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You can be a great athlete and lack those things. Still, give my 11 picks 20 years of practice in soccer and you'd have a pretty special team.
of technique, foot skill and chemistry. Adidas Los Angeles Shoe Black
Best team USA could field with non
ONE LAST THING ON SOCCER: If you believe the post match reporting from the USA Belgium tilt, especially on ESPN, you'd come to the conclusion Team USA has the corner marketed on "playing with heart" and "never giving up" and "being scrappy" and "relentless effort." That's all I heard after Adidas Neo Groove Tosca
SO, HOW WOULD THIS TEAM fare in the World Cup? They would be destroyed. That's the interesting thing about soccer. Athleticism is important, of course, but soccer is a sport Adidas Los Angeles Reflective
I SAW AN INTERESTING STAT THIS WEEK: LeBron James, who has been in the NBA for 11 seasons, has never been the single highest paid player on his team despite the fact he's been the NBA's best player for almost his entire career. James ranked tied for ninth in the NBA in salary this season (behind the Knicks' Amare Stoudemire and the Nets' Joe Johnson, among others). So, when word leaked this week that he wants to get the maximum salary allowed and not take a pay cut, I applauded. Pay the man.
the match. And while the Americans did play hard, that's not a skill unique to Team USA. Other countries play hard, too. They just match that effort with a higher caliber of skill. Coverage of USA soccer has boiled down to the Little League mentality of "everybody gets a trophy because we played hard." German Michael Ballack was the only ESPN commentator to be brutally honest about Team USA's lack of skill rather than fawn over the team's hard work. Let's be real: If Howard wasn't in net, Team USA would have lost by four or five goals. It was that lopsided.
SOMEWHAT QUIETLY, DODGERS ACE Clayton Kershaw just had the best month in MLB history for a pitcher over the last century. In June, the 26 year old left hander went 6 0 with a 0.82 ERA, .161 batting average against and 61 strikeouts in 44 innings. And he tossed a no hitter in what might be the best game ever thrown in big league history. In the past 100 years, only two other pitchers have gone 6 0 with an ERA under 1.00 and more than 60 strikeouts in a month: Hideo Nomo and Randy Johnson. The Dodgers handed Kershaw a $215 million contract before the season and a lot can still go wrong over the next seven years of the deal, but so far he's earned every check (and perhaps deserves even more).
AN NFL ARBITRATOR RULED New Orleans Saints star Jimmy Graham is in fact a tight end, which will cost him more than $5 million in 2014. Graham argued he was a wide receiver and was entitled to the franchise tag at that position rather than the lower paid tight end spot. Graham said two thirds of his snaps in 2013 came at wide receiver. New Orleans argued that he was drafted as a tight end, attends the tight end meetings and even listed himself as a tight end on his Twitter bio (that was a costly mistake). Graham is more of a wide receiver than a tight end (he doesn't block anybody). It's a bummer he's losing $5 million, but being listed as a tight end means he'll have a much easier path into the Hall of Fame.
TEAM USA BOWED OUT OF THE WORLD CUP with a 2 1 loss to Belgium in the Round of 16, a predictable end to a successful tournament run. The team just didn't have the talent to hang with Belgium, which is flush with young skill. Often, you'll hear this argument: What if America's best athletes played soccer instead of baseball, basketball and football? Would we have the best soccer team in the world? It's an unanswerable question, but it got me thinking. If I had the chance to create an elite soccer team using our best athletes, who would be in my starting 11? It's fun to think about.
Mike Trout would probably make a fantastic soccer player.(Photo: Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)Reno Gazette Journal columnist Chris Murray has been known to be a bit wordy, so we're giving him 1,000 words (no more than that) to share his thoughts from the week that was in the world of sports.
HERE'S MY TEAM: Goalkeeper: Colin Kaepernick (NFL's 49ers): Sticking with Tim Howard would be the smart move (he's great), but I'd like to see Kaepernick's length, intellect and athleticism in the net. Center backs: Richard Sherman (NFL's Seahawks) and Bryce Harper (MLB's Nationals): Center backs are the key to your defense and must be tall, strong, physical and smart. Sherman and Harper fit the bill. Fullbacks: LeBron James (NBA's Heat) and Mike Vick (NFL's Jets): You need speed, playmaking and versatility at these positions. James and Vick have all three skills. Center midfielders: Russell Westbrook (NBA's Thunder) and Chris Paul (NBA's Clippers): I'd have Paul up top because you need good vision and touch at this position and put Westbrook in the back to attack and defend. Wide midfielders: Reggie Bush (NFL's Lions) and Andrew McCutchen (MLB's Pirates): Two of the best athletes in sports, these guys would give opponents issues. Forward: Mike Trout (MLB's Angels): I love his all out aggression here. Striker: Adrian Peterson (NFL's Vikings): You need a finish touch to play this position. Peterson has a nose for the end zone. Could he have a nose for the back of the net?
EVEN MORE QUIET HAS BEEN THE season Oakland A's reliever Sean Doolittle has had. The three year vet, who didn't even get to the big leagues until he was 25, has 57 strikeouts against two walks this season (he walked his second batter Wednesday). That's a 28.5 strikeout to walk ratio. Another A's reliever, Dennis Eckersley, holds the MLB record for strikeout to walk ratio in a season. In 1989, he posted an 18.3 strikeout to walk ratio. Adidas Originals For Men Doolittle is on pace to crush that record, and with his 2.97 ERA, he could be headed to his first All Star Game.
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