The US Women’s National Soccer Team advanced to the final game of the tournament for the 3rd straight time yesterday beating England 2-1. A victory on Sunday would give the USWNT their 2nd straight Women’s World Cup Championship and their 4th title overall. The team earned this win without the services of scoring machine, Megan Rapinoe, who sat out with a hamstring strain. The “script” for this game was similar to the one that earned the USWNT its win over France – score first and then control the other team’s offense with a “packed in defense”.
The key moment of the game came in the 84th minute of the game when England trailed 2-1 and had a penalty kick “on the spot”. The English player drove the ball to the lower left corner of the net, and it was corralled by US goaltender Alyssa Naeher. There is reason for Ms. Naeher to do a bit of gloating here.
While the US women entered the tournament as slight favorites, more than a few pundits identified “inexperience at goaltender” as a potential Achilles heel for the team. As of this morning, that inexperienced goaltender saved the victory that puts the USWNT in line for this year’s championship.
I am not going to profess to be a soccer maven here but from my observation of the game yesterday and previous games in this tournament, I think there is a woman on the team who does not get nearly the level of public accolade that she deserves. She is Becky Sauerbrunn. I said that the “script” for the past two games seems to have been score first and play smothering defense; Becky Sauerbrunn is one of the tenacious defenders who does the “smothering”. She may not score goals and she did not make that penalty kick save, but she makes sure the opposition does not get many open shots at the goaltender.
Switching gears … Last winter there was an inordinate amount of attention focused on the possible landing spots for free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. When the dust settled:
- Bryce Harper signed with the Phillies for 10 years and $330M
- Manny Machado signed with the Padres for 10 years and $300M
I doubt that Las Vegas offered this as a proposition wager, but I suspect the odds would have been high if this were the proposition:
- Neither Harper nor Machado will make the All-Star team in 2019.
Well, that is the circumstance for the 2019 MLB All-Star Game, and I would in no way suggest that either Harper or Machado should be on the All-Star roster in place of any player who is there.
As the NFL teams get ready to start their training camps for the 2019 season in about 3 weeks, there are two players who are probably entering the final year of what should be Hall of Fame careers once the appropriate time interval passes. They are:
- Larry Fitzgerald
- Frank Gore
What might fans expect from these top-shelf players whose career arcs are no longer “on the upside”? Here is one way to approach that question:
- Larry Fitzgerald is entering the 16th year of his career and has been a Pro-Bowl caliber receiver in 11 of his first 15 seasons. Not many WRs in the NFL last 15 years let alone perform at that level for most of them but one that did was Jerry Rice.
So, what did Jerry Rice do in his 16th year in the NFL – his final year with the Niners before Rice went across the Bay to play for the Raiders:
- In that season, Rice caught 75 passes for 805 yards and 7 TDs.
- Last year, playing with a rookie QB and an inexperienced offensive line, Fitzgerald caught 69 passes for 734 yards and 6 TDs. This year, the offensive line has to be better; the QB is a different rookie and the new coach is known to run a “pass-happy offense”.
- I think Larry Fitzgerald in 2019 should equal or slightly surpass what Jerry Rice did in his 16th NFL season.
Finding a “comparable” for Frank Gore was a tad more difficult for me. At age 36, Frank Gore is entering his 15th season as an NFL RB; and since 2012, he has missed a total of 2 games. The only other comparable running back I could think of was Marcus Allen who played in all 16 games – starting 15 of them – at age 36.
- In Marcus Allen’s age 36 season (with the KC Chiefs), he ran for 830 yards on 206 carries and scored 9 TDs.
- Those numbers are in line with Gore’s numbers from last season so there is no reason to think he could not approach them again in 2019. Gore will likely share a lot of the running game in Buffalo with the likes of LeSean McCoy, TJ Yeldon and Senorise Perry. That could limit his number of touches, but it is not unreasonable to expect him to average 4.8 – 5.0 yards per touch.
Finally, Brad Rock had this observation in the Deseret News about the intersection of sports and politics:
“People say sports and politics are closely related.
“Not that close.
A White House news release last week referred to the Boston Red Sox as the ‘Red Socks.’ Another proclaimed the Sox ‘World Cup Series Champions.’
Players say they’re just honored to be invited to the ‘White Castle House’.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………