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Soccer Fever

With the 2014 World Cup in Brazil only months away, the United States men’s national team  is on a 10-game winning streak, including three straight World Cup qualifying wins. They are blazing a path into the CONCACAF Gold Cup finals, which gives U.S. fans plenty of reasons to be excited. Less than two years ago,…

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With the 2014 World Cup in Brazil only months away, the United States men’s national team  is on a 10-game winning streak, including three straight World Cup qualifying wins. They are blazing a path into the CONCACAF Gold Cup finals, which gives U.S. fans plenty of reasons to be excited.

Less than two years ago, left-back was easily the weakest position on the team, now it may be one of the strongest. Jonathan Bornstein’s disastrous performance in the 2011 Gold Cup final condemned his national team career, as well as the coaching tenure of former manager Bob Bradley.

Besides Bornstein, the U.S. had no other natural left-footed options (other than a ridiculous attempt to play Jose Torres there last June) and at various times tried to shoehorn Timmy Chandler, Eric Lichaj and Michael Parkhurst into the position. Now, with DaMarcus Beasley playing the best football of his career and Fabian Johnson probably still the No. 1 at that position, left-back is as solid as ever.

Throughout 2014 World Cup qualifying, much of which was done over the past year without Landon Donovan and with a misfiring Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey has been the rock of the national team. He has 10 goals for the U.S. over the past year, many of them lifesavers to a U.S. squad that was devoid of attacking flair.

For much of the past year and a half, Jozy Altidore struggled to replicate with the national team the spectacular form he was enjoying at the club level. However, this summer, that form returned for the national team, and Altidore scored in all three of the World Cup qualifiers for the U.S. With Clint Dempsey operating underneath him and the U.S. finally getting some decent wide play, Altidore’s stock with the U.S. has never been higher.

It’s not surprising considering the long history of producing top-flight goalkeepers, but the U.S. is once again stacked at the goalkeeper position. The team essentially has two No. 1 goalkeepers in Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, who both start for their clubs in the English Premier League. Should either fall out of form, get injured or pick up an unfortunate yellow-card suspension, the net will be well minded with the other.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup has been the reemergence of the United States’ all-time leading goalscorer, Landon Donovan. In the tournament, Donovan is on fire with five goals and seven assists and on track to be the Golden Boot winner.

Since losing its opening World Cup qualifier in the hexagonal in February, the national team has gone a remarkable 11-1-1, including the current 10-game winning streak. Those types of results are clearly affecting coach Jurgen Klinsmann, as well as the team during this Gold Cup as a team that is playing with more confidence than ever. Gone is the sinking feeling that everything is about to go awry at any moment, and it has been replaced with a feeling that the team will recover from bumps in the road, just as it has in the past two games when giving up goals against the run of play.

Of course, the team is still one year away from the World Cup which is an eternity in international football, just ask the Mexican national team. This squad still needs some fine tuning before it sets down in Brazil next summer. Sure, you can say that there are precious few games for the current crop of players to gel, but wouldn’t it be wiser to use these precious few games to get it right? I can’t say that I am a soccer fan, but I am an American. So I will be glued to the television next summer cheering as loud as loud as I can for the U.S.Men National Team. USA, USA, USA!!!

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Magic’s Jonathan Isaac stands for national anthem as teammates, opponents kneel

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Orlando Magic power forward Jonathan Isaac became the first NBA player to stand during the national anthem following the season restart … deciding against both kneeling and wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt.

The league’s coaches, refs and players — from LeBron James to Zion Williamson — have been using the anthem demonstrations to raise awareness as games pick back up in Orlando … a gesture that is being supported by NBA commish Adam Silver.

Isaac became the first player to choose to stand as the anthem was played before the Magic’s match-up with the Brooklyn Nets on Friday … while the rest of the team’s players and staffers took a knee.

It’s worth noting — Silver says everyone will have the option to kneel during the anthem without consequence … despite a league rule requiring players to stand.

