Wednesday, August 31, 2011

EuroBasket 2011 - Day 1 Results

We may not have an NBA season, but that doesn't mean the NBA's stars aren't in action. The European Championships kicked off today with 9 games and a number of NBA players taking the floor for their home countries. Among the winners, Dirk Nowitzki's Germany team, Pau Gasol and Spain, Tony Parker and France, and Andrei Kirilenko and Russia.
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Here are the results from Day 1:

Spain 83 Poland 78
Lithuania 80 United Kingdom 69
Turkey 79 Portugal 56
Serbia 80 Italy 68
Germany 91 Israel 64
France 89 Latvia 78
Greece 76 Bosnia 67
Montenegro 70 FYR Macedonia 65 (OT)
Croatia 84 Finland 79
Slovenia 67 Bulgaria 59
Georgia 81 Belgium 59
Russia 73 Ukraine 64

Top Scorers:

Pau Gasol - Spain - 29 points
Luol Deng - Great Britain - 25 points
Dirk Nowitzki - Germany - 25 points
Tony Parker - France - 31 points
Janis Blums - Latvia - 32 points
Bojan Bogdanovic - Croatia - 27 points

Interesting Fantasy Draft Strategy

Gotta give it up to my buddy Jon for making the pick of the day in our annual fantasy football draft this year.

Round 12:

Only one problem with that pick. Mike Vrabel is no longer a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. In fact, he's no longer a member of the NFL having retired about a month and a half ago. He's now working as a coach at his alma mater Ohio State. Probably not going to put up a lot of fantasy points this year. 
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Now, Jon isn't completely to blame for this one as he was stuck with the curse of the Autodraft. However, this is particularly funny in our league because this isn't the first time he's drafted someone who was retired. A few years back he selected Mike Alstott after he'd announced his retirement. Poor guy. What's up with yahoo still having Vrabel in the player pool anyways?
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Anyhow, my draft went fairly well considering I got saddled with the 13th pick in a 14 team league. Here's the team I ended up with. Before you judge too harshly, know that it's a point per reception league and we also get points for return yards.

QB - Philip Rivers
WR - Percy Harvin
WR - Danny Amendola
WR - Lee Evans
RB - LeSean McCoy
RB - Jahvid Best
TE - Antonio Gates
WR/TE - Johnny Knox
WR/RB - Reggie Bush
K - Dan Carpenter
DEF - New York Jets
D - Jerod Mayo
D - Lawrence Timmons

Sub - Steve Smith - WR (the one on the Eagles)
Sub - Danny Woodhead - RB
Sub - Javon Ringer - RB
Sub - Chris Cooley - TE

My team has gone 6 years without a championship so hopefully this is the group that can get me out of the first round of the playoffs for a change.

Breaking Down the MLB Pennant Races - AL East

So as we get ready to enter the final month of the regular season we're finally starting to get a better look at who's really in contention. The Astros, for example, have already been eliminated. For a while now. AWESOME. That aside, let's breakdown the races in each of the six divisions and the wildcards starting with the American League East.

This has once again really become a two horse race between Boston and New York. The Rays are by no means bad- if they were in the Central they'd only be a half game out- but with less than 30 games to go, 9 games is just too many to make up. If the Sox played just .500 ball down the stretch (14-14), Tampa would have to go 23-5 to catch them. And so we're left to really talk about the Sox and the Yankees. Both sides can score runs like nobody else. In fact, they are the only two teams to eclipse 700 runs thus far this season. Starting pitching on the other hand is another story and that, more than anything else, will likely decide the fate of both of these teams.

Boston has Josh Beckett (11-5, 2.43) and Jon Lester (14-6, 3.09), but with Clay Buchholz limited to just 14 starts with injuries, it gets a little dicey after that. John Lackey has been terrible this season and while he does have 12 wins it's misleading. No pitcher with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title has a higher earned run average than Lackey's 5.94. In either league. The usually reliable Tim Wakefield is winless in the month of August, stuck on 199 wins for his career. Erik Bedard, acquired in a deadline deal, has thrown well for Boston, but he's not the pitcher he was before his injuries. It should also be noted that he hasn't made this many starts in a season since 2007 so there's no telling how his arm will hold up down the stretch. Finally, there's Andrew Miller who is 6-1, but has just 3 quality starts (6 innings or more, 3 earned runs or less) in 10 tries. He also allows nearly 2 walks/hits per inning.
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The one consolation for Boston, aside from Buchholz getting closer to returning, is that they're probably in better shape than New York starting pitching-wise. Sure, they have CC Sabathia (18-7, 2.99) who finally figured out how to beat Boston last night, but after that you have reclamation projects Freddy Garcia (11-7, 3.09) and Bartolo Colon (8-9, 3.63), youngsters Ivan Nova (14-4, 3.96) and Phil Hughes (4-4, 6.46) and the disaster that is A.J. Burnett (9-11, 5.31). Garcia and Colon have both pitched well, but I don't know that either is a true #2 guy any more. Nova has won 10 straight decisions, but his innings are starting to mount in this his first full season. And with Hughes, you don't really know what you're going to get. Since returning from the minors he's made 6 really good starts, and 2 really bad ones. There's been no middle ground. Finally, there's Burnett who is the proud owner of an 11.91 ERA in the month of August as he looks to give Lackey a run for his money in terms of who's the bigger underachiever.
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So as you can see, there's question marks on both sides. While the pitching questions aren't likely to keep either one of these teams out of the postseason, they'll certainly need to be resolved before the first round of the playoffs. As far as the schedule goes, I don't know that it really favors one team or the other. The two teams play head to head 5 more times, Boston hosts Texas while New York travels to Anaheim, each team has two series with the Rays and two series with the Jays, and the rest of their schedules is made up of games with bottom of the barrel teams (Seattle, Baltimore, Minnesota). It should make these last five Red Sox - Yankees games exciting to watch though as it's clear that one game could be the difference in winning or losing the division.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Yankees and Redsox and Another Ridiculously Long Game

3 hours 59 minutes for a 5-2 9 inning game. Yep, it's time for Yankees - Red Sox again. Some thoughts on Game 1 of the series.
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*CC Sabathia entered play tonight with a record of 17-3 against teams that were not the Red Sox. Against Boston he was 0-4 this year with a 7.20 ERA and having allowed 33 hits and 10 walks in just 25 innings. While he finally exorcised the demons tonight and beat Boston for the first time this year, he still had Red Sox all over the basepaths. 10 hits, 2 walks and a hit batsman in 6 innings where he was forced to throw a season high 128 pitches. If not for the 10 strikeouts, there's no way he gets out of that game only allowing 2 runs.

