Wayne Rooney, a new home and renewed belief: inside D.C. United’s remarkable turnaround

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In 2017, D.C. United finished last in the Eastern Conference, seven points behind 10th-place Orlando City and a distant 18 points out of the playoffs. The team’s minus-29 goal differential led the league as United earned just 0.94 points per game.

It seemed to represent rock bottom for one of Major League Soccer’s founding franchises, but at the beginning of 2018, someone threw the club a shovel.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

Through the season’s first 17 games, United posted just three wins and five draws to go along with nine losses. Fourteen points from 17 games, or a dismal 0.82 points per game. Simply put, the team wasn’t good enough.4

“What was lacking throughout that was killer instinct,” head coach Ben Olsen told ESPN FC. “Seeing out games on the offensive end and in transition or being able to grind out the last 15 minutes of matches. Understanding the big moments of the game that mattered. We failed consistently in those moments.”

But the thing about digging yourself into a hole is that sometimes you can do something great with all that dirt. You can be building something, even if no one is watching. United were.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

“Even during that time when we were not getting the results that we wanted, we saw a lot of good, not only in the individuals we had on the team but also how we were playing and in our ability to manufacture goals,” Olsen said.

Center back Steven Birnbaum agreed with his manager. “Toward the end of our road stretch, there was a bit more confidence,” he said. “We started to jell. We had a lot of new players and it took time for us to get to know one another.”

Columbus Crew SC poised for their biggest win of the year: staying in Ohio

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The Columbus Crew midfielder has been with the U.S. men’s national team for the past week and on Friday, he was exchanging texts with club and international teammate Zack Steffen. The texts from Steffen were, as Trapp described them, “cryptic,” with a lot of question marks.

Unbeknownst to Trapp, about 1,000 miles to the north, news was emerging that an investor group had been formed that was interested in buying the rights to the Crew with the express purpose of keeping the team in Columbus. It was left to Steffen to fill Trapp in on the news.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

“I finally saw [Steffen] and he said, ‘Have you seen the news?’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about?'” said Trapp. “So there was a lot of back and forth before we finally came together and saw this was a real thing going on.

It wrapped up a crazy year, too. It was this time a year ago that current owner Anthony Precourt divulged that he was exploring moving the team to Austin, Texas. At the time, he spoke of “parallel paths” in terms of seeing which municipality would build him a stadium first, but his actions have long indicated he preferred to get out of Ohio’s capital. Since then the proverbial anvil has been hanging over the head of just about everyone else associated with the team, from players to coaches to those working in the front office.3

Trapp’s emotions were more fraught than most. In addition to being the team captain, he was born in Columbus, raised in nearby Gahanna, Ohio and progressed through the club’s academy. The Crew is the only professional team he’s known, having spent six seasons there. His impulse when the news broke on Friday was to revert to the ultimate defense mechanism of being a skeptic.

“The first thing when you’re being bombarded on social media is: How credible is it all? It’s unfortunate that you have to be looking at it from a very scrutinized lens all the time,” he said. “But then as the day went on, obviously there seemed to be some weight to the Haslam family and then Pete Edwards moving toward a potential buyout of the team.”

Even as Trapp spoke of the previous 24 hours, he still sounded cautious. Given that a deal isn’t completely done, his stance is utterly practical. He and his club teammates have gotten this far in the MLS season — one that sees them firmly in the playoff places — by avoiding the emotional rollercoaster. It would seem Trapp isn’t about to change that, although some optimism crept through.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

“We can’t control anything as players,” he said. “There’s a lot of emotions wrapped into it of course, me being local, but it’s a day that was very wild in terms of the ups and downs of what was going on. The fans that have supported us all the way through this have fought exactly for this scenario that’s playing out. For the city of Columbus, keeping the team is a wonderful thing.”

Dodgers’ relievers taking focus on Brewers’ bullpen personally

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“These guys are competitors,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after his team’s 4-3 victory. “And when you look across the diamond and you see people that are doing the same thing you’re doing, but are getting more notoriety or whatever, people have pride. … I’m speaking for them, but I know these guys are taking it personal.”

