USMNT v Costa Rica US Player Ratings

The USMNT came into Columbus to face Costa Rica in as close to a must-win game as a team can have at this stage of World Cup qualifying, considering their humiliating performance against Panama last week. For these ratings, we’ll be using a standard 1-10 scale with half points available when I can’t make up my damn mind.

Coach Greg Berhalter: 3.0

It’s not a good look when you come into a vital fixture and your team immediately gives up a goal in the first minute. His tactics lack imagination, and far too frequently, the team ends up passing back to the goalie when having been in a threatening position. It’s brutal to watch. To give him credit where it’s due, he stayed with his effective players longer than against Panama, and didn’t repeat the calamitous mistake of subbing off Yunus Musah 20 minutes before he had to. Berhalter remains one of the worst coaches in CONCACAF, but at least this was slightly better from him.

GK Zack Steffen: 4.5

He was partially to blame for Costa Rica’s opener after a wild and unnecessary attempt at a headed clearance, though he was unfortunate that Tyler Adams played Costa Rica onside on Keysher Fuller’s opener. Didn’t have to do much else, but looked tentative on multiple late Costa Rica set pieces. He’s better than he showed, and US will need him to be better if they want to qualify.

LB Antonee Robinson: 5.5

One of the more skillful players on the pitch for the US, Robinson was assured in defense and marauded up the left wing with regularity. Sadly for the kid, the quality on his final ball was lacking every time. Every. Fucking. Time. He’s a star and only getting better, so one would think the consistent quality will come with more experience on the national stage.

LCB Chris Richards: 3.0

He’s just not an international quality player yet. Miles Robinson was the more calamitous of the two US center backs today, but Richards did a shit job communicating, and his distribution was atrocious. The US has better at their disposal, so it’s hopefully a short term problem.

RCB Miles Robinson: 1.0

He’ll want to forget this one. By far the worst player on the pitch for either side. Did nothing good, lots of bad, and now I have to explain to my five year old what “GET HIM THE FUCK OFF THE FIELD” means. His diabolical giveaway with the result still in doubt was only not a disaster because Bryan Ruiz runs about as fast as an ice skater in quicksand. He’s part of the future in the US defense, but the present leaves tons to be desired.

RB Sergino Dest: 7.5

Lest you think I’m just a cynic who slams everyone, Dest was a bright and shining star for today’s US side. His inch perfect strike brought the US level and he consistently caused problems for the Costa Rica defense with his inventiveness and relentlessness. The quality of his final pass was lacking at times too, and I also penalized him half a point because I can’t figure out how to put the tilda above the n in his name, and wasted like ten minutes trying to figure it out.

MF Yunus Musah: 7.5

The sky is the limit with this kid. Once again he was a menace for the US in midfield, consistently springing his wing backs free with perfect passes after drawing defenders to him. He’s willing to compete for 50-50 balls despite not being all that big. Simply put, he’s as vital to this US attack as Christian Pulisic is when the latter is healthy. If he lacked something today, it was aggression. He can run at guys, and a leaky Costa Rican defense presented the perfect opportunity.

MF Tyler Adams: 4.5

Adams is the backbone of the US midfield, and crucial to the team’s defensive efforts, especially considering the abysmal play by their center backs today. He played Costa Rica’s opener onside, and wasn’t his usual commanding self in the defensive center of midfield. His passing was mostly poor, but to his credit, he never failed to track back at full effort. Middling overall, and he can do better, and hopefully he does against Mexico.

MF Weston McKennie: 5.5

Always dangerous with the ball at his feet, McKennie covered a ton of ground and put in a maximum effort shift. The quality that you want on his passes wasn’t there, and he failed to get off any meaningful shots – turning the ball over while in advantageous position multiple times. But all in all, he helped a lot more than he hurt. As an aside here, I dinged him half a point because he too is prone to giving up on a threatening situation too quickly, and making a play that inevitably ends up as a back pass to the goalie six touches later.

