Thursday, July 27, 2017

U.S. Takes CONCACAF Gold Cup, Yanks Sweep Reds

Last night, for the 6th time, the U.S. men's soccer team won the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

CONCACAF is the acronym for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football. The Gold Cup replaced the old CONCACAF Championship in 1991. 

Guatemala won it in 1967. Haiti won it in 1973. Honduras won it in 1981. Canada won it in 1985 and 2000. Costa Rica won it in 1963, 1969, and the last tournament before the name changed, 1989. Mexico has won it more than any other country, 10 times: 1965, 1971 and 1977 under the old name; 1993, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2009, 2011 and 2015 under the new name.

The U.S. has won it 6 times, all under the new format: 1991, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2013, and against last night, defeating Jamaica 2-1 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers.

Attendance: 63,032. Officially, anyway. There were a lot of empty seats. This may have been because a lot of Mexican fans bought tickets and didn't show up, since their team didn't make it.

Only once, in 2000 (Canada over Colombia), has the Final featured neither the U.S. nor Mexico. On 5 occasions, the U.S. and Mexico played each other in the Final: 1993, 1998, 2007, 2009 and 2011, with Mexico winning all of those except 2007. It was widely expected to happen again this time, but Jamaica shocked Mexico in the Semifinal.

The U.S. got to the Final by winning its group, gaining a 1-1 draw with Panama in Nashville, then beating Martinique 3-2 in Tampa and Nicaragua 3-0 in Cleveland, then beating El Salvador in the Quarterfinal in Philadelphia and Costa Rica in the Semifinal at the Dallas Cowboys' stadium.

The Final was scoreless until the end of the 1st half. Jozy Altidore, who now plays his club soccer for Toronto FC, tends to play well for his country but not his clubs, making him the American Peter Crouch. He also tends to have games where he plays like garbage except for scoring a goal, making him the American Theo Walcott. He scored a beauty to make it One-Nil to the Stars & Stripes.

Jamaica pulled one back early in the 2nd half, and then got very chippy, committing all kinds of fouls on the U.S., but only receiving 1 yellow card in each half. U.S. fans tend to view CONCACAF referees -- always from a neutral country, but can any referee from a Latin American country truly be unbiased for a U.S. game? -- as corrupt, rather than incompetent.

The game got frustrating. The introduction of Clint Dempsey, currently tied with Landon Donovan for most career goals for the national side, brought a lot of optimism on social media, but he couldn't find the winner.

Finally, in the 88th minute, Jordan Morris, a 22-year-old forward and Stanford University graduate, who plays for his hometown team, the Seattle Sounders, found the winner on a free kick, sending U.S. soccer fans into a frenzy. The team hung on through 3 minutes of stoppage time. Final score: Stars & Stripes 2, Reggae Boys 1. (That's not a stereotype nickname: The Jamaica National Team actually does call themselves the Reggae Boys.)

Apparently, firing Jurgen Klinsmann as manager and bringing Bruce Arena back made a big difference.

One more thing, before I move on to my coverage of yesterday's Yankee game:

Dear England: We've won 6 major tournaments in the last 26 years. You haven't even been to the Final of one since 1966. Don't tell us what to call the sport. You call it "football," and we'll call it "soccer."


As for the Yankees: Two games, wrapping up in under 21 hours. A recipe for fatigue, but the Yankees cooked the Cincinnati Reds' goose.

Luis Severino started for the Yankees in yesterday's matinee conclusion of the series, and he went 7 innings -- Joe Girardi is improving, he actually let Sevy throw 112 pitches -- allowing 2 runs, neither earned, on 3 hits and 2 walks. He struck out 9.

Rookie sensation Clint Frazier drove in runs with singles in the 3rd and 5th innings. The Yankees added 2 in the 6th, and 5 in the 7th, including home runs by Didi Gregorius (his 16th of the season, and he has been on fire lately) and Todd Frazier (his 17th of the season, but his 1st as a Yankee).

Luis Cessa made the game interesting in the 8th, allowing 3 runs. David Robertson pitched a perfect 9th to end it. Yankees 9, Reds 5. WP: Severino (7-4). No save. LP: Homer Bailey (2-5).

That's 5 out of the last 6 for the Yankees, who thus remain a game behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East, but a game ahead of them in the loss column.

Tonight, the Yankees begin a 4-game home series with the Tampa Bay Rays. Here are the projected starters:

* Tonight, 7:05 PM: CC Sabathia vs. Chris Archer.

* Tomorrow, 7:05 PM: Masahiro Tanaka starts for us, and Rays manager Kevin Cash has yet to decide who his starter will be.

* Saturday, 1:05 PM: Caleb Smith vs. Blake Snell. Sounds like a pair of law firms.

* Sunday, 1:05 PM: Jordan Montgomery vs. Jacob Faria.

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