Roberts spoke after he used seven relievers to get through the final 5⅔ innings of Game 2. Combined, they gave up just a single run, allowing for a late-inning comeback against the more noted Brewers pen.new nike nfl jerseys cheap

“Every negative thing I use as motivation,” closer Kenley Jansen said. “I’m aware of everything. When I was down, we were 1-6 without me. I had the last two months, not great for me, so we all take it personal. And here we are. We’re showing it today.”

Jansen got the save after striking out Lorenzo Cain in the ninth, then getting MVP candidate Christian Yelich on a groundout to end the game with the tying run at second. It closed the book on the first two games with the lesser-regarded Dodgers bullpen sporting a 1.86 ERA while the Brewers sit at 6.97.3

“We can match up as well,” starter-turned-reliever Alex Wood said. “We’re flying under the radar, yeah. Guys take the ball and get big outs, too.”

“Pedro Baez has taken a lot of crap from a lot of our fans and people across baseball, for what reason, I’m not entirely sure,” Wood said.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Baez threw 1⅓ innings of scoreless relief Saturday and was the winning pitcher. In this year’s postseason, Baez has thrown 4⅔ innings, giving up no runs, one hit and striking out seven with two walks.

Maybe that’s one reason why Wood’s manager spoke out. The irony is that last October, it was the Dodgers’ pen earning the headlines. But with Josh Hader & Co. starring in this series, the Los Angeles relievers have taken a back seat — at least until now.

The Uni Watch NBA season preview

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In baseball, the starting pitcher often chooses which uniform his team will wear for each game. In the NFL, the entire season’s game-by-game jersey schedule is usually set up by the end of July, but only a handful of teams bother to share that information.

And then there’s the NBA, where we have now entered the era of LockerVision.

LockerVision is a publicly available NBA web interface that shows which uniforms teams will wear for every game of the season. The site was created last season, although its existence wasn’t announced until March, at which point many fans — including your friendly uniform columnist — were surprised to learn that the league’s game-by-game uni pairings had all been scripted in advance.

With the 2018-19 season set to tip off Tuesday, all of the uni matchups have already been loaded into LockerVision. The interface can be filtered by team, by date, and by game location. Want to know, say, what the Wizards will be wearing at home in November? LockerVision has you covered. Want to see what the Lakers will wear for road games on Tuesdays? LockerVision can tell you that, too. Want to know if the Bulls will keep wearing red at home this season, the way they did last season? LockerVision has the answer. (Spoiler alert: Yes, the Bulls are still wearing red at home.)cheap nike nfl jerseys china

If you want to know which jersey to pull out of the closet on a given night so you can match what your favorite team is wearing — or if you’re just a uni-minded fan who geeks out over this kind of stuff — LockerVision is a godsend. And now that the league has made this once-classified info publicly available, individual teams are taking a similarly fan-friendly approach. The Jazz, for example, have taken the unprecedented step of sharing their uni schedule for the entire season. You could also look that up on LockerVision, but it’s nice that the team put it out there.2

But LockerVision doesn’t just give us the schedule for uniforms we already know about — until a few days ago, it also provided hints about uniforms we haven’t yet seen. For example, last season the Cavaliers’ “City Edition” alternate uniforms were silver-gray, but LockerVision was indicating that their City uniform for this season will be blue. Similar color indicators were being shown for lots of other unreleased City designs, but the league apparently wised up and has now shows all of the unreleased designs as white.new nike nfl jerseys cheap

And there’s more. If you set up the LockerVision filters to see which uniforms will be worn on Christmas Day, you’ll see that several teams’ uniforms are listed as “Coming Soon.” But for a while there the Dec. 25 listings showed that Nike’s cringe-inducing names for the league’s various uniform categories — the Association Edition, Statement Edition, Icon Edition, and so on — had been joined by a new term: the “Earned Edition.” This confirms earlier reporting that the 16 teams that qualified for last season’s playoffs would “earn” a new uniform design in 2018-19, the first of which would debut Christmas Day. (Of course, “earning” something by making it to the NBA postseason is a pretty low bar, given that more than half the league qualifies, but that’s another issue.) We don’t yet know what these “Earned” designs will look like but, again, LockerVision was showing what the colors will be — green for the Celtics, gray for the Bucks (ugh) and so on. And although the league has now dialed back that info from LockerVision, the genie is already out of the bottle.