*Boston uncharacteristically stranded 16 baserunners, struck out 13 times, and collected just 2 hits in 13 at bats with runners in scoring position. That included leaving the bases loaded in the 2nd and 7th, and leaving runners at second and third in the 4th and 5th. Adrian Gonzalez was an uncharacteristic 0 for 5 with 3 strikeouts.

*Is there a 12-game winner pitching worse than John Lackey right now? In the second year of a 5 year $82.5M deal, Lackey has the worst ERA in the majors for pitchers who have enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. It's by a large margin too. He entered play tonight with an earned run average of 5.98. The next highest is, ironically, the Yankees A.J. Burnett at 5.31. Lackey had actually beaten the Yankees twice this year, but the Sox averaged 9.5 runs per game in those two starts to help offset Lackey's 7.36 ERA.

*The Yankees lineup tonight had sluggers Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher, all with at least home runs this season. So who went deep for New York tonight? That's right. Francisco Cervelli. The same Francisco Cervelli who had accounted for less than 1% of the Yankees 187 home runs this season. Of course Cervelli got hit in his next at bat causing both benches to clear.

*At 3 hours and 59 minutes, this marked the second longest game the Sox and Yankees have played this year. The only game that was longer was a 10 inning affair earlier this month. Of the 13 games between the two teams this year, only one of the games was under 3 hours.

U.S. Roster for Upcoming Friendlies

As the U.S. Men's National team gets ready for upcoming friendlies against Costa Rica (9/2) and at Belgium (9/6), let's take a quick look at Jurgen Klinsmann's squad. Some notable absences from this group as Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Freddy Adu were all left off the roster for this go around.


Tim Howard - The 32 year old Everton goalkeeper is back between the pipes in the Premiership once again starting both of Everton's matches thus far. In Saturday's 1-0 win over Blackburn Rovers, Howard made 7 saves including a stop of a Junior Hoilett penalty to preserve the shutout. Howard started all 6 Gold Cup games for the U.S. this summer and had 4 shutouts. He also played the full 90 in Klinsmann's coaching debut against Mexico. For his international career, Howard has 66 Caps and has 24 shutouts.

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Bill Hamid - The 20 year old D.C. United goalkeeper has been named to the roster for the second straight camp apparently thanks to some serious lobbying from incumbent Tim Howard. The youngest goalkeeper in MLS history to win a regular season game, Hamid has started 19 games for D.C. United this year posting a record of 5-4-8 with 6 shutouts. He's allowed 23 goals, just 1.31 per 90 minutes. He is still looking for his first career appearance with the National Team.


Carlos Bocanegra - The U.S. Team captain just signed a 3-year contract to play with Glasgow Rangers after playing the past three seasons in France. The 32 year old defender immediately jumped into the Rangers starting lineup and scored his first Rangers goal in the 2nd leg against Maribor during Europa League Play. Bocanegra started all 6 Gold Cup games and was also in the lineup in the recent friendly against Mexico. Bocanegra has 94 caps and 12 goals in his National Team career dating back to 2001.

Edgar Castillo - Castillo started and played a full 90 minutes against Mexico earlier this month in his first National Team action since 2009. The 24 year old left back plays professionally for América in the Primera Division of the Mexican Professional football league having appeared in 5 of their 6 matches during the 2011 Apertura. With the left back position still wide open right now for the U.S., Castillo hopes to build on his respectable performance against Mexico and make a case for more playing time.

Timmy Chandler - Chandler wasn't available for the match against Mexico but the 21 year old German-born defender once again gets the call from Klinsmann. The FC Nürnberg defender has started all 4 of their Bundesliga matches and had an assist in a 2-1 loss to Hannover 96. Chandler made his National Team debut back in March against Argentina and earned his first start three days later against Paraguay.
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Steve Cherundolo - Hannover 96's captain is once again back for National Team duty. The 32 year old outside back has been steady, turning in a solid Gold Cup and playing a full 90 minutes against Mexico earlier this month.  A member of the last 3 U.S. World Cup teams, and captain of the 2009 Gold Cup squad, Cherundolo has 73 career appearances and a pair of goals for the U.S.

Clarence Goodson - Goodson missed the recent Mexico game due to a hamstring injury, but the 29 year old 6'4" central defender is back in the mix for Klinsmann once again. Playing for Brøndby in Denmark he has started 6 of the team's 7 games. He was most recently seen for the U.S. during the Gold Cup even scoring a goal in the loss to Panama. He has 3 goals in 24 career appearances for the National Team.

Michael Orozco Fiscal - Orozco Fiscal made his first National Team appearance since 2008 when he started and played the full 90 minutes against Mexico earlier this month. The 25 year old San Luis defender has worked his way into the starting lineup for his club after spending the 2010 season on loan to the Philadelphia Union. It remains to be seen if Klinsmann sees him as a long term solution in the back, but with Bocanegra and Cherundolo not getting any younger, now's as good a time as any to see what other options he has.

Tim Ream -  One of MLS's bright young stars, the 23 year old central defender for the New York Red Bulls has started 50 games for New York over 2 seasons. His solid play in MLS finally got him some National Team attention, but he lost his spot in the starting lineup on the Gold Cup Squad following the U.S.'s loss to Panama. Ream has 6 career national team appearances.

