February 5
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nothing remarkable about seeing it live

I ventured down to College Park with our intrepid basketball analyst, Dale Williams, last night.

The best part of the night was, by far, catching up with him.

Maryland's basketball experience is, to put it bluntly, bland. Maybe it's just me and my expectations. It could have been that the game featured a lot of bad basketball. Or maybe it is what I think it is -- that the production of putting on a live sporting event lacks imagination these days.

And this isn't really an attempt to pick on Maryland basketball, per se. It will be, as you'll see in the context below, more about every sport and a lot of teams. Maryland just has the recency bias because I've been there twice in the last two months.

I used to be a set-list-peeker when I'd go to a concert. By that, I mean I'd venture to the internet a week or two out to see the set-list of the various shows the performer I was going to see had utilized in previous shows. I eventually stopped peeking once I realize a lot of the set lists don't change from show-to-show.

I love Billy Joel to death, but on the most recent monthly run of his Madison Square tour, he opens with the same song -- The Natural -- every night.

Another one of my favorite bands of all-time, Rush, had the same habit. They'd play 18 songs on Tuesday night in Chicago, the exact same 18 songs two nights later in Cleveland, and the exact same 18 songs in Philadelphia the very next evening. I get it. Nearly everyone in Chicago is different than the folks watching the show in Cleveland. Therefore, they don't know the difference, set-list wise. But it speaks to a higher issue, in my opinion.

It speaks to their comfort level. "I'll just play The Natural, Big Shot, Just The Way You Are and I Go To Extremes again because the band knows that flow really well." Fair enough. The band's flow is important. But it's incredibly flat if you are a concert goer who knew going in they played those same four songs two nights earlier in Buffalo. You almost expect more...even though you weren't actually in Buffalo. You feel slighted, somewhat, by Billy's lack of effort to mix things up.

Back to the Terps...

To the athletic department's credit, they didn't bite the apple last night when the game wasn't sold out. In other words, they announced the "real" crowd (15,855) instead of a sellout (17,950). But as I sat and watched the game, it made me wonder, naturally, how the Terps couldn't sell out a Big 10 game against an opponent with a fan base just three hours away? Oh, and this isn't Rutgers 2016, the league pushover. Despite their tepid performance last night, this Rutgers team has been ranked in the Top 25 this season and look like a 70/30 bet to make the NCAA tournament in March.

As we drove home last night, Dale brought up the attendance. "Pretty disappointing crowd," he said. "Anytime I see empty seats like that, I wonder if the attendance would have been better if the opponent was Virginia or Clemson or NC State?"

To wit, the discussion about the Big Ten move has been discussed ad nauseum, but still bears mentioning. It's just not as exciting as was the ACC. The style of basketball is different. And other than Penn State, which is clearly not really a football rivalry, the only in-the-blood rival the school has in the Big Ten are the Nittany Lions. No one else in the Big Ten gets the fan base's blood boiling.

Point to any of the external circumstances you want about last night's crowd. Early game (7:00 pm). Rutgers isn't the most inviting opponent. Lots of folks just went hard on Super Bowl Sunday and aren't yet ready for another night out. The Capitals were home last night playing the Kings before a sellout crowd. All four of those factors might have been part of the equation.

But to my eyes, a bigger part of the issue, at nearly every sporting event, is the lack of seeing something new.

In one of his (many) great books, marketing mastermind Seth Godin talks about the importance of what he calls, the Purple Cow. He uses the purple cow as a metaphor for doing something remarkable. And as I watch live sporting events, nothing about them really stands out as all that remarkable. It's the same thing, game after game, pigeon-holed into the exact same time during the game.

Either that or the production crew totally misses the point.

I went to the Towson-College of Charleston basketball game on Saturday afternoon at SECU. During the pre-game warm-ups, loud rap music blared from the speaker system. I might have been one of the only 57 year old white guys in the crowd to know several of the artists and lyrics, but I've had an affection for certain types of rap music for two decades or so. But, based on a scan of the audience, I can say for certain the majority of the folks in the stands would have preferred something a little more soft than say, Rick Ross.

So exactly who was the music being played for before the game? The players? Sure, it might have been their music of choice, but a lot of them had on their listening gear to start with. If the 750 people sitting in the building are largely older -- and it's VERY easy to scan the arena seating and figure that out -- why wouldn't you play something a little more connected to their likely musical interests? This.....I've never really understood. Are you playing music for 16 basketball players or 750 people in the stands who paid money to enter the facility?

I think the unfurling of the big Maryland flag (if that's the correct terminology) is a cool idea. But here's the thing. There's nothing at all new about it. Game in, game out, the video they play on the screen is the same. The music is the same. In fact, they do it at exactly the same time. Every. Single. Game. And while it's cool to see the kids in the upper deck get it started and help lower it down to the floor, it's incredibly boring to have it all happen in such a cookie-cutter fashion.

The player introductions? Incredibly boring. "A six-nine sophomore from Baltimore, Maryland, Jalen Smith..." And out he comes, meeting a benchwarmer at the end of the line to do some sort of fancy handshake or skit. Doing that once or twice a season? Really cool. Doing it for all 18 home games. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Here's a thought. Introduce every guy. Just say their name. They're all on the team, right?

How about bringing each player out with his favorite professor/instructor? You can insert the joke here, but that would also be a nice touch for the educators.

Bring out a different Maryland coach with each player. Who is the swimming coach? Golf coach? Tennis coach? Give them a small slice of the limelight one night.

I could come up with 18 different introduction ideas in about two hours.

Unfurl the flag at a different time.

The Ravens are guilty of this, too.

I get it. There are probably only so many ways to introduce the football team. But this week it's the defense, next week it's the offense, and so on. Same music, same smoke, same lights, etc.

There's nothing "remarkable" about any of it. Not if you go often, anyway.

So while most of the blame these days goes to television as the easy "way" to watch sports these days, I'm not so sure that's entirely the problem. I could have stayed home last night instead of fighting 5 o'clock traffic. I could have watched it from the comfort of my living room. But I wanted to go, so I went.

And the product was, by and large, very forgettable. I've found myself thinking the same thing at Capitals games, Orioles games and Ravens games, too. "This was fun...but it was almost 'forced fun'."

Last week's PGA Tour event featured, without question, the most unique set-up in all of golf. An "arena" is basically built around the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale, where upwards of 30,000 people jam their way into seats to watch the players play ONE hole.

It started in the 90's. There were no stands or arena settings in place back then.

Then in the 2000's they built a small 5,000 seat configuration to give it a "distinct" feel.

