The Sports Report: U.S. has to settle for a draw in World Cup opener
Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.
From Kevin Baxter: The enduring image of the national team’s failure to qualify for the last World Cup was of Christian Pulisic, his uniform stained with grass and dirt, squatting in the middle of the field with his head in his hand in frustration. As a result, getting the U.S. to Qatar this fall probably meant more to Pulisic than any other player.
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“He’s one of the people that really felt the heartbreak back in 2017,” goalkeeper Matt Turner said.
In a World Cup debut Monday that was delayed four years, Pulisic put in a heroic effort only to be frustrated yet again when a late penalty-kick goal allowed Wales to steal two points with a 1-1 draw.
“A little disappointed with how the game played out,” said defender Walker Zimmerman, whose foul in the box led to Gareth Bale‘s goal in the 82nd minute. “Being in a position with less than 15 minutes left to walk away with three points, it feels like we could have deserved a little bit more.”
And no one deserved a better result more than Pulisic, whose perfectly weighted pass freed Tim Weah for the lone U.S. goal in the 36th minute.
Playing against a Welsh team that was more physical than finesse, Pulisic was pummeled, punished and pounded. But he would not be put down.
He was bumped, bruised and battered. But he would not be beaten.
Tied, yes, but not beaten. That still leaves the U.S. with considerable control of its fate with group-play games against England and Iran ahead.
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From Andrew Greif: Two days after the Clippers played what their coach, Tyronn Lue, described as their finest basketball of an up-and-down season, players sat in folding chairs Monday morning inside their practice facility to rewatch what Lue had also deemed their “blueprint” for offensive success.
To drill home the point, a whiteboard in front of the assembled chairs listed the season-high marks from Saturday’s blowout victory against the Spurs: Passes, ball reversals, assist opportunity rate, effective field goal percentage.
The numbers – particularly their 329 passes, as tracked by Second Spectrum, a stark contrast to their fourth-from-the-bottom season average of 262 – backed up with data the litmus test Lue has often referenced as simply playing the “right way.”
What happened hours later Monday evening during a 121-114 win against Utah in Crypto.com Arena offered a reminder of why there is a premium on continuing to do so, as the Clippers improved to 11-7, only half a game behind Utah’s West-leading record.
In a first half that produced numbers worthy of Lue’s whiteboard, the Clippers scored 10 unanswered late in the a first quarter capped with backup point guard John Wall’s 41-foot heave that swished through the net. Wall celebrated a 10-point lead by strumming an imaginary guitar, and he was just getting started. Wall, who came off the bench to replace Kawhi Leonard, kept himself and the ball moving at a breakneck speed. Lue set a goal of 20 transition points – Wall helped them score 17 in the first half alone, the kind of easy points the Clippers must generate with George, one of their top shot creators, unavailable.
“Making the right play in transition, which was big for us,” he said.
From Gary Klein: Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is still being evaluated for a concussion, coach Sean McVay said Monday.
Stafford, 34, started a 27-20 loss to the Saints on Sunday in New Orleans but left the game in the second half after he was sacked and evaluated for a concussion in the sideline medical tent.
It was the second time in three weeks that Stafford was evaluated for a concussion during or after a game. On Nov. 8, two days after a loss at Tampa Bay, Stafford was put in the NFL concussion protocol. He sat out a Nov. 13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals but was cleared from the protocol Friday.
From Jeff Miller: They led Kansas City by as many as seven points and by four points five different times and still led — 27-23 — in the game’s final minute.
They led San Francisco from early in the first quarter until midway through the fourth quarter and still had a chance in the final minutes until their last three possessions ended with a three-and-out, a four-and-out and an interception.
All those opportunities — and two crucial games — were lost for the Chargers over the last two Sunday nights, their season suddenly edging toward a breaking point with the arrival of Thanksgiving week.
“We played two really tough games in a row in prime time against two really quality teams,” coach Brandon Staley said Monday. “I feel like our level [of play] has been high. I think we know exactly where we stand right now in terms of the context of the NFL landscape.”
On the outside is where the Chargers stand, at 5-5 and ninth in the AFC, one game behind New England, Cincinnati and the New York Jets. The top seven teams in each conference advance to the postseason.
From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: Freshman Kiki Rice led UCLA to a 66-58 overtime win over Marquette on Monday in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
Rice had a career-high 18 points and seven rebounds, with grad transfer Gina Conti notching 16 points. Leading scorer Charisma Osborne had nine points — her first single-digit scoring game of the season — but added a season-high six assists as the Bruins (6-0) slogged through their third game in as many days.
