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by PATRICK CAVANAUGH
The day is finally here. Tonight marks the annual Granite State Baseball Dinner at Radisson Hotel Expo Center in Manchester, NH. The head table was filled with twenty-ones guests of honor, and some of the names on the list were easily recognized by New England sports fans.
As soon as the doors opened, fans fingered through their programs trying to scout out where to start on their hunt for autographs. Popular signatures included Chris Carpenter, a New Hampshire-native who just announced his retirement this week after playing in the Major Leagues for fifteen years, as well as Jonny Gomes, one of the key contributors on this year’s MLB World Champions, the Boston Red Sox. The line for these particular VIPS were packed with people for the entire autograph session.
Other former players in attendance included Fred McGriff, Bernie Carbo, Jim Beattie, and Scott McGregor. There were also some up-and-coming talent at the head table, as players like Brad Zapenas (Cubs minor-league system), Jordan Cote (Yankees minor-league system, and Joey Maher (Yankees minor-league system) show up every year to the dinner. It is always great to see players (both young and old) representing the game of America’s pastime.
For live updates thoughout tonight’s event, you can follow @pcava12 on Twitter as he will be posting insight and pictures throughout the evening.
After a three game stretch where the team scored 19 goals, won three games, and had an all out brawl (including a goalie fight), its safe to say that this was the Providence Bruins’ most successful weekend of the young season. The P-Bruins, who are currently second in the Atlantic Division, were clicking on all cylinders offensively and getting production up and down the lineup.
The madness started Friday against the Wolf Pack, an 8-5 Providence victory, with a double hat trick from the Bruins. Matt Fraser, who is second in the AHL with 11 goals on the season, had the rare Golden Sombrero by tallying 4 goals on the night. Fraser has been a big time goal scorer in the AHL since he arrived in the league and was traded to the Bruins in the Tyler Seguin mega trade. Craig Cunningham, who was originally awarded a fourth goal before review gave it to Fraser, ended the night with three goals and is tied for second on the team along Nick Johnson with 6 goals. Niklas Svedberg started and won, despite only stopping 18 of 23 shots in the game.
Game two on the weekend was a battle with the Worcester Sharks and featured much better Bruins goaltending. Malcolm Subban earned the first win of his professional career, stopping 25 shots en route to a 5-2 Providence win. The scoring for the Bruin offense was much more spread out this time around, starting with Carter Camper’s 2 goal performance. Camper had been struggling to get going early on in the season, but has really picked up his play scoring 10 points in his last 9 games. He is going to need to continue to be one of Providence’s top guns if they want to be successful down the stretch. Cunningham, Matt Lindblad and Bobby Robins netted the other goals for Providence. The common theme in these two games was great play from top prospect Ryan Spooner. Game one saw him dish out four assists, and game two saw him have three. He is the team leader with 14 points, despite a call up to Boston prior to his return on the weekend, and can make things happen offensively. Of his 14 points only 2 of them are goals, so making other people on the ice better is one of the center’s strengths. One question that was raised for the P-Bruins though was what would happen when Spooner wasn’t the focus or was having an off night.
That question was answered Sunday when the Bruins beat up the Wolf Pack 6-0 even though Spooner didn’t record a point. Once again, the team had spread out scoring as four players had multi point games. Alexander Khokhlachev, another budding star, led the charge with 2 goals, while Jared Knight, Fraser, Tommy Cross and Justin Florek each scored once. However, the story of this game quickly shifted from dominate P-Bruin offense to an all out brawl between the two teams. Tempers between the two had been boiling since their game on Friday and finally boiled over in the third period. Pretty much everyone on the ice dropped their gloves and had at it, including the goalies as they skated out to center ice much to the delight of the crowd. The down side for Subban was that he lost his shutout after getting ejected.
Everything that can go right has gone right in recent games. Up and down, the offense has created chances and capitalized on those opportunities. This has led to Providence having a top five power play early in the season and has led to them scoring the most goals in their division. Coming into the season, the younger players that had been around a couple of years would be called upon to replace Trent Whitfield, Jamie Tardif, and Torey Krug amongst others. So far, this mix of players has answered the call and to me the person stepping up most is David Warsofsky. Warsofsky leads the team with a +9 rating and has been one of the best defensemen on the team. Joe Morrow has become what Krug was last year, a young, an emerging defenseman that will look to grow and hopefully help Boston in future years. He too was part of the Seguin trade and it’s nice to see him off to a good start with the P-Bruins.
Providence is good team with much talent and it is nice to see everything really starting to click. This should only be the start of good things to come as the team has all the components of a winning bunch.