Then they added more seats and suddenly 10,000 were there.

Now, there are 30,000 people sitting around one golf hole screaming and making a scene.

It's not something that would fit in at every tournament on the schedule, which is what makes it unique. I just had four friends go out there for the tournament because seeing the 16th hole live was a sports "bucket list" item for all four.

There's nothing at all "bucket-list" worthy about Maryland basketball or the Ravens or the Capitals. It's generally "well done" -- to their credit -- but it's also generally very predictable.

Either that or I'm just getting old and I'm the only goof who thinks about this kind of stuff.

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DALE WILLIAMS returns for his fifth season of covering all things Maryland men's basketball for #DMD. Terps Spotlight will preview and review all games in the 2019-20 season.

terps win: cowan, smith, morsell shine

There’s a saying regarding a golf score that states, “They don’t ask you how, just how many”.

The same might be said of Big Ten wins this year. It really doesn’t matter how you get them, just keep ringing up those victories. And Maryland did just that last night when they defeated Rutgers, 56-51, in a less than packed XFINITY Center. Both defenses played hard, but both offenses played ugly ball.

It was a 7-2 run over the last 2:12 that propelled the Terps to the win. Four of those points were scored by Anthony Cowan and Daryll Morsell accounted for the other three. All of the points came from the foul line. Rutgers missed their last five shots, helping Maryland to advance to an 8-3 Big Ten record, tied for tops in the league.

Three Terps scored in double figures, led by Cowan with 17 while Jalen Smith and Morsell both tallied 14.

Jalen Smith (14) and Darryl Morsell (14) scored half of Maryland's 56 points on Tuesday night in the win over Rutgers.

Maryland raced out to a 14-6 lead after 7:11 had been played in the first half. Then, in what I thought was a bizarre coaching move, Mark Turgeon elected to pull out his core group of starters and insert Chol Marial, Serrel Smith, and Ricky Lindo. Rutgers immediately went on a run that eventually reached 19-4.

During that run, the Scarlet Knight’s Akwasi Yeboah scorched Maryland for 9 points on three triples. The Terp defense started breaking down, and Maryland, even after the starters returned, never regained their offensive confidence or continuity. They shot just 2 of 17 for the remainder of the half. Even for a team that struggles offensively at times, playing the last 9:21 without making a field goal is mind boggling. But the Terps managed to pull it off.

Luckily for the Terps, Rutgers proved that they too could be offensively inept, as they failed to score at all during the last 5 minutes of the half. The end result of all this offensive futility was a 25-20 halftime lead for the Scarlet Knights.

For the half, Maryland shot 24% from the floor, and had 4 shots blocked. Their spacing looked awful, with the lane too crowded to allow for dribble penetration. It was a bad half triggered by the questionable substitutions by Turgeon.

Early in the second half, Maryland would cut the Rutgers lead to 1 by scoring 8 points in the paint. A layup by Danta Scott and 3 buckets by Morsell, including a monster dunk, would get the Terps within one possession, 29-28. Shortly after the last Morsell dunk, a Jalen Smith 3 gave Maryland a two-point lead, 31-29.

The Terps would grow the lead to 8 points by outscoring Rutgers 24-11 during the first 13:17 of the second half. It was at this point that Rutgers began pounding the offensive glass and racking up second chance points. 7 of the Scarlet Knight’s 8 offensive rebounds came in the second half. Most of those 7 happened during a 13-5 run that allowed Rutgers to knot the game at 49 apiece.

The score was 49 all when Cowan began the Terp run of free throws that secured the win. The first three were made after Cowan was fouled while shooting a three-point shot. He converted them all, and Maryland never looked back.

I will give some credit for Rutgers defensive success to their game plan. They frequently slacked off of the Terp perimeter players, and chose to crowd the lane. This made it extremely difficult for the Terp ball handlers to dribble penetrate.

In the second half, Maryland began to get inside with the dribble, and the results were positive. It’s what allowed them to get back into the game.

With the two teams combining to miss 78 shots, this game really didn’t come down to size, speed, or skill. It came down to heart. Maryland had the heart last night to stay tough despite being frustrated on the offensive end of court. They had the heart to make foul shots with the game on the line. And they also had the heart to play tough defense, and get stops, during the critical last 2:12 of the game.

If you are a Terps fan, you have to be encouraged with that effort. It wasn’t pretty, but when you look at the 8 conference wins, nobody asks, “How?”.

On Friday, first place in the Big Ten will be on the line when the Terps travel to Champaign for a rematch with Illinois. Game time is 8PM and the contest will be covered by Fox Sports 1.


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February 4
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wrapping up the nfl season

In honor of the 21 points the Chiefs scored in the final 8 minutes of Super Bowl 54...

1. If there was any one coach in the league who deserved a Super Bowl ring, it was Andy Reid. This theme might have been overplayed a bit, but that's only because it's undeniably true. He's been oft-criticized for some of his clock management skills, but the reality is every coach in the NFL has occasional issues getting it right. Reid is a great coach.

2. The Miami victory at New England in Week 17 really twisted the AFC playoffs in an unthinkable way. It meant the Chiefs only had to win one game to get to the AFC title game and it also meant -- by the fact they went to New England and won -- that the Titans wound up playing the Ravens in Baltimore. And, when the Ravens lost that game, Kansas City hosted the AFC title contest and their march to the Super Bowl was on clean pavement.

3. Speaking of "17", I can't for the life of me figure out what the owners are thinking about by playing 17 regular season games. I mean, I know it's all about money, money, money, but why wouldn't they try and put together an 18-game schedule as a way of making it even? The players will bellyache about it right up until......they get another $50 million added to the salary cap. 17 games -- such a stupid number. Drop the four pre-season games down to one and add two regular season games with another "bye" week in the schedule somewhere.

4. Why isn't the Super Bowl on a Saturday? I don't have any logical reasoning behind the question. But I've always wondered that. Why play the game at 6:30 pm on Sunday night? Why not play it at 8 pm on Saturday evening?

Could Josh Allen be a MVP candidate in 2020?

5. Lamar Jackson was the NFL head-turner this season. If the Bills help their quarterback, Josh Allen, with a couple of pass catching upgrades, I think he could be the 2020 head-turner. Not saying he's ready to be the MVP or anything, but I think he's due for a big season in '20.

6. Kyle Shanahan got roasted pretty good by the national media on Monday, but here's my question: Where's the critical eye for 49'ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh? I mean, he was the guy who was gifted a 20-10 lead with 8 minutes remaining. Where are all the hot takes surrounding Saleh?

