Monday Myriad: Sparkling play in WPS, short-sighted decision in Italy

We’re starting with WPS for a highlight that probably didn’t make SportsCenter (correct me if it did) but should have. It’s Abby Wambach’s back-heel, throwing off three defenders and setting up the Washington Freedom’s first goal against the run of play as the Atlanta Beat once again looked wonderful but couldn’t finish. If you want to skip ahead to it, go to the 1:17 mark:

Wambach’s header wasn’t bad, either, which is why she gets my Player of the Week vote ahead of Marta. Granted, if I could see Marta’s video highlights, that would help.

The full week (home teams first):

  • Atlanta 0, Washington 2: The Beat might have played the best two games ever without scoring, outshooting the Freedom 21-10.
  • Boston 1, Bay Area 2: Marta has both goals for the league leaders.
  • St. Louis 2, New Jersey 2: Apologies to Laura Kalmari, who scored twice for Sky Blue and won’t win Player of the Week ahead of the bigger names.
  • Chicago 0, Philadelphia 1: Not a very good week for home teams, was it?


Several trophies were on the line, but the decisive games made news for reasons beyond the results.

  • Spain: Barcelona looked as good as ever in beating Valladolid 4-0 to finish the La Liga season with a record 99 points — 31 wins, 6 draws, 1 loss — a season that ranks with Arsenal’s unbeaten Premier League run (2003-04) as one of the best ever in a top European league. The only team to beat Barca was erratic Europa League champion Atletico Madrid. Runner-up Real Madrid lost twice to Barca and still somehow kept pace until the very end, drawing 1-1 with Malaga in a result that kept the home team in La Liga next year at Valladolid’s expense.
  • Italy: Inter Milan made their fans sweat a little more, waiting until the second half to score at Siena and hold on for a 1-0 win that clinched the Serie A title by two points over Roma, which won 2-0 at Chievo.
  • Italy/USA: American defender Oguchi Onyewu, who missed much of the season after an injury in World Cup qualifying, worked out a one-year contract extension with third-place AC Milan by offering to play for free in 2012-13. The club have agreed, which is appalling. What happens to the next guy who gets hurt playing in a World Cup qualifier? How much pressure will be on that player to do what Onyewu did? (BBC)
  • FA Cup: Premier League champion Chelsea beat last-place Portsmouth, which played the season under the cloud of financial problems, but the underdogs managed to throw away much of their charm when Kevin-Prince Boateng’s brutal foul on Michael Ballack knocked the German cornerstone out of the World Cup. Boateng, coincidentally, has shifted nationality from Germany to Ghana and may play against Germany — and his half-brother, Jerome Boateng — in the World Cup. Perhaps it was instant karma that Boateng had a penalty kick saved, spoiling Portsmouth’s chance to take an improbable lead. (BBC)
  • German Cup: Bayern Munich 4, Werder Bremen 0. Saturday’s Champions League final (Bayern-Inter, 2:45 p.m. ET, Fox) will feature two teams going for a triple of league, cup and European trophies.
  • England: Congratulations to Oxford United, which returns to League football with an emphatic Conference final win. (BBC)
  • Mexico: Jose Francisco Torres will be available for the U.S. camp without a club-vs.-country battle, as his Pachuca side fell on 3-2 aggregate to Toluca. Santos followed up a 3-3 draw at Morelia by winning the second leg 7-1. What is this — the NASL? Third seed Toluca and fifth seed Santos will be the clubs playing in the Mexican final and lining up to crush MLS teams in next season’s CONCACAF Champions League.
  • CONCACAF (women’s): It’s a miracle that Haiti is able to field a team at all after the earthquake. They’re doing more than competing — they’ve advanced to the final round of Gold Cup qualifying. (All White Kit)


  • Strikeforce: Alistair Overeem demolished Brett Rogers to retain his heavyweight championship, saving Strikeforce from the PR dilemma of having their heavyweight champion already beaten by Fedor Emelianenko. All eyes now turn to an Overeem-Fedor matchup, assuming Fedor dispenses with Fabricio Werdum this summer. Also, Antonio Silva pushed Andrei Arlovski farther down the heavyweight ladder. (MMA Fighting Stances)
  • Shine Fights: Boxer Ricardo Mayorga was all set to face veteran Din Thomas in Fayetteville, N.C. Then a Florida judge granted boxing promoter Don King an injunction against Mayorga’s participation. After an afternoon Twitter flurry in which the card seemed to be going on with or without the main event, the North Carolina commission scrapped the whole card, though the co-main event of Murilo Rua vs. David Heath isn’t a bad matchup at all for a smaller promotion. King was asked to present a $1 million cash bond, which he did in two duffel bags. (Yahoo!)
  • Washington Combat: Sort of a senior-circuit main event, though Pedro Rizzo has two wins over Jeff Monson in recent years and was on Affliction’s much-hyped debut card against Josh Barnett. His opponent, Gary Goodridge, lost to Paul Buentello on the same Affliction card and lost to solid fighters Overeem and Gegard Mousasi since then. Bloody Elbow’s Luke Thomas says it’s time for Goodridge to hang ’em up. (Washington Post)


  • Giro d’Italia: Through nine stages, the leader is Alexandre Vinokourov, making his first big run since being tossed out of the 2007 Tour de France for flunking a doping test. Cadel Evans is 72 seconds back. American Tyler Farrar leads in points and has the red jersey, the equivalent of the Tour’s green.
  • Tour of California: Mark Cavendish, who won last year’s sprint title while Levi Leipheimer won the overall, won Sunday’s first stage of the eight-stage race. The big climbs are Tuesday and Friday.


