In last night's 2-1 Union loss to Toronto FC, which we'll cover in greater detail later today, there was a fair amount of theatrical diving and writhing going on. It's part of the game, something newcomers to the sport will have to get used to seeing, but there was also quite a bit of real nasty contact. A few hard tackles resulted in yellow cards to both sides, and then of course there was Danny Califf's red card–drawing elbow. And there was this:Eighteen-year-old Amadou Sanyang took an elbow from a teammate who was trying to head a ball past Union keeper Chris Seitz, and went down in a heap. My friends and I, thinking he was hamming up contact to draw a penalty kick, immediately shouted for him to get up, expletive. Then the frame panned to the above shot... Yeah, that one might have been legit.
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- As Ryan Harlost stepped to the mound on Sunday, he took it all in.
Chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A!" droned over his left shoulder as he dipped it to deliver a warm-up pitch. South Korean arms and flags waved furiously to his right. Little kids who asked for his autograph earlier in the week used makeshift sleds to slide down the hill toward most of the 22,000-plus fans who packed Lamade Stadium.
The Endwell, New York, pitcher admitted it made him uneasy. He sure didn't show it.
Harlost led New York to the Little League World Series title, striking out eight and limiting South Korea to five hits in six innings in a 2-1 victory. He scored the deciding run on a passed ball in the fourth inning.
"I was a little nervous at first in front of a lot of people but it's just another game and I felt confident going in," Harlost said.
But it was more than just another game.
Endwell snapped a five-year championship drought for U.S. teams on Little League's biggest stage and gave New York its first title since 1964. Huntington Beach, California, won in 2011 and Mid Island from Staten Island won New York's last World Series championship.
Conner Rush had the New York team's only RBI to give Endwell a lead it wouldn't relinquish in the bottom of the fourth. Harlost (2-0) scored the deciding run on a passed ball a batter later.
"I was just thinking get it in play any way you can," Rush said. "Once that happens, you never know what can happen."
For a while, it didn't look like New York hitters would be able to hit anything.
Junho Jeong (1-2) gave up two runs on four hits and struck out nine for South Korea (4-2). He was unflappable for most of the afternoon, working the outside of the plate masterfully for 3 1/3 innings of no-hit ball before Jude Abbadessa broke through in the fourth.
Waking to the plate as Endwell fans along the first base side bellowed "Juuude!" Abbadessa broke up the righty's no-hit bid with a single to center. Harlost followed with a liner to the same spot and Rush plated the go-ahead run with a hit that fell in behind the shortstop. Harlost raced home to give New York a 2-0 lead one batter later.
"It's just been amazing," Abbadessa said. "Just coming here would be amazing and then our team doing well is even more amazing. It's been fun the whole week and we're glad that it turned out this way."
Yoomin Lee homered for the Asia-Pacific champs from Seoul to halve New York's lead in the fifth. Harlost's precision and a stingy New York defense prevented further damage.
In the second, right fielder James Fellows made a running grab at the warning track to rob Sangheon Park of an extra base hit. With a runner on first an inning later, Harlost snagged a hard-hit liner at the mound, tossed to first to get the putout and escape the third unscathed.
Later in the fifth after Yoomin's blast halved the score, Abbadessa scooped up a grounder that took an awkward bounce and threw to first for final out of the inning.
"The Mid-Atlantic team is a really good defensive team," South Korean manager Heesu Ji said. "I'm really proud of my team."
Minho Choi struck out with runners on first and second to end the game.
Harlost turned toward his dugout on the first-base side but didn't make it there as his teammates rushed out to dogpile on him near the base line.
Most of New York's players had been on other teams together before. More than half of them were on the team that fell to last year's World Series runner-up Red Land in the Mid-Atlantic Region Championship, leaving them one win shy of qualifying for a trip to South Williamsport.
"It was all of our last years of Little League," Rush said. "So it's just awesome to know that we all came together to be the best team in the world."
