Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Canada Looks to end San Pedro Sula Nightmare

It's been 1,145 days since Canada's 8-1  shocking loss to Honduras that ended Canada's hopes of Qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. 
The pain from that game still hurts, but now it's time for redemption. Canada will travel down to San Pedro Sula for a astronomical game in Canada's quest to advance to the Hex for only their second time ever. 
It's a game where the faithful wait inpatiently for Friday at 5pm ET time as Canadians wait for Canada to break through on a big stage for the first time in over 20 years. 
Unfortunately, when Canada plays a Central American team, they are playing against the fans as well as the field turf and the scorching hot weather that will be waiting to greet them when they land in the country that has hunted them during the last three World Cup cycles. 
I'm not sure where Canada turned the corner. It might have been their impressive Group Stage win at the 2009 Gold Cup that made the players believe that they can compete with CONCACAF's best. Next came a surprising 2014 World Cup cycle that was derailed when leading all time goal scorer Dwayne De Rosario went down with an injury. 
That Semi Final stage didn't turn out as Canada planned. Nevertheless, Canada established a standard of what other cycles can measure themselves by. That standard would be controlling  their own destiny during the final game of the Semi Final stage. 
Ten Years ago, Canada was a team that had the potential to tie their home games and lose a close game on the road. Any win at the Semi Final stage seemed too much to ask for. 
Now, when Canada plays at this stage, anything but a win at home is a disappointment and anything but a draw on the road is a disappointment. For me, that's progress even though Canada's goal differential so far does't show it. One goal scored and five goals conceded. 
But still, there is life. For the sake of the Canadians this time around, lets hope they at least go down fighting this time. If they don't, everyone that has jumped on Canada's banwagon since last November will jump off. Lets face it, the banwagon seems quite full right now with viewing parties set up across Canada in the major cities. 
For the last five years, Canada has climbed closer to making a Canadian Men's soccer game something to get excited about. A crucial result  on Friday and Canada will take a huge step forward. 
Four years ago, there was no grey area. A draw and they were in the Hex. A loss eliminated them. This time around, they can't clinch a spot in the Hex or be eliminated on Friday no matter what happens and that might be a good thing for Canada and they can play more relaxed. 
The one thing that is the same, the room for error is razor thin. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Bolt or Phelps?

 In the last decade, two of the greatest Olympians ever have electrified the Olympics and taken their competition by storm leaving their competitors breathless after their respective races were over.

Who am I talking about? The great Olympians of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps of course. The two athletes have been battling for the title of the best Olympian ever.
Lots of people will have various opinions on this topic and for good reason, the two are great athletes. Most Americans will say Phelps. Those Americans are generally biast. That being said, numbers don't lie. 28 medals is unprecedented in this era of the Olympics and to add to all of it, the high majority of his medals are Gold.
In regards to Usain Bolt. Nine Olympic races in the last three Olympiads and nine Gold medals. Not one final lost. More importantly, most of Bolt's victories, he blew away his opponents in a sport that is usually decided by photo finishes.
The number of Swimming events doesn't make Phelps the greatest, there is way too may. It would be like if Track had the 100M Bunny - Hop. It would be laughable and Track would be looked at as a circus instead of a Olympic event.
Too add to Bolt's superiority, Bolt has more competition. Every country has a fast runner that does the 100M dash but not every country has a powerful swim team.
To be brutally honest America, if Bolt was American and Phelps was Jamaican, all you guys would be saying how great he was, because that's how Americans roll.
For me, there is no debate, Bolt is without question the more impressive athlete. Phelps was born in the States, has every chance to succeed in America with world class training facilities and excellent coaching.
In Bolt's case, his hometown is Kingston, Jamaica. A city littered with crime and violence. Not only is it  tough to focus on sports, but it also must have been tough to  stay away from the bad influences and to have no local sports leader to look up to. It's completely different circumstances.
Phelps was great. He dominated his sport and no one can take that away from him. However, Bolt got non Track and Field fans to tune into his races because he was competing. Therefore, he has altered the sport of Track and everyone wants to be like Bolt around the world. In Phelps's case, only Americans want to be the next Michael Phelps.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Canada's Olympics at a Glance