It’s hard to believe the 2013 offseason is already here, and the World Champion Red Sox have four key free agents that other teams around MLB will be looking to steal away from them. Let’s take a look at my predictions for the offseason regarding these players and some of the other free agents around the league.
As sad as it is for Sox fans to accept, it seems like the days of Jacoby Ellsbury in Boston are over. I think the team will obviously make a run to sign him, but there is going to be some team that overpays for him. If he really wants a contract in the area of 7 years $150 million dollars, then it would be wise to for Boston to stay away. First of all, after all of the headaches that recent long term deals have caused this team, do they really want to pay that kind of money to someone who has had an injury history? Second, they have internal options that can fill the void in centerfield. Jackie Bradley Jr. is ready to take over that spot for years to come, but if the team doesn’t want to put him there yet they can move Shane Victorino from right to center. So where does Ellsbury end up? To me he fits best with either the Mariners or Rangers. The Mariners are looking to excite their fans with a big offensive signing, while the Rangers will try to find a replacement in the outfield for Nelson Cruz. I believe Seattle ends up making him the best offer, and the Oregon native becomes the Mariners centerfielder.
After signing him to a 3 year, $39 million dollar contract with Boston, Napoli was forced to sign a one year contract with incentives due to a hip problem that he didn’t know existed. That hip didn’t seem to bother him on the field. He came as advertised for the Sox: a .260 hitter that will strike out 180 times, hit 20+ home runs, be streaky, and produce come playoff time. I find it hard to believe that he won’t be back with Boston. They don’t have any other options at first base and Napoli loves it in Boston. He has been accepted here, and it would shock me if he wasn’t back for 3 more years and gets another chance to party shirtless in Boston.
The offensive postseason Drew had isn’t the type of hitter he really is, though he is streaky. Sox fans have seen that when he gets going, he can provide the bottom of the order with production. Of course, he brings superb defense to the shortstop position as well. But unless he accepts his qualifying offer (which is unlikely), there is no way the Sox will or should bring him back. He is an above average shortstop and was a great grab for the Red Sox last offseason. But with Xander Bogaerts the clear shortstop of the future and Will Middlebrooks still at third base, is it really worth paying Drew over $14 million a year? Keep in mind if he signs somewhere else, Boston would get a draft pick in return for him. I think the Cardinals would be a good fit for him, as Sox fans saw first hand that their shortstop situation isn’t the greatest. I could also see the Dodgers potentially making a run at him since Juan Uribe and Mark Ellis aren’t there anymore.
Salty is the only one of these four Sox free agents that didn’t get a qualifying offer, so if he signs elsewhere the team wouldn’t get a draft pick in return. The Sox will probably be in on Brian McCann and AJ Pierzynski, but to me they would be best served to keep Saltalamacchia with the team. Yes he was benched in the World Series, but he is still a 28 year old catcher who is developing and growing as a player. He has always had plus power potential, but this year he started to have more consistent at bats, striking out less and drawing more walks. He has become a better defender as well and the pitching staff (which will have many returning members) is comfortable with him. Should the Sox not want to go with him, any team looking for a catcher would be wise to go with him. The best fit other than Boston I see for him would be the Yankees, though I don’t know how likely that really is. Bottom line is that Saltalamacchia, while being a cheaper option, will be sought after by a number of teams and Boston would be wise to go with him.
Don’t get excited Red Sox fans, Cano probably isn’t going anywhere. The Yankees will have a tough time explaining to their fans why they let their best player go, and they are in no position to do so. Aside from the Dodgers, they are pretty much the only team that can pay him what he is asking for. With the Dodgers already having a ton in payroll and still having to lock up Clayton Kershaw, the Yankees are the only real suitor for Cano. And even if the Dodgers tried to get involved, the Yankees wouldn’t get outbid for their super star, right? George Steinbrenner would be rolling over in his grave if Cano was wearing anything other than pinstripes next year.
Earlier I talked about ways to replace Jacoby Ellsbury in the outfield. This solution wouldn’t be too bad either. Beltran is an older outfielder with a history of injury, plus the Sox would have to give up a draft pick as compensation. But he is such a productive player when he is on the field and can do so much for a team. He provides solid defense, likely in right field if he came to Boston, power, average, and can hit anywhere from 2-6 in the lineup. Boston reportedly has shown interest in signing him, and is one of many teams that will look to hire his services. Ultimately, I think he stays with the Cardinals for one last run, but if not them Boston, the Yankees, or the Rangers would be a good fit for him.