MINNEAPOLIS -- Teddy Bridgewater was sharp in his return from a sore shoulder, completing 12 of 16 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown in the first half for the Minnesota Vikings in a 23-10 exhibition victory Sunday over the San Diego Chargers in the official unveiling their new stadium.
After sitting out last week at Seattle, Bridgewater found Kyle Rudolph for a 27-yard score and led the Vikings to points on three of five possessions. Bridgewater even put a slick juke on strong safety Adrian Phillips to further a 22-yard run that set up one of three short field goals by Blair Walsh.
Melvin Gordon, aiming to rebound from a rough rookie season, cruised through the middle of Minnesota's starting defense for a 39-yard touchdown run. San Diego lost running back Branden Oliver, though, to an Achilles tendon injury on his right leg that required a cart to take him off. Oliver is the primary kickoff returner and a contributing backup behind Gordon and Danny Woodhead.
With sunlight streaming in from the floor-to-ceiling glass on the west side and through the translucent, space-age roof, the Vikings enjoyed a gleaming debut for U.S. Bank Stadium. The sold-out crowd of 66,143 was the largest at home in franchise history.
The Chargers undoubtedly felt some envy, with their decade-and-a-half quest to replace 49-year-old Qualcomm Stadium still unfulfilled and a move to Los Angeles still a possibility. This game was conveniently scheduled for national broadcast on Fox, in case folks in San Diego were still on the fence about public funding.
Philip Rivers went 5 for 9 for 54 yards and an interception, one of three by the Vikings. Rookies Jayron Kearse and Mackensie Alexander picked off Chargers third-stringer Mike Bercovici, who's competing with Zach Mettenberger for a roster spot.
Bercovici threw three straight passes into the end zone in the fourth quarter that the Vikings had their hands on, the last one finally intercepted by second-round draft pick Alexander.
With Adrian Peterson resting on the sideline, backup Jerick McKinnon rushed eight times for 56 yards. Stefon Diggs caught five passes for 71 yards, all in the first half. Cordarrelle Patterson recovered Mycole Pruitt's fumble, one of two lost by the Vikings, in the end zone for a touchdown (see full recap).
Osweiler sharp in Texans' win over Cardinals
HOUSTON -- Brock Osweiler threw for 146 yards and a touchdown and Houston intercepted two of Carson Palmer's passes in the Texans' 34-24 exhibition victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Osweiler led the Texans to scores on three of his four drives. He connected with first-round pick Will Fuller on a 26-yard touchdown pass that extended Houston's lead to 24-10 before sitting down with about three minutes left in the first half.
It was Osweiler's second successful outing after he and Houston's starting offense struggled in the team's first preseason game. The expectations for Osweiler are high after the Texans signed Peyton Manning's former backup to a $72 million contract this offseason.
While Osweiler was solid, Houston's starting defense starred. Andre Hal intercepted Palmer's second pass of the day to set up Houston's first score, a 1-yard touchdown run by new running back Lamar Miller.
Palmer's second drive was his only clean one, and it ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by David Johnson.
On Arizona's next possession, linebacker John Simon tipped a pass by Palmer, intercepted it and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown. It was the second straight game in which Palmer had an interception returned for a touchdown after Brandon Flowers did it in last week in a 9-3 loss at San Diego.
Palmer attempted to tackle Simon after the interception and was tackled by 305-pound defensive end Devon Still, a hit that knocked the quarterback's helmet off. Coach Bruce Arians had seen enough after that hit, and Palmer was replaced by Drew Stanton.
Fuller finished with 67 yards receiving and fellow rookie Braxton Miller, the former Ohio State star quarterback, added three receptions for 29 yards. The Texans chose Fuller in the first round this year to take pressure off Pro Bowler DeAndre Hopkins, who was third in the NFL with 1,521 yards receiving last season despite facing near constant double teams (see full recap).
Bengals' 1st-team offense impresses in win over Jags
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Cincinnati Bengals were so sharp against Jacksonville that Andy Dalton and several teammates were done long before halftime.
