WIMBLEDON, England — Once the Centre Court roof was closed, nothing could stop Roger Federer from winning his record-tying seventh Wimbledon title.The 30-year-old Federer finally equaled Pete Sampras’ record at the All England Club, and won his 17th Grand Slam title overall, by beating Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 Sunday.“It has worked out so many times over the years here at Wimbledon that I play my best in the semis and the finals,” Federer said. “I couldn’t be more happy. It feels great being back here as the winner.”Once Murray’s forehand landed wide on match point, Federer collapsed to the grass with tears welling in his eyes. He got up quickly and shook hands with Murray at the net.Up in the players’ box, Federer’s wife and twin daughters cheered and smiled as he took his seat to await yet another Wimbledon trophy presentation.“When the roof closed, he played unbelievable tennis,” Murray said.Federer is now 17-7 in Grand Slam finals, including 7-1 at Wimbledon. Murray dropped to 0-4 in major finals, with three of those losses coming against Federer.“It’s amazing. It equals me with Pete Sampras, who’s my hero,” Federer said. “It just feels amazing.”Besides Sampras, 1880s player William Renshaw also won seven Wimbledon titles, but he did it at a time when the defending champion was given a bye into the following year’s final.Sunday’s match was the first Wimbledon singles final to be played with the roof closed. The roof was first used at the All England Club in 2009.Britain has been waiting 76 years for a homegrown men’s champion at the All England Club, and the expectations on Murray were huge.Thousands of fans watched the match on a huge screen on “Murray Mount,” but left the grounds still waiting for a British winner.Inside the stadium, Prince William’s wife, Kate, sat in the Royal Box along with David Beckham, British Prime Minister David Cameron and a slew of former Wimbledon champions.Many of them left a bit disappointed as well.“Everybody always talks about the pressure of playing at Wimbledon, how tough it is,” Murray said. “It’s not the people watching. They make it so much easier to play. The support has been incredible, so thank you.”With his victory, Federer regained the No. 1 ranking from Novak Djokovic, allowing him to equal Sampras’ record of 286 weeks as the top-ranked player.“I never stopped believing. I started playing more, even though I have a family,” Federer said. “It all worked out. I got great momentum, great confidence and it all came together. So it’s a magical moment for me.”Murray is coached by eight-time Grand Slam champion Ivan Lendl, the only other man who lost his first four major finals.At the start of the match, Murray was the one dictating play and winning the tough points. He broke Federer in the first game of the first set, and then broke again late before serving it out. It was the first set Murray has won in his four major finals.The second set was much more even, and both had early break points that they couldn’t convert. Federer, however, finally got it done in the final game of the set, hitting a backhand drop volley that Murray couldn’t get to.Both held easily to start the third set, but then the rain started abruptly, suspending play for 40 minutes. Shortly after they returned, it turned into a one-man show.With Federer leading 3-2, they played a 26-point, 20-minute game in which Federer finally converted his sixth break point — after Murray had slipped on the grass three times. Federer lost only five points on his serve in that set.Source: AP, ESPN
The NHL canceled regular-season games through November, as the labor dispute between the league and the players’ association get nowhereThe league canceled games through Nov. 1 last week following a dispiriting proposal-swapping session between the NHL and NHLPA in Toronto. With no progress made since, the league was forced to wipe out another significant block of the regular-season schedule.A lack of meaningful dialogue between the warring factions means that the league’s marquee event, the Winter Classic, is in jeopardy as well.The annual outdoor game may be canceled as early as next week, a source with knowledge of the league’s plans told ESPNNewYork.com.Commissioner Gary Bettman said a decision on the Winter Classic was needed “very soon” when reached Wednesday at a press conference announcing the Islanders move to Brooklyn.“I’m not going to give you an exact timetable, but at some point in November,” he said. “We will have to commit many millions of dollars to get ready for the Winter Classic, so if there’s still uncertainty, we’re going to have to make a decision and my guess is, we’re not going to commit those dollars unless we have certainty.”Bettman also indicated Wednesday that the negotiation process — one that has been stagnant without any formal meetings over the past week — was likely to get “more difficult” moving forward.The league is following through with that promise Friday, when it is expected to not only cancel games but also inform the NHLPA that its last offer is now off the table.The offer — which included a 50-50 revenue split and provision to “make whole” existing player contracts by using deferred payments — was contingent on playing an 82-game season, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com. With no chance of salvaging a full season, the offer has been rescinded.The NHLPA has not made any additional offer since its trio of proposals was promptly rejected by the league last week. The union has attempted to stoke negotiations by offering to meet, but the league has spurned those invitations.