7. The team that turned out to be the biggest disappointment in 2019 had to be the Los Angeles Rams. Some folks might say the Browns, but they weren't really beating anyone when it mattered. Others might say the Steelers, but they weren't doing anything of note without Roethlisberger. The Rams were a Super Bowl team 12 months ago and couldn't even sniff the playoffs in 2019. And if they're not careful, they'll be the 4th best team in the NFC West next season.

8. My "official" prediction with Matt Judon is: franchise tag. I don't think the Ravens are willing to fork over $80 million or so for him. And I also don't think they want to lose him, either. So they'll give Judon $16 million and ask him to have another great season and then can revisit the long term deal next spring. I'm still not completely sold on him. I think he's a good player who had a great season. I'm not sure he's a great player.

9. I also remain unconvinced on Hollywood Brown. And by "unconvinced", I mean as a long term, #1 receiver. I think he's very capable. He obviously has speed to burn. But until he goes through a couple of seasons playing 16 games and is available for all the offensive snaps, I'll hold off on a full appraisal.

10. Three teams that weren't very good in 2019 who could be decent enough to be in the playoff hunt next year: NY Jets, Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons.

11. I think Joe Burrow was a great college quarterback. But there's no telling if he can go to Cincinnati and be a great professional quarterback. They are the Bengals, after all. He would have been much better off being picked by just about any other franchise. Think he'll lead the Bengals to the playoffs by year three of his career? I don't.

Matt Ryan and the Falcons...can they rebound and be a playoff contender in 2020?

12. Dustin Colquitt nearly fouled up the opening coin toss on Sunday night. After Richard Sherman called "tails" and it came up that way, the 49'ers cornerback quickly said, "We'll defer." The referee then said to the Chiefs, "The 49'ers have deferred, what do you want to do?" Colquitt said, "We'll kick..." and the referee quickly shot back, "You'll what?" just as another member of the Chiefs blurted out, "We want the ball!". Here's what needs to happen in 2020 (and beyond). The team that wins the coin flip gets their choice of kicking or receiving to start the game. Whatever they choose, the other team gets the opposite "benefit" to start the 3rd quarter. Easy enough. No need to ask anything of anyone. You kick to start the game, you get the ball to start the 2nd half.

13. The Chiefs may have themselves a scheduling problem. The Royals play at home on Thursday, September 10 at 12:35 pm (CDT). That's also the opening game of the NFL season, which traditionally features the defending Super Bowl champion opening at home. This past season, the league went away from that tradition in order to have the Packers and Bears play the opener as a way of celebrating the NFL's 100th anniversary. The Royals also play at home on Sunday, September 13. Will the Chiefs and Royals be able to work out a suitable solution, since they both share the same parking lot and facility staffers?

14. While on the subject of the schedule, my early guess is that Kansas City's visit to Baltimore next season will be a NBC Sunday Night game. CBS would probably like it for one of their late season 4:25 pm national games, though. You just know those two networks are going to be fighting like heck over that one. I assume Baltimore at New England will be a Sunday Night or Monday Night game as well.

15. I'm not a mock draft guy in the least, but a bird on a tree out at Owings Mills tells me the Ravens are very high on A.J. Epenesa, the edge rusher from Iowa.

16. This year's "deserving coach" was Andy Reid. Who takes over that title now that Reid finally has his ring? Kyle Shanahan makes the most sense, although his biggest heartbreak was when he was the offensive coordinator for the Falcons and they squandered that 28-3 Super Bowl lead. Still, it would be good to see him win a title soon. The other guy already has a ring. After seeing the Saints get ripped off at home in the NFC title game two years ago, I wouldn't have a problem with Sean Payton winning a Super Bowl again. As long as neither Shanahan or Payton win at the expense of the Ravens, I'm cool with one of those guys winning a title.

17. Michael Pierce to the Packers. Jimmy Smith to the Eagles. Tony Jefferson to the Steelers. You heard it here first.

18. Count me in as someone who thinks the Steelers can be a threat next season -- but only if Roethlisberger is healthy. They're not beating anyone with Rudolph or Duck under center. They need some help offensively, obviously, but if they get a couple of pass catchers and a decent running back, Pittsburgh could be good. My guess is the Derrick Henry rumors are just blogger-fodder from the Steel City, but he would clearly help them.

19. Philip Rivers? Tampa Bay, Nashville, Charlotte. One of those three. I can't imagine the Titans are ready to turn the team over to Ryan Tannehill for the long haul. What if Cam Newton pulls an Andrew Luck? And haven't the Bucs seen enough of Jameis Winston to know he's good-but-not-great? My guess? Rivers in Tampa Bay in 2020.

20. Terrell Suggs is a Hall of Famer. That's a done deal. Marshal Yanda should be a Hall of Famer, but as Tony Boselli is showing, offensive linemen have their work cut out for them. Yanda's career will wind up being much longer than Boselli's, who played just eight seasons. The other Raven who should get into Canton someday: Justin Tucker. But we know how it goes with kickers.

21. I have the Ravens going 11-5 next season and winning the AFC North for the third straight year. I know...I know...we haven't even seen the draft, free agent signings or the schedule, for that matter. But I'm going with 11-5 no matter happens between now and September.

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dale williams aims the
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DALE WILLIAMS returns for his fifth season of covering all things Maryland men's basketball for #DMD. Terps Spotlight will preview and review all games in the 2019-20 season.

rutgers rolls into college park tonight

At almost the exact mid-point of the Big Ten regular season, Mark Turgeon’s Terps are just a half game away from the top spot in the conference.

With a 7-3 record, only Illinois and Michigan State (both 8-3) are ahead of Maryland. The Terps opponent tonight, the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers, are just a half game behind Maryland at 7-4.

The Rutgers record is not a fluke. They are a legitimate NCAA Tournament caliber team this season.

With wins over Wisconsin, Penn State and Seton Hall, Rutgers already has defeated three teams that topped the Terps. However, all three of those wins came inside the cozy confines of the Rutgers home court known as the RAC. Tonight they’ll play in College Park, where Maryland is 12-0 so far in '20-21.

#DMD basketball analyst Dale Williams sees another big night for Jalen Smith when the Terps take on visiting Rutgers this evening.

Rutgers has an assortment of big guards that play a relentless style of basketball. Ron Harper Jr is the epitome of this group. At 6’6” and 245 pounds, Harper has seen stints guarding the other team’s point-guard, and their 4-man. Offensively, on a team without a dominant producer, Harper is the leading scorer at 11.6 points-per-game.