Chiefs likely without some key pass-rush pieces against Tom Brady

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When the Kansas City Chiefs started training camp, coach Andy Reid indicated rookie Breeland Speaks would need to improve as a pass-rusher if he was going to earn much playing time at outside linebacker.

Reid and the Chiefs will find out Sunday night whether Speaks has progressed when they face the Patriots in New England.

Speaks hasn’t played a lot this season, but suddenly he looms as an important figure. The Chiefs are likely to be without one of their best pass-rushers, Justin Houston, because of a hamstring injury.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

A top reserve at outside linebacker, Tanoh Kpassagnon, also might not play or could be limited because of an ankle injury.

That leaves Speaks to join Dee Ford as the main edge rushers against Tom Brady and the Patriots, who have scored 38 points in each of their past two games. Speaks, who has no sacks but did recover a fumble in last week’s game against Jacksonville, said he would show Reid and the Chiefs the progress they’re looking for.4

“It just took me some time to get acclimated,” said Speaks, a second-round draft pick. “I feel I’m ready to go. I’m a lot more comfortable with the defense. I’m more comfortable in coverage. I’m playing with confidence now so I feel good.

“I feel like it’s coming really well. Each week is getting better and better.”

The Chiefs used an interesting pass-rush strategy against Brady and the Patriots last year, a 42-27 victory for Kansas City in Week 1. The Chiefs dropped eight players into coverage and rushed Brady with three on 14 of his 27 pass attempts in the first three quarters and had no sacks.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

In the fourth quarter, after the Chiefs took the lead, they rushed four or more players on 12 of Brady’s 13 attempts and sacked him three times. Houston had two sacks and lineman Allen Bailey one.

Ford has played well this season. He’s tied with Bailey for the team lead in sacks with four.

Bailey has been a pleasant surprise for the Chiefs as a pass-rusher. He’s on a pace to break his season high for sacks of five set in 2014.

Even as the Rams seek balance, Todd Gurley will keep doing it all

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Set to face the Denver Broncos on Sunday, the Rams are undefeated and feature the top-ranked offense in the NFL, averaging 468.4 yards and 34.6 points per game.

Gurley leads the league with nine touchdowns and ranks third in yards from scrimmage with 645.

While the profile of quarterback Jared Goff continues to rise, and receivers Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp attract growing attention from opposing defenses, make no mistake: Gurley remains at the center of coach Sean McVay’s explosive scheme.

And he won’t let teammates forget it.

“I tell those guys they need me out there,” Gurley said, laughing. “I tell them, ‘Thank me all the time.’ When I go in motion and they get their little touchdowns.”

Gurley, of course, was joking.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

But teammates constantly commend the fourth-year pro for his ability to contribute in every facet of the game — whether he’s running, catching, blocking or serving as a decoy.2

“When you’re a running back that has the ability to do, really, everything in terms of running the ball, catching the ball out of the backfield, protection,” McVay said, “he’s an important part of our offense, no doubt.”

Gurley has been effective in space and is a proven threat at the goal line. He’s also attracted enough attention to open up the passing game.

“When we’re able to do our play-action stuff and he’s the guy that we’re faking to,” Goff said, “adds a little bit of emphasis on those linebackers stepping up and everyone having to fill in a little bit more when he’s the one that could potentially get the ball there.”cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

Last Sunday, Gurley rushed for three touchdowns — all within 5 yards of the goal line — in a victory over the Seattle Seahawks. In a Week 2 win over the Arizona Cardinals, Gurley rushed for 1- and 2-yard scores, plus powered his way across the goal line for two two-point conversions.