  • Madrid Masters (men): After some atypical struggles, Roger Federer is back to normal, reaching the final and then, because it’s on clay, losing to Rafael Nadal. (AP)
  • Madrid Masters (women): Venus Williams reached the final and climbed to No. 2 in the rankings, her best since 2003. She lost in the final, though, to unseeded Aravane Rezai. Maybe she’ll be seeded next year.


  • Swimming: Universal Sports has some video from the Charlotte UltraSwim, including Michael Phelps cruising in the 200 IM. Dancing with the Stars contestant Natalie Coughlin also is back in the pool. (Universal Sports)
  • Track, field and whatever this is: Tyson Gay set a “world best” (it’s not officially a world record because it’s not officially an official event) of 19.41 seconds in Manchester. Makes you wonder how Usain Bolt can run a 19.19 around a curve.
  • Running: Remember the USA TODAY profile on Amy Palmiero-Winters, the amputee who qualified for the 24-hour running world championships? She finished a very respectable 19th, coming just short of 200 kilometers. Scott Jurek covered 266.677k for a silver medal as the U.S. men placed third. Anna Piskorka (10th, 214.417k) was the top U.S. woman as the women’s team finished fourth. (USA Track and Field)


Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky drew in their first meeting at the U.S. Chess Championships on Sunday, likely keeping both of them on track to play again in the “Final Four” in this uniquely formatted tournament. Irina Krush killed my fantasy team by losing out of what seemed to be a winning position against Varuzhan Akobian in a 113-move thriller. (U.S. Chess Federation)


  • Golf and tennis: One sport’s U.S. federation is taking all the right steps to get kids interested and keep them playing. The other is scratching its head as players appear to be abandoning the sport, and the solutions may be quite costly. (Wall Street Journal).
  • Football: Flag football — eventual answer to gender-equity questions? Convenient dodge of gender-equity questions? Waste of time? Great activity? Many opinions here. (New York Times)
  • Skiing/long-running TV shows: Lindsey Vonn was thrilled to do a guest spot on Law & Order. Not so thrilled to hear this is the final season. She’s organizing a group to save the show. (Yahoo! – Fourth-Place Medal)

Monday Myriad: Pileups at Giro, Barcelona wins European title!

The highlight of the weekend: A wrestler who suffered a severe spinal cord injury two months ago vowed to walk at his graduation from the University of Buffalo. He did. (AP)

In more mundane news from the weekend:


Stage 2 of the Giro d’Italia looked like the chase scene at the end of The Blues Brothers, with multi-vehicle pileups at every turn. See the Universal Sports video montage.

American Tyler Farrar was among those crashing, but he recovered to win the final sprint and stands one second behind Cadel Evans in the general classification. (VeloNews)


MLS is already covered. Big stories are the Galaxy still rolling, the injury-riddled Revolution reeling and the Sounders giving money back after being blown out at home.


  • The Atlanta Beat shouldn’t think about giving refunds after their first game in their new soccer-specific stadium, but the Beat lost 1-0 on an unfortunate own goal to Sky Blue. Atlanta is a fun team to watch but just couldn’t finish chances. Karen Bardsley stopped 13 saves to finish second on my player of the week ballot.
  • Washington and Boston ended scoreless.
  • Tiffeny Milbrett scored a brilliant goal in Gold Pride’s 2-0 win over Chicago.
  • Lindsey Tarpley got my player of the week vote, with pressure leading to an own goal and then a goal of her own in a 2-1 St. Louis win over Philadelphia. Tarpley is battling back from ACL surgery.

Standings though five games: Gold Pride (Bay Area) 12, Sky Blue (NJ) 9, St. Louis 8, Philadelphia 8, Washington 7, Boston 6, Chicago 4, Atlanta 1.

Caribbean Club Championship: The Puerto Rico Islanders did more than clinch a CONCACAF berth in Trinidad and Tobago. They won the whole thing, a four-team round robin, with two wins and a tie. (

Division 2: Montreal celebrated the announcement of its pending move to MLS with a 2-1 home win over Minnesota. The only other decisive game of the weekend was a 2-1 home win for Rochester over St. Louis. The Rhinos lead the league with 11 points. Vancouver (8) has a one-point lead over Montreal in the NASL Conference, but the Impact have a game in hand.