Caleb McConnell is a 6’7” guard who plays pretty “long”. Montez Mathis --- from John Carroll High School in Bel Air -- is a strong 6’4” guard who can be expected to score tough buckets in the paint. He’s a real competitor.

One thing all of the Rutgers guards do is rebound. They are the main reason why Rutgers is in the top 3 in rebounding, both offensive and defensive, in the Big Ten. Off of the bench, Jacob Young and the athletic Geo Baker are both capable substitutes but I think Young is more of a scoring threat, as Baker tends to miss a large percentage of his shots.

Akwasi Yeboah and Myles Johnson do most of the work on the interior for the Scarlet Knights. Yeboah is a bit undersized at the power forward position, being just 6’6”. But, he’s a sturdy 230 pounds and the team’s best three-point shooter, at 38%.

This isn’t a stellar shooting group that head coach Stephan Pikiell puts on the floor. They have many players who could get hot, but on a nightly basis, there’s no sharpshooter of which to be afraid.

McConnel will struggle defensively. He’s long, but not quick at all. If Maryland’s Daryll Morsell gets the start, he’ll have a big night getting into the paint. Aaron Wiggins could beat McConnel also, but I think Morsell is tougher in the paint. Whoever is McConnell’s assignment, that Terp needs to attack.

I’m not sure what Rutgers starter is quick enough to guard Cowan. Maybe Baker or Young off of the bench, but none of the starters can handle Cowan’s bursts. Quickness should be a real issue for the visiting Scarlet Knights.

Defensively for Maryland, the keys are to keep Harper in check, and rebound well. Every Maryland defender, especially the guards, needs to put a body on a man. Keeping Rutgers off of the glass will be key, as I expect the Knights to miss a ton of shots.

I have much respect for this Rutgers program, and anticipate seeing their name when the brackets are announced come March. However, playing three home games in a row and then coming into the XFINTY Center to face a pumped up Maryland team, might not be the best scenario for a squad without a “go-to” scorer or a top line post game.

Rutgers has had success guarding on the perimeter, but tonight their lack of speed and the absence of a true rim protector will hurt them.

I think four Terps get into double figures tonight. Cowan, Smith, Morsell, and Donta Scott will lead Maryland to a 70-59 win. Game time is 7pm and can be seen on FS1.


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February 3
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super fourth quarter saved the day

Christmas was six weeks ago, but I was feeling very "bah-humbug" throughout most of the Super Bowl.

Commercials? Eh. A few were really well done. Most of them were very forgettable. Not many were worth their six million investment, plus production costs.

Google and Hulu won the night, I'd say. Google's ad was the most memorable and Hulu's, by far, drew the most social media reaction. Hulu's ad featured Tom Brady and served as a blend-in-moment for his earlier cryptic tweet during the week, where it looked like Brady might have been retiring or "saying goodbye" to the NFL.

Instead, Brady was merely saying goodbye to cable TV. Nicely done, Hulu. And give Brady credit. Even when his team wasn't there playing in the game, he figured out a way to make himself a topic of conversation nonetheless.

Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes having fun after last night's Super Bowl win.

Halftime show? Embarrassing. I mean, those two women can definitely sing, but I had to send my two children up to take a bath. Actually, my 12 year old son needed a cold shower. I have no idea what the NFL really wants to do with the halftime show. My guess is they're looking to keep the men glued to the set and craving -- uh, who was the sponsor, Pepsi? -- product of some kind. But last night's halftime performance should have been rated-R. I'm aware it's 2020 and all and there are very restrictions in our world today, but that Shakira/J-Lo episode was borderline pornographic.

The game? It was a chess match for three quarters, and despite my personal fondness for the great game of chess, we all know how boring it is watching two people play. The 49'ers defense did a great job of putting the heat on Patrick Mahomes early on and the San Fran offense did an even better job of keeping Mahomes off the field by chewing up the clock and executing their game plan.

But a 10-10 halftime score in the Super Bowl is like 5-under par winning the Masters, which is what Danny Willett did back in 2016 when Jordan Spieth gift-wrapped the Masters for him. In other words, it's not what we expected. Or wanted, even.

The end of the first half was a comedy of coaching from the 49'ers. They got the ball at their own 20 with 59 seconds remaining, armed with all three time outs. They ran a pedestrian play for three yards and called time ou -- wait, no they didn't. They let the clock keep running for some bizarre reason. Apparently afraid of their own shadow (insert Groundhog Day joke here), the 49'ers then ran another play into their own line for two more yards. Kansas City, coaching unafraid at this point, then called their own time out with 19 seconds remaining.

On 3rd and 5, Jimmy Garoppolo connected on a 20-yard pass. San Francisco now decided to play football again, so they called their first time out with 14 seconds remaining in the half.

Garoppolo then found George Kittle on a 42 yard throw down to the K.C. 13 yard line. The 49'ers, at worst, were going to kick a field goal and go into the locker room up 13-10, which would have made folks with "3" and "0" in the block pool world very happy indeed. Except Kittle got called for pass interference (ticky tack) and the half ended at 10-10 after San Fran took a knee.

Kyle Shanahan sprinkled those two time outs he didn't use on his halftime orange slices.

The 49'ers didn't lose the game because of what happened at the end of the second quarter, but it was further proof that some coaches stay engaged throughout the entire game and others are just happy to still be in the game for sixty minutes.

Kansas City couldn't do anything throughout the third quarter, but in fairness to Patrick Mahomes and their offense, the AFC champs only got the ball twice. Mahomes threw a terrible pick on K.C.'s first possession of the 3rd quarter, then Tyreek Hill had a ball bounce off his hands early in the 4th quarter on a drive that started late in the third. Those two interceptions looked as if they were going to seal the deal for Andy Reid. Another Super Bowl trip, another year of missing out.

But then, what we assumed would eventually happen did, in fact, happen.

Kansas City's offense got hot, the 49'ers defense ran out of gas, Richard Sherman got exposed, and the referees got involved.

All four of those things led to an epic 21-point explosion by the Chiefs in the final eight minutes of the game. K.C. went from the team that was starting to have a monkey on its back to world champions.

Mahomes wasn't great in the first 52 minutes of the game. Not by a longshot. Some of that, of course, was due to the San Francisco defense. The other team tries, too. And the 49'ers did a great job of pressuring the K.C. signal caller and keeping him uneven throughout the first three and a half quarters of the game.

But a long throw on 3rd and 15 kept a drive alive and Travis Kelce collected a TD pass a minute later to make it 20-17. You could see the 49'ers starting to wobble.