Jonathan Spector - Signed by Manchester United as a teenager, Spector has spent his entire professional career in England playing for United, Charlton Athletic, West Ham and now Birmingham. A member of the 2010 World Cup squad, Spector has made 31 career appearances for the National Team, most notably starting at right back throughout the 2009 Confederations Cup. Spector was a late add to the U.S. roster following injuries to Zach Loyd and Heath Pearce.


Kyle Beckerman - Beckerman played well as a defensive midfielder against Mexico earlier this month, and as a result the 29 year old Real Salt Lake Captain is back on Klinsmann's squad again. The MLS veteran has 2 goals and a career high 7 assists for Real this season. His national team appearance earlier this month was just the 13th of his career.

Clint Dempsey - The 28 year old from Nacogdoches, Texas is listed as a midfielder on the U.S. roster, but can also play up top. Dempsey has scored 22 goals in 77 matches for the U.S. and recently became Fulham's all-time leading scorer in the English Premier League. He had 12 goals last season, becoming the first American to break double digits in a Premier League Season. He scored in both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups for the United States and tallied 3 goals during the U.S.'s recent run to the Gold Cup Final. Dempsey will miss the game against Costa Rica, but is expected to join the team in Belgium.

Maurice Edu - The Rangers midfielder missed the Mexico game due to an injury, but he's on Klinsmann's roster once again. A regular starter for his Scottish club where he teams up with fellow Americans Bocanegra and Alejando Bedoya, he has Rangers undefeated and atop the table right now scoring 1 goal in the 4 league matches he's played so far this year. He's scored once for the U.S. in 25 career matches, but had a goal discounted on a questionable call that would have beaten Slovenia in the World Cup.

Fabian Johnson - The 23 year old German-American spent time with the German youth National Teams and was a surprising addition by Klinsmann to the U.S. roster. Used primarly by German club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim as a defender, it appears Johnson will be pursuing an International Career with the U.S. instead of continuing on with Germany, however his availability for this match is in doubt as his paperwork still hasn't gone through.

Sacha Kljestan - The 25 year old midfielder netted the 11th hat trick in U.S. history in January of 2009 when he tallied 3 goals against Sweden. Not selected for the 2010 World Cup team, Kljestan was an integral part of the 2011 Gold Cup squad that lost to Mexico in the finals. Playing in his second season for Anderlecht in Belgium, Kljestan has one goal in four matches. Kljestan has 4 goals in 33 international matches for the U.S. in his career.

Jeff Larentowicz - The 7-year MLS veteran made his National Team debut in January against Chile, and now it appears he has the attention of new coach Jurgen Klinsmann getting invited to camp. The Rapids midfielder is in the midst of his best MLS season tallying a career high 6 goals in 28 matches, a year after helping lead Colorado to the MLS Cup.

Chris Pontius - Pontius was another late add to camp following the injuries to Zach Loyd and Heath Pearce. Primarily a left midfielder, Pontius is enjoying his best MLS season with a career high 7 goals for DC United. after scoring just 6 goals in 45 games over his first two MLS seasons. Pontius has never before appeared for the National Team.

Robbie Rogers -  Rogers was the hero in Klinsmann's coaching debut as he got on the end of a Break Shea cross for an easy one touch finish clinching a draw with rival Mexico. Coming on as a second half substitute in the match, Rogers also nearly added second goal getting in behind the Mexican defense on a ball over the top from Juan Agudelo ,but he was hauled down on the play forcing a free kick instead. The 24 year old midfielder for the Columbus Crew has 2 goals and 5 assists in 21 matches this season. Rogers has 2 goals in 15 career National Team appearances.

Brek Shea - The versatile Shea has done a little bit of everything for FC Dallas this year tallying 10 goals and 3 assists in this his breakout season. Just 21, Shea made his first All Star team this year and has Dallas in 3rd place in the Western Conference, as well as off to a 2-0 start in Champions League action. Shea came on as a sub in the recent match against Mexico and it was his superb individual effort that set up Rogers' goal.  The appearance against Mexico was just his third for the National Team.
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Jose Torres - Torres started the recent game against Mexico getting his first action since the World Cup. The Pachuca midfielder, just 23 years old, now has 12 appearances for the National Team and is one of only a handful of Americans who is highly gifted with the ball at his feet. Torres nearly gave the U.S. a victory against Mexico but his strike from the top of the box curled just wide.


Juan Agudelo - The youthful, energetic striker continues to get National Team attention despite only starting 11 games for the Red Bulls this season. Just 18 years old, he's still a bit raw, but he's shown the ability to make plays, particularly off the bench. In the Mexico game he came on as a second half substitution for Edson Buddle and had a hand in the goal and nearly sprung Rogers for another. He has 5 goals and an assist for New York this season and a pair of goals in 11 career appearances for the National Team.

Jozy Altidore - The 21 year old striker has finally found some success overseas. After spending the last few years on loan from Villareal, Altidore joined AZ Alkmaar this summer and has already found the back of the net 5 times for the Dutch club. Altidore scored a pair of goals during the Gold Cup and has 12 goals in 39 career matches for the Americans. U.S. fans are hopeful that Altidore will continue to hone in on his finishing ability in Europe and finally give the U.S. the goal scorer they've been searching for.
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Teal Bunbury - Yet another talented young striker for the U.S., the Americans basically "stole" Bunbury from Canada last year. 21 years old and in his second season with Sporting Kansas City, Bunbury made his debut with the U.S. in November of last year after playing for Canada's youth National Teams prior to. In just his second match for the U.S. National Team, he scored his first goal converting a penalty against Chile. Bunbury suffered a dislocated elbow in this year's MLS preseason, but has recovered to score 5 goals with 3 assists in 23 games.

