on the attack, and I wouldn't be surprised if SK went up a goal early. But I'm believing in Uruguay this year, and think they will be meeting the United States in a matchup next Friday afternoon.

Uruguay 2, South Korea 1

Friday, June 25, 2010

Gimme Five

So, this must be what five wins in a row feels like. Who knew? Things looked a bit dreary for Milwaukee on Friday night as Dave Bush and the Crew fell down 3-0 early, but then from there it was all offense for the Brewers as they put up eight unanswered runs and won the game 8-3. As we've discussed, the Brewers are in a crucial part of their season right now, and the fact that they are actually winning these games is actually impressing the hell out of me. I just don't think that this team is the kind of team that can put together eight, nine wins in a row, but all week long they've proved me wrong by doing nothing but winning. I think I like that.

In this game, your hero and TBC player of the game honors have to go to Jonathan Lucroy, who finally got his first professional RBI in a big way as he hit a 3-run shot in the 4th inning to tie the Brewers with Seattle, and then Carlos Gomez hit a solo shot of his own to give the Brewers the lead for the first and final time.

The Brewers got plenty of run support after that and also a solid outing out of their pitching staff after Dave Bush settled down, as Carlos Villanueva, Kameron Loe, and Trevor Hoffman all pitched well in relief. Here's something, were you aware that Loe has a 0.63 ERA since getting called up to the Brewers? Where did this guy come from? Either way, it's been awhile since we've really complained too much about the bullpen, or the pitching staff as a whole for that matter. With that being said, it's no coincidence how this team has won five games in a row.

The Brewers go for six tomorrow as they host the Mariners in an afternoon game, first pitch set for 3:10pm. I don't mind if you watch this game, in fact I hope you do, but you better make sure the U.S./Ghana game is over first. Such a big day for American soccer on Saturday, and I hope you're watching with us. Then we can watch the Brewers go for six. This is the point of the post where I'd post an emoticon if I was into that sort of thing.

Oh, what the hell. Go Brewers. :)

World Cup Thoughts: Friday, June 25th

Ivory Coast 3, North Korea 0

While technically still alive in group play, Ivory Coast's chances to the next round were about as close to impossible as you can get. Not only did they need Portugal to lose, but they needed to make up a goal differential of minus nine. After scoring two goals in the first twenty minutes, you might have thought for a second that they could do it, but alas they ended up with just the three. Rough tournament for North Korea though. This was a club that played well in a loss to Brazil and maybe began to think they were better than they were, and then gave up ten unanswered goals to Portugal and Ivory Coast. One thing about the World Cup that amazes me is the gap between the best team in the Cup and the worst team in the tournament. The parity in this tournament is a lot lighter than in other events you see these days.

Brazil 0, Portugal 0

Pegged as a key matchup before the tournament began, it ended up being that neither team really had much to play for. On another day, we may have seen these teams hammer a bunch of goals together, but nothing today. You'll have that I guess. The tie secures Brazil as the group winners, and only two teams have won all of their matches so far (Netherlands, Argentina). Brazil is placed on the United States side, and if we do make the semifinals it will be either against them or the Dutch. Portugal takes second in the group.

Spain 2, Chile 1

There have been a lot of insane and ridiculous goals in this World Cup, and you can add David Villa's third goal of the tournament to that list. In the 24th minute, Chilean keeper Claudio Bravo came about fifteen yards out of the ball to clear a ball that had been played forward, but David Villa was there to hammer the deflection home from about forty yards away. Spain added one more and then were able to keep the Chilean attack at bay except for one mistake, but ultimately the favorites got the 2-1 victory. After losing to the Swiss in their opener, Spain rebounded nicely and ended up winning the group. They will now take on their neighbors, Portugal, in the next round, while Chile has a tough test against Brazil.

Switzerland 0, Honduras 0

So after a shocking win against Spain, Switzerland is only able to muster up one more point in their final two games, thus not qualifying for the round of 16. Very disappointing for them. This was one of those games where I just had a feeling that even with their tournament on the line they wouldn't be able to get past Honduras, frankly because I don't think the Swiss are that good. Good for Honduras to get at least a point for them, you always have to root for the other CONCACAF teams (except Mexico), kind of like how we always root for Big Ten teams in bowl season (except Ohio State).