Dalton led the Bengals to two touchdowns in three possessions, earning him a little extra rest in a 26-21 loss to the Jaguars in the preseason Sunday night.
"It was a good outing for us," Dalton said. "Two touchdowns in the first half of a preseason game is pretty good, and we got them both ways. ... It's a good feeling to do it both ways."
The Bengals (2-1) felt good on both sides of the ball, too. Dalton found Giovani Bernard for a 19-yard score on a third-down play, and then Jeremy Hill capped a 9-minute drive with a 1-yard scramble to the pylon. Defensively, the Bengals held Jacksonville to just 90 yards in the first half. Jacksonville's first three drives: turnover, three-and-out and three-and-out.
Cincy's only concern in the regular-season dress rehearsal was the health of three Pro Bowlers.
Receiver A.J. Green left in the first quarter with a bruised right knee, but the team said it was nothing serious and he should be fine for the opener. Cornerback Adam Jones strained a calf in preseason warmups and did not play. And special teams ace Cedric Peerman broke his left forearm and could be sidelined for the season.
Safety Tashaun Gipson (bruised knee) was Jacksonville's only injured starter.
The Jaguars (0-3) had bigger problems -- the offense and defense both failed to show -- that raised questions about what's supposed to the franchise's most talented team in nearly a decade (see full recap).
The Eagles released Rueben Randle and Chris Givens on Sunday, ending the brief and disappointing Eagles careers of both veteran wide receivers.
The two receivers were among eight players released by the team on Sunday evening.
Randle caught five passes for 26 yards in the preseason and Givens caught one for 19 yards.
The Eagles tried to bolster their receiver corps by adding the two receivers this offseason, signing Randle to a one-year, $1,025,000 contract and Givens to a one-year $760,000 deal.
Randle got $500,000 guaranteed and Givens $180,000 guaranteed, so the two moves will count $680,000 against the Eagles’ 2016 adjusted salary cap of $161,570,362.
The moves leave the Eagles with eight wide receivers: Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Josh Huff, Paul Turner, Marcus Johnson, Cayleb Jones and David Watford.
Barring any other personnel moves, Matthews, Agholor, Green-Beckham, Huff and Turner appear headed for the final 53-man roster.
Randle’s decline is fairly astonishing.
Two years ago with the Giants, he caught 71 passes for 938 yards, and last year he caught 57 passes for 797 yards and eight touchdowns. He had four catches of 40 yards or more in 2015, fourth-most in the NFL. In four seasons in New York, he caught 188 passes for 2,644 yards and 20 TDs.
Yet the Giants had no interest in re-signing him. Now the former second-round pick’s career is in jeopardy at the age of 25.
Givens, a fourth-round pick of the Rams in 2012, was with his third team in two years this summer. His once-promising career could be over at the age of 26.
Most notable among the six other players released was offensive tackle Andrew Gardner, who started 11 games in an Eagles uniform.
Gardner, who had also spent time with the Dolphins and Texans, started eight games at right guard and right tackle for the Eagles in 2014 and was the Eagles’ opening-day starter last year at right guard. He suffered a Lisfranc injury in his left foot during a Week 3 game against the Jets at the Meadowlands and missed the rest of the season.
Also released was a member of last year’s draft class, sixth-round pick Randall Evans out of Kansas State. Evans spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad but was activated for the Pat Shurmur season finale against the Giants at the Meadowlands and got into the game on special teams.
The Eagles also released veteran defensive tackle Mike Martin, who played in 46 games for the Titans the last four years, including five starts. Also released were long snapper John DePalma and cornerback Denzel Rice, the latter of who played in five games last year and got 20 defensive snaps in the season finale against the Giants last year.
The Eagles also placed linebacker Joe Walker (knee) and defensive end Alex McCalister (calf), two rookie seventh-round picks, on season-ending Injured Reserve.
Teams have until Tuesday to reduce rosters to 75. The Eagles’ roster is currently at 73, and they have to reduce it to 53 by 4 p.m. next Sunday.
The Eagles finish the preseason on Thursday night at the Linc against the Jets.