F Brendan Aaronson: 4.5

Aaronson is maddening. On one hand, he has a flair about him and isn’t afraid to try things with the ball at his feet. He’ll run at defenders with abandon, and nothing is off the table in terms of creativity. On the other hand, he is prone to being out of control. And that’s what happened today. He tried a lot of stuff, and tried it hard. Not a lot, if any of it worked, but the effort was there. You’re not seeing the finished product with him yet, so he should remain in the side most matches. Hopefully some of that polish he needs comes in the qualification campaign. Apropos of nothing with this game, Aaronson reminds me a ton of Shane Long, the English striker who spent a bunch of time at West Ham. Not the most skillful of players, but never quit on a play, chased lost causes, and infused his side with energy. There’s no small amount of value in that.

F Ricardo Pepi: 5.0

The inevitable tap of the brakes with Pepi-mania had to happen. After how his first couple games went, I mean, come on. Now, the kid was nowhere near bad, and victimized by largely inaccurate crossing from his teammates, but at the end of the day you want your center forward to have impact. And today wasn’t that day. Subbed off late on and was gassed, so the energy expenditure was up to snuff, and again, there’s value there.

F Timothy Weah: 7.5

THERE it was! I’ve been waiting to see what the hype was about for a minute now, and we saw it tonight. Even before his cracking shot that resulted in the winning own goal, he was consistently involved in the offensive play. He used his body well to shield and win balls, and always seemed threatening with the ball at his feet. He was the total package. If there’s room for improvement in today’s performance, on several occasions he waited a little too long to lay the ball off to various teammates, resulting in a slow of momentum. Nothing to be even remotely concerned with – he’s still playing his way back into form after a lengthy injury layoff. If it wasn’t Dest, Weah would be man of the match.

The Subs

FB Deandre Yedlin: 6.5

It’s hard to grade a sub on just the fifteen minutes or so that he’s out there, and Yedlin is normally terrible, but today he shone in limited exposure. Sent in a few well placed crosses, provided good outlets in space to his teammates, and in general kept the Costa Rican defense off balance with his speed. Good showing from the veteran in a big game.

MF Gianluca Busio: 6.0

Came on late for a tiring Musah, and in general slotted seamlessly into the play. He’s another guy that’s just a kid in the big picture, so any rough edges we assume are going to get sanded with experience. He’s certainly not intimidated by the qualifying stage, and looked strong on the ball. My one complaint is he had a quality chance on goal to put the game out of reach, but clobbered an uncomposed shot harmlessly into the legs of a Costa Rican defender, when a fake and one extra touch may have had him alone against the keeper. Like Yedlin above, nothing to be ashamed of in his time on the pitch.

Gyasi Zardez: 7.0

This might be the role for him. Another guy who I think is generally just not good enough, he was the best of the US subs after coming on for Pepi. Thoroughly disinterested against Panama, Zardes threw his body into the game, competed fiercely for 50-50 balls, and defended responsibly on two late Costa Rica set pieces. If you can get 15 minutes like this from him, he’s worth a squad spot.

FB Walker Zimmerman: N/A

Was only on the field for a few moments, brought on for the specific purpose of marking a big Costa Rican attacker on a set piece, and managed to flub the assignment but to no penalty. Would be harsh to grade him on his one play, so we’ll leave it as N/A.

F Matthew Hoppe: N/A

Came on late for Weah. Made a couple decent plays, including a pseudo bicycle kick to keep a wayward cross in bounds, and hustled. Too limited of a sample size to issue a proper grade, but he certainly didn’t hurt anything by being on the field.

Overall: 5.0

Some bright moments today, by some bright talents, but if this team doesn’t want to get blown out by Mexico next game, 75% of the guys on the pitch have to be better, and not just by a little bit.

