Friday, April 1, 2016

MLB Predictions

Feel free to send me your predictions to

Lee's Picks

American League
AL East: Toronto Blue Jays
AL West: Houston Astros
AL Central: Cleveland Indians
WC: KC Royals
WC: Baltimore Orioles

AL Champ: Orioles over Jays

National League
NL East: New York Mets
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
NL West: San Francisco Giants
WC: Pittsburgh Pirates
WC: Washington Nationals

NL Champ: Cubs over Giants

Cubs over Cubs over Astros

AL MVP: Manny Machado
NL MVP: Bryce Harper

AL Cy Young: Corey Kluber
NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom

AL ROY: Byron Buxton
NL ROY: Corey Seager

AL MOY: Buck Showalter
NL MOY: Bruce Bochy

Matt's picks

Division winners:
AL East: Orioles
AL Central: Royals
AL West: Astros
NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cubs
NL West: Giants

AL WC: Blue Jays, Rays
NL WC: Pirates, Cardinals

AL champ: Royals
NL champ: Cubs
World Series winner: Cubs

AL MVP: Machado
NL MVP: Harper

AL Cy Young: Chris Archer
NL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole

AL ROY: Byron Buxton
NL ROY: Corey Seager

Andrew's Picks

AL East: Blue Jays
AL Central: Royals
AL West: Astros
Wild Card: Texas, Baltimore
AL Champ: Astros

NL East: Mets
NL Central: Cubs
NL West: Giants
Wild Card: Dodgers, Nationals
NL Champ: Cubs

World Series: Cubs

AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL MVP: Anthony Rizzo
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
AL ROY: Byron Buxton (pure guess thanks to google)
NL ROY: Corey Seager (pure guess thanks to google)

Lash's Picks


AL EAST-Blue Jays
AL WEST-Rangers

NL WC1-Cardinals
NL WC2- Nationals
AL WC1-Red Sox
AL WC2-Royals

AL CHAMP-Blue Jays

NL MVP-Bryce Harper
AL MVP-Lorenzo Cain

NL CY YOUNG-Zach Greinke
AL CY YOUNG-Chris Sale

NL ROY-Corey Seager
AL ROY-Joey Gallo

Chas' picks

AL East: Toronto
AL Central: Detroit (my sister would kill me if she knew I picked otherwise)
AL West: Texas
WC: Boston
WC: Houston

NL East: New York
NL Central: Chicago
NL West: Los Angeles
WC: Pittsburgh
WC: Washington (Buccos get cuckolded at home for the third year in a row)

AL MVP: Mike "Should be 5 Years in a Row" Trout (and they'll still probably give to to Correa or something dumb)
NL MVP: Bryce Harper

AL CY: David Price
NL CY: Clayton Kershaw

AL ROY: I don't know much about prospects from other teams so I'll say Jose Berrios because I think Buxton stinks

NL ROY: Corey Seager

Zach's Picks

AL: Blue Jays
     Royals            WC: Orioles and Boston

NL: Nationals
     Pirates            WC: Mets and Cubs

AL: Blue Jays vs. Royals (Blue jays beat Boston and Royals beat Houston)

NL: Pirates vs Giants (Pirates beat Mets and Giants beat Nationals)

World Series: Pirates over Blue Jays (in 6)

AL Cy Young: Marcus Strohman
NL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole
MVP: Donaldson and Mccutchen
Rookies: Joey Gallo and Corey Seager
Managers: John Gibbons and Clint Hurdle

Watch out: Marlins will be tough.
             Pirates outfield destroys the league.
             Cards don't have that great of a season (according to their standards).
               Boston makes a run and finishes better than Yankees.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

2015/2016 NBA

2015/2016 NBA Predictions

Lee Kunkel--

Eastern Conference

1. Cleveland 2. Miami 3. Atlanta 4. Washington 5. Toronto 6. Chicago 7. Orlando 8. Milwaukee

Western Conference

1. Oklahoma City 2. Golden State 3. Houston 4. San Antonio 5. LA Clippers 6. New Orleans 7. Memphis 8. Jazz

MVP: Anthony Davis
ROY: Jahlil Okafor

Finals: Oklahoma City over Cleveland

Worst teams: East: Philadelphia, West: Nuggets

Joe Haefner--

East West Division Winner
Cavs Divison Winner Rockets Division Winner Heat Divison Winner Thunder Division Winner Raptors Divison Winner Clippers

Bulls Warriors Wizards Spurs Hawks Pelicans Bucks Memphis Pacers Jazz

MVP Durant

East Heat, West Thunder (healthy)

Finals Thunder

Zach Reichard

1. Golden State
2. Spurs
3. Clippers
4. Thunder
5. Grizzlies
6. Rockets
7. Dallas
8. Lakers

1. Cavs
2. Hawks
3. Toronto
4. Wizards
5. Bulls
7. Bucks
8. Pistons

Cavs vs Hawks

Golden State vs Spurs

Golden State over Hawks!