His longest run of the season came in a Week 1 win at Oakland, when he took a handoff and broke through a hole on the left side of the line to rush for 23 yards. And against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4, he took a short pass and turned it into a 56-yard gain after breaking a tackle.

Gurley’s numbers are on pace with those of last season, which earned him NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Through five games, he has rushed for 415 yards and seven touchdowns and has caught 19 passes for 230 yards and two more scores.

Eric Bailly to consider Manchester United future if situation doesn’t improve – sources

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Eric Bailly is ready to consider his future next summer if his prospects at Manchester United do not improve, sources have told ESPN FC.

The defender started 15 games in all competitions last season — one fewer than Henrikh Mkhitaryan who left in January — and has been restricted to three Premier League starts so far this term.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

He has been linked with moves to Arsenal and Tottenham but sources have told ESPN FC the 24-year-old is determined to give himself at least until the end of the season to win a regular place in Jose Mourinho’s team.3

United, according to sources, would be unwilling to sell unless Bailly — who cost them £30 million in 2016 — made it clear he wants to leave. They would also be reluctant to sell to a Premier League rival.

Mourinho made it clear in the summer he wanted to sign a new centre-back but missed out on Harry Maguire, Toby Alderweireld and Jerome Boateng. He has turned his attention to Inter Milan’s Milan Skriniar and Alessio Romagnoli at AC Milan ahead of the January transfer window.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Any defensive addition would push Bailly further down the pecking order at Old Trafford. Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof have been Mourinho’s preferred pairing this season and there is further competition from Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo. Midfielders Ander Herrera and Scott McTominay have also played at centre-half this season.

Mourinho is a keen admirer of Bailly but has reservations about his injury record. Bailly started the 3-2 win over Newcastle before the international break but was substituted after 18 minutes with United 2-0 down.

Manchester United coach Michael Carrick reveals management plans

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Michael Carrick has told ESPN FC of his ambition to manage Manchester United but insists he has a lot to learn before he is ready for the Old Trafford hotseat.

Carrick, 37, hung up his boots in the summer to begin his coaching career as part of Jose Mourinho’s backroom staff at Old Trafford, and the former midfielder is hopeful it is the first step on the road to proving he is up to the top job when the time comes.nike nfl jerseys for cheap

“It’s impossible for me to sit here and talk in those terms at this stage,” Carrick told ESPN FC at the launch of his autobiography Between the Lines — the profits of which will go to the Michael Carrick foundation. “I’ve got too much respect for the position and for the club. But, yeah, of course, if I’m good, if it fits, it would be absolutely incredible.

“There’s a lot to go on before then and we all know what football brings so I won’t be getting carried away with myself just yet.”2

Carrick has seen former England teammates Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard take their first jobs in management this season, with Rangers and Derby County respectively.

Former United teammates Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand have chosen to move into punditry since the end of their playing careers but Carrick is keen to follow Gerrard and Lampard into the dugout — whether that’s with United or not.

“Long term, I would say yeah I would like to be a manager one day,” he said. “I haven’t got a pathway or a plan. You just don’t know. You don’t know what’s going to happen but I’m in such a privileged position as it stands now and I’m grateful for where I am at this stage of my coaching career.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

“I’m trying to support the manager, support the lads and do that role the best I possibly can. At the same time I’m trying to suck in all that information that I’m learning all the time from the manager.

“It’s the same as when you started out as footballer. You’ve got the dream but is it going to happen? I don’t know. Now it’s something that I’m looking towards but I don’t know. It’s something that I’m certainly set towards.”

Kevin King’s day in Detroit started badly, ended bloody

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It hasn’t been an easy start to the season – or a career – for the Packers’ top draft pick in 2017.