Jerome Jordan Didn't Last Long

Jerome Jordan doesn't look like he will be wearing a Bucks jersey in the 2010 season. They have to wait for the Maggette deal to go through, but when that does Jordan will be sent to the Knicks for cash. I'm never really a fan of sending a player to a team for cash. If nothing changes we will receive a million dollars from the Knicks for Jordan. He was more of a center than any of the other guys that the Bucks drafted, so I find this trade strange. They must have plans to use that money to either bring Ridnour back or sign another back up point guard.

As far as the Knicks this was a great move for them, as they lacked defense last year. Jordan seems to have a body that will block a lot of shots in the NBA. The Knicks are also low on players, because they are clearing cap space for a big free agent. So who knows what they are doing with this team right now. Will he even play the 2010 season with the Knicks is something we will have to wait and see.

This was a quick hello, and a faster good-bye to Jordan. I have a feeling that with four draft picks not all of them were going to make the team, so Hammond figures he got some extra cash to work with out of one of them. Can't question things Hammond does, because quite honestly this is the first time in awhile I feel good about a Bucks team going into the season.

World Cup Predictions: Friday, June 25th

We're officially two weeks in to the World Cup, and today is the day that wraps up the group play round. After this, it's the knockout stages baby. If you think you've seen some good games so far (and you have), just wait until every game is do or die. It's going to be something.

Group G - Brazil vs. Portugal - 9am - ESPN

If this game had a little more at stake it would for sure be the match of the day. Brazil has already advanced, and a tie or win would give them the group. Portugal is in unless they lose and the Ivory Coast makes up a goal differential of nine, which is not happening. So basically the teams will be playing for first place, as at first glance it looks like whoever takes first place in this group would have an easier time than whoever takes second. The teams won't be giving it their full effort, but I see Brazil still knocking one in.

Brazil 1, Portugal 0

Group G - Ivory Coast vs. North Korea - 9am - ESPN2

North Korea is coming off an embarrassing 7-0 loss to Portugal that may cause a few of these players to defect instead of heading back home, but they have a chance to redeem themselves against Ivory Coast. Sadly for them, I don't see that happening. Rather, I think you're going to see a frustrated Ivory Coast team let off a little steam, and punish North Korea even more for showing up to this tournament.

Ivory Coast 3, North Korea 0

Group H - Chile vs. Spain - 1:30pm - ESPN

There's a whole lot going on in Group H today. Chile currently leads the group with six points, while Spain and Switzerland are fighting to advance as they have three points each. Conceivably, three teams could win two games each in this group, but one of those teams would not advance. I do not see Spain fading like Italy though, at least not yet.

Spain 2, Chile 0

Group H - Switzerland vs. Honduras - ESPN2

Honduras has been the team that's been getting beat up in this group, and I think in this final day they'll be playing for pride as they have nothing to lose. Unfortunately for Switzerland, they are going to end up beating Spain and not qualifying past their group round, as I see Spain and Chile advancing, while Spain ultimately winning the group.

Switzerland 1, Honduras 1

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bucks Go Big in Draft

Bear, an ex-writer here at TBC, wanted the Bucks to select Larry Sanders, and that is who the Bucks took. Off hand I can't say I know much about him, but I love that he is a big body that blocks shots. It also looks like he is good at moving without the ball. I don't think he will be huge on the offensive side of the ball, but he should help Bogut down low. He should be able to play the PF/C spot for the Bucks. So if Bogut can stay healthy Milwaukee should have a better front court this year size wise. Larry Sanders is compared to Theo Ratliff, so any offense you get out of him is just an added bonus.

This draft pick means Mbah a Moute will be able to play the SF position where I think he will be better. He is a tough guy, but playing him at the PF made us a small team. Not really sure who is going to start for this team as of right now. Will Sanders find himself in the starting line up, or will Mbah a Moute start at the PF? Only time will tell, but I think the Bucks made a good pick with upside.

With the 37th pick in the second round Milwaukee took forward Darington Hobson. Hobson is another lefty to join Jennings, and perhaps even Redd. His style of play has been compared to that of Chris Douglas Roberts, who of course was just traded to the Bucks. Hobson has great ball handling skills, and can get to the hoop. However, he may lack strength and size.