Historically, Canada has been a mediocre as a Summer Olympics Country. They have always had an abundance of athletes compete at a high level of competition. Unfortunately, Canadian athletes never came away with the medals to show for it.
Top 10 finishes and personal bests had seemed to be a ceiling that Canadian athletes had crashed into. In the 1988 Olympics in Soul, South Korea Canada only came away with 10 Olympic medals after sending over 30
0 athletes. In those games, 10 medals is underachieving in a first world country like Canada.
Since than, Canada has been slowly improving. Seven Gold Medals in 1992 in Barcelona, a record 22 medals in 1996 in Atalanta. After a shortage of production for the Sydney and Athens games, Canada has came back with determination in 2008 Bejing, 2012 in London and now 2016 in Rio.
19 medals, 18 medals and 22 medals respectively in the last three Quadrennials. It doesn't seem like much to any Yankee reading this, but for a population of 36 Million, it is quite an accomplishment.
What changed, or even better yet, does it matter? It might have been the Own the Podium program that was designed when Vancouver was selected to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. After going Gold medalless, in 1976 in Montreal and similarly in 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. The Canadian Olympic committee made sure thry weren't going to disappoint when it came to 2010 in Vancouver.
First came the Winter sports success, excellence in many different sports in the 2010 Olympics capturing 14 Gold Medals a Winter Olympics record by a host country in the Winter Olympics. 
Since, it has been a title wave of success for the Canadian Summer Olympic athletes including a surplus of bronze medals. The best part of all is, it isn't just one sport Canada is winning medals in. 
Sports are booming in Canada right. Before, we were only known as a hockey nation but Canada proved they are much more than that as they won medals in 10 different sports in Rio. with Swimming and Athletics being a big surprise. 
Penny Oleksiak at the youthful age of 16, splashed her way to four medals in the pool including a gold in the 100M Freestyle and also being the Flag Berier at the Closing Ceremonies. 
Most Olympians have graduated High School before they are Olympic Champions but not her. She became an ordinary high school girl to a household name within a matter of days and becoming Canada's most decorated Canadian for a single Olympics. 
She honestly has her pick of what guy she wants to date for prom next year and she probably hasn't even realized it yet. 
Not to be undone, Andre De Grasse was just as impressive as he won three medals on the track. He converted from a basketball player to a track star when he was 17 and now people are naming him the next Usain Bolt. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Andre De Grasse won gold in the 100M, 200M and 4 X 100M Relay in Tokyo 2020. 
Lastly, the Women's Canadian soccer team provided more inspiration for young female soccer players as they captured bronze in the women's soccer tournament for the second consecutive Olympics. This time, Canada was superb in their performance beating very good Germany and France teams. 
In 2012, Canada was a one player team and was the beneficiary of Brazil getting upset in the group stage. This time around, Christine Sinclair had a way bigger supporting cast that led her team to an impressive win against Brazil to clinch the bronze medal. Canada showed they can play with the best teams in the world not by sitting back but by playing their game. 

These and many other great stories pollvolted Canada to a country record 22 medals in this years games. The best ever for a non boycotted Olympics. Yes, there are way more events than in the 1992 Olympics but nevertheless, Canada is excelling in sports as Tennis, Golf, Basketball oh and now Swimming and Athletics have skyrocketed for Canadians. The good news, the best may still be to come. 

Canadian women won 16 of the 22 medals for Canada which should send a message too other countries to give female youth a chance to succeed in sport as that is what Canada does a really good job in. 

Next stop, Tokyo 2020. Canada's goal should be to turn some of those bronze medals into gold medals. It could happen, between Andre De Grasse and Penny Oleksiak in 2020, Canada could get around five gold medals alone. Optimistic thinking but they are rising stars in their respective sports. 

