(Although, for fucks sake, I challenge anyone to actually watch Cincinnati play without wanting to rip their eyes out. Cronin should not get rewarded for playing negative, bruising basketball! ... *deep breaths*)
Today in the bag, I'm talking My Hawks going down in Game 7, a repeat Finals in the NBA, and Team USA's preparation for the World Cup.
Click below for the bag...
Kings shove past Blackhawks in Chicago -
Having earned a Game 7 on home ice, My Chicago Blackhawks were favored to advance past the LA Kings to the Stanley Cup Final for the second-consecutive season. Unfortunately, as life is quick to remind us all, nothing is guaranteed, and a stunning overtime goal from LA defenseman Alec Martinez turned the raucous Madhouse on Madison into a pin-drop quiet funeral parlor.
Woof... I'm going to need a minute...
The 5-4 win for LA was the just the latest in a line of fantastic efforts between the two teams. As Chicago slowly clawed back into the series, momentum seemed to be turning on its head, but never did I feel that the Hawks had regained control. Every time Chicago would surge forward, the Kings were quick to answer, and doom always seemed just around the corner. Such it was in Game 7, as the Hawks took three separate leads throughout the proceedings, only to watch as each was quickly answered. For LA, it was the third-straight series that they were forced to win a Game 7 on road ice, and that they managed to pull it off by constantly coming from behind says a ton about the makeup of that bunch.
|A gut-punch for this Blackhawks fan.|
The Kings now move on to play the New York Rangers for the Cup. If I was a Ranger fan, having watched the level of hockey on display in the West over the past few weeks, I'd be pretty nervous. Still, you never know...
A Finals rematch in the NBA -
Over in the NBA, we're getting a repeat of the 2013 Finals, which saw the Miami Heat survive a challenge from the habitually underrated San Antonio Spurs. It's probably the rematch the league deserves, if not the matchup the networks would've wanted. SA rarely moves the ratings needle, and there's always the prospect of LeBron fatigue when the Heat are in the equation. Still, after last year's finals, where the Spurs were a matter of seconds from an upsetting title, I'm eager to see San Antonio get another shot at the Fight'n LeBrons.
|Back in the habit: the rematch is good for basketball|
Of course, I doubt the Heat would have it any other way. They enter the Finals relatively fresh and rested, have rarely had to expend the level of energy the Spurs have had to use. Case-in-point, while Miami enters relatively injury-free (Don't even bring up Chris Andersen, no series will ever turn on the health of Birdman), San Antonio may be forced to play without point guard Tony Parker, who is, at best, 'hopeful' to shrug off a bum ankle to play in Game 1. The Spurs desperately need their veteran distributor if they have any hope of earning the title they were so close to earning a year ago.
|Parker needs to be active for us to get the series we want to see.|
US Soccer Team closes in on World Cup -
With just over a week to go before the world's greatest sporting exhibition, the US Men's Soccer team is cruising through their final tuneup matches. Yesterday afternoon featured a thrilling display of attacking mindset against a willing Turkey squad. In front of a sold out Red Bull Arena in New Jersey, the US poured forward, openly courting the flashy goals that have come to be expected in the era of Jurgen Klinsmann. While not particularly efficient with their chances, they did find the back of the net twice, which was just enough to claim a 2-1 victory over the visiting Turks.
The performance wasn't perfect. The 4-4-2 Diamond that the US featured opened the oftentimes faulty backline to dangerous probes from Turkey. But, while it left the door open on the counter attack, it also lead to one of the prettier goals in recent efforts from the Yanks, when Fabian Johnson teammed up with Michael Bradley (moved forward in the Diamond) for a scintillating give-and-go. The US looked dangerous and capable against a nominally good opponent, in part because the new-er formation gave themselves more options, and gave world-class midfielder Bradley more say on the attack. In general I liked what I saw, tactically, from the team, and took the effort as a good sign headed into Brazil.
|You have to like what you see in Fabian Johnson.|
Of the trio, Jones and Chandler are older players who should be better than they've shown. I can at least see value in Jones, but prefer a player like Kyle Beckerman, who seems to make far fewer mistakes. Chandler, on the other hand, is an allowed goal waiting to happen (just look at how quickly Turkey proceeded to take advantage of him throughout Sunday's match). As for Green, he at least has the excuse of youth, having already played in more national team games (2) than club team games (0), but that only adds an additional layer on the questions surrounding his inclusion to the squad. Why are inconsistent (Jones and Chandler) and unready (Green) talents given the nod when proven performers like Landon Donovan are left at home? *sigh*
On a pragmatic level, I get the Green addition (quid pro quo to get him to join Team USA), and having at least Jones off the bench provides battle-tested European grit in the defensive midfield, but I'm really concerned that these three might actually play in Brazil. I've heard musings that Klinsmann may just be posting a team that will help him build towards 2018, rather than try to survive a tough group in 2014. If that is indeed the case, then it is a critical error. World Cups are not for development, they're for glory. Spiking one for experience towards the future is a good way to go for a repeat of the disastrous 1998 World Cup, which set the development of the sport in America back multiple years. Play to win, and always put your best foot forward... or at least wait for the damn Gold Cup to develop.