With the 44th pick in the draft the Bucks drafted Jerome Jordan from Tulsa who is another big guy that plays good good defense. He averaged 2.3 blocks a game last season. He did score for Tulsa a bit too last season, but he needs to work on his post moves. He was compared to Jermaine O' Neal, so he must have some upside.

With the 47th pick Bucks went big again, and took Tiny Gallon. He is back with Brandon Jennings, his former high school teammate. He claims that Jennings is his big brother, so it is cool to see them back together again. He can rebound, play good facing the hoop, but lacks work ethic. He is the type of guy that needs to be watched in the off season, because he could pack the pounds on. I've seen him compared to Eddy Curry, who also had problems in the off season with weight issues.

Overall I think Milwaukee did a great job of drafting, but I still am not sure what they are going to do for a back up point guard. My guess is that they are going to resign Ridnour, or they have a free agent in mind come July 1st. Either way not having a big guy when Bogut went down killed us last season, so now we have guys to back Bogut up if he were to go down again. I know you don't want to plan for something bad to happen, but as we've seen anything can happen.

On a side note we would also like to congratulate Lazar Hayward on getting drafted in the first round. He was drafted to the Wizards, but his rights were given to the Timberwolves. Being drafted in the first round guarantees that he gets a two year contract, and a two year team option. All mock drafts I saw he was the last pick of the draft, so this pick really surprised a lot of people. He had a solid career at Marquette, and I hope the best for him as moves a little west to the NBA.

Yovani Gallardo Is a Good Baseball Player

You know, the Brewers are doing a very good job and maintaining my interest just a few days after I proclaimed that I was losing interest in them. For the first time since 1996, the Brewers have swept the Minnesota Twins and are now winners of four straight games. It's been a refreshing week for Brewers fans as many of us were beginning to wonder if this team was even capable of winning games back to back at all.

Gallardo was lights on Thursday though, taking a perfect game with him until the sixth inning, but still ending up going the distance for a complete game shutout. Gallardo gave up just five hits in the contest and struck out twelve batters along the way. It was just another brilliant performance from the one guy that we've been able to count on this season in the starting rotation. The group as a whole has gotten better lately, but they are nothing without Gallardo.

For Yovani, you would hope that this outing continues his chances of making it to the All-Star game. The National League is loaded with pitcher talent, and there is even talk of Strasburg already making the game, but you would think there has to be room on that staff for Gallardo. He's got the numbers - seven wins, a 2.36 ERA, 115 strikeouts on the season. It'd be a crime if he wasn't on that roster.

With the performance, Gallardo and the Brewers improve to 32-40, which is definitely better than where they'd be if they lost the last four games. Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks had home runs in this series finale, which is interesting because five years ago (from Friday) they both hit their first career home runs in the same game against the Twins.

Next up for the Crew, it's a series against the Seattle Mariners as they come check out Miller Park. Dave Bush is back on the mound, with the game set for 7:10pm on Friday.

POTG: Yovani Gallardo.

World Cup Thoughts: Thursday, June 24th

Slovakia 3, Italy 2

Goodbye, Azzuri. In a remarkable turn of events, the Italians not only failed to qualify to the round of 16, they actually finished last in their group. The road to success didn't seem that difficult coming in for Italy, as their group was, on paper, the weakest group in the entire World Cup. And yet, there they are, on the bottom of it doing nothing more in the Cup than drawing twice and getting beat by Slovakia.

Credit the Slovakians for their efforts though. Expected by just about nobody to get out of the group, Slovakia comes up with one of the biggest wins in the tournament. They got on the board in the 25th minute via the foot of Robert Vittek, and it was the third time already in this tournament where Italy allowed an early goal not to recover. Vittek scored again in the 73rd, and that's when things got wild. Italy would manage to score eight minutes later, and then both teams traded goals yet again for the final line to read 3-2 in favor of Slovakia. The result marks the first time in World Cup history where both finalists from the previous Cup (Italy, France) failed to get past the group stage.