Nathan is the best closing option on the market right now, and his services will be sought after by many teams. To me the best fits for him will be the Yankees and Tigers, with the Tigers ultimately landing him. The Yankees have a lot of positions that they need to worry about in free agency but there isn’t too much the Tigers need other than bullpen help, specifically a closer. If they had a solid closer in 2013, they likely would have won the World Series with the rotation and lineup they had. They decided not to trade for a closer at the deadline and it came back to haunt them. They should have learned their lesson will make sure that the 9th inning is no longer a problem in 2014.
Garza is one of the top options on the starting pitching market. The Yankees, Rangers, and Angels among other teams will be looking to boost their rotation, but I think it will be the Yankees that land Garza. Garza has experience in the AL East, and the Yankees may be willing to pay more than other teams for that reason. Garza comes with risk as he has had health problems, but a fit with the Yankees makes the most sense for both sides.
Another top option on the market, Jimenez will be looking to cash in this offseason. He comes with risk as seemingly every starter on this year’s market does, but he will boost an already solid rotation. Once again, he fits with many teams, but I feel like he will go to the Angels. He would fill in nicely as the number 3 starter behind Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson, and the Angels need another starter. They have focused on offense more in recent offseasons, but that hasn’t led to playoffs appearances. They should be able to pay for Jimenez and have no excuse for at least not being the playoff hunt with the talent they have.
McCann is the top catcher on the market, and I think he goes to the Rangers. The team needs a catcher, and McCann provides good offense in a hitter’s ballpark. He might want money in the $100 million range, a price that Texas might not want to go to. Look for the Yankees to jump in if they can, as they too desperately need catching help and the short porch in right field will look really appealing to McCann. Boston will likely inquire about McCann too, but their money is better spent elsewhere.
These are just some of the many key players on the 2014 market, and it looks to be another exciting and interesting offseason this year.
It’s week four of the 2013 NFL season. I am on my feet in the Georgia Dome with an emotional typhoon running through my body, watching the Atlanta Falcons take on the New England Patriots. With four minutes left in the game, the Dome is about half-empty because Matt Ryan just threw an interception on what looked to be the Falcons’ last drive of the game. I am a die-hard Falcons fan, but am also cognizant that my opponent in fantasy football has the Falcons’ kicker, Matt Bryant.
This is where the dilemma starts. Would I rather see the professional team with my loyalty, which I have supported through thick and thin, lose a regular season game, while my fantasy football team emerges victorious; or would I rather a team that (most likely) doesn’t know who I am, yet I’ve been a lifelong fan of them, lose, and my fantasy team, connected so tightly with my friends and life, trump that week’s competition?
At this point in time, my fantasy team (The Raging Falcoholic) was up by four points. If Matt Bryant kicked a 50 yard field goal, I would lose that week (30 yards=3 points, 40=4 points…).
Call me lame, but at this moment, I was more morally and emotionally conflicted than any other time in my life.
I’m not quite sure why the fantasy gods chose me to torment, but indeed they did, as Atlanta successfully executed an onside kick, and got the ball back with minimal time left in the game.
Before I had time to contemplate the ethics of fanhood, Matt Bryant kicked a 30-yard field goal. This meant that my fantasy team was winning by just one point…and the Falcons were down by seven.
Falcons’ head coach, Mike Smith, tested his luck with another onside kick, but did not recover, so the Falcons’ hopes looked to be spoiled, and my fantasy hopes salvaged. But so inevitably, there was a twist.
Tom Brady fumbled the ball at the Falcons’ 40-yard line, and Matt Ryan gave his rebuttal with a deep pass to Julio Jones to put the Falcons at New England’s 20 without a timeout, and 36 seconds to play. Indeed I was hugging people, with the dignity of a grown man, who I did not know, and most likely will never meet again.
The game ends with Aqib Talib knocking down Matt Ryan’s fourth-and-goal pass to Roddy White, and every Falcons fan exiting the Georgia Dome in silence and disbelief.
My fantasy team won that week by one point because Matt Bryant never got a chance to kick that last extra point.
If you are still reading this, and have stuck with me through my hopefully-entertaining narrative, I’m not going to leave you without a conclusion to the question I originally proposed.
For some of you, I’m sure it is not difficult to decide whether you would value a win from your fantasy team or NFL team more. However, as a fantasy die-hard, and Falcons die-hard, this decision has been marching around in my (hopefully) semi-full brain for some time.
What I have to say, is that, when walking out of the Georgia Dome after a loss, surrounded by thousands of people just as depressed as I was, I concluded that I would have rather seen Matt Bryant kick 1,000 extra points if it meant that the Falcons won.