Landon Donovan - What needs to be said about Captain America? The 29 year old striker for the Los Angeles Galaxy is second in the league in goals this year with 11 despite missing time for the Gold Cup. Donovan has 114 career MLS regular season goals to go along with 94 assists and is the U.S. Men's National Team's All Time Leading Scorer with 46 goals in 137 appearances.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Stuart Holden Ready for Return

There hasn't been an unluckier player on the U.S. National Team in recent memory than Stuart Holden. Several months prior to the 2010 World Cup, Holden had his leg broken in a friendly against the Netherlands on a vicious tackle from Nigel de Jong. He made a full recovery, cracking the U.S. World Cup roster, but his lack wouldn't last. The following March, playing for Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League, he suffered another vicious tackle, this time from Manchester United's Jonny Evans that left him with a gash requiring 26 stitches and a knee injury that laid him up for six months. Now, Holden is once again making his return to the pitch as tomorrow he'll be taking the field for Bolton's reserves against Fulham.
Photo Credit: topdrawers
A talented midfielder who's still only 26 years old, Holden was named Bolton's player of the year last season despite missing the final two months. If he can successfully return from this latest injury he figures to be in the U.S. National Team midfield picture once again. Holden has a pair of goals, both scored in the 2009 Gold Cup, in 17 appearances for the U.S.

Michael Bradley Likely Headed to Italy

It appears Michael Bradley finally has a new home. The 24 year old central midfielder for the U.S. National Team is reportedly on the verge of signing a deal with Chievo Verona of Italy's Serie A. If the deal goes through, Bradley could become just the second U.S. international in the modern era to play a match in Italy's top division, the other being Alexi Lalas.
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Bradley has become a staple in the U.S. midfield having played in 60 matches since first being called up in 2006. He's also found the net 9 times including goals in the 2010 World Cup against Slovenia and in the Gold Cup Final against Mexico. After a brief stop in MLS, he began his overseas career in 2006 with Dutch side SC Heerenveen. In his third season with the Dutch club he scored 16 goals in league play (an American record) earning him a new contract with Borussia Mönchengladbach in Germany. Bradley scored 10 goals in 3 seasons of Bundesliga action before going on loan to Aston Villa back in January. The move was a failure though as Bradley appeared in just three matches and his loan was not extended. However Bradley now has new life and this move, if it goes through, has the potential to be a great one as it puts him in a position to earn playing time in a league with a high level of competition. This is big for Bradley as an individual and for the U.S. National Team as a whole as he's in a position now to be able to take his game to the next level. Chievo finished 11th in the Serie A last year.

Top Tens - 8/29/11

Men's Tennis Rankings - (Last Week's Rankings)

1. Novak Djokovic (Serbia) - 13920 points
2. Rafael Nadal (Spain) - 11420 points
3. Roger Federer (Switzerland) - 8380 points
4. Andy Murray (Great Britain) - 6535 points
5. David Ferrer (Spain) - 4200 points
6. Robin Soderling (Sweden) - 4145 points
7. Gael Monfils (France) - 3165 points
8. Mardy Fish (USA) - 2820 points
9. Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) - 2690 points
10. Nicolas Almagro (Spain) - 2380 points

Women's Tennis Rankings - (Last Week's Rankings)

1. Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) - 9335 points
2. Vera Zvonareva (Russia) - 6820 points
3. Kim Clijsters (Belgium) - 6501 points
4. Maria Sharapova (Russia) - 6346 points
5. Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) - 5995 points
6. Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) - 5685 points
7. Li Na (China) - 5671 points
8. Francesca Schiavone (Italy) - 4855 points
9. Marion Bartoli (France) - 4225 points
10. Samantha Stosur (Australia) - 3930 points

FedEx Cup Points Leaders

1. Dustin Johnson 3691 (-)
2. Matt Kuchar 2907 (-)
3. Nick Watney 2256 (1)
4. Webb Simpson 2211 (3)
5. Luke Donald 2108 (4)
6. Brandt Snedeker 2102 (-)
7. Steve Stricker 2083 (2)
8. Vijay Singh 1778 (-)
9. K.J. Choi 1771 (6)
10. Gary Woodland 1748 (10)

OUT: Phil Mickelson (11), Keegan Bradley (14), Bubba Waton (16), David Toms (17)

AL Leading Hitters (through Sunday)

1. Adrian Gonzalez BOS - .345 (184/533)
2. Michael Young TEX - .336 (178/529)
3. Victor Martinez DET - .325 (139/428)
4. Miguel Cabrera DET - .324 (152/469)
5. Casey Kotchman TB - .323 (129/399)
6. Paul Konerko CHW - .316 (143/452)
7. Jacoby Ellsbury BOS - .312 (166/532)
8. Jose Bautista TOR - .312 (130/417)
9. David Ortiz BOS - .311 (132/424)
10. Jhonny Peralta DET - .308 (135/438)

NL Leading Hitters (through Sunday)

1. Jose Reyes NYM - .336 (144/428)
2. Ryan Braun MIL - .334 (152/455)
3. Joey Votto CIN - .325 (157/483)
4. Matt Kemp LAD - .320 (158/493)
5. Daniel Murphy NYM - .320 (125/391)
6. Michael Morse WAS - .314 (132/420)
7. Hunter Pence PHI - .312 (153/490)
8. Aramis Ramirez CHC - .309 (150/485)
9. Shane Victorino PHI - .309 (122/395)
10. Todd Helton COL - .308 (122/396)

AL Home Run Leaders (through Sunday)

1. Curtis Granderson NYY - 38
2. Jose Bautista TOR - 37
3. Mark Teixeira NYY - 35
4. Mark Reynolds BAL - 30
5. Paul Konerko CHW - 28
5. Nelson Cruz TEX - 28
7. David Ortiz BOS - 27
8. J.J. Hardy BAL - 25
9. Miguel Cabrera DET - 24
9. Carlos Quentin CHW - 24
9. Evan Longoria TB - 24

NL Home Run Leaders (through Sunday)

1. Albert Pujols STL - 31
1. Matt Kemp LAD - 31
3. Lance Berkman STL - 30
3. Dan Uggla ATL - 30
3. Mike Stanton FLA - 30
6. Prince Fielder MIL - 29
7. Troy Tulowitzki COL - 28
7. Jay Bruce CIN - 28
9. Ryan Howard PHI - 27
10. Joey Votto CIN - 26