No final-day drama in England or Germany. Chelsea just needed to avoid a shocking home result against Wigan to clinch the Premier League; an 8-0 win didn’t qualify as “shocking.” Bayern Munich needed to see two scores bigger than that to surrender the Bundesliga title, but that didn’t happen. For American fans, the biggest news was Hannover (Steve Cherundolo) winning 3-0 at Bochum to complete an escape from relegation.

As is so often the case in Mexico, the lower seeds pulled some playoff upsets, with eighth-seeded Pachuca (Jose Francisco Torres) downing top seen Monterrey on 3-1 aggregate. No. 7 Morelia shocked the Chivas fan base 5-2, and No. 5 Santos Laguna held off Pumas. Another giant fan base was disappointed in the one matchup that went according to form — No. 3 Toluca won 2-0 at home for a 4-2 aggregate win over Club America.

In Italy, Inter Milan and Roma won their last home games with some drama — Francesco Totti scored two late goals in Roma’s rally past Cagliari. Next Sunday, it’s Inter (79) at relegated Siena and Roma (77) at pesky Chievo.

In Spain, Real Madrid won easily and Barcelona held on for a 3-2 win at Sevilla to keep the race alive into the final week. On Sunday, Barcelona will be in the same situation Chelsea faced in England — a home game against a weaker side (Valladolid) and a one-point lead over second-place Real Madrid, who must win at Malaga and hope Barca stumble.


What’s that in the headline about Barcelona wining the European title? Didn’t they lose in the Champions League? Sure. But in the EuroLeague, Ricky Rubio and company beat Olympiakos in Sunday’s final.


Paul Daley has apologized for his postfight punch after losing to Josh Koscheck at UFC 113.


England, which suddenly remembered how to play cricket upon reaching the “Elite Eight” stage of the World Twenty20, is playing kingmaker today. With their semifinal spot assured, they’re playing New Zealand, which needs a win or “no result” to advance.

Australia has virtually clinched a berth from the other group, with India virtually eliminated.


If Vishy Anand hadn’t blundered on his final move before making the 40-move time control in Game 9, the world championship would be all but over. Instead, it’s 5.5-5.5 heading into Game 12, with Veselin Topalov going for the win with white. If Anand manages a draw here, we’ll go to four tie-breaker games in which each player gets just 25 minutes, plus 30 seconds for each completed move. As aggressively as Topalov is likely to play, maybe we’re more likely to see Anand take advantage and counterattack for the win?


  • Serbia Open: Sam Querrey over John Isner in an all-American final.
  • Estoril Open (men): Defending champion Albert Montanes took out Roger Federer in semis and finished title defense against Frederico Gil.
  • BMW Open: Mikhail Youzhny upset top seed Marin Cilic in final.
  • Italian Open: Jelena Jankovic ousted Serena Williams in semis, then lost to unseeded Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in final.
  • Estoril Open (women): Anastasia Sevastova def. Arantxa Parra Santonja — no, I don’t know who they are, either.


  • Men’s volleyball: Three years removed from a 3-25 season, Stanford beat Penn State to win the national title.
  • Men’s lacrosse: 16-team NCAA Div I field has been announced; all eyes on top-seeded Virginia, which has a player in jail on a much-publicized murder charge in the death of a women’s lacrosse player. (
  • Women’s lacrosse: 16-team NCAA Div I field announced; Virginia has the No. 6 seed in this one, with Maryland first. (


  • Beach volleyball (women): Jen Kessy and April Ross won a three-setter over Brazil’s Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca to take the FIVB Shanghai title. Misty May-Treanor and Nicole Branagh were fourth. (USOC)
  • Diving: U.S. men win on home platform. (USOC)

What makes a soccer game change? Besides Messi

Barcelona was dominating Arsenal in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal, taking a 2-0 away lead that could have been more. Then the game changed.

Why? What made that game change? What makes any game change?

I asked a couple of people who are in far better position than I am to know such things.

X, O, squiggle, goal
Ummm, coach? Can you possibly go over all that again?

Houston coach Dominic Kinnear saw some tactical changes:

“Two things happened that changed the game. One was Arsenal’s decision to play three at the back. The other was the insertion of Theo Walcott. Walcott’s pace to get in behind (the Barcelona defense) was huge.”

U.S. women’s veteran Brandi Chastain went with another angle:

“When the other team seems to be in control but is not putting away chances, you start to think, ‘Maybe we’re in this.’ And they start to become frustrated with the lack of finishing. Barcelona probably could’ve scored another two goals. That becomes frustration, and then you start to let down your mental guard. Then the other team gets a little bit of success, whether it’s possession or chances on goal.”

Matt Besler from the Kansas City Wizards figures Arsenal just had to turn it up a few notches:

“I think it was just the situation that Arsenal was in. The urgency that they had once they went down 2-0, they knew that being at home that they needed a tie or win, they really needed to go for the goal. I think that was the tipping point that helped them get some more energy and get more urgent. That’s why soccer is such a tough game. You can dominate a game for 70 or 80 minutes, but if you lose concentration for 10 minutes you can lose everything that you worked for.”

Continue reading What makes a soccer game change? Besides Messi