After a 3-and-out from Garoppolo and the San Fran offense, Mahomes went right back to work. He hit Sammy Watkins on a beautiful 38 yard throw where Sherman looked like he had cement feet. Moments later, the K.C. quarterback soft-tossed one to Damien Williams and he scored the go-ahead TD with 2:44 remaining.

Or did he score?

It was awfully, awfully close.

It was so close, in fact, that anyone who adamantly says "He was in" is just saying that to say it.

The call on the field was a touchdown, so now the officials had to decide if there was enough evidence in place to overturn the call. Even though it looked like his right foot might have hit the sideline before the ball touched the plane of the goal-line, there was no change in the call. Touchdown Chiefs -- game over.

It was really, really close. Personally, I thought he was out of bounds shy of the goal-line. But I'm not the guy making the call.

At that point, it was all over but the shouting. Now, the 49'ers suddenly had to get the bit between their teeth and do something magical in the last two and a half minutes. And that just wasn't going to happen. Jimmy Garoppolo might very well turn out to be an excellent quarterback someday, but that moment, in Super Bowl 54, was far too big for him. Montana? Sure. Young? Sure. Garoppolo. Not a chance.

K.C. tacked on a touchdown to make it 31-20 and Andy Reid had his Super Bowl, finally. And despite a ragged first 52 minutes, Patrick Mahomes came up big when it mattered most. The MVP award he won probably should have gone to Damien Williams (or even San Fran's Deebo Samuel, who was a wrecking ball all night), but the quarterback always gets the nod in moments like those.

The Chiefs and 49'ers gave us a memorable Super Bowl, even if the action didn't really heat up until late in the game.

In the end, the right team won.

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DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.

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2:30 p.m., Super Bowl Sunday

People want to know how Ravens’ fans are feeling about the Super Bowl, considering their team was the best in the NFL this season and didn’t get there. Personally…I’m just rooting for a good game, as opposed to last year’s slog.

I’m over the Ravens. That Titans’ debacle was 23 days ago, but it might as well have been 123 days ago. Conference championship weekend was disappointing, and downright depressing. But now this feels a lot like any other Super Bowl in which the Ravens haven’t played, which is 22 of the 24 since the beginning of the franchise.

The 2019 season was a dream. As mentioned here time and again since September, the Ravens accomplished things statistically that rank among the best seasons in the history of the NFL. As a matter of wins and losses, the 2019 Ravens are one of a very small percentage of teams to have won 14 games—only the 2007 Patriots and six 15-1 teams won more.

The Ravens will enter the 2020 season having won 12 consecutive regular-season games. I’m not predicting another 11 in a row to tie the top number of 23, set by Peyton Manning and the Colts in 2008 and 2009, but it’ll be fun to see how long they can keep it going. Perhaps it will be best if the Chiefs aren’t on the schedule until later in the year.

Lamar Jackson said that he sat in his room for two days after the loss to the Titans…and understandably. If some of us did the same thing, imagine how he was feeling, whether any of it was really his “fault” or not. But did you see him at the Pro Bowl, and check out his enthusiasm (and outfit) when winning the MVP award at the NFL honors ceremony?

He’s ready to go play again. Unfortunately, it’s not in the Super Bowl. But September’s only seven months away!

5:00 p.m., Super Bowl Sunday

I don’t watch as much golf as some of you guys, but it’s really odd to listen to a CBS golf broadcast and not hear the voices of Peter Kostis and Gary McCord. Honestly, it’s still odd for me to hear CBS golf without David Feherty, who left for NBC a few years back now.

With FOX owning the Super Bowl rights this year, CBS was left with airing golf up until about 6:15 pm, where Webb Simpson won in a playoff over Tony Finau.

The Phoenix Open — excuse me, the Waste Management Phoenix Open — concludes on Super Bowl Sunday every year. It’s even finished on Super Bowl Sunday the last two times the game has been played in Phoenix—in 2015, when the Patriots held on to beat the Seahawks, and in 2008, when the New York Giants pulled off one of the great upsets of all-time in keeping the Patriots from a perfect 19-0 finish.

Under the present PGA Tour contract, the tournament is a CBS tournament, except when CBS is televising the Super Bowl once every three years as part of the NFL television contract. In that case, the golf tournament has been televised by NBC, and the Honda Classic in Florida, usually an NBC broadcast, is instead shown by CBS.

Got all that?

Here’s something else. Continuing the order from the NFL contract, next year would have been NBC’s year to televise the Super Bowl, with the year after that going to CBS. This past March, however, the networks agreed to switch years, because CBS didn’t want to compete with NBC’s broadcast of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Now NBC will just be competing with itself, as Super Bowl LVI is on February 6 and the Olympics officially begin on February 4.

Got all that?

Anyway, back to the Phoenix Open, it’s really cool that the PGA Tour decided to place the pin on the famous par-three 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale 24 paces from the front and 8 from the left of the green to honor the late Kobe Bryant, and equally cool that some of the players took to wearing his jersey when playing the hole.

7:30 p.m., Super Bowl Sunday

Somewhere in a hypothetical fantasy world, Ravens’ fans would have been on Twitter urging John Harbaugh to kick the field goal on 4th-and-1 on the 49ers’ 5-yard-line late in the first quarter, in order to “keep the momentum” going and tie the game, as opposed to “losing the momentum” by failing.

So, for the final time this season, I’ll give you something that’s not even my opinion as much as it’s common sense. In the first quarter, losing 3-0, with 4th-and-1 on the 5-yard line, an NFL team should keep its offense on the field 100 percent of the time.

Equally as much common sense…with 4th-and-1 on the 19-yard-line early in the second quarter, ahead 7-3, an NFL team should also keep its offense on the field 100 percent of the time.

Anyway, a football game can always surprise you, especially one that comes after an extra week of preparation for both teams. The Chiefs, for instance, called a run on 11 of their first 25 plays, which must feel like an anathema to Andy Reid. Meanwhile, the power-running, traditional-type 49ers twice ran trick plays with wide receiver Deebo Samuel, one of which went for 32 yards and another which was meant to be a pass.