AL ERA Leaders (through Sunday)

1. Jered Weaver LAA - 2.28 (15-7)
2. Justin Verlander DET - 2.38 (20-5)
3. Josh Beckett BOS - 2.43 (11-5)
4. Ricky Romero TOR - 2.78 (12-9)
5. Justin Masterson CLE - 2.83 (10-8)
6. James Shields TB - 2.96 (12-10)
7. CC Sabathia NYY - 2.99 (17-7)
8. Jeremy Hellickson TB - 3.01 (11-9)
9. Jon Lester BOS - 3.09 (14-6)
10. Mark Buehrle - 3.19 (10-6)

NL ERA Leaders (through Sunday)

1. Johnny Cueto CIN - 2.05 (9-5)
2. Tim Lincecum SF - 2.46 (12-10)
3. Clayton Kershaw LAD - 2.51 (16-5)
4. Ryan Vogelsong SF - 2.54 (10-4)
5. Roy Halladay PHI - 2.56 (15-5)
6. Cole Hamels PHI - 2.62 (13-7)
7. Cliff Lee PHI - 2.71 (14-7)
8. Jair Jurrjens ATL - 2.71 (13-5)
9. Matt Cain SF - 2.87 (10-9)
10. Hiroki Kuroda - 2.92 (10-14)


1. Diana Taurasi - Phoenix - 21.0 ppg
2. Angel McCoughtry - Atlanta - 20.5 ppg
3. Sylvia Fowles - Chicago - 20.3 ppg
4. Crystal Langhorne - Washington - 18.6 ppg
5. Cappie Pondexter - New York - 18.3 ppg
6. Candace Parker - Los Angeles - 18.1 ppg
7. Tina Charles - Connecticut - 17.7 ppg
8. Penny Taylor - Phoenix - 16.7 ppg
9. Seimone Augustus - Minnesota - 16.3 ppg
10. Becky Hammon - San Antonio - 16.1 ppg

*USA Today Poll Ranking in Parentheses

1. Oklahoma (1)
2. Alabama (2)
3. Oregon (3)
4. LSU (4)
5. Boise State (7)
6. Florida State (5)
7. Stanford (6)
8. Texas A&M (9)
9. Oklahoma State (8)
10. Nebraska (11)


1. Edin Dzeko - Manchester City - 6
2. Wayne Rooney - Manchester United -5
3. Ivan Klasnic - Bolton Wanderers - 3
3. Sergio Agüero - Manchester City - 3
5. Ashley Young - Manchester United - 2
5. Leon Best - Newcastle United - 2
5. David Silva - Manchester City - 2
5. Danny Welbeck - Manchester United - 2
5. Franco Di Santo - Wigan Athletic - 2
5. Luis Suárez - Liverpool - 2
5. Shane Long - West Bromwich Albion - 2

Photos Courtesy (in order of appearance):

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Big Day for Blowouts

Some wild scores from England and Spain today. Manchester City got 4 goals from Edin Dzeko to blow out Tottenham Hotspur and American Goalkeeper Brad Friedel. The Spurs, who last year reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League, have now been outscored 8-1 in the first two Premier League matches this year. Dzeko now has 6 goals through 3 matches this season after scoring just 2 goals in 15 matches a year ago.
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Not to be outdone, Manchester United defeated rivals Arsenal 8-2 behind a hat trick from Wayne Rooney and a brace from Ashley Young. Arsenal had a chance to tie the game at 1 in the first half when they were awarded a penalty kick, but Robin van Persie's attempt was saved by 20 year old keeper David De Gea. United immediately marched down the field the otherway and made it 2-0 on Young's first goal and Arsenal just never recovered. It was the first time since 1999 that Manchester United had scored 8 goals in a match, it was the largest margin of victory for Manchester United over Arsenal, and it marked the first time in over 100 years - you'd have to go all the way back to 1896 - to find a game that Arsenal conceded 8 goals.
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Meanwhile over in Spain, Real Madrid opened up the 2011-2012 season was a 6-0 thrashing of Real Zaragoza. Last year's 13th place finishers in Spain's Top Division were completely outmatched by Cristiano Ronaldo and company getting outshot 39-8. Ronaldo finished with a hat trick as Real Madrid exacted revenge for a 3-2 loss at the hands of Zaragoza in April.
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California Wins the Little League World Series

Congratulations to the boys from Huntington Beach, California, winners of the 2011 Little League World Series. First Baseman Nick Pratto delivered a bases loaded single with two outs in the bottom of the 6th inning to score pinch runner Eric Anderson from third base giving California the 2-1 victory over Japan. It was just a terrific game between two really good teams.
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Just a lot of really great things to talk about in this one. Let's start with the starting pitching. Braydon Salzman and Shoto Totsuka were both extremely effective. Salzman, featuring a 72 mph fastball, went the distance for California allowing just 1 unearned run on 3 singles and more impressively he struck out 9 without walking a batter. Totsuka meanwhile pitched into the 5th before leaving due to pitch count restrictions (Pitchers could not face a new batter once they hit 85 pitches) and he was no slouch either. He surrendered a solo home run to California catcher Hagen Danner in the 3rd, but otherwise he was able to pitch his way out of trouble, bearing down when he had to and keeping the Japanese in the game.

Now the defense. Japanese second baseman Kenny Igeta was phenomenal the entire tournament and today was no exception as he made a number of fine plays. Starting rightfielder Kazuto Takakura made a terrific running catch down the rightfield line in the bottom of the second to rob a hit from California third baseman Dylan Palmer with a runner on. Pratto made a fine catch on just a rocket of a throw from second baseman Christian Catano to end the top of the 6th... Sure, there were a handful of errors, but it wasn't as though they were just throwing the ball over the place or booting balls right and left. It was really good baseball, and it was a lot of fun to watch.

