Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lacrosse Lounge Episode 12 - Kip Turner

In episode 12 of Lacrosse Lounge, Chesapeake Bayhawks goalie Kip Turner talks about his move to the Bayhawks, winning the MLL championship and what it takes to be a goalie.

"I really just tried to stay focused and think, 'Hey, they might need me at any certain point throughout the season and I gotta be ready.' It doesn't matter if it's the championship game, you have to be ready. It's your job. You get paid to do this, so you have to do your job."

Episode 12 aired live on March 26, 2012.

Listen to internet radio with The Lacrosse Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio

Photo from In Lax We Trust.

New England Lacrosse Journal: All Roads Lead to the Big Game


The famous ending quote from the movie “The Naked City” –filmed in and about New York City—says, “There are eight million stories the naked city. This has been one of them.”

Take a snapshot of any event and look at all the people involved. Every single one of them has their own unique story as to how he or she got there.

The Konica Minolta Big City Classic took place at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, home of the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets, just across the river from New York City. It is one of college lacrosse’s biggest stages aside from championship weekend.

It’s an honor for a team to be selected to play in the big day and it’s a memorable moment for all the players involved.

For the New England Lacrosse Journal May issue I was given the task of telling the stories of four players that made it to the big day. The four took such different paths all to wind up at the same event. Here is how four different people took four entirely unique ways to wind up at the Big City Classic.

Harrison Freid went from club to D1 and takes the road less traveled to play at the Big City Classic for St. John's:

Hakeem Lecky is a 20-year-old freshman at Syracuse after a prep season and a redshirt year, but the Jamaican-born, Duxbury, Mass.-bred is starting for Syracuse after taking the long road to the Big City Classic:

Chris Shannon was a football player at Duke and was a little jealous of the championships won by the Duke basketball and lacrosse teams. Wanting a piece of the action he decided to just join the lacrosse team himself, taking the alternate road to the Big City Classic:

Mark Goodrich was a big-time recruit out of The Rivers School for Johns Hopkins. But playing time was difficult to come by in his first few seasons due to injury. He persevered though and took the hard road to the Big City Classic:

Video from YouTube.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Miami Dolphins Should Pursue Chad Ochocinco

Chad Ochocinco recorded career lows in receptions (15), yards (276) and touchdowns (one). He never made more than two catches in a game and was eventually fazed out of the offense.

Now that the New England Patriots have released him however the division rival Miami Dolphins should take a crack at signing him.

Ochocinco’s lack of production in New England wasn’t a result of a lack of talent. It’s been popularly opined that he just never understood the complexities of the Patriot playbook. It became obvious that Tom Brady and Ochocinco never developed that strong a chemistry and this offseason Jabar Gaffney became available, one of Brady’s all-time favorite targets. Ochocinco became expendable.

What is New England’s loss would be Miami’s gain.

After trading away Brandon Marshall prior to the draft, with the belief that off the field issues influenced Miami into dealing its leading receiver, the Dolphins were left with a huge hole at the wide receiver position.
Davonne Bess is a nice slot receiver that’s made some big catches for the team over the past few years. Brian Hartline is a guy the team drafted that the previous coaching staff thought very highly of. Neither is a bonifide No. 1 wide receiver and it just gets worse from there.

The Dolphins currently have 12 receivers on the team roster. Four are rookies and none of those players were selected higher than the sixth round. Only three players have even more than seven career receptions.
Ochocinco would add veteran leadership to the group. Not only that but he would help out the Dolphins quarterback situation and make any of the three players the team may start look better.

While he’s been criticized over his career for having character issues, really it has not been the same thing as Terrell Owens or Randy Moss.

Yes, once he did publicly ask to be traded from Cincinnati but he apologized for it and worked with head coach Marvin Lewis and quarterback Carson Palmer through their issues. His “diva” attitude comes more from his fun-loving side: his love for Twitter and his endzone celebrations. He demands a lot of attention but he isn’t a clubhouse cancer.

After being contained last season by the Patriots staff, both on the field and off it, it isn’t crazy to expect him to be itching to get out on the field and do his thing. A motivated Ochocinco could put up some impressive numbers.

It’s his fun-loving attitude that will also endear him to fans and that would be a huge bonus for a team going through some bad publicity these days.

Ochocinco is a fan favorite and those in Miami will be very familiar with him because that is where his off-season home is. He’d sell a lot of jerseys and bring back some interest to a franchise that has really underwhelmed since Dan Marino retired after the 1999 season.