One For The Armchair Quarterbacks

It’s a tale as old as time. Laughably out of shape dude several beers down shouts at the television about what an idiot his NFL team’s head coach is. The retort is virtually always the same. “Oh, you think your fat ass could do it better?” Well, actually…

So here’s the thing. Most NFL coaches are so laughably bad at their jobs that they’d be fired instantly for equivalent performance in a “real life” job. Honestly, think about it. Let’s say you’re a project manager and you have a high visibility project due by the end of the week, and an employee to handle each key deliverable. However, instead of having the graphic designer do the art, and the copywriter do the writing, and the procurement specialist get the printing and production in order, you decide to have the meth head from the train tunnel do all three.

Now, there’s a lot that we don’t see that goes into a coach’s job. All those practices and video sessions on every other day of the week besides Sunday (or the odd Monday or Thursday) but literally not a single person gives a shit what goes on on anything other than game day. A team could spend every practice kicking each other in the nuts as hard as they can, and if the team won on game day, nobody would give a shit.

Unsaid here is that, in many cases, the plays are called by the Offensive Coordinator, so there’s some element of a buffer between the head coach and the play calling, but hey, the shit rolls uphill.

To be fair, the average Joe could never scheme up an offensive plan or philosophy that would work on a pro field. So we’ll give the actual coaches this one. But then, they’d never be able to score meth with the ruthless efficiency of the guy from the train tunnel either, so…

Back to the fun bit, why could your average Joe be a better coach than, say Ron Rivera? Well, let’s just take a look. On Sunday, the WFT took on a talented Buffalo Bills squad with an explosive offense and exploitable defense. It’s no secret that the WFT will live or die by its defense, but the do have a couple of explosive pieces on offense in the wildly talented Antonio Gibson and the criminally underappreciated Terry McLaurin. So naturally, to give his team the best chance to win, Rivera made sure to give the ball to his best offensive players as little as possible. Sound stupid? That’s because it is. Rivera has actually been reticent to include Gibson, who was a God damn RECEIVER in college, in the passing game at all, opting instead to use JD McKissic on all passing downs. To make matters worse, Gibson actually took a screen pass 73 yards for a score in the first half… and then didn’t see another pass all game. McLaurin? Only four receptions all game. Yes, the WFT was missing starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, but that’s no excuse. Defenses can scheme ways to minimize a wide receiver’s impact (at the expense of course of leaving other guys wide open) but there’s no excuse for Gibson having only 14 touches. None. And this isn’t a one-off.

What about Nick Sirianni? I mean, anyone who saw that introductory press conference already knew… but good God… this guy isn’t a tool. He’s the entire shed. Even giving him the benefit of the doubt that he’s essentially brand new to his job, the following is criminal. It took until midway through the second quarter for Miles Sanders to get his first carry. He finished the half with two. He finished the game with two. Coaching 101, when you face a high-flying offense, the best defense against them is to let them on the field as infrequently as possible. But no, against an exploitable but opportunistic defense, Sirianni decides to have Jalen Hurts heave the ball downfield and abandoned the run entirely. It’s immediately fireable.

It’s not limited to the guys we can all agree are laughing stocks. The Jacksonville Jaguars would never yeet Urban Meyer just three games into his tenure, but in a winnable game against the Cardinals on Sunday, James Robinson got only 15 carries. Yes, he also got six receptions, and 21 touches ain’t horrible but when you have a stud, feed him. More criminal than that, Laviska Shenault, the Jags’ most explosive playmaker, got a mere four touches. Rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been given free reign to heave the ball all over the field so far though, and the five interceptions the last two weeks is the proof.