The Olympics are the single best thing invented in sports history. It brings out the best of all the competitors and I'm glad it is finally bringing out the best in Canadians. Whatever Canada has done to produce talent in sports that aren't hockey, they need to keep doing it. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What will Happen to Rio Now

All the competition is over. The build up, the hype and everything in between is finished. Billions of dollars spent just to host a 16 day event has come to an end and after the closing ceremonies, every host city gets asked.. Was it worth it?
The easy answer is yes. Sports bring people together when times are tough for a nation shattered with homelessness and poverty like Brazil. To see Brazilian natives jump into a state of pandemonium when their country brought home gold in Men’s Beach Volleyball, Men’s Indoor Volleyball and Men’s soccer was absolutely priceless.
It’s also the inspiration that is provided when the athletes become instant heroes to the locals. This makes it really important for the next generation of athletes to have someone powerful and meaningful to look up to.
With a significant number of sport complexes built in Rio now, these arenas have a chance to be state of the arc training facilities that can rebuild Brazil’s Olympic team in other sports besides soccer and volleyball. On the other hand, the Olympics are a huge financial burden to any host city. With Rio struggling to treat its large amount of homelessness, quite a few people would argue that the Olympic money that was used could have been spent elsewhere. As CBC illustrated for the past two weeks, Rio is a world-class city with five-star beaches and a breath-taking view from Christ the Redeemer statue. However, this is just part of the city that major TV networks focus on.
The other half of the city has the looks of a third world country with 40% of their population living under the poverty line. In fact, that amount of empty seats at the various events was a correlation of how there was just so many Brazilians that couldn’t afford Olympic tickets.
It should be noted, that the Summer Olympics are too big of an event for any host city to hold. With the increased number of events being added to the already jammed packed program, each city is almost dealt a no-win situation right from the start. The weeks after the games will also be the most negative considering a city doesn’t find out whether or not hosted the Olympics was worth it financially until 25-35 years later. Tourism will be up the next few years, but will it be sustained long-term?
Lastly, what about the venues? A big question after the games is what will happen with the Olympic Arenas. Every host city hopes that none of the venues becomes a White Elephant. A White Elephant is described as a venue that gets little use after the event is over. A good example of a White Elephant is the Olympic Stadium in Montreal that was built for the 1976 Olympics. Since the departure of the Expos, the stadium doesn’t get used very much nor is a very good in quality.

Monday, August 15, 2016

UCL - August 16th

Tomorrow, the UEFA Champions League really begins tomorrow with five games. Five will be played on Wednesday to complete the 32 team Group Stage Field.

One of my pet peeves about the UEFA Champions League is that every game starts at 11:45am PT.  Because, we are down to 42 teams left, all the games are so closely matched and it is hard to choose between any of the games that will be a marquee matchup.

All look intriguing and I will hopefully have my eye on all of them at some point. With the Olympics going on in Rio, the TV schedule isn't covering this week like they will in most weeks.

Tuesday, August 16
Game 1
11:45 AM
Apoel Nicosia
Young Boys
Game 1
11:45 AM
Game 1
11:45 AM
FC Rostov
Steaua Bucuresti
Game 1
11:45 AM
Man. City
Dinamo Zagreb
Game 1
11:45 AM
Red Bull

Friday, August 12, 2016

Predicting the 2016-17 EPL Standings

1. Man City 
2. Chelsea 
3. Arsenal 
4. Spurs 
5. Manchester United 
6. Leicester City 
7. Liverpool 
8. West Ham 
9. Southampton 
10. Swansea City 
11. Everton 
12. Stoke City 
13. Crystal Palace 
14. Hull City 
15. West Bromich 
16. Sunderland 
17. Burnley 
18. Watford 
19. AFC Bournemouth 
20. Middlesbrough

Top Scorer: Harry Kane 

Best Goalie: Hugo Lloris 

League Cup Winner: West Ham 

FA Cup Winner: Arsenal 

Best Coach: Pep Guardiola 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

2016-17 EPL North American Guide

The EPL season begins on Saturday as 20 teams will be hoping that this is the year that their team can have a special season and take their team to new heights.
For those who don’t know, the EPL is very different from leagues in North America. The standings first and foremost are located in one division and every team will play every other team home and away for a total of 38 games. There is also a FA Cup and League Cup that is separate from the league standings.
For the North American that isn’t familiar with the EPL, here is your guide to the 2016-2017 season.
Based in North London, Arsenal is a very strong team with rich tradition. They often make the UEFA Champions League and are a notch below rivals Chelsea.
American comparison: New England Patriots.
A very strong team but other teams tend to hate them. Be careful about jumping on the bandwagon of this team, their team name is the gunners and their logo looks like a board game piece from the board game Risk. To be honest, I wouldn’t want to be known as a gunner.
Teams goal: Win Title