Paraguay 0, New Zealand 0

New Zealand did something that the United States were three minutes away from doing before they secured a victory, and that is be eliminated from the World Cup without losing. Three games, three ties for the Kiwis. It's disappointing because you never like to leave when you weren't beaten, but they should be very proud as well because each of these games they were expected to lose, and lose handedly. This is definitely something they can build on, and maybe next time we see them they can put some wins together. As for Paraguay, a tie works just fine for them. It gives them five points in the group, and in this bracket that was good enough to take the cake.

Japan 3, Denmark 1

The stakes for this game was pretty simple - win, and you're in. Because of the tiebreakers, a tie would have earned Japan through, but the Japanese decided that they were just going to make sure they got through the right away. Keisuke Honda, their most recognizable player, got Japan on the board in the 17th minute, and then Japan would tack on two more goals from there. Prior to this Cup, Japan has never won a World Cup game away from Asian soil, now they've already won two. For their efforts, they will now take on Paraguay, a game which wouldn't be out of their reach to win.

As for Denmark, this is a very disappointing result. Prior to this, every time that the Danish have made a World Cup they've advanced past the group stage. But they just couldn't get any real good chances against the Japanese defense, and their only goal came via a penalty kick (which was initially missed, but Jon Dahl Tomasson followed his own blocked shot). Even though I thought Cameroon would make it out of the group with the Dutch, the Danish side would have been the next expected choice and it's unfortunate for them that they couldn't get the job done.

Netherlands 2, Cameroon 1

The Netherlands were already through, and Cameroon was already eliminated, so this one was basically just a formality. No matter the result, it was almost all but certain that the Dutch would win their group. They looked good again though, nothing too flashy but still getting the job done. They won all three games in their group stage and now will take on Slovakia. Assuming they win that matchup, it would be followed by a major contest between them and either Brazil or Portugal. The way it stands now, you have to think that either this team or Brazil (or the USA of course!) will be one of the teams in the finals. As for Cameroon, just another disappointing effort by an African side.

And hey, the win also allows the Netherlands to keep their Unofficial Football World Championship!

Did Thompson Do it Again?

I know it is very early, but all signs right now point to Ted Thompson drafting another star in the making. We talked about Atari Bigby and how he didn't sign his tender, and that has given Morgan Burnett the chance to practice quite a bit with the starters. Charles Woodson was asked the other day how he felt Morgan was doing. This is what Woodson had to say:

"From what I've seen early out of him, he's not making mistakes, or if he is making mistakes, its no more than anybody else is making. He's got a lot of experience back there with him, with Nick, myself and Tramon. So if he is to play in there, we'll carry him as long as we can until he's up to speed but, (shoot), he's good. He looks good to me, you know. Now it's just a matter of experience getting into a game and getting a feel of it and playing at this level. So we'll see what happens when he's thrown in the fire."

I understand he is not going to bash a teammate, but those are some strong words from a great player. Woodson himself is also looking good after taking a boxing class this offseason. Woodson said around this time he is usually a bit overweight, but that is not the case this year. He feels good, which is always a good thing to hear this early in training camp.

This is just one of the reasons that has me really excited to see what this defense will do this year. I know they are coming off a very bad game defensively in their playoff loss to Arizona, but the pieces are starting to fall in place for this team. The new 3-4 has one year under everyone's belt, and it sounds like we drafted a great guy that could make impact right away.

Also the Packers signed their fifth, sixth, and seventh round draft picks this year. Marshall Newhouse (OG/OT), James Starks (RB), and C.J. Wilson (DE) were all recently signed to deals. Not sure if any of these guys will make an impact at all, but it is always nice to have guys signed, which gives your team options at different spots. If I remember right James Starks was drafted to maybe be tried out at kick returns.

Is Milwaukee Putting a Run Together?

Amidst all the excitement of the World Cup, a little closer to home we having something pretty remarkable going on as well - the Brewers are winning games. With a 5-3 victory over the Twins on Wednesday, the Brewers have now won three straight. And this season, it seems like anytime this team wins even back-to-back games we get all excited about it and think that we'll be in the playoffs. That probably won't be the case, although we do have a chance to really turn it around in the next couple of weeks.