There you have it, the camaraderie, along with the bliss of an NFL team’s win of whom you are a die-hard fan tops the feeling of satisfaction than winning a fantasy football matchup.
The 2013-2014 AHL season is upon us, and the Providence Bruins are in line for another successful year. However, this will be a much different looking bunch than the team that won the AHL regular season championship a season ago. The P-Bruins lost several key members of last year’s squad, including three of their four All-Stars. Former Captain Trent Whitfield has left American hockey and signed in Europe, and while his skill sets have fallen some in recent years his veteran leadership to the younger players will be dearly missed. Chris Bourque has left the country as well, signing in the KHL after spending time with both Providence and Boston last year. Jamie Tardif has moved on to the Buffalo Sabers organization, as he continues his journeyman career. Tardif was another veteran presence with scoring touch, as he was the only Bruin to score 30 goals last year. Other Bruins not in the organization anymore include Christian Hanson, Kyle MacKinnon, Colby Cohen, and Garnet Exelby. Defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug are almost certain not to return to Providence this season after each enjoyed success with Boston.
It isn’t all subtraction for this new group of Bruins, as the Tyler Seguin trade with the Stars brought in some young talent. One of those new players is 23 year old Matt Fraser, who has led the AHL over the past two seasons with 70 goals scored. A player loved by his coaches, Fraser has natural scoring ability and in his first two AHL seasons has made the All-Star team twice. He is known as a hard worker and someone always looking to improve and be better. The other player acquired was 20 year old defenseman Joe Morrow. Morrow is very talented, but still has a lot to learn in order to bring that talent out on to the ice everyday. Malcolm Subban, the Bruins 2012 first round pick, will start the season as the backup goalie. The 19 year old is in his first professional season, and as such will surely have his growing pains. While this is an important year for him no doubt, any struggles he has shouldn’t be overreacted too. He is a very young budding star who is only going to get better with time. Moving away from the young guns, Nick Johnson and former Sharks captain Mike Moore were also signed as veteran leaders to this young team.
Providence also returns a group of core players from last year’s team, starting with goaltender Niklas Svedberg. Svedberg had been competing to be Boston’s backup goalie for this season, but ultimately lost out to Chad Johnson. It wouldn’t be a surprise if at some point he is promoted, but until then he will continue to be one of the best goalies in the AHL. He won nearly every honor one could possibly win as a rookie last year for the P-Bruins, and he shows no signs of slowing up.
2013 leading scorer Ryan Spooner is also back in the fold, at least for the time being. The play making center put together a strong camp for Boston, but ultimately didn’t make the team. Should there be an injury to Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci, he would be an option for Boston. Until then it looks like he will be paired with Johnson and Fraser, a line that could put up major production this season. Their other returning forwards are Carter Camper, Craig Cunningham, Justin Florek, Alexander Khokhlachev, and Jared Knight. The group is talented, meaning they should be able to have a balanced scoring attack throughout. This doesn’t include enforcer and fan favorite Bobby Robins, who is currently out due to a knee injury and has no definite return date. Robins’ intensity and passion will be missed on the ice, and the combination of him, Camper, and Cunningham will likely have to take on a greater leadership role. On defense, the team has very solid returning players in David Warsofsky, Tommy Cross, Kevan Miller, and Zach Trotman. These are guys who aren’t just one dimensional players and can still grow and improve.
Through three games, the team is 1-1-0-1, however have squandered late leads twice already. On opening night the team let a 2 goal lead with 2 minutes to go slip away, but was able to survive in overtime on Johnson’s second goal of the game. Friday they were not so lucky, giving up a goal with under 3 minutes left to tie the score at 2 and losing in a shootout. It is still early though, and this a trend that likely won’t continue.
Providence looks to earn their second victory of the young season tonight in Portland.
The 2013 Pawtucket Red Sox season was no doubt a great one, however it ended in one of the most frustrating ways possible. The defending Governors’ Cup Champions saw their Cup head to Durham, as the Bulls defeated the PawSox 3 games to 1 in this year’s finals. The Bulls won three straight games against the Sox, including the final two at McCoy Stadium. I could get into every single stat and write pages of game analysis as to why they lost, but I can do it much easier with just one number: 29. That is the amount of consecutive innings Pawtucket went without scoring a run. That is almost unheard of. Give credit to the Durham pitchers, as they were great and stepped up on the biggest stage in minor league baseball, but this was one of the worst end-of-year slumps that Pawtucket has seen. They had several chances offensively, as runners were constantly on via a walk, error, or the rare base hit. But anytime they had something brewing, no one could capitalize on it. This was due in large part to the middle of the order. The combination of Alex Hassan, Mark Hamilton, and Bryce Brentz combined to hit under .130 in the playoffs.