MVP: Step Curry
ROY: D Russell

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MLB Predictions: 2015

April 1st means only one thing. No not is back! Opening Night is right around the corner, as the new look Cubs take on the raining NL Central reigning champion St. Louis Cardinals. Monday, Opening Day festivities begin across the country as the 2015 season "officially" gets underway.

Last season, I did a pretty good job. I got all six division winners correct! However, I failed to pick any of the four wildcard teams, and whiffed on my Baltimore over Washington World Series pick.

Feel free to send me your picks: Include division winners, wildcards, WS pick. Also MVP Cy Young and Rookie of the year (both leagues for these three).

Time to make some predictions: Without further ado....

American League:

East: Baltimore Orioles
Central: Cleveland Indians
West: Los Angeles Angels
Wildcards: Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox

AL Champ: Baltimore Orioles

National League:

East: Washington Nationals
Central: Pittsburgh Pirates
West: San Diego Padres
Wildcards: Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets

NL Champ: San Diego Padres

World Series: Baltimore Orioles over San Diego Padres

MVP: (AL) Robinson Cano, (NL) Andrew McCutchen
Cy Young: (AL) Felix Hernandez, (NL) Matt Harvey
Rookie of the Year: (AL) Daniel Norris, (NL) Joc Pederson

Reasoning: Let's start in the American League, and why I chose the Orioles to win it all (SURPRISE). The Birds lost some big names, mainly Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, and Andrew Miller. Miller will likely hurt the most, as he is regarded by many as one of the top five relievers in all of baseball. He was lights out in Baltimore after the Orioles acquired him from Boston at the trade deadline. While those losses hurt, a healthy Manny Machado and Matt Wieters are more than enough to offset that missing production. Wieters is a top five catcher, Machado a budding super star and elite defender. Both missed almost all of last season. The Bullpen should be one of the top five in the AL once again.

The rotation will be even better this season, and it was pretty strong last year. Chris Tillman has become an ace, and there is great depth behind him. Baltimore is one of few teams that can survive an injury (or even two) to the pitching staff. Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez, Ubaldo Jimenez (should bounce back, nowhere to go but up?), and Kevin Gausman are all solid. Gausman and prospect Dylan Bundy are two of the better young arms in all of baseball.

Bullpen remains strong, the best manager in baseball --Buck Showalter-- remains in charge, and the Orioles have some nice young pieces to make a trade at the deadline if they need to.

I love the moves Boston made this offseason. The lineup is loaded, and they have a hungry team filled with guys that want to prove last year was simply a one year hangover, and not a sign of things to come. The pitching staff isn't great, but the farm system is stacked. If Boston wants to get Hamels or another high end pitcher, they can. The Yankees are still old, lack starting pitching depth, and are already battling some injuries at key positions. The A-Rod saga will linger on the first few weeks, and that could be something that blows up in the pinstripes face if they lose games early.

The AL Central will be the best race in baseball. The Indians are stacked with pitching and some great players that the casual fan may not know too well just yet. Michael Brantley is a star, and the staff is deep. (I think the Indians will make the ALCS and fall in seven games to the Orioles.) Chicago made some big moves, the Tigers remain strong, the Royals are coming off a run to the World Series. Sheesh. The Twins don't stand much of a chance.

Out West Seattle, LA, and Oakland are pretty even. The addition of Nelson Cruz, along with some really good young players coming through the minors, is the reason I chose Seattle to beat out Oakland for the Wild Card spot. The Angels, led by Mike Trout, still have the deepest lineup, and a very good rotation. But if you were to tell me they come in third, I wouldn't be shocked.

In the NL, a few things may standout. Number one, I'm drinking the Padres Kool-Aid. Kemp, Myers, Upton, Shields, Middlebrooks. What an offseason. The rotation is really good, and should thrive in that stadium. Obviously, the Dodgers are going to pretty damn good, but this is my bold pick. The Padres beat them out by a game. The Giants -who won the whole damn thing last year-- lost a few key pieces including the Panda. Can Matt Cain bounce back? They will need him too, because they feasted on a bad division last year. That won't be the case this year.

Pittsburgh finally gets over the hump that is the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards lack depth in their rotation, and I question the Shelby Miller deal. They have a lot of guys coming of injuries, and their rotation cannot afford to lose anyone for any decent length of time. In Pittsburgh, Gregory Polanco will need to become a reliable everyday player. I think he will, and that gives the Buccos one of the better outfields in all of baseball. McCutchen is my MVP, and a top three player in the game, according to ESPN. The Cubs have a very good young team, but too young to contend just yet.

Expect the Nationals to once again dominate the East. You would be almost crazy to think anything else. The staff is loaded. The lineup is powerful and deep, the bullpen is very good, and the defense is improved (about time they moved Zimmerman to first). They should win the most games in the regular season (I'll say 105). But can they finally get it done in the postseason? Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez is about as good as it gets.