With first-time winners taking each of the last seven major titles, you might not think experience counts for much in golf anymore. But as the world’s top players head to Royal Birkdale for this week’s (British) Open, it serves as a reminder that the unique challenges of links-style courses still provide at least one championship showcase for golf’s greybeards.Traditionally speaking, championship golfers do the bulk of their winning in their late 20s and early-to-mid 30s: Since 2000, about 60 percent of major winners were age 32 or younger at the time of their victory. But the big exception seems to be the British Open, whose champs are consistently much older than those of the other majors. Of the five major wins by the 40-and-older set since 2000, only one of them didn’t come at The Open (Vijay Singh’s 2004 PGA Championship win). According to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group, the average age for British Open winners since 2000 was 33.7, while the average age for all other major champs was 30.7.And the results have been even more extreme in recent years, with four 40-somethings winning the Claret Jug this decade,1Henrik Stenson in 2016, Phil Mickelson in 2013, Ernie Els in 2012 and Darren Clarke in 2011. and this doesn’t even count Zach Johnson (who won The Open at age 39 in 2015), nor does it reflect the heroic near-misses from old-timers this century, such as 59-year-old Tom Watson’s playoff loss at Turnberry in 2009 and 53-year-old Greg Norman’s third-place finish in 2008 — the last time Birkdale hosted the event. Since 2011, the average age for The Open winners has been 38.5, nearly 10 years older than the average of the other three majors (28.7), according to ESPN Stats & Information. So why do older players excel at the British? One reason might be in the way experience helps players deal with the ever-changing weather conditions that often beset The Open — and how those same atmospheric effects negate the advantages of long-hitting younger players.To test this theory, I looked at data provided by Stats & Info for the first two rounds of each British Open since 1983. For players who have birthdate information in the database,2Because of incomplete data, about 20 percent of players who played in the British Open are missing age information. I broke them down into the following categories: “Young” (ages 28 or below — the youngest 25 percent of players), “Old” (ages 39 or older — the oldest 25 percent of players) and “Regular” (everyone else). I also recorded whether the average score for a given round was more than three strokes over par, considering such rounds to have “high-scoring” conditions. This is admittedly an imperfect proxy for weather effects, but in the absence of tee times and climate data, it will have to do as a means of flagging rounds where conditions were challenging.When scoring conditions were normal, old and young players shot equally well relative to the field average. (Players who fit neither category shot about a third of a stroke better on average, which makes sense given those players were in the primes of their careers.) But when conditions got bad, the young players shot worse — and the older ones shot better. In high-scoring rounds, young players lost about a third of a stroke per round relative to older players, an even bigger margin than the quarter-stroke they lost relative to prime-aged players.3It’s a safe assumption that the missing ages in this data set only work in the favor of the younger players: Many of the ones missing are amateurs and fringe international qualifiers, who typically put up worse scores; likewise, past Open winners age 60 or younger, who automatically qualify, also tend to perform poorly, but their ages are reflected here. A “high-scoring round” is one in which the field average was more than three strokes over par.Source: ESPN Stats & information group Old (39 and older)1,616-0.11730-0.28-0.17 Open weather can infamously turn on a dime, and it requires shots of a very different shape than the usual ones many younger Americans have spent the vast majority of their careers playing. So at least in part, this is evidence that experience — and not raw power — can help a player better navigate around such challenging conditions.And that shouldn’t be any different this time around, with typical rainy, gusty weather on the forecast for Royal Birkdale. So although this has been a great season for young players on the PGA Tour, don’t be surprised if the sport’s elder statesmen take center stage in England this week. Young (28 and younger)1,408-0.127260.00+0.12 NORMAL ROUNDHIGH-SCORING ROUND When the going gets rough, the old get goingFirst- and second-round scores vs. field average under normal and high-scoring conditions in the British Open, by age, 1983-2016 Regular (29–38)2,765-0.471,153-0.58-0.11 PLAYER AGEROUNDSSCORE VS AVG.ROUNDSSCORE VS AVG.DIFF.