Finally, the individual accomplishments by some of these kids can't be left out. Danner led the tournament in hits with 11, hit a pair of homers including the one in the Championship Game, and caught the whole game while calling all of the pitches. Salzman recovered from a scary line drive against Rhode Island earlier in the tournament that deflected off the brim of his hat, but he stayed in that game and then came back to throw a complete game today. Japan's Yoshiki Suzuki led the tournament with 3 home runs, and despite going 0 for 3 in the final, he contributed on defense throwing out runners at third and home while playing first base. And finally Pratto, the winning pitcher in the U.S. Title Game against Montana, who went 3 for 4 and delivered the game winning walkoff hit.

And then to have the game end with the bases loaded, two outs, bottom of the last inning... I mean, what more could you really ask for in a Championship Game? The game capped off a highly successful tournament that broke the all-time attendance record. Thanks largely in part to a local team from Keystone, Pennsylvania making a deep tournament run, over 400,000 fans attended the tournament this year.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Strasburg Excels at AAA

After 4 rehab starts in A-Ball, Stephen Strasburg made his AAA debut tonight and didn't disappoint. Strasburg retired the first 15 hitters he faced before finally surrendering back to back singles to start the 6th. He was removed following the second base hit after having thrown 64 pitches, 47 of them for strikes. His final line: 5+ innings, 2 hits, 1 run, 7 strikeouts in what was easily his best performance thus far. Strasburg's fastball topped out at 98 miles an hour and the Rochester Redwings lineup, the AAA farm team for the Twins, was completely overmatched.
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Strasburg has now thrown 14 1/3 innings over 5 rehab starts. He's allowed 8 runs on 13 hits, allowing opposing hitters to bat just .224 and he has 25 strikeouts against just 3 walks. Strasburg will likely make one final minor league rehab start, this time for AA Harrisburg on September 1st and as of right now he appears to be on track to debut for the Nationals on or about the 6th of September. If that's the case he should debut at home against the Dodgers.

Verlander first to 20 Wins

It wasn't pretty, but Justin Verlander won his 8th straight start making him Major League Baseball's first 20 game winner this season. The Tigers Ace was touched up for back-to-back solo home runs in the 5th and surrendered two more runs in the 6th,  but he was bailed out by his offense as the Tigers retook the lead in the top of the 7th and held on to defeat Minnesota 6-5. It marked the first time in nearly a decade that a pitcher has reached 20 wins before the beginning of September. Curt Schilling was the last pitcher to accomplish the feat doing so in 2002. It is also marked a career high for Verlander whose previous best was 19 wins back in 2009.
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As Verlander continues to win games, and as Detroit begins to pull away in the AL Central (the division lead is currently 7 games), the MVP buzz surrounding him will only continue. I still think he's going to have to do something really special to be able to sway the voters who don't believe pitchers are worthy of winning the award, but if you've been watching what he's been doing lately, you have to realize that he's already having a really special season. He hasn't lost a game since July 15th against the White Sox and it's not inconceivable that he could win 24+ games. His next start is schedule to be on Thursday against the Royals where it's looking like he'll face off against 22 year old rookie Danny Duffy. Verlander is already 3-0 against Kansas City this season with a 1.59 ERA allowing just 13 hits in 22 1/3 innings.

Cunningham Becomes MLS All-Time Leading Scorer

It probably wasn't under the circumstances that he would have hoped for, but 35 year old Columbus Crew striker Jeff Cunningham became Major League Soccer's All-Time Leading Scorer today with his 134th career goal. In the midst of his 14th MLS season, Cunningham converted a penalty kick against the Seattle Sounders to move ahead of Bolivian Jaime Moreno and into sole possession of first place on the all time scoring list. Unfortunately, the Crew were down 4-0 at the time of the goal and Cunningham's goal did nothing to influence the end result of the match.
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The Jamaican-born Cunningham started his MLS career back in 1998 after being taken by the Crew with the 9th pick in the draft out of the University of South Florida. He was a scorer right from the beginning netting eight goals as a rookie. Since then, he's scored at least 10 goals on seven separate occasions and led the league in scoring twice (in 2006 with Real Salt Lake and 2009 with Dallas). He spent his first 7 seasons in Columbus before bouncing around between teams for the second half of his career. After stops in Colorado, Salt Lake, Toronto and Dallas, he rejoined the Crew this season. While he's served primarily as a substitute, he's now scored a pair of goals this season, the first of which was a game winner in the 90th minute in a 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Cunningham is one of just 6 players in MLS history to score at least 100 goals. The others are Jaime Moreno (133), Ante Razov (114), Landon Donovan (114), Jason Kreis (108), and Taylor Twellman (101).

Matt Kemp Joins 30/30 Club

Matt Kemp drilled his 30th home run of the season last night off of Rockies reliever Matt Reynolds making him the 35th player in Major League history to hit at least 30 homers and steal at least 30 bases in a single season. In total the feat has been accomplished 55 times, but all but 11 of those have occurred in the past 25 years. Since 1987, at least one player has accomplished the feat every year with two exceptions: the strike shortened season of 1994 and 2010.
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It's an interesting cast of names when you get down to it. Some of them are expected, true speed/power guys like Carlos Beltran, Barry Bonds, Alfonso Soriano, Bobby Bonds... But there's also some surprises: Dante Bichette, Joe Carter, Jeff Bagwell (twice) and Jose Cruz Jr.
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Kemp's reaching this accomplishment is certainly not one of those surprises. In each of his 6 Major League Seasons, he's seen his home run numbers increase. Additionally, this is the third time he's eclipsed the 30-steal plateau. Now he finds himself in a position to achieve an even rarer milestone: the 40/40 season. Until Jose Canseco accomplished the feat in 1988 for the A's, it had never been done. Since then only three other players have eclipsed it: Barry Bonds in 1996, Alex Rodriguez in 1998 and Alfonso Soriano in 2006. With 32 games remaining for the Dodgers, Kemp now has an outside shot to become the 5th member of the 40/40 club. To do so he'll need to hit 10 more home runs and steal 7 more bases. However, he hit only 4 home runs apiece in July and August so unless he reacquires his power stroke he'll likely come up just a little short. Still, his chase will keep the Dodgers watchable for the next month even though they're out of contention. The Dodgers continue their series at home against the Rockies tonight.