Virtually everyone in the football world knows the Rams’ Sean McVay is a savant. The problem is, they never put the asterisk by savant to denote that it’s purely at designing schemes. Play calling is another story. He actually called a good game against Tampa Bay on Sunday but the previous week, with a chance to ice the game against the Colts on the road, he entirely shit the bed, as he’s done over and over with the Rams. The situation, it’s a late fourth quarter third and two, and the exhausted Colts defense hasn’t been able to stop the burly Sony Michel on something like six consecutive runs. So rather than sticking with what clearly was working, McVay called for a receiver sweep to Cooper Kupp that ended up losing five yards. Just because a play fails, however, doesn’t mean it was 100% the wrong call. But calling a play that can’t possibly succeed, such as a receiver sweep that goes 15 yards horizontally against a nine man front before it turns upfield, is stupefying. All’s well that ends well as the reliably Matt Gay made a field goal and the defense held, but it’s a pattern. Never mind the Superbowl loss to the Patriots, but the playoff miss of 2019 can be attributed to at least three losses McVay’s atrocious play calling exclusively caused. He’ll be the Rams coach for life if he wants to be, and that’s probably deserved considering he’s managed to bring success to a franchise that suffered through Jeff Fisher, but Jesus, man, let your offensive coordinator make the calls.

And then there’s Bill Belichick! Just kidding. He’s the GOAT.

David Culley… oh, you haven’t heard of him? Don’t blame you, neither have I. But he’s the Texans coach. With reliable veteran Tyrod Taylor at the helm, equally reliable veteran Mark Ingram got 26 carries in a bruising week 1 win. Fast forward to week 3, with Taylor injured and rookie Davis Mills at quarterback against a 2-0 Panthers team… 6 carries. It’s wild, isn’t it?

I could go on. And this isn’t a recent phenomenon. The Bengals somehow stuck with Marvin Lewis for two seasons in which they totaled…what, one win? Nobody in the history of football combined longevity and dumbfuckery quite like Jeff Fisher. Ask any Rams fan.

So this one’s for us, the doughy beer drinking armchair quarterbacks who think our favorite team’s coach is an idiot. We don’t just think it. They are.

NFL Over/Under Picks

I have taken the win totals from DraftKings Sportsbook as it is the one I personally use. Here is where I am placing my bets on the over/under win totals this NFL season.

Team

Win Total

Pick

Arizona Cardinals

8.5

Over

Atlanta Falcons

7.5

Under

Baltimore Ravens

11

Under

Buffalo Bills

11

Over

Carolina Panthers

7.5

Under

Chicago Bears

7.5

Under

Cincinnati Bengals

6.5

Over

Cleveland Browns

10.5

Over

Dallas Cowboys

9

Over

Denver Broncos

8.5

Under

Detroit Lions

4.5

Over

Green Bay Packers

10

Over

Houston Texans

4

Under

Indianapolis Colts

9

Under

Jacksonville Jaguars

6.5

Under

Kansas City Chiefs

12.5

Over

Las Vegas Raiders

7

Over

Los Angeles Chargers

9.5

Over

Los Angeles Rams

10.5

Over

Miami Dolphins

9.5

Under

Minnesota Vikings

8.5

Under

New England Patriots

9.5

Over

New Orleans Saints

9

Under

New York Giants

7

Under

New York Jets

6

Under

Philadelphia Eagles

6.5

Over

Pittsburgh Steelers

8.5

Over

San Francisco 49ers

10.5

Over

Seattle Seahawks

10

Under

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

12

Over

Tennessee Titans

9

Over

Washington Football Team 8.5 Over

Final 2021 NFL Mock Draft

After a trade at the QB position for the Broncos on Wednesday and more info leaking, I have adjusted my mock draft!

1JaguarsTrevor LawrenceQBClemson
2JetsZach WilsonQBBYU
349ersMac JonesQBAlabama
4FalconsKyle PittsTEFlorida
5BengalsJa’Marr ChaseWRLSU
6DolphinsDeVonta SmithWRAlabama
7LionsPenei SwewellOTOregon
8PanthersJaycee HornCBSouth Carolina
9BroncosMicah ParsonLBPenn State
10CowboysPatrick Surtain IICBAlabama
11GiantsRashawn SlaterOTNorthwestern
12EaglesJaylen WaddleWRAlabama
13ChargersChristian DarrisawOTVirginia Tech
14VikingsKwity PayeEDMichigan
15PatriotsTrey LanceQBNorth Dakota State
16CardinalsChristian BarmoreDTAlabama
17RaidersTrevon MoehrigSTCU
18DolphinsAlijah Vera-TuckerOTUSC
19Football TeamJustin FieldsQBOhio State
20BearsRashod BatemanWRMinnesota
21ColtsSamuel CosmiOTTexas
22TitansElijah MooreWROle Miss
23JetsGregory RousseauEDMiami (FL)
24SteelersNajee HarrisHBAlabama
25JaguarsCaleb FarleyCBVirginia Tech
26BrownsJeremiah Owusu-KoramoahLBNotre Dame
27RavensJaelan PhillipsEDMiami (FL)
28SaintsGreg Newsome IICBNorthwestern
29PackersKadarius ToneyWRFlorida
30BillsJayson OwehEDPenn State
31RavensTerrace Marshall Jr.WRLSU
32BuccaneersAsante Samuel JrCBFlorida State

