Yeah, It’s Not Big In America

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The 2014 World Cup is in full swing. Close games, lots of goals and a USA victory highlighted the first six days of games. What the media outside of the soccer contingent is still talking about is how soccer just hasn’t caught on in America. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

USA vs Ghana Viewing Party in Chicago

The USA vs Ghana game on Monday afternoon (or early evening for those of you on the East Coast) had more than 11 million viewers on ESPN and almost a half million a minute on the Watch ESPN app. The opening match of the World Cup between Brazil and Croatia did over nine million TV viewers between Univision and ESPN.

And that was a random Thursday afternoon.

CBS This Morning ran a story on Tuesday about kids in poor neighborhoods in Rio playing soccer. Gayle King said at the end of the piece, ‘I’m amazed how big this game is except in this country.’ (fast forward to the 2:45 mark to hear it for yourself)

Apparently she has never seen or been to an MLS match in Seattle, Portland, Vancouver or Kansas City much less a US Men’s National Team game.

Cause soccer is not big in America.

Maybe she wasn’t aware of the 5,000 or so people in Grant Park in Chicago watching the match on the big screen. One of many massive viewing parties across the country.

Yeah, nobody in the US watches soccer. It’s not a big deal here.

US Media, what the hell else do you need?

No other country has as many popular professional sports as the US does. From the NBA to MLB to the NHL and of course the NFL and College Football. Let us not forget March Madness and the Masters. England is not packed with this level of sport. Neither is Brazil, Japan, Germany, Russia, or China.

Let’s have a little reality check here for the US news media. Maybe they are not as smart as they think.

 

 

 

Should They Call It A Career?

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Previously in on this site we talked about pro players retiring. Some on their own terms and some because they really had nothing left to prove. Now we’re presented with two more cases. Two players who are possibly staring at the end of their careers because of injury and looming suspensions.

Some people like the New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and others don’t. He is currently caught up in a performance enhancing drug scandal and has admitted to using steroids in the past. He does have however a couple of MVP’s, a World Series Ring, and pretty much Hall of Fame numbers too. But he’s had hip surgery twice in the last four years. Come next week he may be suspended by Major League Baseball for the remainder of the 2013 season.

Facing Retirement?

Stuart Holden on the other hand does not have a list of accomplishments like Rodriguez. While he has shown some skill that makes you wonder what could have been if he hadn’t suffered yet another serious knee injury. In fact it’s his third since 2011.

While Holden is only 27 you have to wonder how much is too much. Even for a 27 year old, another six plus months of rehab is a tough thing to stare in the face.

While Rodriguez’s career may come to end he did put in almost 20 years at the Major League level. Holden didn’t get that chance. He made it to one of the top flight leagues in the soccer world, the English Premier League, has had 25 caps with the US Men’s National Team and has even won an MLS Cup with Houston. But most people would say that if he hadn’t been injured he have done a whole lot more.

Are the injuries fair? No. Would both players like to go out on much better terms? Yes. Is retirement a realistic possibility for both? Absolutely.

How Stars Got Their Shine Back

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Saturday had a slew of sports on tap. From the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) in Gold Cup play to baseball to Canadian Football. Two people in particular stood out on Saturday. Two former players whose stars have diminished recently, Landon Donovan and Tim Lincecum.

Landon Donovan

Early in the day Landon Donovan helped lead the USMNT to a 4-1 win over Cuba and helped lock up a spot in the next round of the Gold Cup. Donovan got the US on the board after nailing a stoppage time penalty kick at the end of the first half. It was his second goal in as many games. He also has two assists.

Timmy Lincecum

Tim Lincecum is not the same pitcher that won back to back Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009. He has lost some of his velocity off of his fastball and has struggled to keep his ERA below 4 runs a game in the last two years. However Saturday night he made baseball history by becoming the 218th player to throw either a no hitter or a perfect game. While perfect games are rarer than no hitters it is an exclusive club none the less. It was the first of his professional career and he threw some 148 pitches in the process which is unheard of in this day and age.

Both of these players have a long road to haul to regain that dominance they once had in their respective sports. But they are evolving. Donovan is becoming more of a complete player on the pitch and Lincecum into a veteran starting pitcher who is learning how to out smart hitters as opposed to overpowering them.

The question now becomes, can they capitalize on this recent run of success and transform themselves into the veteran winners that their teams need them to be. It’s a tall order for two men who have reached the pinnacle of their sports already.

Super Bowl For Some On The National Team

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Sunday marked the 500 day mark until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The US Men’s National team plays their 1 and only “friendly” Tuesday before they jump into their 10 game World Cup qualifying schedule. They need to finish in the top 3 to earn a spot in next summer’s tournament.

The “friendly” against Canada is really a showcase for the players. 16 players have less than 5 caps (games with the National team) and 8 have never played a match for their team. Many notable players will be missing from the lineup such as Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard. But this game isn’t so much a place for the veterans as it is a chance for Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (whose been taking a chopper to and from practice) to try out some new blood.

In the January camp leading up to the match against Canada, Klinsmann brought in some of the rising stars of MLS like Will Bruin, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Beslar and Graham Zusi. These players will have to become major staples of the team if the US is to make it deep into the 2014 World Cup. Klinsmann himself has said that MLS is ‘getting stronger every year’ and if that’s the case then those players should be making a even bigger impact on the National team.

Keep an eye on the back line tonight. If players like Gonzalez, Besler and even AJ DeLaGarza can show that they are up to the challenge of National team play then the US will be in good shape going into qualifying. If none of those players step up and really take control then the US may have to score 4 goals a game just to make it to Brazil.