A few weeks ago I hoped that the Brewers could get back to .500 by the All-Star break, but that seems highly, highly unlikely at this point. Still, Brewers Bar notes that these next 20 games are going to be crucial for Milwaukee if they are still going to put a run together. After trying to go for the sweep today, Milwaukee will face the Mariners (but not Felix or Cliff Lee), the Astros, the Cards, the Giants, and the Pirates. Other than the St. Louis series, all of these games will be played in the toy box that is Miller Park, although the Brewers really haven't learned the meaning of home-field advantage yet this year. But still, it'll be nice to be home.

At the beginning of the season I figured this was a team that would likely be able to make the playoffs did they did a few things right, but as the season went on my opinions started to change. Whether it was bad luck or just poor play, the Brewers haven't got off to the most fancied of starts. Even though it would seem as if they still have a run in them, or that they are a better team than they have showed, I can't become too optimistic. Sometimes when things are over you just know it, and that's how I feel about the Crew.

Although, perhaps the Crew can find some of that Landon Donovan mojo and take us back to the playoffs. I've seen stranger things happen this week.

POTG: Rickie Weeks

World Cup Predictions: Thursday, June 24th

A little late on these. Blame it on the alcohol.

Group F - Italy vs. Slovakia - 9am - ESPN

The defending champions have yet to win a game in this Cup, but I see that changing this morning. I guess I really shouldn't be making predictions when we are already thirteen minutes in, but whatever. One of these teams better do something though, because if both games in Group F end in a draw, the tiebreaker would be a coin flip. I do not want to see that ever, so let's hope that doesn't happen. Italy gets back on track with a victory here. It won't take until the 91st minute like it did for our boys though.

Italy 2, Slovakia 0

Update: Slovakia just scored as I was to post this! WHOOOOAAAA!

Group F - New Zealand vs. Paraguay - 9am - ESPN2

New Zealand going to the round of 16 would be quite an amazing story, the key phrase here being "would be". They've already had the biggest highlight of their history when they tied Italy, I don't see them doing anything better than that today.

Paraguay 1, New Zealand 0

Group E - Netherlands vs. Cameroon - 1:30pm - ESPN2

The Dutch are one of the few teams I really think have a legit shot to win this thing (Brazil and Argentina being the others), but I think they end up playing things a little tighter to the vest this afternoon, and Cameroon is able to somewhat redeem themselves by tying a soccer superpower.

Netherlands 1, Cameroon 1

Group E - Japan vs. Denmark - 1:30pm - ESPN

Pretty simple stakes here. Japan needs a tie or win to advance, Denmark needs to win. This is a tough game to predict because neither of these teams are really that impressive, as so far all they've done, both of them, is beat Cameroon and lost to the Dutch. I'm trying to think of a winner logically, but I can't. However, the beer gut feeling is leaning towards the Danish.

Denmark 1, Japan 0

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Agony, Turned to Ecstasy

You may not like soccer. You may have looked at the title of this post and saw the picture of Landon Donovan and turned away. You may still be trying to figure out why the tie against England was such a big deal and how a 2-2 tie and 1-0 victory could be even remotely exciting. But if you have put your stubborn ways aside and followed the journey of the American Men's Soccer team, you have really been watching some of the greatest spectacle in sport. I'm not going to proclaim that this World Cup is going to change the opinions of soccer in America, because if you're not on board yet you probably never will be. But if you are, you are watching quite a show.

After a glorious tie against the mother country and a tie against Slovenia that brought forth mixed emotions, the United States found themselves still in control of their destiny in their final game of group play. Nevermind the fact that the United States had never so much as earned a point in their final game of the qualifying rounds, they needed nothing less than a full three points as a result of a victory if they were to advance. Cue the drama of a matchup with the stingy Algerians.

If you saw the game, you're well aware of just how many perfect chances the United States had to score. Usually in a game you get a handful of chances, but none as close and as perfect as what you saw from the Americans on this fateful Wednesday morning. Clint Dempsey hitting shots off the post, Jozy Altidore missing wide open shots, Edson Buddle failing to put enough heat on a pass in front of the goal mouth, perfectly shot balls by Herculez Gomez and Michael Bradley finding the keeper's hands instead of the netting - no matter what the U.S. tried to do in this game, they just couldn't bury one.

Until the 91st minute.