The Mets, who I have stealing the final Wild Card, are going to be an extremely interesting team to follow. Matt Harvey might be the best pitcher in baseball. There are no numbers to back this, and he missed a whole season last year, so no I wouldn't take him over, say Kershaw. But his stuff? Lights out. Will the Mets allow him to pitch enough innings to warrant Cy Young consideration? That's another question. I really like the rest of the rotation too. Michael Cuddyer will hit like .700 at Citi Field with that massive outfield. The Mets will battle the Marlins for second place and that last wildcard, and pitching depth is the reason I'm picking them. The Braves will be a pest, but I can't see them breaking into the top three. The Phillies will be atrocious.

Matt Heiland: 

American League:

East: Baltimore
Central: Chicago
West: Seattle
Wildcards: Cleveland, Toronto

AL Champ: Baltimore

National League:

East: Washington
Central: St. Louis
West: LA Dodgers
Wildcards: Pittsburgh, Miami

NL Champ: Washington

World Series: Baltimore over Washington

MVP: (AL) Mike Trout, (NL) Giancarlo Stanton
Cy Young: (AL) Chris Sale, (NL) Clayton Kershaw
Rookie of the Year: (AL) Rusney Castillo, (NL) Joc Pederson

Ethan Woy: 

American League:

East: Baltimore Orioles
Central: Cleveland Indians
West: Los Angeles Angels
Wildcards: Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox

AL Champ: Angels

National League:

East: Washington
Central: St. Louis
West: LA Dodgers
Wildcards: Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins

NL Champ: Dodgers

World Series: Dodgers over Angels

MVP: (AL) Trout, (NL) Harper
Cy Young: (AL) Hernandez, (NL) Kershaw
Rookie of the Year: (AL) Carlos Rodon, (NL) Kris Bryant

Shae Hess: 


East - Boston Red Sox
Central - Detroit Tigers
West - Oakland Athletics
Wildcards - Kansas City Royals & Seattle Mariners 


East - Washington Nationals
Central - Pittsburgh Pirates
West - LA Dodgers 
Wild Cards - St. Louis Cardinals & San Diego Padres

AL Champ: Boston Red Sox
NL Champ: Washington Nationals 

World Series Champs: Boston Red Sox

AL MVP: Trout
AL CY YOUNG: Hernandez 
AL ROY: Carlos Rodon

NL MVP: Stanton
NL CY YOUNG: Kershaw
NL ROY: Kris Bryant

Andrew Heiland:

American League:
East – Baltimore Orioles
Central – Cleveland Indians      
West – Seattle Mariners
Wildcards – Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels

AL Champ – Baltimore Orioles

National League:
East – Washington Nationals
Central – St. Louis Cardinals
West – Los Angeles Dodgers
Wildcards – Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami Marlins

NL Champ – Los Angeles Dodgers

World Series – Baltimore over LA

MVP: (AL) Trout, (NL) Stanton
Cy Young: (AL) Hernandez, (NL) Kershaw
ROY: (AL) Dalton Pompey, (NL) Joc Pederson

Zach Lash:

AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: White Sox
AL West: Mariners
Wildcard: Tigers, Angels

NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
Wildcard: Padres, Marlins

World Series: Dodgers over Mariners

AL Cy Young: King Felix
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw

AL MVP: Jose Abreu
NL MVP: Yasiel Puig

AL ROY: Micah Johnson
NL ROY: Jorge Soler

Andre Frye:

American League:

East: Toronto
Central: Cleveland
West: Seattle
Wild Cards: Chicago, Baltimore

AL Champ: Chicago

National League:

East: Washington
Central: Pittsburgh
West: Los Angeles

Wild Cards: St. Louis, Miami

NL Champ: Pittsburgh

World Series: Pittsburgh over Chicago

MVP: (AL) Mike Trout, (NL) Andrew McCutchen
Cy Young: (AL) Chris Sale, (NL) Stephen Strasburg
ROY: (AL) Aaron Sanchez, (NL) Kris Bryant
Comeback POY: (AL) Prince Fielder, (NL) Matt Harvey
Manager of the Year: (AL) Lloyd McClendon, (NL) Mike Redmond

Joey Haefner

AL WEST Mariners
WILD CARD 2 Angels

NL EAST Nationals
NL CENTRAL Cardinals
NL WEST Dodgers
WILD CARD 1 Pirates
WILD CARD 2 Padres
WINNER Pirates

Mariners Over Indians
NL DIVISION SERIES Pirates Over Nationals
Cardinals Over Dodgers
Al Championship Series Mariners Over Red Sox
NL Championship Series Pirates Over Cardinals
WORLD SERIES Pirates Over Mariners

AL MVP Mike Trout
NL MVP Andrew McCutchen
AL CY YOUNG King Felix
NL CY YOUNG Gerrit Cole

Thursday, October 30, 2014

2014 NBA Predictions

East Standings (1-8): Cavs, Bulls, Heat, Toronto, Wizards, Pacers, Nets, Knicks

West Standings (1-8): Spurs, Clippers, Thunder, Mavs, Warriors, Blazers, Grizz, Rockets