Don’t forget how Ochocinco really blew up in popularity: HBO’s Hard Knocks. The TV series focused on the Bengals in 2009 and he was one of the central characters.

The Miami Dolphins will be the featured team this season and Ochocinco would make for prime television once more.

It’s a strong match and a move the Dolphins should seriously consider.

Ochocinco would plug a huge hole on the roster and bring some joy to a team in distress. All that’s left is to “kiss the baby”.

Photo Credit.
AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez

Oklahoma City Thunder: Are They the Best Team in the NBA?

There’s still the matter of the NBA Championship, and without a title the Oklahoma City Thunder really hasn’t won anything yet.

But after a thrilling series victory over the San Antonio Spurs, is the Thunder the best team in the NBA?

Fans have salivated over this team for the past few years now as they play a good and exciting brand of basketball.

The team as a whole and the individuals are good at both ends of the court. Offensively the team has Kevin Durant, the league’s scoring champion the past three seasons. The team is extremely fast and gets up and down the court with ease. Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden are all able to hit the big shots and carry the team through stretches.

As a unit, they were third in the league in points per game (103.1) and one of only three teams to average 100 points per game.

Defensively they have Serge Ibaka, the NBA leader in blocks per game (3.65) and Durant, who was eighth in the league in defensive rebounds per game (7.4). They tied for third in the league in opponents’ field-goal percentage (42.7-percent).

The team’s bread and butter is playing good defense and creating turnovers so they can use their speed and athleticism to get out on the fast break and hit easy baskets.

But the Thunder team is more than just stats and talent. This team has matured, put it all together this year and finished games.

After losing in the first round to the Lakers two years ago and losing in the conference finals last year to Dallas the Thunder learned from those losses, developed as a team and came back strong in the playoffs this year.

In the 2012 NBA Playoffs the Thunder knocked off the Dallas Mavericks who were the reigning NBA Champions. They beat the Los Angeles Lakers, the winners of the two championships before that and that had Kobe Bryant. They defeated the Spurs, winners of four championships since 1999 and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs the past two seasons.

Oklahoma City is the first Western Conference team in the past 14 years not named the Mavericks, Lakers or Spurs to reach the NBA Finals.

The saying is that to be the best you have to beat the best. Oklahoma City has beaten the best.

Now if they are to win the championship they’d have to beat either the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat, three of the past four Eastern Conference representatives in the NBA Finals.

Looking at what Oklahoma City has done in the standings, in the stat book and against the league’s elite teams is the time now for the Thunder?

It looks like the young upstarts with loads of potential have finally reached the summit and have earned the right to be called the best team in the league. 

Photo Credit.
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Charlotte Hounds Claim Eric Lusby Off Waivers

The Charlotte Hounds continued to add to their offensive arsenal Wednesday morning when they claimed Loyola attackman and 2012 NCAA men’s lacrosse championship most outstanding player Eric Lusby off waivers.

Since the team started making roster moves, management has been aggressive in getting familiar names and known-talent, especially on the offensive-side of the ball.  This transaction continues that trend.

Lusby wasn’t drafted to the league, but part of that could be due to the fact that unlike other drafts the MLL Collegiate Draft is held before a player’s senior season not after it.

Before this collegiate season Lusby was a player that had missed all but the first two games of the 2011 season because of an ACL injury and no one had seen him on the field since then.

Had the draft been after the season, teams would’ve seen a player who played and started all of a championship-winning team’s games, a team that won a record-tying 18 games this season. They would’ve saw him score a team-leading and school record 54 goals as well as putting up team-leading 71 points, the most since for a Loyola player since the school joined Division 1 in 1982.

Teams would have seen a player that got hot at the most important time of the season. Lusby scored 17 goals in the four games of the NCAA men’s lacrosse championships, an NCAA record, including four in the final game.

Prior to this season Lusby was known as a dangerous outside shooter, but possibly a one-trick pony. Lusby improved his dodging and stick skills however and proved to be able to create his own shot and finish.
He finished his collegiate career with 89 goals and 26 assists for 115 points.

The biggest concerns on the Hounds roster are at goalie and face-off. Lusby does not address either of these issues. But he does add another weapon off the bench and a team can never have too many players that can make plays and score.

What helps him is that he will back-up players like Matt Danowski, Billy Bitter and Jeremy Boltus so there isn’t as much pressure to perform immediately. He can take time to develop and continue to grow into an even better.

Does adding Lusby turn the one-win Hounds into sudden championship contenders? No.