In their 14 inning loss in game three, it seemed like they blew a chance to win in every inning. After Brentz dropped a fly ball and Brock Holt threw home with no one covering in the 14th, the team STILL had a chance to win. However with the score 2-0, Brentz struck out with the bases loaded and two outs to end the game. In the game they left 17 men on base. Game four was much less exciting, as the team looked down and out early on. The body language on the field gave it away right off the bat. I wouldn’t classify it as “not hustling”, but the team definitely didn’t play at 100%. The game three loss almost certainly took a mental toll on the team, one they could not recover from.
So while the season didn’t end with a Championship, it was still a successful year for the PawSox. Amazing talent passed through McCoy Stadium and many players were sent to Fenway to help the playoff bound Red Sox. One of those players was top prospect Xander Bogaerts, who played shortstop and third base with the PawSox. He improved greatly in his time with the club, earning his promotion on August 19th. He showed his defensive versatility, his ability to hit for power, his ability to use the whole field, and a strong work ethic. The 20 year old is clearly the shortstop of the future, and assuming Boston doesn’t resign Stephen Drew he likely will start there in 2014.
Jackie Bradley Jr. was the other super star prospect grazing the field this year for the PawSox, and he is another player whose Pawtucket tenure may be coming to an end. Jacoby Ellsbury is going to want a huge contract at the end of the year, and should that contract be with another team Bradley would take over in centerfield. He hasn’t had the type of offensive success in the majors that he did with Pawtucket, but his great defense will slide right in for Boston. If there is one thing we learned about him in Pawtucket this year, it is that he is one of the smoothest centerfielders in the game. The young Bradley will improve his offense next year at the big league level while letting the Sox save some money in the process.
These next two players only spent limited time with the PawSox this season, but there time at McCoy helped shape them for what is likely two long postseason runs. Will Middlebrooks was sent to Pawtucket after a long first half slump. His approach at the plate needed fixing, as the amount of balls he rolled over to shortstop and the amount of strikeouts he had were pilling up. He worked on using the whole field, taking what the pitcher game him, and letting his natural ability take over. Now he is the every day third baseman for Boston again, giving some power to the bottom of the order. Jose Iglesias spent parts of April and May with the PawSox, and while he didn’t light it up with the team, one of the turning points of his season happened. He was benched. After enjoying early success in Boston to start the year, he was sent to Pawtucket when Drew came off the DL. Iglesias wasn’t happy about it, and his play on the field showed it. Manager Gary DiSarcina sat him down because of it, saying that it was a manager’s decision. When asked about it, DiSarcina said, “I’m not here to sit him on the bench and punish him. That’s not what we’re all about. It’s, ‘Hey, take a break, watch how the game is played and remember what John Farrell told you [if you want to be called back up].’” It’s safe to say it worked, as he thrived once he got his second big league chance. With his value high, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers as part of the Jake Peavy trade. He now has a chance to play everyday with the first place Tigers and he is a front runner for Rookie of the Year.
These are just a few of the many PawSox that helped out Boston this year, but lets take a look at what we can expect next year in Pawtucket and the players who will have an impact in 2014.
The starting rotation should feature three bright young stars on the cusp of big league success. Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, and Matt Barnes all had success this year with the PawSox and will look to find a role in the big leagues come 2014. While they will all likely start the year in Pawtucket, their time in the big leagues is not far away. Webster and Barnes are 23 and Ranaudo is 24, meaning that they are at the age where they should be ready to take over in the big leagues. That may not be in the Boston rotation yet, but it is conceivable that they provide solid innings out of the bullpen while auditioning for a starting role.
At catcher, Christian Vazquez figures to play everyday in 2014 while 2013 PawSox MVP Dan Butler becomes the DH/backup catcher. Vazquez is a great defensive catcher that the organization is very high on. His bat has come around and it is in that area where he will need to work if he wants to be in the majors. Some feel he is big league ready now defensively.
Other offensive players likely to be at McCoy in 2014 include Bryce Brentz and Ryan Kalish, two outfielders that need to have big, injury free years to prove that they are part of Boston’s big league future. Once highly touted prospects, both of their stock has taken a bit of a hit this year. While they may not be a firm part of Boston’s future, their 2014 seasons will be about proving they can still play and still be a part of some team’s Major League future. The big name to watch for is Garin Cecchini, who is currently one of the team’s top 5 prospects. The third baseman can use the whole field offensively and has good power. The 22 year old hit .296 in his first season with Portland, and whether it is opening day or later on in the year expect to see him in a PawSox uniform.
