Regional Heavyweights U.S. & Mexico Meet In Gold Cup Final

Regional Heavyweights U.S. & Mexico Meet In Gold Cup Final

Before I get into my US/Mexico Gold Cup Final (9PM/Fox Soccer) thoughts I need to state something for the record. How in the world does Major League Soccer, the professional soccer league of record in this country, schedule games during the final of the most important tournament in the region?

As Matt P. and I were discussing it took MLS forever to release their schedule. How did they not take into account the likelihood that the US would face its biggest rival in the Gold Cup Final? For a league desperate to connect with and retain soccer fans in this country scheduling games for tonight is a stroke of pure unadulterated idiocy.

Ok, now that that's out of my system I can go ahead and talk about the actual game

Mexico comes into the game having outscored their opponents 18-2 over the course of the tournament. By comparison the US has outscored their opponents 8-2. Chicharito, who lit it up in his first season in the English Premier League, has dominated the tournament, scoring seven goals for Mexico.

Putting those numbers aside for a moment an argument could be made that these two teams have been headed in opposite directions since the tournament got underway. The US started off incredibly slow - squeaking past Guadeloupe and then losing to Panama. Since then the US has steadily improved.

What's been the difference? Well, in my opinion the US fortunes started to change as soon as Bob Bradley replaced Tim Ream in the lineup. Carlos Bocanegra moved to the spot Ream vacated in the middle. Eric Lichaj then stepped into the left back spot. The US has not conceded a goal since making the change - keeping a clean sheet over the last three games.

Mexico, after breezing through he group stage, struggled to get past Guatemala. They then needed overtime to beat Honduras in the semifinal.

Don't get me wrong, Mexico is deservedly favored to win tonight. The Rose Bowl will be filled 70%-80% with Mexican fans. However, I can't imagine a rivalry game like this will result in a lopsided affair.

These two teams know each other too well for that to happen. If the US has any advantage it's between the sticks with Tim Howard along with the physical play provided in the center of the midfield with Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones.

This will be the first game all tournament where the US is not expected to win. It will also likely be the first game where the opposing team will not simply sit back and give the US time on the ball.

El Tri will undoubtedly have chances. It's up to the US to recapture the success they had in the Confederations Cup and the World Cup in transition.

Landon Donovan, who presumably will start tonight, is going to need to be a monster on the flanks. The recipe is the same as always for the US. If Howard, Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Michael Bradley play well they'll have a chance to win.

REMEMBER THIS?

Eagles' Brandon Brooks gives father touching gift

Eagles' Brandon Brooks gives father touching gift

How’s this for an awesome deed?

Eagles offensive guard Brandon Brooks took to Twitter to show a heartfelt message, that included a photo of a new car he purchased for his father.

In the tweet, Brooks revealed the mindset his father has instilled in him growing up, not wanting to be average and more.

Nice gesture, Brandon.

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

PITTSBURGH -- The ice on Friday afternoon at Heinz Field was watery and slushy.
 
That’s because the city set a historic record at 78 degrees for Feb. 24.
 
So what were the ice conditions?
 
“They were pretty good,” said Sidney Crosby. “It was pretty bright there. Started off the practice and the sun was beating down pretty good.
 
“I’ve played in a few of these and the ice was pretty good considering how warm it was. It’s supposed to cool down and I’m sure it will get better.”
 
The Penguins will host the Flyers on Saturday night in a Stadium Series outdoor game.
 
Pittsburgh took the ice Friday at 4 p.m. The Flyers got on the ice a little more than an hour later and things started to cool down.
 
“We had a pretty good practice given the circumstances,” Jakub Voracek said. “This is a little better setup than Philly. The fans are closer.”
 
It was much hotter when Pittsburgh took the ice, but the temperature was still warm after the sun went down.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere said, “It was hot for sure. … It was fun, but it was pretty hot.”
 
Defenseman Radko Gudas said the ice surface was, “playable, but a little rough.”
 
On Saturday, rain is expected, with temperatures falling to 42 degrees by 5 p.m.
 
During the game, which begins at 8 p.m., the temperature is projected to continue to drop and there will be wind gusts up to 31 mph. By the end of the night, the forecast says temps will be in the 20s. 

Players are more concerned about the wind than the ice at this point. Crosby, who has played in three previous NHL outdoor games, said wind is a huge factor. It happened to the Penguins at the 2014 Stadium Series game in Chicago.
 
“It can definitely be a factor,” Crosby said. “I want to say in Chicago that was something we kind of had to look at. We felt it a little more there compared to the other two [outdoor games]. If it going to get windy like that, it’s something to be aware of.”
 
It remains to be seen how the NHL will handle which team goes into the wind first.
 
“Yeah, the wind,” Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet of what element will be a big factor. “I hope you don’t have to backcheck. Who gets the advantage? They change in the third period. But who picks what end? There is a wind factor.”
 
Tocchet rated the ice Friday as “a little slushy.”
 
“It was good early and then it got tough because it was hot outside,” Tocchet said. “But we got a half-decent practice out of it.
 
“The one thing, the puck didn’t bounce, which was good. Players can adapt a lot better when the puck doesn’t bounce. When things bounce, it’s a tough night.”