But he does give them more depth, another scoring option and makes them even more exciting to watch and interesting to follow.

Photo credit.
AP Photo/Gretchen Ertl

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

USMNT: Celebrating the 10-Year Anniversary of the Upset over Portugal

Ten years ago today the United State’s men’s national team scored a huge upset, one that would propel the team to where it is today.

June 5, 2002 marked the Americans opening game of the 2002 FIFA World Cup against Euro 2000 semi-finalsts Portugal.

Not much was expected of the United States after they floundered in the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, losing all three group stage matches, scoring one goal and finishing last in the field of 32 teams.

But 2002 ushered in a new era.

The United States raced out to a 3-0 lead within the first 36 minutes of the match, putting the Portuguese players on their heels. The U.S. scores came from John O’Brien, an own goal and a diving header from Brian McBride.

Portugal would claw back within one goal, thanks in part to a Jeff Agoos own goal, but the U.S. team held strong and finished the game with the victory.

It not only was the start of the best World Cup run for the U.S. since 1950 but the win sparked a whole new  attitude and set of expectations for the nation.

The team would escape the group stage and face Mexico in the round of 32, where they would defeat their archrivals 2-0. It was the second consecutive match the teams played that ended with that score line in the USMNT’s favor and continued in a string of “dos a cero” matches in a decade of dominance in the region.
It saw the Americans reach the quarterfinals of the tournament, the first time since 1950, where they would lose a 1-0 heartbreaker to eventual runners-up Germany.

It was only the third time an American player—Claudio Reyna—was named to the All-Tournament team and the first since 1950. It established the idea that American players could compete with and against the world’s best.

It was the beginning of a fantastic (and still ongoing) career for Landon Donovan. In that game against Portugal a then 20-year-old Donovan started and made his World Cup debut against Portugal. It was his cross in the 29th minute that was deflected into the goal to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead.

Since then he has developed into one of the team’s best players, the country’s all-time leader in goals and assists and has played hero multiple times for the national team, including the final game of the group stage in the 2010 World Cup. He is now making a run to play in his fourth World Cup as the team readies itself for qualifying for the 2014 tournament.

Much credit has been given to then-head coach Bruce Arena for instilling in his players the confidence they needed to believe they could beat such a good team. It’s a confidence seen in the team in other big games over the years that helped them beat elite teams.

It’s also the current attitude that new coach Jurgen Klinsmann is trying to instill in his team. He wants the team to play aggressively and with confidence that they can, in fact beat anybody. It’s an attitude that helped the team defeat the Italian national team in Italy this past February.

The United States has emerged as a good soccer nation. The team is no longer taken lightly around the world. And while they may not always come out victorious, they challenge themselves and compete with the world’s best. Expectations are continuously raised for the team.

And it all started ten years ago today with a landmark victory over Portugal in the World Cup.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rajon Rondo is 2012 NBA Playoffs MVP

Every year in the NBA Playoffs a new hero rises to the occasion and creates a new path of stardom for himself.

Last year Dirk Nowitzki shook off all the previous “soft” labels and carried the Dallas Mavericks against the Miami Heat trio to win the franchise’s first NBA Championship.

In 2008 long-time Celtic Paul Pierce finally added his own banner to the rafters next to the ones won by Boston-legends Larry Bird and Bill Russell. In 2004 Chauncey Billups pushed the name-less Detroit Pistons past the star-studded and future Hall of Fame-bound Los Angeles Lakers starting lineup to win the championship, earn the Finals MVP honors and establish himself as one of the most clutch players in the league.

You don’t even have to win it all to get your name recognized. Last year James Harden hit countless big shots for the Oklahoma City Thunder which made him a part of the team’s “Big Three” this season, joining scoring forces Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

This year the player that’s making all the noise in the playoffs—with respect to Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker and LeBron James—is Rajon Rondo.

Rondo has been an afterthought for most of his NBA career.

He was a first-round draft pick, but he couldn’t shoot. He was an NBA All-Star point guard, but surely Derrick Rose, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook were all better. He won an NBA Championship but the main guys on that team were Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.

And this year the Celtics were supposed to be too old and not deep enough to compete. When they matched up with the Miami Heat certainly this would be the end of a team on, as The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan put, “Year 5 of the Three-Year Plan”.

Yet Rondo has made himself and the Celtics relevant this postseason.

In the playoffs he’s upped his points per game, assist per game averages and steals per game averages (17.4 ppg, 11.9 apg, 2.3 spg). And he’s saved his best efforts for the Heat.