Winning at the Minor League level isn’t a priority. It is about producing players that can help the MLB team win. Once again, it was the best of both worlds in Pawtucket.
by CAMERON MERRITT
FOXBOROUGH, Mass.- The New England Patriots defeated the New York Jets 13-10 Thursday night in a wet, sloppy, and at times frustrating (especially for the offense) home opener.
“I’m glad we won, but we just obviously have a lot of room for improvement. We need to try to get back to work and see if we can do better next week,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (19-39, 185 yds, 1 TD) during the post-game press conference.
The Patriots lone touchdown of the night came early in the first quarter, when Brady found rookie receiver Aaron Dobson (3 rec, 56 yds, 1 TD) without coverage and connected with him for a 39-yard touchdown, his first ever as a pro as well as his first reception. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski added two field goals, one from 21 yards in the first and one from 30 yards in the second, as the Patriots scored all their points of the night before the half.
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith (15-35, 214 yds, 3 INT) lead the Jets against their biggest rival, but was troubled frequently by an impressive New England defense, and was picked off three times, twice by Aqib Talib and once by Alfonzo Dennard. New York’s only touchdown came via a 3-yard run by Bilal Powell (13 car, 48 yds, 1 TD) in the third.
Before the game, the Patriots did a touching tribute to the victims and survivors of the tragic Boston Marathon bombing back in April, and brought several survivors out on the field to honor their courage and recovery efforts.
Receiving the kickoff, the Patriots marched 81 yards down the field to score with 12:54 left in the quarter and go up 7-0. On their third drive of the game, the Jets Smith found Stephen Hill down the middle of the field, but the receiver fumbled the ball after being quickly hit by Talib, then the fumble was returned 44 yards by Devin McCourty, which eventually lead to a Gostkowski field goal and an early 10-0 New England lead with 10 minutes still left in the first quarter. The Jets would score off a 37-yard field goal, moved 10 yards back because of a holding penalty on the team, by Nick Folk on the next drive.
But the Pats couldn’t keep up with this scoring pace, scoring only three more points the entire game, with Brady and his receivers not connecting as well, including two drops in a row from Dobson, and a failed slants rout that neither Dobson or Julian Edelman (13 rec, 78 yds) were prepared for, leaving a very angry Brady screaming as the team came off the field as they were forced to settle for their second field goal, making it 13-3 with 6:32 left in the half.
Both teams had touchdowns taken back after review in the first half, with passes in the end zone to the Jets’ Clyde Gates in the first quarter and the Pats’ Kembrell Thompkins in the second ruled incomplete after review.
In the second half, both teams struggled on offense, with many drives going three and out and ending in punts. The Jets, however, were able to bring themselves within three in the third quarter with 10:05 left via the Powell touchdown.
Smith was picked off by both Talib, again, and Dennard in the half, and the Patriots defense played well, also sacking Smith four times for a total loss of 25 yards.
Two Jets players, Willie Colon and D’Brickashaw Ferguson, were ejected following a fight between the two teams near the end of the fourth quarter that started when Nick Mangold laid a low hit on Talib after he picked off Smith, a tackle which Jets head coach Rex Ryan defended as non-intentional.
“Nick went down, and the guy turned his back. It wasn’t intentional by any means; he tried to make a cut tackle. [Talib] went out of bounds, and all heck broke loose. Apparently our team was the only one involved,” he commented after the game.
When the game was all said and done, the Patriots were glad to take the win and looked forward to improving in the upcoming weeks.
“Once again, this is a little bit like last week, [I’m] proud of our team. They once again stepped up, made the plays we needed to make in the fourth quarter. The conditions weren’t great out there in the second half but [we] did a better job of taking care of the ball then we did last week; that was key,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. “I thought the team fought hard today and that was good; like to see that.”
“I feel like there is definitely things we can improve on. We had a short week this week, so we got that 10 days right now, so we just got to get our timing together this week going into the next game,” said Dobson, who also added about playing in the, at times, down-pouringrain that dominated the second half, saying that it”s “tough,” but not an excuse for his dropped passes.
“The ball’s wet, but that’s not an excuse, you know. What I do is catch the ball, so I got to make the catches.”
As for the Jets, Smith shouldered the loss and lamented on missed opportunities, but said there was hope for the future
“We didn’t get it. One thing I can tell you is that we came out and competed hard and put ourselves in a position to win it late, but with the costly mistakes that were completely on me we just didn’t get it done. I take full responsibility for that and we’ll get better from this,” said the man out of West Virginia.