Shields Fires 10th Complete Game of Season

James Shields fired a complete game 7-hitter against Toronto yesterday as the Rays defeated the Blue Jays 6-1. It marked the 10th time this season that Shields has gone the distance for Tampa making him just the 2nd player since the year 2000 to reach double digit complete games in a single season. Shields struck out 12 and finished the game throwing 125 pitches. As I touched on last week, the modern era isn't really conducive to complete games. Pitch counts and closers work against pitchers in the sense that more often than not, they're coming out of the game early. To give you an idea how special it is what Shields has been able to do, he has more complete games than all but 3 of baseball's 30 teams. The Brewers and Cubs have only one and the San Diego Padres don't have ANY!
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To find a season when a pitcher last threw more complete games than Shields - CC Sabathia also threw ten in 2008 - you have to go all the way back to 1999 when the Big Unit, Randy Johnson, threw 12 complete games for the Arizona Diamondbacks. With 33 games remaining in the regular season for the Rays, Shields likely has 6 starts remaining with a chance to equal Johnson's mark.

Here's a quick rundown of Shields 10 complete games

4/19 - vs Chicago Whitesox - 9 IP 4 H 1 R 1 BB 9 K - 105 pitches - W 2-1
4/24 - @ Toronto Blue Jays - 9 IP 4 H 0 R 2 BB 7 K - 95 pitches - W 2-0
5/22 - @ Florida Marlins - 9 IP 3 H 0 R 1 BB 13 K - 126 pitches - W 4-0
6/14 - vs Boston Red Sox - 9 IP 5 H 0 R 3 BB 5 K - 110 pitches - W 4-0
6/19 - vs Florida Marlins - 9 IP 4 H 1 R 0 BB 10 K - 110 pitches - W 2-1
6/24 - @ Houston Astros - 9 IP 3 H 1 R 1 BB 9 K - 106 pitches - W 5-1
7/10 - @ New York Yankees - 8 IP 4 H 1 R 1 BB 5 K - 102 pitches - L 1-0
8/9 - vs Kansas City Royals - 9 IP 6 H 0 R 3 BB 8 K - 117 pitches - W 4-0
8/16 - @ Boston Red Sox - 8 IP 3 H 3 R 1 BB 6 K - 114 pitches - L 3-1
8/26 - @ Toronto Blue Jays - 9 IP 7 H 1 R 1 BB 12 K - 125 pitches - W 6-1

Friday, August 26, 2011

More Hardware for Barcelona

The European Super Cup is an annual match between the winner of the Champions League and the winner of the Europa League. And now it's another piece of hardware that Barcelona can add to their collection. Barcelona defeated FC Porto 2-0 today behind goals from Lionel Messi in the first half and from newcomer Cesc Fábregas in the second to earn their second title in the last ten days (last week they won the Spanish Super Cup over Real Madrid). The reigning Portuguese and Europa League Champs fought valiantly, but any chance they had to come back was done in by two ejections late in the match forcing them to finish with just nine players. The win marked the 12th trophy that Barcelona has won under coach Pep Guardiola in his 4 years at the helm. It also marked just the 4th time in Barcelona's storied history that they'd won the Super Cup, the last time being 2009.
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Barcelona kicks off its quest for more titles next week as the open up play in La Liga hosting Villareal on Monday. They will start Champions League play a few weeks later where they are paired up with AC Milan, BATE Borisov and Viktoria Plzen.

Dallas, Galaxy Improve to 2-0 in CONCACAF Champion's League

MLS continued it's strong performance in the CONCACAF Champion's League yesterday netting 2 more wins and improving to 8-1-1 through the first two rounds. In fact, the only MLS side to lose was Toronto FC, and they lost to FC Dallas. While there's still a lot of soccer left to played, if you're an MLS fan, you have to like what you've seen thus far. Last year, 4 MLS teams made the Round of 16, but only two of them advanced. Real Salt Lake. The year before that, only one MLS squad advanced beyond the Round of 16. This year, the four American MLS sides are the only teams that haven't lost at least one match. We'll see if this year's group can sustain their high level of play the rest of the way.

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A quick recap of the last two days of matches. Dallas defeated Toronto 1-0 yesterday after getting washed out less than halfway through the match the day before. Coincidentally, Dallas was also leading that match 1-0 in the first half. In the replay, defender Jack Stewart scored in first half stoppage time heading home a cross from Ugo Ihemelu. It was a big moment for Stewart who hasn't played in an MLS regular season game since 2007, and only just joined Dallas last week on loan from the NSC Minnesota Stars of the North American Soccer League (NASL). The Galaxy also improved to 2-0 yesterday as they remained unbeaten in the Robbie Keane era by defeating Costa Rican Champions Alajuelense 2-0. Keane did not factor in the scoring, but he didn't need to as Omar Gonzalez headed in a David Beckham corner and Chad Barrett came off the bench to score a late insurance goal to clinch the win for the Galaxy. It was Barrett's first appearance for the Galaxy since July 4th.

In other matches Comunicaciones defeated Herediano 2-0 behind second half goals from Marbin Ceballos and Bryan Ordoñez. The Costa Rican side has now been outscored 7-0 in its first two matches. Isidro Metapán also won by a 2-0 margin taking out Mexican side Santos in El Salvador. Metapán got goals from Paolo Suárez, his second in as many matches, and Christian Javier Bautista in picking up their first points. Tauro FC and Pumas UNAM drew 0-0 in Panama as Pumas have now been shut out in two straight matches, and Morelia blasted Honduran side Motagua 4-0 getting goals from four different players: Rafael Márquez Lugo, Joao Rojas, Diego Jiménez and Édgar Lugo.