Worst Record: 76ers, Timberwolves

East Finals: Cavs over Bulls

West Finals: Clippers over Spurs

NBA Finals/ Champion: Clippers over Cavs

MVP: Derick Rose
ROY: Jabari Parker
COY: Tom Thibodeau
Sixth Man: Jamal Crawford
Defensive POY: Dwight Howard
The King has gone home.
Most Improved: Pau Gasol

East Standings (1-8): Cavs, Bulls, Washington, Toronto, Heat, Hornets, Knicks, Nets

West Standings (1-8): Spurs, Golden State, Clippers, OKC, Blazers, Houston, Memphis, Denver

Worst Record: 76ers, Minny

East Finals: Cavs over Washington

West Finals: OKC over Clippers

NBA Finals/ Champion: Oklahoma City over Cavs

MVP: LeBron
ROY: Dante Exum
COY: Thibs
Sixth Man: Crawford
Defensive POY: Anthony Davis
Most Improved: Steven Adams

East Standings (1-8): Bulls, Cavs, Toronto, Washington, Miami, Charlotte, Indy, Atlanta

West Standings (1-8): Clippers, Spurs, Golden State, OKC, Portland, Houston, Phoenix, New Orleans

Worst Record: Sixers (east), Utah (west)
Davis could be the league's next big star.

East Finals: Cavs over Bulls

West Finals: Warriors over the Spurs

NBA Finals/ Champion: Cavs over Warriors

MVP: LeBron James
ROY: Jabari Parker
COY: Steve Kerr
Sixth Man: Isaiah Thomas
Defensive POY: Anthony Davis
Most Improved: Jimmy Butler

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

NFL Predictions

DJ’s picks….


East: Patriots - Dolphins - Jets - Bills
North: Bengals - Ravens - Steelers - Browns
South: Colts - Titans - Texans - Jags
West: Broncos - Chargers - Chiefs - Raiders

Playoffs: 1. Pats 2. Broncos 3. Colts 4. Steelers 5. Chargers 6. Dolphins

AFC Champion: New England Patriots


East: Eagles - Redskins - Cowboys - Giants
North: Packers - Vikings - Bears - Lions
South: New Orleans - Panthers - Bucs  - Falcons
West: Seahawks - 49ers - Rams - Cardinals

Playoffs: 1. New Orleans 2. Packers 3. Seattle 4. Eagles 5. 49ers 6. Panthers

NFC Champion: New Orleans Saints

Super Bowl Champion: New England Patriots over New Orleans Saints


NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Offensive POY: Jimmy Graham
Defensive POY: Darrelle Revis
Offensive ROY: Mike Evans
Defensive ROY: Jadeveon Clowney
Coach of the Year: Sean Payton

Lee’s picks….


East: Patriots - Dolphins - Jets - Bills
North: Bengals - Ravens - Steelers - Browns (PLAY JOHNNY)
South: Colts - Titans - Texans - Jags
West: Broncos - Chargers - Chiefs - Raiders

Playoffs: 1. Broncos 2. Bengals 3. Pats 4. Colts 5. Dolphins 6. Chargers

AFC Champion: Cincinnati Bengals


East: Eagles - Redskins - Cowboys - Giants
North: Packers - Vikings - Bears - Lions
South: New Orleans - Bucs - Panthers - Falcons
West: Seahawks - 49ers - Rams - Cardinals

Playoffs: 1. Seahawks 2. Packers 3. New Orleans 4. Eagles 5. Bucs 6. 49ers

NFC Champion: Seattle Seahawks

Super Bowl Champion: Seattle Seahawks over Cincinnati Bengals


NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Offensive POY: Jimmy Graham
Defensive POY: Gerald McCoy
Offensive ROY: Mike Evans
Defensive ROY: Jadeveon Clowney
Coach of the Year: Chip Kelly

Andrew’s Picks


East: Patriots - Jets - Dolphins - Bills
North: Bengals - Ravens - Steelers - Browns
South: Colts - Texans - Titans - Jags
West: Broncos - Chargers - Chiefs - Raiders

Playoffs: 1. Broncos 2. Patriots 3. Colts 4. Bengals 5. Chargers 6. Jets

AFC Champion: New England Patriots


East: Eagles - Redskins - Cowboys - Giants
North: Packers - Bears - Vikings - Lions
South: New Orleans - Panthers - Bucs - Falcons
West: Seahawks - 49ers - Cardinals - Rams

Playoffs: 1. Seahawks 2. Eagles 3. Packers 4. New Orleans 5. 49ers 6. Panthers

NFC Champion: E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES

Super Bowl Champion: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES over Patriots (2004 revenge)


NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Defensive POY: Luke Kuechly
Offensive ROY: Brandin Cooks
Defensive ROY: Jadeveon Clowney
Coach of the Year: CHIP KELLY

Ethan Woy


East: Patriots - Jets - Dolphins - Bills
North: Bengals - Ravens - Steelers - Browns
South: Colts - Titans - Texans - Jags
West: Broncos - Chiefs - Chargers - Raiders