2021 NFL Mock Draft

1JaguarsTrevor LawrenceQBClemson
2JetsZach WilsonQBBYU
349ersMac JonesQBAlabama
4FalconsKyle PittsTEFlorida
5BengalsPenei SewellOTOregon
6DolphinsJa’Marr ChaseWRLSU
7LionsDeVonta SmithWRAlabama
8PanthersRashawn SlaterOTNorthwestern
9BroncosJustin FieldsQBOhio State
10CowboysPatrick Surtain IICBAlabama
11GiantsMicah ParsonsLBPenn State
12EaglesJaylen WaddleWRAlabama
13ChargersChristian DarrisawOTVirginia Tech
14VikingsKwity PayeEDMichigan
15PatriotsTrey LanceQBNorth Dakota State
16CardinalsChristian BarmoreDTAlabama
17RaidersTrevon MoehrigSTCU
18DolphinsAlijah Vera-TuckerOTUSC
19Football TeamWalker LittleOTStanford
20BearsRashod BatemanWRMinnesota
21ColtsSamuel CosmiOTTexas
22TitansJaycee HornCBSouth Carolina
23JetsGregory RousseauEDMiami (FL)
24SteelersNajee HarrisHBAlabama
25JaguarsElijah MooreWRMississippi
26BrownsJeremiah Owusu-KoramoahLBNotre Dame
27RavensJaelan PhillipsEDMiami (FL)
28SaintsGreg Newsome IICBNorthwestern
29PackersKadarius ToneyWRFlorida
30BillsJayson OwehEDPenn State
31RavensTerrace Marshall Jr.WRLSU
32BuccaneersTravis EtienneHBClemson
Brent Honeywell Jr. is Finally a MLB Pitcher

Brent Honeywell Jr. is Finally a MLB Pitcher

It was September 3, 2017, Brent Honeywell Jr. took the mound for the Durham Bulls in front of just 3,073 fans at Coolray Field against the Gwinnett Braves. He went 5.1 innings that day, striking out five and giving up no runs. His first strikeout victim of the game was Ronald Acuna Jr., another of the strikeout victims that day was first baseman Matt Tuiasosopo. 16 days later Honeywell took the mound against the Memphis Redbirds and the Bulls won the Triple-A National Championship.

In 2018 the Gwinnett Braves were rebranded the Gwinnett Stripers, Acuna made his big-league debut and won Rookie of the Year, Tuiasosopo was out of affiliated ball and retired after a season in the Indy ball circuit. Meanwhile, Honeywell was out the entire season after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament in Spring Training and ending up going under the knife for Tommy John Surgery.

Fast forward to April 11, 2021, Acuna is in year three of an eight-year $100 million dollar contract, Tuiasosopo is the manager for that Gwinnett Stripers club, and Honeywell finally made his long-awaited MLB debut against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. There have been 1,316 days between that outing at Coolray Field in 2017, exactly 1,300 since a game that counted, and his debut in 2021, and Honeywell had thrown precisely zero pitches in a regular season game.

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Throughout that time, Honeywell wound up undergoing four separate elbow surgeries and went from the guy with the most talked about pitch among prospects, his plus screwball, and flirting with being a top 10 prospect in all of baseball, to a guy MLB.com has ranked at the 19th ranked prospect in the Rays system.