Making an appearance in English's Top Tier after making a brief appearance two years ago. Small stadium with a lot of passionate fans. Talent wise, they will be in tough this year. 

American Comparison: Cleveland Browns 

Both teams have passionate fans despite having a long run of failure in both cities. 

Team Goal: Avoid relegation 

Smallest team in the Premier League this year. Their stadium is very small with just over 10,000 seats. They are also the most southern team in the Premier League. This year marks the second year that Bournemouth will be competing in England’s top flight division.
American comparison: Miami Marlins.
Both teams are small but close to the ocean. The Marlins have never won a division title and Bournemouth has never played a game up until last year in the premier league. In addition, both teams have fancy stadiums. Problem is, fancy doesn’t get where you any points when it matters.
Teams goal: Avoid relegation

Lots of tradition with this team. It seems that whatever the amount of money they choose to spend, never works out to winning many titles. In other words they underachieve. Personally, I thought they were the best team in Europe last year, however they bowed out in the Round of 16 in the Champions League to PSG.
American comparison: Boston Red Sox.
Up until 2012 Chelsea had never won the UEFA Champions League, since then they are title contenders in Europe. Very similar to the Red Sox who after won the World Series in 2004, seem to be contenders every year but still underachieve themselves as well.

Team Goal: Win Title

Crystal Palace
Fourth consecutive year in the Premier League, small fan base but loud fans.
American comparison: Calgary Flames.
Both teams have had limited success in the past but both are on the rise now. When the Flames are good the Saddle Dome can be a very intimidating place. Same can be said for Crystal Palace who also have passionate fans. A moment of glory for the Flames was their 1989 Stanley Cup victory. The moment of glory for Crystal Palace was their 1990 FA Cup Final appearance and their heartbreaking loss in last years FA Cup as well. The Calgary Flames theme song is “Ring of Fire” and every fan knows the words. Crystal Palace’s theme song is “Glad All Over” that gets the fans going before the game.
Teams goal: Top 10 finish

                                                Hull City 

Promoted this year and will be competing in the Primer League for the third time in four years. Just like any team in the Primer League after coming up, they will likely struggle but I wouldn't be surprised if this team stayed up.

American Comparison: Memphis Grizzlies

Two decades ago, both teams were a laughing stock. The Grizzlies were in Vancouver and Hull was in the 4th Tier of English Football. In the past few years, both teams have had a revival.

Team Goal: Avoid Relegation 
Their logo looks like something from Hogwarts in Harry Potter. Nevertheless Everton is competitive but always seem to be in the shadow of Liverpool.
American comparison: Washington Redskins.
Both franchises are competitive but haven’t been able to get to the next level. Everton competed in the Europa League last year whereas the Redskins made a splash in the NFL playoffs in 2013 before losing to the Seahawks.
Teams goal: clinch a Europa League spot

Leicester City 
They had a very strong year last year and surprised everyone last year by winning the Title. 5000 -1 odds last year and they won the EPL title. This year they are 28-1 odds to win and people are doubting them. 
American comparison: Sacramento Kings.
When both teams are doing well it is very exciting. Does everyone remember the early 2000's when the Kings had a great team? 
Teams goal: Top 10 Finish 

Lots of history with this team as well. They compete most years for a Champions League place but don’t get there every year. They haven’t won a League Title since 1989. However they almost saw it two years ago until Liverpool blew a 3-0 lead at Palace to cost themselves a chance at the Title.
American comparison: Dallas Cowboys.
Both teams have a lot of followers world wide but neither team can win the big game. Last Champions League title was 2005 for Liverpool. Dallas was on pace to win the Super Bowl in 2007 until Romo couldn’t get it done against the Giants 
Teams goal: Qualify for Champions League