Playoffs: 1. Broncos 2. Colts 3. Patriots 4. Bengals 5. Ravens 6. Jets

AFC Champion: Denver Broncos


East: Eagles - Redskins - Cowboys - Giants
North: Packers - Bears - Lions - Vikings
South: Saints - Bucs - Falcons - Panthers
West: Seahawks - 49ers - Cardinals - Rams

Playoffs: 1. Seahawks 2. Eagles 3. Packers 4. Saints 5. 49ers 6. Bears

NFC Champion: Green Bay Packers

Super Bowl Champion: Green Bay Packers over Denver Broncos


NFL MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Offensive POY: LeSean McCoy
Defensive POY: J.J. Watt
Offensive ROY: Teddy Bridgewater
Defensive ROY: Darqueze Dennard

Coach of the Year: Rex Ryan

Dre Frye

AFC East
1. Patriots 12-4
2. Jets 9-7
3. Dolphins 8-8
4. Bills  5-11

AFC North
1. Steelers 10-6
2. Bengals 9-7
3. Ravens 8-8
4. Browns 3-13

AFC South
1. Colts 10-6
2. Titans 7-9
3. Texans 6-10
4. Jaguars 4-12

AFC West
1. Broncos 12-4
2. Chiefs 10-6
3. Chargers 9-7
4. Raiders 3-13
NFC East
1. Eagles 12-4
2. Redskins 8-8
3. Cowboys 8-8
4. Giants 2-14

NFC North
1. Packers 10-6
2. Bears 9-7
3. Vikings 7-9
4. Lions 6-10

NFC South
1. Saints 14-2
2. Buccaneers 10-6
3. Falcons 8-8
4. Panthers 6-10

NFC West
1. Seahawks 11-5
2. Cardinals 9-7
3. Rams 9-7
4. 49ers 6-10

 AFC Playoffs:
Wild Card:
Steelers > Jets / Colts > Chiefs

Divisional Round:
Patriots > Steelers
Colts > Broncos

AFC Champion:
Colts > Patriots

NFC Playoffs:
Wild Card:
Seahawks > Bucs / Packers > Bears

Divisional Round:
Saints > Packers
Seahawks > Eagles

NFC Champion:
Saints > Seahawks 
Super Bowl:

Saints  over Colts (Rematch of SB XLIV)

MVP: Drew Brees
OPOY: Lesean McCoy
DPOY: Earl Thomas
Coach of the Year: Chip Kelly
Offensive ROY: Brandin Cooks
Defensive ROY: Ryan Shazier
Comeback POY: Robert Griffin III

Bold Predictions:

49ers will miss playoffs: tons of losses on defense with Bowman, Aldon Smith, Ray McDonald, Carlos Rogers, just too much turnover.

Shady McCoy will have over 2500 all purpose yards with 1800 rushing and 700 receiving

DT will be the best receiver in every statistical category with 100+ receptions, 15 TD’s and 1500 yds.

Robert Quinn will lead the league in sacks with 20+

Patrick Peterson will surpass Richard Sherman this year for best CB in the league because of his double digit INT’s

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

World Cup Predictions

It's time for me to embarrass myself.

First group predictions, then elimination predictions, then award winners.

Group A: Brazil, Croatia

Hulk and Brazil should get through a
tough Group A.
This is a really balanced group. Host nation Brazil is a major favorite, and wont have to play Mario Mandzukic (Croatia's star striker) in the opener. They surely should come away with at least 7 points and win the group. Mexico vs Cameroon (much like US/Ghana) in their opener is massive. Each team knows that if they lose, they are pretty much done. Should be a fun game. I'll take Croatia to go through the group with the host nation. Ivan Rakitić isn't a house hold name, but he will be after this tournament. Paired with Luka Modrić and Mandzukic (for the final two games), the Croatians have too much star power to fall short.

Group B: Spain, Chile

Poor Australia. I mean really, the Aussies --usually a team that can fight for that second spot in the group-- are in for a rough month. Spain, the Netherlands, and Chile are all world class teams that share the same goal, winning the tournament. Spain beat the Netherlands in the 2010 final, and Chile has a roster stacked with underrated talent. A key to this group could be the health of Arturo Vidal (Chile). If he's good to go for the Spain and Holland match, Chile can win this group. They can also win the tournament. The Netherlands aren't the same team they were in 2010, and are very shaky at the back. Spain is older, and may run out of gas as the tournament goes on, but should have enough to get through the Group of Death. Give me Spain and Chile. (Poor Australia, goal differential could decide who goes through, or wins the group, so expect the men from down under to lose by at least three goals each game. Also winning is very important, because the second place team likely plays Brazil in the first knockout game)

Group C: Ivory Coast, Columbia

Will the Ivory Coast finally break through?
This group may not feature any "elite" teams but man will it be fun. All four teams have a solid shot to get out of the group. Columbia --who will not have their best player, Radamel Falcao due to an ACL tear a few months ago-- is the favorite despite the injury. They, like Chile, have a ton of talent and should benefit from playing on South American soil. I don't think Greece will score enough, and I'll take Yaya Toure and the aging but still talented Ivory Coast squad to have too much size for Japan (who have a very skilled midfield in Honda and Kagawa, but not a lot of D). The race for both spots will likely come down to the final day. This might be the most balanced group in the field.