At this point in the game, it was already over in my opinion. The USA was going to go home with three ties, never losing in this World Cup but never doing enough to advance. A loss meant that everything would seemingly go back to "normal". People would wonder why we make such a big deal out of soccer if this is the end result. Diehard soccer fans would feel like they've wasted their investment. How was it that we were actually going to leave this game without a goal? This was an Algerian team that still had a chance to advance to the round of 16, yet throughout the entire game it had seemed as if they were playing for a tie. You can argue their goal was to strike to a quick counter attack, but their lazy approach on the attack, in my opinion, was the second biggest disgrace of this tournament (I'll let you know what the first one was later).

But despite all of the odds they were up against, Tim Howard started a sequence that culminated in another missed opportunity for the Americans, only this time Landon Donovan was there to turn agony into ecstasy. He buried the shot, ran to the corner flag, and the American piled on each other in a moment where you could literally see all of their frustration bottle out of them. The Americans knew at this moment they had won the game, they had won their group, and they were on to the next stage of the World Cup.

It's been an improbable two weeks for this team, but somehow, after everything, they won their World Cup group for the first time ever. From keeper Rob Green's blunder, to the comeback that should have been a victory against Slovenia, to the 91st Minute Miracle from Landon Donovan, each game they have played in as somehow been more nerve racking than the last. And then group play culminated in the most improbable of victories, and the US move on.

For me, as a life long soccer fan, things definitely reached their apex today. I was joyous during the 2002 World Cup run, but with all the attention that this team is getting this year, I can't say there has ever been a bigger moment - from the perspective of how this country views this sport and this team - than today. The feelings I've felt during this game I've only felt a handful of times before. A feeling where I feel like everything is at stake and a loss would be totally unacceptable. The joy I felt Wednesday as a sports fan can only be shared with a few occasions - the Packers Super Bowl victory, the Brewers clinched the playoffs for the first time in 26 years, Favre choking against the Saints, and the night I somehow won a dart tournament at a work function (jk lol). Just an unbelievable game in every facet.

But the question is now, is the best yet to come? The Americans did themselves a lot of favors by winning the group, as their next game is against Ghana, rather than Germany. Ghana is no slouch, but you can bet guys like Landon Donovan will be looking for revenge after they ended our run in the 2006 World Cup. Also, if we win that game we have the winner of South Korea vs. Uruguay, which I feel will be the weakest game in the initial stages of the knockout round. It's very conceivable that with this draw the American might be able to find themselves in the semifinals of this tournament, something that would literally make my head explode. Fact of the matter is though that we have done what we needed to do, this tournament is already a success. But there is so much more that could be done, and the prospect of that has me about as excited as ever.

God Bless the USA.

Quick hits on the other games:

England 1, Slovenia 0

After all the hoopla, it was England and the States that got out of the group after all. England scored in the 23rd minute on a shot that very well should have been blocked, but the Slovenian keeper was not up to the task. Actually, the whole Slovenian team wasn't up to the task, as it really was a disappointing day for them. After they gave up a goal, it was almost as if they were fine with losing 1-0 because they figured the United States would tie Algeria. In fact, when the final whistle blew on Slovenia's game, they thought they had advanced, but lo and behold the U.S. punched one in and Slovenia was out. Slovenia's lack of urgency was a bigger disgrace than Algeria's - just a weak showing on the final day by the two underdogs that could have really done some damage. Again, disgraceful to the game.

Germany 1, Ghana 0

Hey, lookie here - an African team has advanced out of group play. Ghana, despite the loss, got a lot of help from Australia and still were able to advance even though they fell to a rebounding German team. Good for them. Next up for Germany, a match against the rivals England.

Australia 2, Serbia 1

Last night we played mini-golf in Oshkosh and I lead for sixteen holes, only to come up with six strokes on hole 17 and four strokes on hole 18. I choked, hard. Well, Serbia choked about 500 times more than that, which is a bit refreshing for me. Thanks for playing.

Bucks Get Douglas Roberts From Nets

Not a man that does the twitter thing (Winks edit: because Twitter sucks and has been a huge disappointment since I joined, but follow us anyway!), but Chris Douglas Roberts made a big deal on his account about moving to a new team. At the end of each of his tweets he would say "FTD", a phrase we can easily deduce to be Fear The Deer. Now, he will be part of the deer other teams will be fearing next season. Milwaukee will send its 2012 second round pick to the Nets for Chris Douglas-Roberts. Another great move by John Hammond as he builds this team up to be a threat in the East.