Hakeem Olajuwon199514.812.910.213.7✔✔ Does it get any better than this? The best player in the world, under pressure that would break lesser men, appears to be using it somehow to make himself even better. LeBron James’s NBA Finals performance so far is the kind of thing we like to dream great athletes can do.Unfortunately, he’s probably going to lose.Monday on FiveThirtyEight, my colleague Neil Paine discussed how both James’s basic and advanced stats point to his being one of the all-time great finals series. On the mothersite, Kevin Pelton argues that James should win the MVP based on WARP (wins above replacement player), and it seems that the idea that James should win the MVP even if the Cavs lose is getting popular.So I’d like to look at James’s production from a slightly different angle. Rather than just look at how James’s production stands on its own right, let’s see how much impact James has had on the series relative to everyone else — combined.Through the first five games, James has gathered an incredible 18 percent of all the points scored, assists dished and rebounds collected by anyone in this series. If that stands, it will be 1.1 percentage points higher than the next highest over the past 46 years (since they started having a finals MVP in 1969). Here are the top 20, plus James: Kobe Bryant2009220.127.116.114.9✔✔ Tim Duncan200318.104.22.1685.9✔✔ Shaquille O’Neal200117.018.011.616.6✔✔ LeBron James201519.0%13.6%23.0%18.0%–– Shaquille O’Neal200217.914.88.415.8✔✔ PLAYERSEASONPTS.REBS.ASST.ALLWONMVP Tim Duncan199916.617.87.015.8✔✔ Michael Jordan19922.214.171.1244.4✔✔ Shaquille O’Neal200018.020.25.416.9✔✔ Michael Jordan199116.28.824.315.6✔✔ Michael Jordan1998126.96.36.1994.1✔✔ The player closest to James who didn’t win the MVP was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had a 15.5 percent share in the 1974 finals. Abdul-Jabbar and the Milwaukee Bucks lost the finals that year to the Boston Celtics, and the MVP went to John Havlicek. The only person to win the finals MVP in a losing effort was Jerry West in 1969, and he happens to be right around the fringe where players any more dominant almost always get the MVP trophy.Meanwhile, regular-season MVP Stephen Curry — the most likely candidate to deny James (again) — presently has the second-highest share in the finals with 11.5 percent of all points, rebounds and assists. If it holds, this 6.5 percentage point gap between first and second would be the second-largest ever (since 1969):The only player with a greater than 4 percentage point gap who didn’t win the MVP was James last year, when the winner was Spurs breakout star and current Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard.In other words, not only has James been the most dominant player in these finals, he has also been one of the most dominant “most dominant” players in finals history.Of course dominating production isn’t necessarily the same as “value,” and I’ve dabbled in esoteric theories of value myself (like, say, how Dennis Rodman might have been more valuable than Michael Jordan).Still, this gap between James and most other finals MVPs — barring any substantial changes — is so wide that unless you rule out the defeated on principle, it will be hard to argue that he doesn’t belong in their company. LeBron James201214.313.021.914.8✔✔ Michael Jordan199718.58.615.115.3✔✔ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar197113.518.66.614.1✔✔ Kobe Bryant201016.110.011.313.8✔✔ Dwyane Wade2006188.8.131.525.3✔✔ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar197417.314.111.315.5 LeBron James201313.013.317.713.7✔✔ Michael Jordan199319.29.812.816.0✔✔ Jerry West1969184.108.40.206.5✔ Wilt Chamberlain197010.423.67.413.5