He’s led the Celtics with 24.0 points per game this series, including going for a career-high 44 points in Game 2.

In that same Game 2 he played every minute of the game, including overtime (53 minutes total). He’s totaled a double-double in the past three games of the series and in Game 4 he had 10 assists by halftime.

He’s attacking the rim and making his shots. He’s drawing double-teams. He’s feeding the open guy with ease.

The Celtics have needed him, too. Ray Allen is having the worst playoffs of his career and the Celtics don’t have a natural back-up point guard because blossoming Avery Bradley injured his shoulder and is out for the playoffs.

After being mentioned in countless trade rumors all season Rondo is showing that the Celtics are now his team. He’s taken over on the court and has drawn some attention off it as well.

At halftime of Game 4, ESPN sideline reporter Doris Burke conducted a court-side interview with Rondo and asked him how the Celtics were exploiting the Heat defense and he responded, “Them complaining and crying to referees in transition.”

Some may say he has aggravated the Heat and will draw their ire, but a lot of other NBA fans would agree that’s how the Heat players operate.

Whatever the case, Rondo is showing his fearlessness. He isn’t afraid to make bold plays. He isn’t afraid to call out his opponents for what he thinks is poor sportsmanship. This is his team and his series and he will impose his will on it.

If it draws him some Dirk-like admiration for taking down the Heat, that isn’t such a bad thing either.

But if it wasn’t for Rondo it’s hard to imagine the Celtics would’ve ever gotten this far, let alone two wins from returning to the NBA Finals.

Photo Credit.
AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Saturday, June 2, 2012

When Will Kenny Cooper Get A Call-Up to the United States Men's National Team?

In the Red Bulls 1-1 draw with Chivas USA it was Kenny Cooper who scored the equalizer. In the team’s first US Open Cup game against the Charleston Battery he scored the first goal of the game, one that would eventually be the game-winner.

The tally against the Goats was his 11th of the season and ties him with San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski for the league lead. He’s also tied for the league lead with Wondolowski with four game-winning goals.

The two share the same amount of goals, but what is different is that only one is currently in camp for the United States Men’s National Team in preparation for its upcoming friendlies ahead of World Cup Qualifying.

Chris Wondolowski and former MLS forward Herculez Gomez were both called into camp and deservedly so; they’ve been on incredible scoring streaks.

It is well-known that players getting consistent minutes for their clubs and playing in good form are favored for spots with the national team. So with Cooper playing his best soccer in years, the time has come to once again ask: When will Kenny Cooper get called up?

Cooper has been a scoring machine in his time with MLS and is playing his best soccer since 2008 when he scored 18 goals in 30 games (19 goals in all competitions) for FC Dallas.

The Red Bulls acquired him in the offseason for a 2013 first round draft pick and allocation money and it seemed like a lot to give up for a guy who plays a position the team was pretty deep at. But Cooper quickly rose to the cream of the crop and has been much needed since Luke Rodgers was denied a visa, Juan Agudelo was traded, Corey Hertzog was loaned out and Thierry Henry missed several matches due to injury.

Cooper has consistently delivered for the Red Bulls this season. He is on his second four game scoring streak of the season and he has been able to make an impact on the game from both off the bench—where he was the first two games of the season—and starting.

As the United States struggled to finish against Brazil Wednesday despite plenty of chances the team is still looking for answers on the offensive side of the ball.

The 27-year-old Cooper, once a Manchester United prospect and reserve squad member, has had fans clamoring for the team to give him a shot since the beginning of his career. And in the chances he’s risen to the challenge.

He’s made 10 appearances for the USMNT and scored four goals. In his first World Cup Qualifying start for the Yanks in 2008 scored. He also scored twice in the 2009 Gold Cup.

The consistent snubs are puzzling, but Cooper just keeps playing and scoring.

“I’ve had the honor to represent my country and it has been some of the highlights of my career, there have been some amazing moments and I’m hungry for more of those opportunities,” he said in an interview with the press after practice in late May.

Cooper is a big forward who can play with his back to the goal but is actually a better technical player than his size suggests. As he’s shown in his partnership with Henry this year, he does a good job of playing alongside another forward and sharing the ball, not only scoring for himself but feeding and creating space for his partner to score as well.

He also just has a nose for goal, putting in some rebounds and so-called “garbage goals” as well.

He’s in his prime and getting lots of playing time for his club. He says he has never been contacted by Jurgen Kilinsmann but the question is why not?

What else does Cooper have to do to earn just an opportunity?

Photo Credit.
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez