All of America was on the edge of their seats once the United States and Belgium match went to extra time. Despite the 2-1 loss in the first round of the World Cup sweet sixteen, that same excitement for soccer in this country will only grow.
The United States does not have the same kind of intensity within its fan base as the other countries in the World Cup, but this team might have changed the popularity of the sport going forward. A team that was not given a lick of a chance to advance out of the group of death, team USA silenced the critics and gave the fans across the country something to be proud of.
When team USA went down 2-0 in extra time to Belgium, the life was sucked out of the American fan base and their World Cup hopes had diminished. All the excitement that Klinsmanns squad brought to all of America seemed to be lost. Then Julian Green scored a goal off of a wonderful pass from Michael Bradley.
Even though the one goal was not enough to force a round of penalty kicks, it gave the team hope. Not only did Julian Greens goal give hope at a chance for a comeback, but also the goal symbolized hope for the game of soccer in this country.
Team USA does not have the talent that the other world powers have in the World Cup. Other teams feature their best athletes within the country to represent their nation. Since the United States has other professional leagues like the NFL and NBA, the best athletes in the country do not play for Team USA soccer.
While team USA does not have the same talent as the other world powers, they showed the heart needed to compete on the big stage. They tied one of the best teams in the world that featured soccers second best player and only lost by one to Germany who is amongst the worlds best.
The fact that the United States was able to advance out of the group of death and other soccer powers such as Spain, England, Italy and Portugal could not is astonishing. There are a lot of positives to come away with from the performance of the American squad and it will for sure carry over to the next Cup.
It was Jurgen Klinsmanns first opportunity as head coach for Team USA and he got the job done well. He made good adjustments during games within group play and came away with good results. The former German athlete did a great job in his first appearance as head coach for team USA and the fans will sure be by his side as the next Cup approaches.
T.J. Oshie was the American “hero” during the Olympic games in hockey for his performance in the shootout against Russia. After the stellar performance, Oshie was a household name everywhere in America. The same situation came to be when USA goalkeeper Tim Howard had a record-breaking match against Belgium.
Sure Howard has been the goalie for team USA the past few World Cups, but Clint Dempsey was the biggest name when it came to USA soccer. After the Belgium match, Howard is being called a hero for his incredible individual performance. With Howard now being recognized as a household name similar to Oshie, now fans in America might check out the goaltender play some in the English premiere league.
There are so many different parts of this team that make for a brighter future for soccer in this country. There is a plethora of young talent, new stars that have been born and a solid coach in control of it all. With all that being said, not only does team USA have a bright future, but also the popularity of soccer in the country.
Grading Capitals Free Agency Moves
The free agency period in the NHL kicked into high gear July 1st at noon and the Washington Capitals made several moves. New General manager Brian MacLellan got his first crack at making decisions at the helm and started the first day off with a few signings.
Washington had several needs heading into free agency such as finding a top-4 defenseman, a veteran backup goalie and a second line center. MacLellan began the day by signing veteran backup Justin Peters from the Carolina Hurricanes.
Peters, 27 years old, got to play in twenty-one games last season and finished with a .919 save percentage. This is a good addition to the Caps roster for several reasons.
The message being sent to Braden Holtby with this signing is that he is clearly the number one goalie on the team. Peters is a career backup who is trying to prove he is amongst the top tier backup goalies in the league. This should come to be no threat to Holtby as he will be leading the team onto the ice this year.
The best part about this deal is that it is cap-friendly. Peters signed a 2-year deal for $1.9 million that comes to be about $950,000 a season. Finding a veteran backup for this cost allows for Washington to make other moves during free agency. Grading the Justin Peters signing, a B- is a fair grade.
Brian MacLellan was not done after the Peters signing as he added two pieces to the biggest weakness on the roster. Two former Pittsburgh Penguin defensemen were added to the Capitals top six rotation. One is considered a good signing and the other is a bit of a head scratcher.
Brooks Orpik, 33, signed a 5-year deal with the Capitals worth $27.5 million. This addition to the team came to be a huge surprise for many reasons. Orpik is 33 years old and is on the down side of his career. What makes this deal not so sexy is the money and longevity of the deal. Paying a player past his prime $5.5 million a year is quite risky. It also does not make sense giving a player who is 33 years of age a five-year deal.
Although there are a few negatives to the signing of Orpik, he does bring some qualities that will help this Capitals team. The former Penguin has been one of the assistant captains for Pittsburgh since 2008. He has been in a leadership role for several years and the Caps could use more leaders especially on the defensive end.
Most of the Capitals blue liners favor playing a style in which they like to carry the puck. They are considered finesse defenders and Orpik is the opposite of that. Brooks Orpik is the physical kind of defenseman that Washington needs. The Brooks Orpik signing gets a C- grade.
Joining fellow Pittsburgh teammate in Washington is new Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen. The former Penguin cashed in on a seven-year deal worth $40.25 million that equates to a $5.75 cap hit per year. Niskanen finished the 2013-14 regular season with 46 total points and a +33 rating. Niskanen is a very similar defender to what the Caps current defensive roster already has.
This was the best addition that new general manager Brian MacLellan made all day during the first bit of free agency. The Caps are getting a defender who is 27 years old and is in the prime of his career. He is a versatile defender who also has a good plus/minus rating. Niskanen was expected to get $6 million or more per season when he hit the market, but Washington managed to get him just under that range.
With the additions of Orpik and Niskanen, the team’s biggest weakness has been repaired. Last season featured a never-ending cycle of defensemen getting their chances to start. The Caps often called up prospects from Hershey to start at the blue line, but those times look to be done.
The defensive pairings look to be Carlson-Alzner, Niskanen-Orpik and Green-Orlov. The pairings could change as Orpik does have experience playing with Carlson during the Olympics. As of now, those pairings have a chance to resemble what it will look like when the team hits the ice this season.