OSU freshman midfielder Sarah Roberts (10) during a game against Minnesota on Sept. 17 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU lost 2-1. Credit: Sam Harris / For The LanternHeavy winds and rain were major factors in Saturday’s match against the nation’s No. 10 team.Penn State got on the board first in the early minutes of the game when sophomore forward Frannie Crouse went one on one with OSU redshirt junior goalkeeper Jillian McVicker, knocking it right past her through the net.Both the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions played an aggressive first half as OSU tried to break through the Nittany Lions’ defensive front but couldn’t get anything going offensively.The Nittany Lions put the next point on the board in the 39th minute as freshman midfielder Marissa Sheva finished inside the left post from 15 yards out.“In the first half, honestly, I couldn’t see,” OSU junior forward Lindsay Agnew said. “The rain was coming in and the wind was blowing hard. It stinks that they got those two goals, because I really feel if we would have held them to one goal then we could have buried them in the second half. Once the conditions changed, they couldn’t get ahold of the ball.”The Nittany Lions’ underclassmen were a threat to the Buckeyes on Saturday, just like they have been all season, as they have accounted for 24 goals on the year, two of which were scored against OSU.The teams went to halftime with Penn State in the lead, 2-0. The Lions also held the 8-2 advantage in shots, including 5-0 on goal.“I told them it was the best position I ever felt being down 2-0,” OSU coach Lori Walker said. “The wind was such a factor trying to get out early on. Having that at our back in the second half, I just said we have to take advantage of it and fight back and just get one at a time. I am pleased that we were able to come back out in the second half and really do that.”McVicker was replaced in the second half by freshman goalkeeper Devon Kerr.“I was confident and ready to play,” Kerr said. “I really wanted to make a change in the game in a positive way to get my team upbeat.”Walker downplayed the change, saying switching goalkeepers is not a big deal. She said a team has to take advantage of the skills each keeper can contribute to the game.“There’s nothing that (McVicker) did wrong in the first half,” Walker said. “It’s just a matter of utilizing players’ skill sets. At this school we change quarterbacks, and we change goalkeepers. It’s just what we do.”Back-and-forth play consumed much of the second half, as it the game remained at 2-0 until the 81st minute when OSU finally broke through the Nittany Lion defense. Freshman defender Kylie Knight found Agnew inside the box, who then knocked it in from eight yards out to cut the Penn State lead to 2-1.Agnew’s goal reignited her team as it tried to equalize.“I think it gave us another little bit of hope,” Agnew said. “But leading up to that goal, we had so much momentum and everyone was working really hard and winning every ball. Kylie played an amazing ball to me over the top and I was just happy to put one away.”Walker said the goal lit a fire under the team, but the clock remained its biggest enemy.“It really excited us, ignited us,” Walker said. “Because when you’re fighting back you just need that one thing to kind of change the momentum. Unfortunately, we just ran out of time.”For the game, the Nittany Lions held a 15-7 advantage in shots, including 9-2 on goal.Saturday’s game was also the return of redshirt junior defender and co-captain, Morgan Wolcott to Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Wolcott saw action in last weekend’s game, but it was her first game played back at home.Wolcott had been sidelined due to injury for much of the season.“I thought playing for the first time again, under the lights, in the rain, just got my adrenalin going,” Wolcott said. “Playing with my team and seeing how hard we fought all the way through, a full 90 minutes was unbelievable. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”The Buckeyes now prepare for their final regular season match of the season against the Michigan State Spartans.“Looks like it’s all going to boil down to that one,” Walker said. “It’s a championship game. I love championship games, and I think our players will show up for it. It’s home, it’s senior day, so there’s a lot of great elements to play for.”OSU is slated to kick off against the Spartans at 7:30 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
