The U.S. Men's National Soccer Team played their final pre-World Cup friendly yesterday against the Super Eagles of Nigeria (we desperately need a name like that), and won 2-1 in Jacksonville.
It was by far their best performance of the three games they have played to prepare for the World Cup, and it came as a result of a formation change by Jurgen Klinsmann. He abandoned the "diamond" midfield for more of a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 depending on how you looked at it, but more importantly he started both Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman along with Michael Bradley in the mid-field.
Much of the pre-Cup prep has been about finding a way to get Bradley free to move up the pitch, because he is the best player they have for initiating attacks (and, well, just the best player they have period). Playing two holding mid-fielders in Jones and Beckerman to provide cover for what has sometimes been a shaky back four seemed to do the trick, as the defense was much more solid than it was last week against Turkey, and Jones was able to display all of his talents in the middle of the park. Bradley was able to organize counter attacks, and the entire enterprise looked much, much better.
To add to this, Jozy Altidore broke out of his drought with both goals for the U.S., the first a simple tap in that was generated by some lovely build up play featuring Alejandro Bedoya and a fantastic run by Fabian Johnson, who seems in fine form at right back. The second was the result of a fantastic long ball from Bradley that Atlidore beautifully controlled, beat his defender, and blasted one near post from 12 yards. It was a confident play and strike, and bodes well for Brazil.
Things got a little sloppy when the subs started coming in, which resulted in a penalty that Nigeria converted for their goal late on, but overall it was as good a performance by the USMNT as we've seen in quite a while. Next stop, Brazil.
The air conditioning is fixed. LeBron feels put upon by the masses. The Heat need a win.
The Spurs put on one of the most magnificent displays of offense you will ever see in the 4th quarter of game one, making 14 of 16 shots en route to overcoming a seven point deficit and winning by 15. Their ball movement was glorious, and they made all six of their three pointers in the quarter.
The Spurs have a lineup that nobody has been able to stop so far in the playoffs: Parker, Ginobili, Leonard, Diaw, and Duncan. It's clear now that Popovich knows he can go to this when he needs to, and the Heat have to find a way to counter it. I'm not sure there is a real way, but we'll see. The Spurs depth is unrivaled, and once LeBron James went down it was clear that the Heat simply couldn't keep up late in the game.
The Heat were able to use their aggressiveness on pick and rolls, and ability to play passing lanes to force the Spurs into a lot of turnovers, especially in the first three quarters of game one, and will have to have a similar effort in game two, though no doubt the Spurs have worked on avoiding those mistakes in the interim. The Heat were able to score effectively with their stars attacking throughout, but could use some production from their point guard spot (Chalmers/Cole combined for five points) and some one off the bench other than Ray Allen (4 points from non-Allen reserves).
But ultimately, they have to figure out a way to stop San Antonio getting so many open shots. The Spurs shot 59% from the field and 52% from three, and obviously won't lose if they shoot like that.
The Minnesota Lynx are back in action today against the Sparks in Los Angeles. The game starts at 2:30 Central and will stream (we hope) on Live Access. The Lynx are coming off their first loss of the season in Seattle, when they just had a terrible shooting night and looked off offensively throughout. It happens, but they really need some bench spark for games like this, which they are lacking in the absence of Monica Wright.
The Sparks were expected to be one the big challengers to the Lynx in the West, along with Phoenix, but have started only 3-3. Still, they have a lot of talent, including WNBA MVP Candace Parker and several other quality players. Hopefully the Lynx can bounce back after their lackluster performance on Friday.
In Love "news":
Bledsoe is an RFA, so he's out of the equation. Tough to see a Phoenix deal.
Oh, yeah. Some horse didn't win the Triple Crown yesterday.
Today in history
65: Jews revolt against Romans in Jerusalem.
452: Attila the Hun invades Italy
1789: James Madison introduces proposed Bill of Rights in House of Representatives
1815: 39 German states unite, agreeing to Act of Confederation
1861: Tennessee votes to secede from the Union. SEC: The Country
1892: Homer Plessy refuses to sit in "colored" railway car in Lousiana, (intentionally) sparking case that would become Plessy v. Ferguson that upheld "separate but equal" for the next 60 years.
1963: American Heart Association begins first concerted campaign against cigarettes
1968: James Earl Ray, killer of Martin Luther King Jr., is captured
1968: Bobby Kennedy buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Today's musical birthday is Kanye West, born in 1977
Sunday. Sun. Day.