Manchester City
Man City struggled for many years until the late 2000’s when they started to compete and then finally winning the EPL title in 2012. They are in the shadow of Man U who strives to win the title every year.
American comparison: LA Clippers.
Clippers also were the laughing stock within their own state for many years, and lost the spotlight from their opposing home town team, but lately have greatly improved. Now, the tables have turned and Manchester City appears to be much better than Man United, the same way the Clippers are exceeding the Lakers.
Teams goal: Win League Title

Manchester United
Richest team with the most fame. Everyone says they are a Man United fan, even if they don’t watch or hate soccer.
American comparison: New York Yankees.
Easiest comparison there is. Both teams win lots and everyone has an opinion about them. If you support another team, you hate them. Pretty simple.
Teams goal: Win League Title


In the Primer League for the first time in quite sometime. They have a chance to be competitive this year amongst the bottom teams in the league. Whether that is enough to avoid relegation is impossible to tell.

American Comparison: Seattle Mariners

Neither team has had success in awhile and both teams are quite North in their respective countries.

Team Goal: Avoid Relegation 

Small team in the south with limited resources but lately have done a great job building. They will be competing in the Europa League for the first time in their club’s history.
American Comparison: Houston Texans.
Both teams have came a long way in a decade but both teams also have a long way to go before they can compete with the big boys.
Teams goal: Qualify for Europa League

Stoke City
They have made a climb in the standings in the past few years and it’s quite remarkable considering how much money they spend.
American comparison: Oakland Athletics.
Soccer’s version of Money Ball. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should. Both teams don’t spend much money now but in the same way it’s crazy that they still compete the way these teams do.
Teams goal: Top 12 Finish

By avoiding relegation the last three years, Sunderland felt reassured that they would finally turn the ship around. Nonethless they did, but completing way too many ties avoided a strong finish. Many years ago, this team used to be league favorites but as of late has lost their edge.
American comparison: Toronto Maple Leafs.
Both teams are many years away from competing again and have the players to make a run to promise. Dating back to their glory days, both were top dogs of the league, though its been awhile. For Sunderland it was the 50’s and for Toronto it was the 60’s.
Teams goal: Avoid relegation:

Swansea City
Team based in Wales and yes, this is allowed. They have had great success the last decade or so after being in the 4th tier of English football not to long ago.
American comparison: Toronto Raptors.
Both teams struggle for respect while playing in a different country as the rest of the teams. The Raptors broke trough last year and will be interesting to see if Swansea can make a splash this year. 
Teams goal: Top 10 finish

Tottenham Hotspur
London based team that have a history of losing right when you think they are just about to win big. They consistently compete in the Europa League but hit their stride last year and will be competing in the Champions League this year. 
American comparison: Chicago Cubs.
Both teams are in a big city with long droughts. The Spurs haven’t won the league title since 1961 while the Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908. Do I need to say more? Both teams believe they might break their respective droughts this year. 
Teams goal: Win Title 

Not much success in the Premier League era. Watford will take a chance to gain recognition as their second year  in Primer League. If your a fan of Elton John, this is the team for you. He once owned the team back in the day. Staying up will be a challenge but not impossible.
American comparison: Columbus Blue Jackets.
Both teams struggle but like most small teams, there is always hope. In both teams cases there are just too many good teams they are competing with.
Teams goal: Avoid relegation

West Bromwhich Albion
They haven’t been strong in awhile. However in the last few years there has been a bit of progress.
American comparison: Pittsburgh Pirates.
Both teams are small markets but have gotten better quickly lately. Hopefully for West Brom’s fans a playoff chance is in the future. (Likely Europa League) just like the Pirates got in the playoffs last year.
Teams goal: Top 15 finish

West Ham United
They struggle competing as a team in London. Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham are all much better than West Ham. New Stadium this year so the hype is high this year. Potentially a chance to be a big team in the future. 
American comparison: New York Jets.
Both teams are in big cities that our overshadowed by very successful sports teams.
Team Goals: Top 10 finish