OSU redshirt junior cornerback Gareon Conley (8) and OSU redshirt sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore (2) celebrate Conley’s first half interception during the Buckeyes game against the Badgers on Oct. 15. The Buckeyes won 30-23 in overtime. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorOhio State’s inexperienced secondary exceeded all expectations during the 2016 football season. All one has to do is look at the success in pass defense — in terms of interceptions, passes defended and passing yards allowed — to understand why OSU has both starting cornerbacks and its best overall player at safety projected as possible first-round picks.Dominance from cornerback Gareon Conley was seen as a possibility before the season. But the emergence of Marshon Lattimore opposite Conley was not as anticipated. Now, both are gone and the Buckeyes will have to reload.They certainly have the class to do that.OSU coach Urban Meyer snagged the top two cornerbacks in the 2017 recruiting class, according to recruiting site 247Sports, in freshmen Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade who have already enrolled.To add to that, Alabama transfer and the No. 1 junior college cornerback Kendall Sheffield will also join the Buckeyes in 2017. Okudah, Wade and Sheffield are all in contention to start at cornerback next year, and all will participate in spring practice which begins March 7. Sheffield is expected to join the program that month.“When me and Jeff (Okudah) talked, we said we are going to push each other no matter who starts or who plays over each other, we are going to push each other,” Wade said on National Signing Day. “That’s really the only thing we were talking about.”The OSU secondary intercepted 21 passes and returned a school-record seven for touchdowns. Conley and Lattimore each had four interceptions while safety Malik Hooker reeled in seven, including three touchdowns. The first-year starting safety was the most athletic of the bunch and will be difficult to replace.It’s probably too much to ask of the four freshmen cornerbacks in the 2017 class — which includes four-star, early-enrollee Marcus Williamson — or the current cornerbacks, junior Denzel Ward and redshirt sophomore Damon Arnette, to duplicate the numbers that Lattimore and Conley produced. But that’s not saying that expectation isn’t there.“We’ve only been here for a month, so we haven’t gotten a chance to feel the expectations but we know what the expectations are,” Okudah said. “With the class like the one we brought in, it’s the highest expectation and that’s to win a national championship.”For beginners, Okudah, Wade and Sheffield — all of which were former five-star recruits — possess the size of Conley, Lattimore and former OSU and New York Giants cornerback Eli Apple. Standing at 6-foot or taller, each of the three already fit into that mold that has become a breeding ground for NFL cornerbacks. That being said, Conley, Lattimore and Apple all redshirted their first seasons in Columbus. It’s not unprecedented for freshman to start at OSU, but to have an opportunity to play immediately for not one, but three players at one position — a chance that often isn’t presented to even the most heralded OSU recruits — is a rarity. However, that’s an even greater tribute to the talent, confidence and maturity the newcomers have before being with the program for a full month.Meyer said that immediate assistance will come in the defensive backfield.“I see those guys (helping),” he said. “We targeted those guys from day one, and we got the three primary guys.”
The Buckeyes earned some doubters with their early season play after losing to each of their first three ranked opponents. But Sunday, No. 15 Ohio State – at least temporarily – silenced those doubters while simultaneously bringing to life a roaring crowd at the Schottenstein Center, some of which had been camping out for the game since Friday. The Buckeyes’ 56-53 victory against No. 2 Michigan, who with a win against OSU would have been crowned the top team in the land, gave OSU its first win over a ranked team this season. All of that though, was almost taken away when Player of the Year candidate and Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke’s 3-pointer rimmed out with 14 seconds left in the game. The Buckeye lead was just two at the time – down from the 21-point cushion they had earlier in the game – and free throws secured the victory for the home team. The performance was a stark contrast to OSU’s previous contests against No. 1 Duke, No. 6 Kansas and No. 12 Illinois when the Buckeyes never shot better than 35 percent and struggled to find an offensive rhythm outside of junior forward Deshaun Thomas. Against Michigan, it was far more than Thomas that helped the Buckeyes jump out to a commanding 20-point advantage about 10 minutes into the first half. Junior guard Aaron Craft, who has been criticized for a lack of production on the offensive end, attacked the basket early, scoring from both the outside and in. He stepped into a three in the game’s opening minutes and followed it up by twice slicing to the basket. He finished with nine points and four assists. Sophomore forward Sam Thompson added a spark as well, equaling his season average of seven points before the nine minute mark of the first half. Then there was Thomas, who continued his high-level of offensive play this season, with 20 points including two 3-pointers in the first half – one of which fueled him and many of his teammates to pound their chests on the way down court. The biggest contributor of all though, might have been the Buckeye defense, which smothered the Wolverines from the opening tip. Led by Craft, OSU forced five turnovers in the first eight minutes and nine by halftime, which led to 16 OSU points. By the time the teams headed into the locker room for intermission, Michigan had chipped away at the big lead, but the Buckeyes still held a 34-22 advantage. That lead would shrink to eight early in the second half as the Wolverines threw at least three different defensive looks at the Buckeyes in the period. The switches appeared to slow the Buckeye offense down, but Michigan’s attack wasn’t faring much better. With 10:35 left in the game Michigan had outscored OSU 9-8. It wouldn’t take long for the game’s pace to quicken, though. Out of a media timeout Thomas grabbed Craft’s missed jumper and dunked it in a forest of Wolverine defenders. The play gave OSU an 11-point lead, but Michigan, led by junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr., would respond by scoring the next 10 points to cut the lead to one. The Buckeyes ended the streak when sophomore guard Shannon Scott lobbed a pass to Thompson, who grabbed the ball with one hand in midair and threw it down. Michigan was not finished, though. A 3-pointer on the following possession knotted the score at 46 with 5:59 remaining. But it was OSU that would write the game’s final chapter. Senior forward Evan Ravenel scored back-to-back buckets and Thomas added another to extend OSU’s lead to six. Michigan had a chance to take the lead when it called timeout down two points with 30 seconds left, but Burke’s misfire and crucial free throws from junior guards Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Craft sealed the win. The Buckeyes are now 13-3 on the year and Michigan drops to 16-1. OSU is set to next play Michigan State Saturday in East Lansing.
United States Men’s National Team defender Clarence Goodson (21) heads the ball away from goal during a World Cup Qualifying match against Mexico Sept. 10 at Crew Stadium. The USMNT won, 2-0.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorFor months, my mind has been singularly focused on this year’s FIFA World Cup. Ever since the calendar turned to 2014 it’s seemed so close, but in truth it’s always been comfortably out of reach. That situation has changed, however, and the world’s greatest sporting event is now right around the corner.The first event announcing that the tournament is imminent – the World Cup herald, if you will – is the naming of the rosters. Competing nations had until Tuesday to name a provisional squad of 30 players to take to a pre-tournament training camp. Each country has until June 2 to provide FIFA with a final list of 23 players whom it will take to Brazil.Some countries – England, Brazil, Mexico and others – elect to skip the 30-man squad and go straight to the 23. But a majority of the nations still name preliminary squads.One of those countries to name its 30 players this week: the United States.Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann revealed his selection of players on Monday, and while the names didn’t cause shock among the American soccer public, the omission of striker Eddie Johnson did raise a few eyebrows.Johnson scored the winning goal in the U.S.’s 2-0 victory over Mexico on Sept. 10 at Columbus Crew Stadium. Even though his goal effectively clinched World Cup qualification, Johnson’s failure to score in his first eight games of the season with D.C. United is probably the reason Klinsmann decided against selecting him.There’s a very good chance that Columbus will be represented in Brazil with Crew captain Michael Parkhurst included in the preliminary roster. Parkhurst may have been on the outside looking in a year ago, but his performances since then for the national team have been exemplary, and I’d be very surprised if he didn’t wind up with a seat on the plane to South America.Other than that, the squad picks itself – meaning the real test will be seeing who makes the final 23. In my opinion, there are roughly 20 “locks,” while the final three spots will be decided over the coming weeks.The team will gather for the first time on Wednesday at Stanford University. Once there, they’ll participate in a training camp and ultimately compete in three friendlies: against Azerbaijan on May 27 in San Francisco, against Turkey on June 1 in Harrison, N.J., and then with the final roster against Nigeria on June 7 in Jacksonville, Fla.The prize awaiting the players who make the cut? A shot at playing against some of the best players in the world during games against Ghana, Portugal and Germany in the opening round at the World Cup.I’d argue that the U.S. has one of the most talented squads in its history, with an array of talent from the goalkeeping position all the way to the forward line. It may not include a world superstar, but then that isn’t a prerequisite to succeeding in a World Cup – just ask Argentina forward Lionel Messi.The doubters will rightly point to the standard of opposition, a group that deserves it’s moniker as the “group of death.” Germany and Ghana have both overcome the U.S. twice in World Cup play, while Portugal fell to the Americans in 2002 with arguably the most disappointing squad in its history. Thank goodness this year’s World Cup isn’t being played in Panem, because the odds certainly aren’t in the U.S.’s favor.But having said that, I don’t see why many are so quick in writing off the U.S. team’s chances.For starters, having a tough group at the World Cup shouldn’t be a blow to morale. It should be expected. After all, the competition isn’t held in high esteem for nothing. It takes the best teams on the planet and puts them in one place to find an eventual winner.In 2010, it could be argued that the U.S. was handed an “easy” draw against England, Slovenia and Algeria. Even though the Americans navigated that group successfully, it’s not like it came easy. If you’re hoping to face a second-rate, low-quality side at the World Cup, you’ve come to the wrong place.That’s why I think the prospect of facing these talented countries shouldn’t be seen as a doomed exercise. Instead, it should be recognized as a tremendous opportunity to showcase just how far soccer in this country has come since the days when barely any matches were shown on television. The world’s best teams become the world’s best teams because they overcome difficult opposition, and that’s the only way the U.S. is going to move up world soccer’s ladder.The U.S. has never made it out of the group stage in consecutive tournaments, and if that trend continues it won’t necessarily signal a failure, but more of an indication that the national team’s growth still has a long way to go.But if it can reverse that trend, and bury the demons of the past three World Cups against the countries that eliminated them, it will be an epoch-defining achievement.Believing in an outcome like that sounds a lot more fun to me than dismissing the national team’s efforts before they even begin.If you want a place on the bandwagon there’s still time. We’ve got plenty of room.
OSU freshman goalie Alex LaMere looks back into the net after a goal by Western Ontario Sept. 28 at the Ohio State Ice Rink. OSU tied 2-2 in OT. Credit: Melissa Prax / Lantern photographerThe Buckeyes lost to No. 2 Wisconsin, 3-0, Sunday thanks in large part to Badger redshirt-senior forward Brittany Ammerman, who scored two of the three Wisconsin goals.With 7:09 left in the first period, Badger sophomore forward Sydney McKibbon scored on a power play for the first goal of the game.Halfway through the second period, Ammerman scored to pull Wisconsin ahead, 2-0. The final goal came in the last few seconds of the third period when Ammerman scored on a power play after OSU senior defenseman Kari Schmitt was called for roughing.OSU was outshot, 47-18, by Wisconsin. Freshman goalie Kassidy Sauve played a total of 59:37 minutes and recorded 44 saves.The Badgers also beat the Buckeyes in the first game of the series Friday night. Wisconsin was victorious in a 6-0 shutout. The Badgers showed their balanced offense, having six different players record goals in the game.Recording a total of 28 shots on net in the first series of their season, the Buckeyes couldn’t get anything past Wisconsin sophomore goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens.In the eighth minute of play, Wisconsin senior forward Karley Sylvester beat the Buckeyes during a power play to put the Badgers on the board, 1-0.The Badgers scored their second goal with less than five minutes remaining in the second period. Wisconsin later scored two goals each in the second period and the third period. The final goal was an empty netter in the last seconds of the third period.Sauve had her first conference start against Wisconsin. She played for a total of 43 minutes and let up five goals. Sauve saved a total of 18 shots during this game. Red-shirt junior goalie, Stacy Danczak was put in the net in the third period, playing for a total of 16 minutes, only letting one goal passed her.The Buckeyes look to bounce back this weekend when they are scheduled to host Bemidji State in a two-game series. The first game is scheduled for Friday at 6:07 p.m. before they face-off again Saturday at 12:07 p.m.