Group D: England, Italy

England is known for laying an egg in the big tournaments, but I like this team a lot. They have world class skill, youth, a strong D led by Joe Hart, and something they aren't use to having. Little expectations. I think they find a way to win this star studded group. Italy is one of the European teams that I worry about coming over to South American, but I would like to think their trip to the Confederations Cup will help. Uruguay worries me. They are very old, and didn't play all that well in World Cup Qualifying. More worrying then that, the health of Luis Suarez. He is one of the top 5 players in the world. With him, Uruguay can make a deep run. Without him at 100 percent, they will struggle. He probably won't play a huge role in their opener, but thankfully for them they play Costa Rica, a team that will be lucky to leave Brazil with more then one point. This will be another fun group, and could come down to goal differential.

Group E: France, Switzerland

One of the easier groups to pick in my opinion. I like this France team. They took the 23 best team players instead of the best 23 (even though I love me some Samir Nasri). Paul Pogba will dominate this tournament. He's a beast. The Ribery injury hurts, but Antoine Griezmann will fill in and do just fine. Easy group, and France is due to make a run this year. The Swiss should come in second over Ecuador. They are a solid team with a great D and strong midfield. Ecuador played great at home in qualifying (Playing 28347321832765734658394624723198 feet about sea level) but struggled elsewhere is SA, so it may not be a huge advantage compared to other SA teams. Honduras stinks. They lost 4-2 to Israel just a few days ago. Not good.

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia

Another straight forward group. Argentina is loaded, led by Messi, Sergio Aguero, and Gonzalo Higuaín. Every game for them will fell like a home game playing so close to home. This group is easy too. Bosnia is a good side, but comes over from Europe and has never played in the world cup. That's a big disadvantage. They still have a very good team led by Dzeko and will be a threat for second. Nigeria will likely compete with them, but I'm not all that impressed with them. Maybe a strong start to the tournament over minnow Iran will jump start them. The game between Nigeria and Bosnia will be a fun one with a ton on the line.

Group G: Germany, USA

Another balanced group where anything can happen. I detailed why I think the US will get through in my US piece so check that out...Anyway, Germany despite some injuries is still the odds on favorite and could win the tournament. They will get at least 7 points and should win the group. The US needs to get four points from the first two games and hope they can squeak a point vs the Germans -or lose by one goal-- and go through on goal differential. This group is one of few where all four teams have a good shot to get through --along with C-- so it will likely come down to the last day. If Portugal can adjust to the conditions, and Ronaldo is Ronaldo, the Americans are in trouble, but I don't think Portugal has enough time get him back to 100 percent and adjust to the conditions in time. US/Ghana winner could decide it all.

Group F: Russia Belgium

I think Belgium could make a very deep run, but I also think they could struggle early in the tournament. A lot of these predictions are somewhat "chalk" but here is a mini bold pick. The Russians find a way to win the group on goal differential. Both get seven points as South Korea and Algeria wilt out early. Maybe deep down someplace in my brain I'm thinking this because I want the US to have an easier opponent if they come in second, I don't know. But this would certainly be a surprise.

Knockout Rounds: 

Round of 16:
Could France make a run??

Brazil over Chile, Ivory Coast over Italy, Spain over Croatia, Columbia over England, France over Bosnia, Germany over Belgium, Argentina over Swiss, USA over Russia.

Some surprises here on paper. This is the last hoorah for this golden generation for the Ivory Coast, and I think Toure will help them sneak past Italy in a classic game. If the US gets Russia, I like their chances, if they get Belgium they are done. Hopefully they play one of the two though, thats my only wish (GET THROUGH THE GROUP BOYS!). Many would be a bit surprised to see France in the final eight, but I really like their team and youth.

Round of Eight: 

Brazil over the Ivory Coast, Spain over Columbia, Germany over France, Argentina over USA

Pretty much all chalk here, but man this would be awesome. The best four teams left. Two best South American teams vs the two best Euro teams.


Brazil over Germany, Argentina over Spain

Talk about GREAT TV. Two monster games filled with stars, goals, and story lines. Brazil on home soil will be so tough for a Euro based team to best. They are on a mission, and we saw a glimpse of how they would deal with such a situation when they ripped apart Spain in the confederations cup final last summer. In the other game, I like Argentina to outlast Spain in a classic 4-3 game. So much talent. Messi would have even more motivation (as if he needs more) if we went against many of his Barca teammates for a spot in the final. Will Spain even last this long? Old legs.
Will Neymar deliver for Brazil? I think so. 


Brazil over Argentina 3-2

Higuain slots home to open up the scoring and Argentina takes a 1-0 lead to the half. Messi scores a second just out of the break to go up 2-0. Brazil then makes its run as Hulk scores two and ties it up in a 15 minute span, the second coming in the 77th minute. Argentina presses for the winner and Brazil launches a counter with Neymar scoring the winner in the 89th minute. ENJOY!