Still, when he toed the rubber at the Trop on Sunday afternoon, it was truly a goosebump inducing moment for all that had followed his career, and he shut down all six Yankees he faced, two via the strikeout.

Despite only pitching the first two innings of the game, those weren’t without high tension moments. Austin Meadows was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the first, Honeywell was asked if he considered taking justice into his own hands, he replied “I think I took justice into my own hands and shut them down for the two (innings) I was able to work.”

The Rays wound up falling 8-4 and Honeywell was optioned back down to the alternate site after the game, but Honeywell has plenty of confidence he will be back, saying “I know I belong here.”

MLB Needs to Change This Rule

How’s that for a title? Any idea what I’m talking about? If you don’t, in an era where the powers that be can’t help themselves, tinkering with ridiculousness under the laughably absurd false pretense that the games are too long. But hey, if you think they need robot umps for balls and strikes, I can’t really fault you. Home plate umpiring is terrible and only getting worse. If you think they need a universal DH, that’s ok. You can be wrong and still be a decent person.

But this isn’t about any of that. This is about the tragicomic way the recent Mets Marlins game ended, when Michael Conforto was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. You can check out Jomboy breaking it down here. Or for a quick recap, here’s what went down:

With the sacks packed in a tie game, Marlins reliever Anthony Bass threw a two strike slider to Conforto that was well in the strike zone. Conforto, possibly sensing he’d been beaten, leaned out and stuck his elbow pad into the pitch. The ball grazed the pad and nestled firmly in the catcher’s mitt. Home plate umpire Ron Kulpa, a special brand of terrible unto himself, actually started ringing up Conforto for strike three, and mid flourish, changed his mind and awarded Conforto first base, and the Mets the game.

Obviously, Bass and Marlins manager Don Mattingly argued the call but the damage was done. Kulpa and umpiring crew went under the hood to review the play, but could only make the determination that Conforto was indeed struck by the ball. Why? Because that’s all they were allowed to review.

By rule, a batter must make a reasonable effort to avoid being hit by a pitch. If the umpire rules that he doesn’t, then he doesn’t get awarded first base and the pitch is called a ball, assuming it’s out of the strike zone. From this rule, it can be inferred that a batter cannot deliberately put himself in the path of a pitch either, which Conforto clearly did. But, alas, not reviewable.

Moreover, also by rule, if a batter is struck by a pitch that is in the strike zone, the umpire is to call a strike and not award the batter first base. Bass’ pitch to Conforto was clearly a strike – even Kulpa was ringing him up before having last second change of heart. But of course, this is also not reviewable.

Why are they not reviewable? Who the heck knows, to be honest. The confederacy of dunces that runs Major League Baseball will do what it’s going to do. That said, when it comes to replay review, the line does have to arbitrarily be drawn somewhere. Where is that line? I don’t know and I don’t care.

However, what I do know is that MLB can take a cue from another major professional league who constantly struggles with its much maligned replay system, and what can and can’t be reviewed. The NFL automatically reviews all scoring plays. Someone scores a touchdown? Ok, let’s just make sure nothing wonky happened. Seems reasonable, right?

Here’s what MLB can do, and start doing immediately. Automatically review all plays on which a winning run scores. In 99% of cases it will be academic anyway as there won’t be any dispute. But in the odd case that there is, like we just had with Miami and the Mets, the review office can make a swift determination that shenanigans went down.

Sure, rule changes have to be collectively bargained or whatever, but I can’t see the Players’ Association fighting this. And if they do, Joe Torre can tell Tony Clark to go eff himself and make the change anyway. What are the players going to do? Strike?

Who knows, maybe the Mets would have won the game at some point anyway. But maybe they wouldn’t have. And maybe the Marlins will finish the season one game out of a playoff spot. MLB has to do everything in its power to ensure things like that don’t happen due to a butchered call.