Ohio State senior linebacker Chris Worley (35) sacks in the second half of the Ohio State-Michigan State game on Nov. 11. Ohio State won 48-3. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorJunior linebacker Jerome Baker is cleared for Saturday’s game against Illinois, while redshirt junior Dante Booker’s status remains questionable, head coach Urban Meyer said on Tuesday’s Big Ten coaches teleconference. Baker and Booker both missed last Saturday’s game against Michigan State with undisclosed injuries. With the two starters out against the Spartans, Meyer sent Chris Worley and Malik Harrison to the outside linebacker positions and started Tuf Borland inside. The standout performance by the replacements has brought up the question of who will start Saturday for Ohio State, even if Booker and Baker are both healthy. Meyer said a decision on that will be made in the next two days. “I like the fact first of all, we’re building a bit of depth,” Meyer said Tuesday. “And second of all, those are very tough, consistent players and I’ve seen both playing a lot.”One player who Meyer said has stepped up all season for the Buckeyes was Borland. The redshirt freshman filled in for Worley earlier in the season due to Worley’s injury and has since established himself as a co-starter at middle linebacker on the team’s depth chart each week. “Just his consistency, it’s every day,” Meyer said. “He matches — it’s amazing his name is Tuf, he’s a very tough player, very consistent player, does things right and a very valuable guy for our program.”Here are some more notes from Meyer on Tuesday’s teleconference:Meyer on the three targeting calls that have been levied against his team this season: “The one [by Denzel Ward] was misfire by an official and then the other two weren’t. I think Bosa’s was a hit. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one like that where it’s in a pile. It’s kind of in the pocket. But Dre’Mont’s is wrong. So I met with coach Schiano and coach Johnson we’re just going to constantly, there’s zero resistance on our end. We are proponents of the rule. I don’t think the rule is — it’s a good rule. It’s for the best interest of the game and our players and all players, so it’s just consistently educating and teaching it and making sure that people know it’s not acceptable.”Meyer on the recent performance of freshman kicker Blake Haubeil: “Our kicker, ever since we’ve had, you know, the struggles early has been really, really good. So he’s kicking it right where he’s supposed to be. We’ve made some personnel changes and the personnel changes have been very productive.”Meyer on if Senior Day will prevent Ohio State from sleeping on Illinois: “I think that you know it’s a very unique experience, Senior Day in the Horseshoe. I hear players talk about it. It’s an incredible tradition to salute the players in front of the great fans and I think just the coaching staff has to take the lead in the way we practice. There will be zero conversation about the past and the future. It’s about today and then Wednesday and then Thursday and go play well. And that’s our job.”Meyer looking ahead at Illinois: “Their two-deep inside guys on defense stand out. You can tell they’re building for the future, and they can see there’s some young players on the offensive side of the ball that have brilliant futures and we’ve just got to make sure that future isn’t Saturday. We have a lot of respect for them and what they’re trying to do and their coaching staff and their players and the two inside guys can play anywhere in the Big Ten conference.”Meyer on what stood out from the Michigan State game: “The offensive line play without question. They went against a very good rush defense, we’ve gone against them, but that’s our sixth time and it’s not easy to do what they did and they worked extremely hard and without question the offensive line play.”