CDR, as he will be called a lot, is a guy that at 6 foot 7 can play guard/forward. He will be a good guy coming off the bench, and he loves to get to the free throw line. Both guys that Milwaukee has picked up this week love to draw fouls, and make a living at the line. That is something that last season the Bucks had a hard time doing. It seemed like almost every game Milwaukee was outshot at the line, and had to make up those points from the three point line.

It's another great move by the Bucks as this team reloads without rebuilding. Another good thing about this is we keep all three second round picks this season. So out of the four guys we are going to draft lets hope a few of them pan out. The only way this off season could get better is if Redd was traded, but if it doesn't happen by Thursday don't count on it.

Also side note Hammond might be on the NBA's most wanted listed for stealing after what he's done this week.

(Winks edit 2: Remember our contest Bucks Survivor? Remember how it was tied at sixteen between Bogut and Jennings until the Blogger Poll crashed? If I could only tell you the outrage there has been since because we've yet to decide a winner. Make that, nobody has even noticed. Come on people, you're hurting my feelings! Vote again on the top right of the page, the winner will be named next Wednesday.)

World Cup Predictions: Wednesday, June 23rd

Group C - United States vs. Algeria - 9:00am - ESPN

Well, this is it. The United States would have been more than happy if they were told six months ago that all they would have to do to get to the round of 16 was to beat Algeria. But now, they have to go out and actually do it. It may not be as easy as we would like to think is, especially with how solid Algeria looked in their draw last week against England. But if the school of thought is that Algeria has already played their best game while the Americans haven't, then I think we're going to be in for a treat. This United States team has had a lot of time to think about how their game against Slovenia ended, from the comeback right down to the disallowed goal. I think Bob Bradley has them more ready than they've ever been, and come out firing with their backs on the line.

You saw this team do something similar like this last year in the Confederations Cup, when in their last game of group play they had like a .5 percent chance to advance, but came out blazing anyway knocking off Egypt 3-0. Sure enough, they found themselves advancing where they then upset Spain and lead Brazil 2-0 at halftime. There is a difference between teams that can get the victory and teams that will get the victory, and I think this is a United States team that will get it done. All they have to do is just not give up a stupid goal early, and come out attacking right away, and this will be a good morning.

United States 3, Algeria 0

Group C - England vs. Slovenia - 9:00am - ESPN2

Assuming the Americans do win, England is going to need a victory to advance as well. As we've seen, this Slovenian team is nothing to take lightly, but again, I think we've seen Slovenia play their best game already, while we definitely haven't from England. I'm kind of rooting for Slovenia to win, because if so the Americans would take second in the group and I'll have a better chance of watching them play, but the U.S. would have a better chance to make some noise if we won the group, so we should be rooting for the English side. I can easily see England just getting a draw here and going home a complete disappointment, but I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and see them through.

England 1, Slovenia 0

Group D - Germany vs. Ghana - 1:30pm - ESPN

This really is going to be an incredible day of soccer. Both Ghana and Germany would be the qualifiers of this group right now, but there is still one more contest to be played. Every team, including Serbia and Australia, are still alive in this group, and I'm really pulling for Ghana here because we may not see any one of the six African teams advance into the round of 16, which would really be a shame. But, I don't know, I think Germany figures things back out and gets the victory here. Ghana's fate would then rest on the outcome of the Serbia and Australia game.

Germany 2, Ghana 1

Group D - Serbia vs. Australia - 1:30pm - ESPN

Australia kept themselves alive in this tournament with a tie against Ghana, while Serbia kept themselves in the race by knocking off Deutschland. Both teams have a lot at stake here, but I think it ends up turning into more of a chess match with neither team either to break through for a victory. I'm going with a tie here, a result which would send Ghana through, as long as they don't lose by more than one goal. This is the second day in the row where my predictions have turned into me basically making things play out in favor of an African squad, but I fear I'll be wrong again here.

Australia 1, Serbia 1

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