The same goes for anyone who wishes to stand — no one is saying the players HAVE to kneel, either.

So far, Jonathan hasn’t commented on his decision to stand publicly — because the game is currently being played. But, when he does, we’ll update here.

Charles Barkley spoke about the demonstrations on Thursday during TNT’s “Inside The NBA,” saying, “The national anthem means different things to different people.”

“I’m glad these guys are unified. If people don’t kneel, they’re not a bad person. I want to make that perfectly clear. I’m glad they had unity, but if we have a guy who doesn’t want to kneel because the anthem means something to him, he should not be vilified.”

The Magic released a statement in support of the demonstration, saying, “The DeVos Family and the Orlando Magic organization fully supports Magic players who have chosen to leverage their professional platform to send a peaceful and powerful message condemning bigotry, racial injustice and the unwarranted use of violence by police, especially against people of color.”

“We are proud of the positive impact our players have made and join with them in the belief that sports can bring people together — bridging divides and promoting inclusion, equality, diversity and unity.”

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Sports

Reggie Bush: Paying college athletes will ‘destroy some people’

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College athletes getting paid for their services has been a worthy argument for a long time, but the NCAA finally supports a proposal to allow college athletes to sign endorsement deals and receive payment for their work after some of the best basketball recruits in the country have declared for the NBA’s G League instead of attending college.

While being paid for their work certainly is a step in the right direction, former NFL star Reggie Bush doesn’t think it’s such a great idea.

“Guidance is the one thing that young athletes coming through the college system miss on so much,” Bush told Playboy, according to ESPN. “I missed on it. They’re about to start paying college athletes. This is something that has never been experienced before, and it’s going to destroy some people if their foundation is not in the right place.”

A formal proposal for the new rules is set to be submitted no later than October to the NCAA board, and they will then vote on the proposal sometime before January 2021.

Bush was a two-time All-American running back during his days at USC, and helped the school win back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004. He won the Heisman Trophy as college football’s best player in 2005, but forfeited the award in 2010 after the NCAA found that Bush received money and gifts from sports agents when he wasn’t allowed to do so.

The 35-year-old went on to have a successful NFL career after his collegiate days at USC. He played for the New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers before hanging up his cleats in 2017.

It’s weird to think that Bush is against athletes being paid for endorsement deals, especially considering he improperly accepted cash during his collegiate days.

Many college standouts will be able to use the money they earn to take care of their families, and that alone is a terrific reason why paying them is the right thing to do. They perform like professional athletes, earn their colleges and universities massive amounts of money and provide entertainment to fans, so why shouldn’t they be paid?

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Victims In Kobe Bryant Crash Have Now All Been Identified

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Here’s what is known so far about the tragic helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant and eight other people.

Nine people were on board the Sikorsky S76 when something went wrong just before 10 a.m. Sunday.

The passengers were on their way to a basketball game when the chopper went down.

The helicopter’s flight path shows it going from Orange County to the San Fernando Valley and then hovering over the Glendale area as it waited for clearance to travel through the Valley to Calabasas. The tracking ends at the crash site in Calabasas.

Kobe Bryant’s 13-year old daughter Gianna was among those killed. Gianna — often called “Gigi” — was the second oldest of Bryant’s four daughters.

Bryant had coached Gianna’s AAU basketball team out of his Mamba Sports Academy training facility in Thousand Oaks for the past two years.

They were all reportedly headed to an AAU game when the crash happened.

In addition to Bryant and his daughter, three members of one family died in the crash.

John Altobelli was the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. His wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa were also on board.

The husband of Christina Mauser posted on Facebook that she died in the helicopter crash. Mauser was a basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Newport Beach, where Kobe’s daughter attended school. Mauser’s husband says he and his kids are devastated.

Sarah Chester and her middle school aged daughter Payton were on also on board the helicopter piloted by Ara Zobayan.

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