Despite all the things you might like to change about the NFL, especially the rules and officiating, it’s never been more fun to watch NFL teams play. For years, college teams have listed their offensive systems as “multiple,” which was always kind of a joke. These days, however, professional teams have so many ways to gain yardage in big chunks. It’s not always about a traditional pocket passer making his reads. In other news, this one’s already a much better game than last year’s stinker. These teams are both so…um…multiple. We’ve got one of those teams here in Baltimore as well. Which reminds me…seeing Hard Rock Stadium does kind of remind me of that 59-10 thrashing of the Dolphins in Week 1, so maybe I’m a little bit annoyed, despite what I said before. 10:00 p.m., Super Bowl Sunday Patrick Mahomes did not have a good second half, to state the obvious. He did things bad quarterbacks do, like not seeing a linebacker standing directly in front of what he thought was an open receiver and consistently throwing the ball behind and at the feet of his receivers. He’s always in motion, maybe more than most quarterbacks in the pocket, but he seemed a bit panicky overall.

Until, of course, the play that made all the difference, the long pass to Tyreek Hill on a 3rd-and-15 play right after another terrible pass to Hill that was originally called a completion, only to be rightly changed after replay review.

I thought back to the 2018 season in Kansas City, when the Ravens were going to beat the Chiefs until Mahomes made a ridiculous play on a 4th-and-9 with under two minutes left in regulation. You could argue that San Francisco played better than Kansas City for most of Super Bowl LIV. At the very least, they played much like they had the whole year, while making the Chiefs look mediocre.

And then, Mahomes and Kansas City did the same thing they did in all three of their playoff games. Looking back, has any team played three games in a row like that? And in the playoffs, for good measure.

Kansas City was losing 24-0 to Houston. In a flash, they led 28-24 at halftime. By the end of the game, they’d dropped 50 on the Texans. It was an astonishing game, one only the Chiefs could have won. The Chiefs twice trailed the Titans by 10 points. In a flash, a 10-point deficit turned into a halftime lead. In a game that was still tight in the fourth quarter, a four-point lead turned into an 18-point lead quickly.

And then Mahomes and the Chiefs trailed the league’s best defensive team by 10 points in the fourth quarter and came back to win.

We had an epic playoff run a few years ago around here, but this one was pretty good too.


soccer: youngsters shine in u.s. win

The US came out with a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in Carson, CA on Saturday in an international "friendly".

While not a dominant performance, the US did what they needed to do to win the game and were never put on their toes by Costa Rica. The US lineup was a mix of first teamers from MLS and newcomers from the U23 and U20 teams. They faced a Costa Rica team that was nearly full strength, minus a few European stars like GK Keylor Navas.

The two standout players for the US were Ulysses Llanez and Reggie Cannon. Llanez started on the left wing and consistently threatened the Costa Rican defense with his skill and pace. The 18 year old was the youngest player on the field but looked completely comfortable in international competition. When he was surprisingly called upon to take the penalty kick he calmly dispatched it in the corner. For a player who has yet to play a first team minute for his club he showed he belongs and likely raised his stock for both club and country.

Reggie Cannon provided an offensive boost and held down his defensive responsibilities along the right side. His overlapping run drew the penalty for the US goal and he also popped up for key stops on defense.

The right back spot is one of the deepest positions on the team with Sergino Dest at Ajax and Deandre Yedlin at Newcastle in the Premier League, but Cannon’s performances in the US shirt have made the case for him to be included in the starting XI, perhaps with Dest moving to left back.

The rest of the US team was solid on the night without standing out. Paul Arriola perhaps best encapsulates the current state of the team. He showed both his good and bad qualities. His hard work and resourcefulness helped earn the penalty that the US converted for the only goal.

However, they may have had several more if Arriola had a higher quality finishing touch, as he missed several good chances to add another goal. Arriola is a fine player who can help the US qualify against CONCACAF competition, but if this team wants to reach the next level they need players such as Llanez and Gio Reyna (18 year old who subbed on for the third straight game for Borussia Dortmund today) to reach their full potential and replace the Arriolas on the team.

This victory will go down as a success for the US and this January camp. Berhalter saw the team play with poise and integrate some young players who could be key in Olympic qualifying and the next round of World Cup qualifying. Due to the restraints on the roster during this camp it’s hard to give a full grade to the performance.

The US will face its first real tests of the year in March when it has the full team available for friendlies against Netherland and Wales. Those games will give a true glimpse at the tactics and lineup Berhalter intends to use going into the Nations League Semifinals and World Cup qualifying.

About the contributor: Randy Morgan was born and raised in the Baltimore area graduating from Dulaney HS and then University of Maryland. His day job is software development. He's an avid sports watcher and recreational participant. A devoted Ravens, Orioles and U.S. soccer supporter. he also follows many soccer leagues around the world as well as the NBA and college basketball. Randy played soccer, basketball, and baseball growing up and still plays soccer and basketball recreationally as well as the occasional round of golf. His commentary on mostly sports, but sometimes music and other miscellany can be found on twitter @jrmorgan16.

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February 2
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it's only "super" when your team is in it

You might have heard, they're playing a big football game tonight at 6:30 pm in Miami.

I'm going to watch it, like the rest of you, but I couldn't really care less who wins. If you pressed me to pick a team, I'd be rooting for Kansas City, mainly because of Andy Reid. But if San Francisco winds up winning, I'll sleep the same as I would if the Chiefs come out on top.

I can't help but feel this Super Bowl malaise I'm experiencing is connected to the Ravens sudden departure from the post-season. We lost to the Titans, remember. They were 9-7 in the regular season and just lucky to make the post-season in the first place. And we couldn't beat them when the chips were down.

Can Andy Reid finally capture that elusive Super Bowl title and earn his way into Canton in the process?

It's been a tough three weeks. I'll be watching tonight's game and thinking about how fortunate those folks are in Kansas City and San Francisco who have been planning for this event for the last fourteen days.

Just when I start to really get aggravated, again, I remind myself that football fans in Detroit, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Houston have never felt the euphoria of watching their team play in a Super Bow. Not one. Never. I know the Bills are 0-4, but at least they played in four of them. The Lions, Browns, Jaguars and Oilers/Texans have never made a Super Bowl.

And when you think of that, it does tend to lessen the impact of losing at home to the lowly Titans when all we needed was a win to host the AFC championship game.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, the awards won by the Ravens last night do nothing at all for me. Lamar was the MVP. That's great. Harbs was the Coach of the Year. Nice.

But neither of those honors comes anywhere close to being as important as beating the Titans and Chiefs and making it to the Super Bowl. They're wonderful honors for the two individuals, naturally, and both will make more money someday soon in part because of those accolades, but I personally couldn't care less about them.

You can tell...I'm still a little bitter.

Perhaps the only real saving grace about tonight's game is the fact that it doesn't include New England. Can you imagine having to sit through another 4-hour Brady/Belichick love fest? Holy cow.