The Patriots, now tied with the Miami Dolphins for the AFC East lead at 2-0, return to action next Sunday as they’ll play host to the 0-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
by CAMERON MERRITT
FOXBOROUGH, Mass.- Brazilian star forward Neymar Jr. scored twice as he propelled the 2014 World Cup host nation to a 3-1 victory over Portugal in a friendly at Gillette Stadium.
Neymar, the 21 year old rising star purchased by FC Barcelona for €57 million ($75,827,100) from Santos this summer, dazzled as he lead the Canarinho to victory against a Portugal side missing their biggest star, Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo, who returned to Spain earlier in the week after it was revealed he was suffering from tendinitis and needed to rest, and could possibly miss Saturday’s La Liga match vs Villareal.
The third-largest crowd ever for a friendly at Gillette, behind only Brazil-Mexico and the US-Spain, the massive crowd loudly and proudly backed their sides, though overall in favor of the Brazilians. With a FIFA-regulated sod pitch rolled out over the usual field turf and a special ceremony to honor two of the best players from both nations: Eusebio of Portugal, who once played for the Boston Minutemen of the NASL at the old Foxboro Stadium, and Pele, who was also spotted with fellow Brazilian, supermodel Gisele Bundchen and her husbad, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Once the game was underway, it was the underdogs Portugal who would take the early lead, when Thaigo Silva blocked a Joao Moutinho shot that went back to be weekly headed back again by the defender Maicon, then quickly shot past Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar by Raul Meireles, the ninth career international goal for the midfielder and former Chelsea and Liverpool man.
However, the Brazilians weren’t out of it for long, equalizing only six minutes later when Silva sent a strong header past the keeper Rui Patricio off a Neymar corner, with the PSG man putting it high to the right, and right over Patricio’s hand.
Neymar struck himself in the 35th minute as he cut through several Portuguese defenders and then sent a strong low shot to the left of the keeper for the go-ahead goal of the match.
The two sides went into the half in a match that was still anyone’s to win, even if the Brazilians had scored two unanswered goals and were controlling momentum. That momentum carried over into the second half, unfortunately for Portugal, as Maxwell passed across the face of goal to Jo, with the Atletico Mineiro man just having to tap it in to give his team the 3-1 lead.
While both teams would have a few more chances, neither were strong enough or finished well enough to change the scoreline, and the Brazilians, champions of this summer’s Confederations Cup, were once again victorious. In the 89th minute, Neymar came off to a standing ovation from the Brazilian supporters as Louis Moura came on to finish out the final minutes.
The Brazilians continue their world tour in October, when they’ll face South Korea in Seoul on the 12th, and finish off three days later with a friendly against 2012 African Cup of Nations champions Zambia in Beijing.
After an exciting, come from behind win yesterday, the Pawtucket Red Sox were back in action Wednesday night looking to take a commanding two games to none lead in the Governors’ Cup Final. The PawSox again would have to face a tough pitcher, as the Durham Bulls starter would be J.D. Martin, the I.L. Pitcher of Year. The Sox countered with Steven Wright, who pitched well and got the win in his last start against the Red Wings. In another low scoring game, the Bulls would even the series by the final of 2-1.
After the first two innings were scoreless for both sides, the bottom of the Pawtucket’s order started the first rally of the game. Dan Butler lined an opposite field single and Justin Henry followed with a single to right. After a Heiker Meneses sac bunt put two runners in scoring position, Jonathan Diaz drove home a run on an RBI groundout to make the score 1-0 PawSox after three innings of play.
While this was one of the only opportunities they had on Martin, they were able to grind out at bats and work his pitch count high. Through five innings he threw 79 pitches despite just giving up the one run. Wright and his knuckleball kept Durham hitters off balance, but his pitch count was also high by the fifth inning. The Bulls best early chances came in the 3rd and 5th innings in which they stranded two runners. Wright was able to wiggle his way around any trouble he got into, which was often as he failed to record a clean inning.
The Bulls would catch a break in the 6th inning to tie the game at one a side. After getting the first two men on, Brandon Guyer grounded into a double play that moved Belnome to third. A passed ball by Butler allowed him to score the game tying run.
Again, Durham would capitalize on a Pawtucket mistake in the 7th inning. Craig Albernaz got to second base with one out after Meneses threw a routine grounder into the Bulls dugout. Wright was left on the mound to face Kevin Kiermaier, and he promptly launched an RBI double to left to give the Bulls a 2-1 lead.