Here's a look at the next round of matches that kicks off on September 13th:

9/13 - LA Galaxy @ Morelia
9/13 - Isidro Metapán @ Real España
9/13 - Santos Laguna @ Colorado Rapids
9/14 - Tauro @ FC Dallas
9/14 - Toronto FC @ Pumas UNAM
9/14 - Seattle Sounders @ Herediano
9/14 - Monterrey @ Comunicaciones
9/15 - Alajuelense @ Motagua

Two More for Altidore

Jozy Altidore seems to enjoy playing for AZ Alkmaar. The 21 year old striker has only been with the Dutch club for a little over a month, logging just 215 minutes, but he's already scored 5 times including a pair of goals in yesterday's 6-0 Europa League win against Aalesunds FK (Norway). With the win, AZ Alkmaar advances to the Group Stage of the tournament where they have drawn FC Metalist Kharkiv (Ukraine), Austria Vienna (Austria) and Malmo (Sweden). For the complete tournament draw, click here. Jozy's play hasn't gone unnoticed by new U.S. National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann as Altidore has been added to the preliminary 24 man squad for upcoming exhibitions against Costa Rica (9/2) and at Belgium (9/6). It will be interesting to see if his performance in Europe will translate to newfound success with the National Team.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

He's Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack

With Travis Hafner sidelined and possibly needing season ending foot surgery, the Indians needed to make a move. Guess who's back in Cleveland?

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All that's missing now is Manny Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, and Carlos Baerga.

How to Erase a 7-1 Deficit in 3 Swings or Less

The Bronx Bombers made history tonight by hitting not one, not two, but THREE grand slams against the A's to erase a 7-1 deficit after three innings and win in a blow out 22-9. It marked the first time in Major League History that one team had hit three grand slams in the same game which is kind of amazing when you think about it. Considering there's been an individual player who hit two grand slams in the same INNING (Fernando Tatis), it's hard to believe that no team has ever hit three in a game. Until now that is.
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Robinson Cano hit the first one connecting off of Rich Harden in the 5th inning to cut the A's lead to 7-6. An inning later it was Russell Martin's turn. Facing Fautino De Los Santos with two outs, he hit his second homer of the game just clearing the scoreboard in right to give the Yankees their first lead at 10-7. It marked the 4th time this season that Martin had a multi-homer game. Then in the 8th, with the score 17-8, it was Curtis Granderson who made history unloading against Bruce Billings and depositing the ball into the Yankees bullpen. It was Granderson's 36th home run of the season and one for the history books. 

One other thing of note from this game. It marked the first time in Jorge Posada's career that he played second base as he came on late as a defensive substituion. He even made a play! Definitely a bizarre day at Yankee Stadium.

Strasburg Update

Four starts in the books for Nationals uber-prospect Stephen Strasburg. The hard throwing right-hander took the mound again on Monday for Class A Hagerstown and tossed 3 innings allowing 2 hits and 1 earned run. He walked a batter and struck out six and was saddled with the loss. The 3 innings ties for his longest start during his rehab and the six strikeouts represents a season high. Strasburg has now thrown 9 1/3 innings, and while he's been touched up for 8 runs (7 earned) on 11 hits he's fanned 18, nearly 2 per inning. His numbers are a bit skewed thanks to his rough outing against the Lexington Legends last week. If you took that game out, he would have an ERA of just 2.35.
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It's believed that Strasburg will make two more starts in the minors before returning to the mound in Washington. Here's a quick recap of his 4 minor league starts:

Game 1 - 8/7 - Hagerstown - 1 2/3 IP 3 H 1 R 0 BB 4 K- Opponents 3/8
Game 2 - 8/12 - Potomac - 3 IP 2 H 0 R 0 BB 5 K - Opponents 2/12
Game 3 - 8/17 - Hagerstown - 1 2/3 IP 4 H 5 R 2 BB 3 K - Opponents 4/9
Game 4 - 8/22 - Hagerstown - 3 IP 2 H 2 R 1 BB 6 K - Opponents 2/12

TOTAL 9 1/3 IP 11 H 8 R 3 BB 18 K - Opponents 11/41 (.268)

Champions League Draw Set

The 2011-2012 UEFA Champions League draw was set today. Here's the list of each of the groups. Over the next couple days, we'll try and go a little more in depth which each of the remaining 32 teams.

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Bayern Munich - Germany
Villareal - Spain
Manchester City - England
Napoli - Italy

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Inter Milan - Italy
CSKA Moscow - Russia
Lille - France
Trabzonspor - Turkey

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Manchester United - England
Benfica - Portugal
FC Basel - Switzerland
Oţelul Galaţi - Romania

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Real Madrid - Spain
Lyon - France
Ajax - Netherlands
Dinamo Zagreb - Croatia

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Chelsea - England
Valencia - Spain
Bayer Leverkusen - Germany
Genk - Belgium

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Arsenal - England
Marseille - France
Olympiacos - Greece
Borussia Dortmund - Germany

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Porto - Portugal
Shakhtar Donetsk - Ukraine
Zenit St. Petersburg - Russia
APOEL - Cyprus

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Barcelona - Spain
AC Milan - Italy
BATE Borisov - Belarus
Viktoria Plzeň - Czech Republic

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New FIFA Rankings Released - Netherlands #1

FIFA's new set of World Rankings came out today and for the first time in 13 months Spain is not ranked first. Instead it's the team Spain beat last summer to win the World Cup, the Netherlands, who has taken over the number one ranking. It's the first time the Dutch have ever been ranked number one, and they can thank the Italians as it was Italy who defeated Spain two weeks ago 2-1 in a friendly. The reigning World Cup champs dropped to number two, with Germany, England, Uruguay, Brazil, Italy, Portugal, Argentina and Croatia rounding out the top ten.
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Mexico still leads the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) holding steady at number 20, but the United States closed the gap a little bit moving up two spots to number 28. Jamaica (43) and Honduras (50) are the only other CONCACAF teams in the Top 50. The Ivory Coast drops one spot to number 15, but is still the highest ranked African team by a large margin, Japan is tied with Ivory Coast at number 15 to lead Asia's Football Confederation, and New Zealand leads the Oceanic Football Confederation coming in at number 94.

For the complete rankings, check the FIFA website.