I also have little to no interest in the halftime show, but that's more because I'm an old man than anything else. I respect the work of Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, but it's just not my thing. If I'm watching at halftime, it's only because I'm too full from taco salad to get up and do something else during those 20 minutes.

The commercials will be the most interesting sidestory to the whole broadcast, and I admit to being one of those people who "rates" them. It's amazing to me that folks will spend upwards of $6 million to try and reach 100 million viewers and 30 seconds will go by and we'll say, "What was their message supposed to be?" If you're selling a car, show us the car, say something important about it, and make us remember the car. Sounds easy enough, but the folks designing the ads make it incredibly more complicated than that for some weird reason.

Other than the commercials, the other "interesting" things about the game are those that we can, in no way, predict might happen. Like, for example, the lights going out for 25 minutes in New Orleans back in 2013. Or one of the musical guests accidentally showing a body part we shouldn't be seeing on national television at 8:30 pm.

When your team isn't playing in the game, these are the things that capture your interest!

And because I have no reason at all to really be interested in tonight's contest, I came up with ten prop bets I'd be willing to wager if I could find someone to take my money. It would also help if I actually had the money to wager with, which I don't. But just like it's perfectly fine to sit back and dream about your team being in the game, it's also fine to dream about big wagers, too.

So, here we go.

I'd bet $1,000 each on these prop wagers.

Will someone other than either of the two starting quarterbacks throw a pass in the game? -- "Yes"

Will there be a turnover of some kind in the first quarter? -- "No"

Will a player from the winning team drop an audible f-bomb during the post-game celebration? -- "Yes"

Will play-by-play man Joe Buck mention Tom Brady's name during the broadcast? -- "Yes"

Will there be a missed field goal during the game? -- "No"

Will the winning team reach 20 points before the losing team reaches 14 points?" -- "Yes"

Will there be a touchdown pass of more than 39 yards? -- "No"

Will either team attempt a fake punt and/or onside kick? -- "No"

Will a call on the field -- of any kind -- be reversed by instant replay? -- "No"

Will there be more penalties than scoring plays? -- "No"

Oh, right, the game itself. Who wins?

I've been wishy-washy on this one for two weeks, as most of America seemingly is if you've paid attention to the wagering line. Everyone seems to think it's going to be a tight one.

I liked San Francisco for a while, but I think I've come to my senses now. I don't think the Chiefs offense can be stymied. The 49'ers have an excellent defense, of course. But I don't see how they're going to contain Mahomes and his plethora of offensive options. If the San Fran offense was a lot better, I think we'd be in for an old fashioned shootout. But it seems to me that Kansas City's "just OK" defense has a better chance of slowing down San Francisco's "just OK" offense.

I'm going with the Chiefs in a little bit of a blowout. I know what they say about defense and how it travels and how it wins championships, but I don't see K.C.'s offense coming up short tonight.

Kansas City 33 -- San Francisco 20

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we're heading to new york!

We have 14 people signed up for this trip so far!!! It's going to be a blast!

Maybe the O's aren't going to be all that good in 2020. We know that going in. But what you might not know is how much fun a #DMD road trip can be in the summer! And what better place to visit and take in a couple of games than New York?

Join us in NY on June 23-24 to see Trey Mancini and the O's take on the Yankees.

We're going to the Big Apple to support our Birds, June 23 and 24. And we've love to have a bunch of O's fans join us in the Bronx for a couple of days in New York and two baseball games.

We'll leave on Tuesday, June 23 around noon and check in at our Manhattan hotel sometime around 4 pm. The game that night is at 7:05 pm. We'll have upper deck seats for that, with unlimited food and drinks for everyone in our group.

The next night, June 24, we'll have a pre-game bullpen party and awesome left field seats close to the field.

Once the game's over, we'll head back home, arriving in Baltimore after midnight.

If you're interested in going on the trip, send me a quick email so I can start building the trip list:

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February 1
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saturday stuff

I'll be heading over to Towson University today to see the men's basketball team take on College of Charleston at 2 pm. The Tigers have won 7 straight games after starting conference play at 0-3.

College of Charleston also comes into today's game at 7-3.

Might this finally be the year the Tigers work their way through the CAA tournament and give Towson its first NCAA March Madness appearance since 1991? In a year where there are a lot of "good" teams in the CAA but no outright dominating squads, Towson might very well be a legit contender for that mid-March trip somewhere.

William and Mary leads the CAA at 8-2, but Towson just beat them in their own building down in Williamsburg. Towson, Hofstra and the College of Charleston are next at 7-3.

Editor's note: For the Flyers fans out there, "William and Mary" is one school, not two separate schools.

Pat Skerry is one of the area's best "sports people". Yes, sure, I'm saying that because I know him, but ask anyone who has worked with him during his nine seasons in Baltimore. He's a good man.

After inheriting a bag of pillows in 2011-2012 and going 1-31, Skerry's record since then is 21 games above .500. An injury riddled campaign last year was Towson's first losing season in five years.

UMBC had their run-in-the-sun two years ago and it was awesome. I was on the air back in the days when four area schools -- UMBC, Loyola Morgan State and Coppin State -- all made it to the NCAA tournament by virtue of winning their conference tournament. I haven't seen Towson play in the NCAA tournament (no, I wasn't watching back in '89-90 and '90-91). It would be cool to see Skerry and the Tigers win the CAA this season.

They have themselves a weekend shootout at the Phoenix Open on the PGA Tour, with five players already in double figures through 36 holes, including the midway leader, J.B. Holmes, who is 13-under par.

One guy who won't be playing on the weekend is Jordan Spieth, who has fallen to 51st in the world rankings and is danger of costing himself exemptions into two significant upcoming World Golf Championships events.

Jordan Spieth continues to struggle on the PGA Tour and he's now moved outside of the Top 50 in the world rankings.

Spieth posted a 3-over round of 74 on Thursday, then rebounded with a 2-under 69 on Friday, but his +1 total for 36 holes left him outside of the 1-under par cut line.

The 3-time major champion -- with $40 million in career on-course earnings -- hasn't won a PGA Tour event since the British Open in July of 2017. Someone named Adam Long has won more golf tournaments than Jordan Spieth over the last three years. So, there you go.

Unless something completely crazy happens, like winning a major championship and/or at least two or three other events this spring/summer, Spieth will not make the Ryder Cup team this Fall and would have to rely on a captain's pick from Steve Stricker to make the team. It seems almost unthinkable that Spieth might potentially miss back-to-back American teams because of poor play, but that's what it's looking like right now.