After starting the tournament with a 72-65 win against South Dakota State on Saturday to avenge a season-ending loss in the WNIT last year, UCLA took down then-No. 11 Tennessee in the semifinal on Sunday behind a historic three-point effort. The Bruins poured in 16 three-pointers on 30 attempts, trying a single-game record in makes.
The Bruins jumped into the Associated Press top 25 during the game for the first time since Nov. 28.
Justin Faulk had a power-play goal late in the third period and the St. Louis Blues extended their winning streak to seven games with a 3-1 win over the Ducks on Monday night
Faulk’s goal snapped a 1-all tie with 4:13 left in the game. The Blues’ winning streak is the longest in NHL history for a team immediately following a losing streak of eight games or more in regulation play.
THIS DATE IN SPORTS
1945 — Jim Benton of the Cleveland Rams is the first NFL player to have more than 300 receiving yards in a game. Benton has 10 receptions for 303 yards and a touchdown in a 28-21 victory over the Detroit Lions.
1950 — The Fort Wayne Pistons edge the Minneapolis Lakers 19-18 in the lowest-scoring game in NBA history. John Oldham leads the Pistons with five points and George Mikan had 15 of the Lakers’ points.
1959 — The AFL holds their first player draft. First round choices are Boston, Gerhard Schwedes; Buffalo, Richie Lucas; Dallas, Don Meredith; Denver, Roger LeClerc; Houston, Billy Cannon; Los Angeles, Monty Stickles; Minneapolis, Dale Hackbart; New York, George Izo.
1965 — Muhammad Ali knocks out Floyd Patterson in the 12th round to retain the world heavyweight title in Las Vegas.
1981 — Kellen Winslow of the San Diego Chargers catches five touchdown passes in a 55-21 rout of the Oakland Raiders.
1986 — Mike Tyson becomes the youngest heavyweight champion ever when he knocks out Trevor Berbick in the second round to win the WBC heavyweight title in Las Vegas.
1986 — Wayne Gretzky, playing in his 575th NHL game, scores his 500th goal in the Edmonton Oilers’ 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
1992 — North Carolina wins its seventh straight Division I women’s soccer title with a 9-1 win over Duke. The Tar Heels also set the record for most goals in a championship game.
1998 — John Elway of the Denver Broncos joins Dan Marino as the only players with 50,000 yards as the Broncos post a 40-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
2003 — The Montreal Canadiens beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3, in the NHL’s first outdoor game. The game marking the 86th anniversary of the founding of the league is played in front of a record crowd of 57,167 at a football arena in Edmonton.
2003 — Utah ends BYU’s NCAA-record streak of 361 consecutive games without being shutout when the Utes beat the Cougars 3-0 in Provo, Utah. Wind and snow limits both offenses. Bryan Borreson’s 41-yard field goal is the all the 9-2 Utes need to clinch the Mountain West conference title. The Cougars had scored in every game dating back to Oct. 3, 1975.
2006 — Teemu Selanne scores his 500th career goal in Anaheim’s 3-2 loss to Colorado. Selanne, the 36th player in NHL history to reach the milestone, joins Jari Kurri as the only Finnish-born NHL players to score 500 goals.
2008 — Abilene Christian sets a record for points in an NCAA playoff game, beating West Texas A&M 93-68 in the second round of the Division II playoffs.
2010 — Alex Kovalev records his 1,000th point with a power-play goal midway through the first period of Ottawa’s game against Los Angeles.
2012 — New England embarrasses the New York Jets with a 35-point second quarter in a 49-19 victory to give and Bill Belichick his 200th NFL victory. Belichick is the eighth coach in NFL history with 200 career victories, including the playoffs.
2014 — Samaje Perine of Oklahoma sets the single-game FBS record by rushing for 427 yards in the Sooners’ 44-7 in over Kansas. Perine breaks the single-game FBS record of 408 set by Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon a week earlier.
2015 — Novak Djokovic wins his fourth straight title at the season-ending ATP finals by beating six-time champion Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4. Djokovic, who won three Grand Slam titles this year and reached the final in the other, caps the best season of his life.
2020 — Russian Daniil Medvedev wins ATP World Tour Finals tennis title beating Dominic Thiem of Austria 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 in London.
Compiled by the Associated Press
Teemu Selanne scores his 500th goal. Watch and listen here.
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