Golden Boot: Aguero, nine goals.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

USMNT World Cup Preview

--Lee Kunkel

(Today, I'm posting my USMNT preview with the World Cup just two days away!!!!! I'll have a broader preview and predictions out tomorrow on the tournament as a whole.)

The greatest spectacle in sports is upon us. It's been a long four years since South Africa 2010 and much has change around the globe, on and off the soccer field, but that tournament, the first on African soil, will be one I will never forget.
(NY Mag)

I liked soccer entering June of 2010. I LOVED it when the calender turned and July had passed (along with the tournament in which the Spaniards took home the crown).

If you're an American soccer fan --whether it be a die hard like myself, or a novice like the June 2010 Lee Kunkel-- the date June 23rd, 2010 was one for the ages. Landon Donovan gave us what many consider the greatest moment in US Soccer history with a late winner against Algeria that propelled the US into the knock stages.

Not only do I remember the goal, I remember EVERYTHING around me. Great times, great times.

Now the USA needs to build on it in Brazil. So let's get to it!

Roster, Group Outlook, Program Outlook
When the US roster was released, it was more about who wasn't on it then who was. Jürgen Klinsmann shocked just about everybody when he cut Landon Donovan from US camp and left him off the World Cup roster.

My thoughts? There isn't a universe --whether it be back in 2010, now, or two weeks from now-- that Brad Davis is a better soccer player then Donovan. BUT, JK's job is not to name the best 23, it is to name the best team. Donovan wasn't part of that group. End of story (Oh, he also quit the team at the start of WC qualifiers, seemed to clash with JK since his days a Bayern Munich, and has openly admitted he isn't in great shape because of his age).

As for the guys that are going to Brazil, I couldn't be happier. This is, far and away, the best collection of players the United States has ever taken to a World Cup.

Much of the USA success will depend on Bradley.
That's a good thing.
It all starts with Michael Bradley. Make no mistake about it, and don't be fooled by the MLS move (for a tonnnn of cash and "you're THE man" role at Toronto FC) Bradley could make the roster for every country in the world, and play for any club team in the world. Not saying he would start or have a massive role for Brazil or Manchester City, but he could play. He's the best individual player the US has ever taken to a World Cup in my opinion.

Around him are some great pieces.

Jozy Altidore (who had a down right awful season at Sunderland) seems to have his confidence back. He scored two goals in the USA's win over Nigeria this past weekend, and has played great his last two games. Jozy always plays a lot better for his country, and last year broke a long scoring drought at the start of the summer against Germany. He then went on a tear scoring in five straight games for the US, three in WCQ, and scored an incredible hat trick at Bosnia.

People forget he is just 24 years old, and already has 70 caps, 23 goals, played a huge role in the Yanks win over Spain (2009 Confederations Cup) and played in a World Cup (2010). No striker has scored for the US in the World Cup since Brian McBride carried the US in 2002. I think that drought is over in Brazil, thanks to Jozy.

The rest of the squad it littered with MLS stars and some great European club based talent. Out of the MLS group, expect captain Clint Dempsey (who is in great form for the Seattle Sounders) Graham Zusi, Matt Besler and Kyle Beckerman to all have big roles for Jürgen Klinsmann. All could play in high level leagues throughout Europe. Guys like this (and Omar Gonzalez/Brad Davis/Chris Wondolowski) have stayed home and really helped elevate the stateside league.

The player that has everyone talking currently is German-American Fabian Johnson. He has been on a tear for club and country as of late. The Bundesliga product has found a home a right-back, and is great at launching the attack, but can also track back and help the defense. He will be instrumental in Brazil, and is the second most important player behind Bradly.

Anchoring the defense will be Everton goalie Tim Howard (who just played his 100th game for the US this past weekend). Howard is in coming off his best season ever, and is in the prime of his career. One could argue he is a top 10 goalie in the world at this very moment. In front of him will be another Barclays Premier League product, Geoff Cameron. The Stoke man had a great season and should pair nicely with Besler.

Jermaine Jones will join Beckerman and Bradley in the midfield. He doesn't always make the smartest decisions, but he's a guy who plays as hard as anyone, can get forward and spring the attack, and will track back and halt a counter. The US needs a big tournament from Jones if it wants to have success.

The rest of the roster has some very good talent and balance. Ale Bedoya had a nice season in the top French league for Nantes and could start a few games in Brazil. He is a nice outside midfielder that can play both sides of the ball. John Brooks and Timmy Chandler --two other German American's-- could be huge off the bench. They both had strong campaign's --particularly Chandler-- in the Bundesliga.

The young Johnnsson could be just the wild card the US needs.
Aron Jóhannsson, Mix Diskerud, DeAndre Yedlin and Julian Green are all youngsters that could have an immediate impact like Donovan and DeMarcus Beasley (who is back for his forth World Cup and could start at leftback) had for 2002 team.

Overall, this a very talented group of guys, with a nice mix of youth, speed, talent, and experience.

Now to the group.