What's happened to him? Well, his golf swing has never been all that great in the first place. Useful? Sure. You don't win like he's won without having a useful golf swing. But he was never long off the tee and once this new group of big bombers came along and started having wedges into 75% of the par 4's and 5's, Spieth wasn't able to keep up with them. That put some pressure on the former Masters champ to try and find some extra distance and swing problems started creeping in.

Funny enough, though, some of the swing changes have actually yielded some fairly positive results over the last six months. But the numbers and the cuts made aren't showing it yet. Spieth's biggest current issue is his putting. He hit 16 of 18 greens in Friday's round at the Phoenix Open but shot just 2-under par. A handful of costly three putts over the first two days kept him from playing on the weekend. Spieth and "putting issues" were words you'd rarely ever see in the same sentence before the last couple of years.

American golf is in fine hands these days, what with the career resurgence of Tiger, the awesome 3-year run of Brooks Koepka and the emergence of Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff, just to name a few.

But it doesn't feel the same without Spieth being involved. Truth of the matter, long before someone coined Patrick Reed "Captain America", Spieth was the guy that American golf could rally around. His swing wasn't perfect, his on-course temperature occasionally ran hot, and he was a guy who had a flair for making the big shot at just right the time. No one -- at least not in this generation of golfers -- will ever be "the next Tiger", but Spieth was on his way to being the most visible and perhaps dominating American golfer of his time.

And he hasn't been heard from in almost three years now.

Let's hope that changes soon. He deserves it and so do we.

Alex Ovechkin scored two goals for the Caps in their 5-3 win at Ottawa last night and in the process, moved past Mark Messier into 8th on the NHL's all-time goal scoring list with 695.

But Ovechkin has sights on far more than passing Messier, and next, Mike Gartner on the scoring list. Ovi is gunning for Wayne Gretzky and his 894 career tallies, the most in league history.

Ovechkin needs 200 more tallies to pass The Great One on the scoring list. The 34-year old now has 37 goals on the season as the Caps continue to own the top record in the entire National Hockey League.

200 more goals? Can it be done?

The key, as it usually is with older athletes, is health. People keep asking if Tiger Woods can win more majors. Sure he can, if he stays healthy. People wonder if Roger Federer can win another Grand Slam singles title or two. Sure, if he stays healthy. One of the reasons why Tom Brady continues to enjoy a prolonged NFL career is because of his health, with only one major knee injury in his almost two-decade career.

If Ovechkin can stay healthy and play into his late 30's, he can chip away at Gretzky's mark and eventually catch him. He'll score at least 15 more goals this season, I'd suspect. That will give him 52 for the season and he'll be at 710 heading into 2020-2021.

Let's pretend he "dips" a tad next year and only scores 40 for whatever reason. That's 750.

If he enters the 2021-2022 campaign with 750, he'll only need 145 more goals to surpass Gretzky. That's a lot of goals, obviously, but if Ovi can chip away at it with four more seasons of 35-40 goals, he'll get there.

The only qualifier to all of this is age and health. And, yes, it seems likely that when Father Time finally catches up to Ovechkin, he'll do so with a hard knock on the door, not a timid touch of the doorbell. In other words, you'll know it's over if Ovi posts a 27 goal season sometime in the next two or three years.

It's almost a given that Ovi will pass everyone else on the list and eventually settle in at #2 on the list. He'll need to score 802 goals to pass the great Gordie Howe for that 2nd spot.

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soccer: u.s. men play costa rica tonight

The US Men’s soccer team plays their first game of 2020 on Saturday night against Costa Rica. This game is a friendly that concludes their annual January camp.

This period has generally been used by US coaches to evaluate new players and experiment with new tactics. Since the camp and the game do not fall within a FIFA sanctioned window, many of the regular first team players are not available. All players in European leagues are currently in-season, so there is no Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, etc, available for this game. Instead, the roster features a mix of MLS veterans, under 23 players eligible for the Olympics, and a few under 20 players with big potential.

Gregg Berhalter and the American team start preparing for their World Cup qualifying schedule with a friendly tonight vs. Costa Rica.

Gregg Berhalter will use this game to build some cohesion among the under 23 players who will be key in Olympic qualifying this Spring and to give a few younger players a chance to get acquainted with the system and international competition. The veteran MLS players have been brought in to stay sharp and serve as mentors for the younger core. Berhalter will not stress much over the result of this friendly with Costa Rica. He will be more interested in seeing his system executed successfully and evaluating the potential of the new faces on the roster.

Here’s a look at tonight's roster:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)

DEFENDERS (8): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Chase Gasper (Minnesota United FC), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union), Christian Cappis (Hobro/DEN), Bryang Kayo (Unattached), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Brandon Servania (FC Dallas), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)

FORWARDS (5): Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), Ulysses Llanez (Wolfsburg/GER), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC)

Notes: There are a few players who can seize this opportunity in the spotlight with many regular starters missing and enhance their profile with the team. Jackson Yueill is the top player to watch. He is in competition with Michael Bradley and Tyler Adams for the starting defensive midfield spot on the full first team. He’s the favorite to be the starter at that position for Olympic qualifying as well (Adams will likely not be released by his club). This is a great chance for Yueill to shine and instill confidence in his coach and teammates that he is up to the task of filling this key role in Berhalter’s system.

Brandon Servania is another player to watch. The box-to-box midfielder had a good showing for the U20 team last summer and followed that up by gradually integrating himself into the FC Dallas starting XI. He could position himself as an Olympic starter with a solid game on Saturday.

Two final players who could turn heads are Jesus Ferreira and Ulysses Llanez. Ferreira had a good 2019 season as a young player at FC Dallas bouncing between Striker and Attacking Midfield. He just recently gained his US citizenship and could provide depth in the attack for the first team and be a top option for the Olympic team. Llanez is one of the youngest players on this roster and will be eligible for the U20 team in the next cycle. He is a quick and technical winger who possesses skills that are in limited supply in the US player pool. He has impressed for the Wolfsburg (Germany) youth team this season and could raise his stock further with both club and country with a good performance.

About the contributor: Randy Morgan was born and raised in the Baltimore area graduating from Dulaney HS and then University of Maryland. His day job is software development. He's an avid sports watcher and recreational participant. A devoted Ravens, Orioles and U.S. soccer supporter. he also follows many soccer leagues around the world as well as the NBA and college basketball. Randy played soccer, basketball, and baseball growing up and still plays soccer and basketball recreationally as well as the occasional round of golf. His commentary on mostly sports, but sometimes music and other miscellany can be found on twitter @jrmorgan16.