Pawtucket’s offense continued to be quiet against Bulls pitching late in the game. The PawSox were able to get hits but weren’t able to string anything together, a trend that has become a theme in these playoffs. Another troubling theme for Pawtucket has been a lack of production from the middle of the order, as the combination of Alex Hassan, Mark Hamilton, and Bryce Brentz have combined to hit under .200 through 7 playoff games. It was this combination that led off the 9th inning down one, but could not muster up a run against closer Kirby Yates.
Martin recorded a no decision in his 6 innings of work, allowing 1 run on 4 hits, a walk, and 3 strikeouts. C.J. Riefenhauser earned the win in relief, pitching 2 perfect innings with 4 strikeouts. Wright was tagged with the loss despite not allowing an earned run in the game. He went 6.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, 3 walks, and 6 strikeouts.
Both teams will have Thursday off before returning to McCoy Stadium for Game three of the series. Matt Barnes will take the hill for the PawSox while Matt Buschmann will go for the Bulls. Game time is 7:05.
by CAMERON MERRITT
COLUMBUS, Ohio- For the seventh consecutive time, the United States Men’s National Team are headed to the World Cup following a 2-0 win over rivals Mexico and a 2-2 draw between Honduras and Panama on Tuesday.
Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan each had a goal in the second half to lead the Americans to victory and book their tickets to Brazil next summer. Mexico, on the other hand, are now facing the very real possibility that for the first time in team history they may miss out on qualification for soccer’s biggest stage.
“We were able to get the right result tonight and qualify for the World Cup. To do it against our rivals is even sweeter. It shows we’re continuing the growth of the game here in the States,” said US forward and captain Clint Dempsey following the match.
A crowd of 24,584, vastly in favor of the Yanks, packed into Crew Stadium, which has previously hosted three matches between the two giants of CONCACAF, first in 2001, then 2005, and 2009, all of which ended 2-0 in favor of USMNT, leading to loud chants of “Dos a Cero” (2-0) from the American supporters before kickoff, and for almost two hours after the final whistle.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann made a few changes from his usual roster, calling up midfielder Joe Corona, Brad Davis, Jose Torres, and defender Clarence Goodison to fill in for Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler, and Attleboro, MA native Geoff Cameron, serving one match suspensions for yellow cards in their 3-1 loss to Costa Rica on September 6. John Brooks was sent back to his club, Hertha Berlin.
After all the anticipation and anthems, the game got underway with El Tri dominating the early chances, putting several good shots on goal that challenged American keeper Tim Howard. As the half progressed though, chances began to even out, the US having their best chance when eventual scorer Eddie Johnson saw his header of a corner deflect straight down at Mexican keeper Jose Corona. Both teams suffered from some poor play, with Mexico almost taking a 1-0 lead when a cross bounced off defender DeMarcus Beasley’s legs and forced Howard to make a diving reach to keep it from rolling into the bottom right corner.
However, the US came out of the half a completely different side. They went ahead in the 49th minute when a Landon Donovan corner was headed dead on center past the keeper, who was standing near the right post, from the penalty box by Johnson. Donovan himself found home in the 78th minute when he finished off a low cross across the face of the net by Mix Diskerud, who came on two minutes before for Johnson, who left with a head injury.
Dempsey had the chance to make it 3-0 in stoppage time off a penalty kick, but sent his shot a few inches wide of the right post. Soon after, the final whistle was blown, and both sides went to watch Honduras-Panama, and after that match ended in a draw, it was time for the Americans to celebrate.
“I’m really excited for guys who haven’t been able to experience a night like this,” said Donovan after his team found out they had qualified. “There’s no guarantee that any of us are at the World Cup next year, but to be able to experience a night like this in front of a crowd like that where you get to celebrate and qualify is really special.”
“[T]he goal is to do well in Brazil. You want to qualify for the World Cup and you want to do well,” said Dempsey, the American skipper.
Costa Rica also clinched a spot in the World Cup Tuesday night when they drew Jamaica 1-1, securing enough points to make it to the big stage for the fourth time in their 92 year history, and the first time since 2006.
This match once again highlighted the continuing struggles for the Mexicans, who currently sit fifth on the hexagonal qualifier table, where the top three automatically qualify for the World Cup while the 4th place team has to take on Oceania Football Conference runner-up New Zealand in a two-leg series to determine who will get one of the final spots for Brazil. They’ll have a chance to move up to that fourth spot on October 11 when they play host to the side currently holding that position, and tied with Mexico on points (eight), as Panama visit the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
The US can hope to improve on and hold their first place position when they take on Jamaica in Kansas City on October 11, then play their final match of the round on the 15th when they’ll face Panama in Panama, in a rematch of the CONCACAF Gold Cup final.