Ughhhh :(

For as nice as the soccer Gods were to us in 2010, they were equally as mean and nasty this time around. I won't sugarcoat it, the US *could* play three near perfect matches, and lose all three games. It's that hard.

Germany is one favorite to win the tournament. Portugal has the best player in the world. Ghana has eliminated us from TWO straight World Cups and might be the best team from Africa. But, as my loving dear mother once told me, "things can always be worse Lee Thomas..."

Once again, Mom is right.

The US could be in group B with Chile (a loaded dark horse playing on home continent soil), Spain, and the Netherlands (the two teams that met for the 2010 title). Not a chance in hell we make it out of that group. So it's not all doom and gloom.

Truth be told, we're the reason this group is so hard. We were the best team from our pot, so we were always looking at a difficult road. But that's just the thing, it's the World Cup. It isn't supposed to be a cake walk. And quite frankly, I think the US will get out of this death trap.

Massive game, both team needs 3 points.
Start with the first game June 16th vs Ghana. Disregard the past history vs the Black Stars. Should the 38th ranked team in the world (though fifa rankings are so stupid) really scare us? I don't think many would be all that terrified of Ghana if the history was not there. Four years is a long time. Ghana is a solid team (much better then their ranking shows) but not near the team they were in 2010, and they aren't as good as the US. They are very susceptible at the back. The US will get chances. If the Yanks don't turn it over in their half (Ghana kills team by pressing and getting the ball close to their goal, and hits you on a quick counter), US 2-1.

Then there is Portugal (ranked fourth, but like Ghana that is inaccurate). No way they are that good. Cristiano Ronaldo is a star, and if he's really on, Portugal can win this whole tournament (See the playoff against Sweden PUT THE TEAM ON MY BACK BRO). If he's not on though....(They barley got past Sweden, a team that doesn't have much outside of Ibra).

Not to mention, Portugal is the type of European team that could really struggle in South America, particularly against the USA. That game will be played in the middle of the Amazon in Manaus. High 90's, insane humidity = massive advantage for the Yanks.

CR7 has been battling a variety of injuries, hasn't played in any of Portugal's friendlies, and won't be in top shape when the tournament kicks off in a few days. He looked very pedestrian in the Champions League final a few weeks back (his play, not his muscles, which he showed to the whole world). This is one of my bold predictions, I think Portugal flames out and finishes last in the group.

JK and the crew hold possession (Portugal will give you the ball because they like to get out and counter with Nani and CR7) and wear down the Portuguese. As the game wears on, they wilt, and the US gets a late goal to win it 1-0. A draw here may even do too.

As for Germany, not much to say. They are stacked. If they want to tear up the US (or Ghana and Portugal) they likely will. Losing Marco Reus hurts, he was maybe their best player, but they plug Ozil (Arsenal) Kroos (Bayern), Gotze (Bayern), Lahm (Bayern), Schürrle (Chelsea), Müller (Bayern) or their next young stud, Draxler (Schalke) into the lineup. Just an embarrassment of riches. I guess it may help the US that they play Germany last. Maybe they take it easy on us and rest some guys with the group wrapped up. All I know is the US better not wait until it's last game to make a move.

My Pick: Second in the group, but another tough game in the round of 16 vs Belgium, who beat us 2-1.
Best case: Finish second in the group, hope to get an upset in group H and play Russia, make a run to the final eight (where Messi would likely take on the US).
Worst case: No points in what amounts to too tough of a draw.

Program Outlook

As Americans (or maybe humans as a whole, I've never been thrust into another countries sports culture) we tend to overreact. A lot. Look at the NBA Finals just this season. Game 1: LBJ is a bum who can't hydrate and the Heat are done. Game 2: The King is going to carry Miami and the old Spurs are donzo.

Same goes for the World Cup. While I'll agree that every player, coach and team is judged on their performance in this tournament, we can't put too much weight on it, especially given the group.

Hard to argue Klinsmann's success
to this point.
In the past four years under Jürgen Klinsmann we have won at Mexico, got a point at Mexico in WCQ, topped the Hex with ease (winning every home game), won the Gold Cup, grew the player pool to a point where the best American player of all time isn't on the WC roster and it's justifiable, beat the Italians (away), Bosnian's (away), Germans, Nigerians, and Turks, tied the Russians (away) and went on the longest win streak in USMNT history.

It's been a great four year cycle and things only look better on the horizon. The 2018 roster could be stacked with top level euro league talent (Julian Green!!). The MLS is growing in success and popularity (Spain and Brazil will have an MLS player on their roster, and both should feature in the tournament). The media actually covers soccer like a major sport.

Do I hope the World Cup performance reflects all of this? YES. But that may not be the case. If we come home with just one point (Gulp, or less), please America, don't throw out the past four years. The future is bright. (PS, this also goes the other way too. If we make a surprise run to the semifinals, we aren't all of a sudden a top four world power)

As I wrap things up, clear your calenders for next Monday around 6pm, grab your favorite American beer, gather your friends, and get ready for a stressful but amazing two hours.

"Go Go USA" as my man Ian Darke would say.