The cornerback who the Packers believe is their best chance at a shutdown cover man couldn’t finish his rookie season because of a lingering shoulder injury that eventually required surgery. He missed two of the first four games this season because of a pulled groin.

His return came Sunday at Ford Field, where it started badly and ended bloody.

It began innocently enough. Blocking on a punt return, King was engaged with Lions safety Charles Washington when the ball hit no more than a yard in front of them. Off the bounce, it appeared to graze one of them – either Washington on the arm or King in the back. The ball then rolled to the Packers’ 1-yard line, where Detroit touched it down where to buy nfl jerseys cheap

King thought that was where the Packers would take over. Instead, the officials ruled the ball went off him, therefore giving the Lions the ball at the 1, where they scored on the next play.8

“It didn’t hit me,” King insisted a day later. “When I was out there on the field, I [looked up] and I [saw] it actually hit him. The thing is, if you see my reaction, if it would’ve hit me, I would’ve turned around and tried to get it. I just ran off the field. I thought they were celebrating because they downed it at the 1. I didn’t even know that’s what they were cheering about until, like, the replay. No, it didn’t hit me though.”

It would be hard to blame King if he wondered when things will turn around for him. The Packers drafted him with the first pick of the second round (No. 33 overall) to be the matchup corner their defense lacked since the end of Sam Shields’ career here in 2016. They liked King’s rare size (6-foot-3) and speed combination at the position.

Last season, Packers defensive assistant coach Joe Whitt said “you haven’t seen the real Kevin King yet” after he went on injured reserve. Whitt made that comment because he watched King play with essentially one arm due to his ailing left shoulder – an injury that dated to his college days at Washington.buy cheap authentic nfl jerseys

This summer, Whitt predicted the “real” King would be on display during training camp. But King injured his other shoulder. Then came the groin injury during the Week 2 game against Minnesota – an injury that coach Mike McCarthy said at the time the defense did not handle well, allowing the Vikings to come back to tie the game.

Bengals off to hot start, but Steelers game looms large

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There’s a set of televisions on the wall between the tunnel at Paul Brown Stadium and the Bengals’ locker room.

The televisions were airing the conclusion of the Browns-Ravens game on Sunday afternoon just minutes after the Bengals came back to win 27-17 against the Dolphins. A number of players came through the tunnel and stopped to watch the game before Bengals coach Marvin Lewis hurried them along.

It’s true that the Bengals don’t need to worry about what their division opponents are doing right now, when they sit alone on top of the AFC North with a 4-1 record. But it’s also true that everything changes this week, when the Steelers come to town.

“We handle things by blocking out all of the noise and continuing to grind,” Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green said. “Nobody gave us a chance when the season started. Why do they believe in us now? We’re going to continue to keep playing and keep playing for each other.”cheap nfl jerseys wholesale

The Bengals have checked almost every box in this young season. They’ve won games by virtue of their defense when the offense struggled, and their offense has had unprecedented success in games when the defense struggled. They have a knack for forcing turnovers, and they’ve been able to put teams away late when it was needed most.7

It was the Steelers who knocked the Bengals out of the playoffs in the 2015 wild-card round, and Cincinnati hasn’t beaten Pittsburgh in four tries since that night. This team certainly seems to have its best chance in years to change that.

The Bengals are 8-24, including playoffs, against Pittsburgh in the Marvin Lewis era, and they have not beaten the Steelers in their past six tries. The Bengals jumped to a 17-point lead in their previous meeting before the Steelers came back to win 23-20.

The players might not admit it publicly, but they know how much this one means. The win against the Dolphins proved that the Bengals can erase deficits and come up with game-changing plays to come out on top. A win against the Steelers would not only give them solid footing in the AFC North and a 5-1 record before they face the Chiefs on the road but also symbolize something bigger.replica nike nfl jerseys

“This is a divisional game, and everyone knows what that’s about, but we’ve just got to go out there and play hard,” running back Joe Mixon said.

A win next week would say that whatever happened in the past isn’t keeping the Bengals down this time. It would prove that the team is full of enough