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Ajax add substance to style vs. Juventus to raise hopes of UCL upset

Johan Cruyff famously once remarked: “Italians can’t beat us, but we can certainly lose against them.” It summed up the clash of footballing cultures at the time. His Ajax and Barcelona teams could outplay their Serie A counterparts but give up one chance, allow one counter, make one mistake and expect to be punished.

Cruyff’s words rang as true Wednesday night as they did back then. Ajax dominated the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal against Juventus. They deserved to win but yet, their streetwise and vastly experienced Italian opponents fly back home with a draw and an away goal from their only shot on target. The advantage is now with the Old Lady and history stands by her side. On the seven occasions Juventus have drawn the first leg away from home 1-1, they have progressed six times including against Ajax in 1978.cheap nfl jerseys nike china

That said, Ajax must draw strength from this encounter. A team that has scored 100 goals in the Eredivisie, 44 on the road, will back themselves to score at the Allianz Stadium even with Juventus’ captain and best defender Giorgio Chiellini expected to return for the seven-time defending Italian champions.6

On the eve of Wednesday’s game, Jordi Cruyff told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “My father would have liked this Ajax side.” Wednesday’s showing did nothing to change that opinion. Ajax stayed true to their values and managed 60 percent possession. Frenkie de Jong commanded, giving and going, twisting and turning, always moving, losing whomever it was who followed him.

Hakim Ziyech, for one, will be cursing his accuracy. The Moroccan’s aim failed him as the game wore on, but Wojciech Szczesny still needed to produce a world-class stop in the 17th minute to tip over one of Ziyech’s seven shots. Van de Beek blasted another chance high and wide soon afterward, and Nicolas Tagliafico, who will miss the second leg through suspension, caught Joao Cancelo napping but couldn’t steer Ziyech’s far-post cross on goal.cheap youth nfl jerseys

The inability to take the opportunities they created risked coming back to haunt Ajax and so it proved. Cristiano Ronaldo had not been peripheral. He’d volleyed a Miralem Pjanic corner wide and set up Federico Bernardeschi with a knock-down. But his opener — the last act of the first half – definitely came against the run of play.

Bullpen breakdowns, basepath mishaps add to Yankees’ woes

The New York Yankees’ season is only 11 games old, and already two troubling trends are forming.

Firstly, the bullpen — long deemed the strength of the team — has struggled. A pair of blown late leads in the past two games have highlighted that issue now more than at even the earliest stages of this still-young season. Evidence of the bullpen woes so far? Three blown saves and 19 runs allowed.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

Secondly, sloppy play has become the team’s calling card. Since the start of the season, the Yankees have had trouble stringing together a series of completely clean games, both offensively and defensively.7

Baserunning miscues remain a concern, and mental lapses in the field have been a problem. Still, the manager of the team that entered the season with the easiest April strength of schedule believes both bullpen strength and cleaned-up play are at hand.

“We’re prepared, the guys are focused, I love the way the guys are competing, but when you’re not clicking on all cylinders, you’ve got to do the little things. Because every little thing matters,” Aaron Boone said. “It’s important that we learn from every time there is a bump in the road, every time there is a mistake that we learn from it and grow from it. We’re confident we will.

“The bottom line is, we’re really close to playing a good brand and a complete game.“cheap nfl jerseys nike china

That complete game didn’t come in a loss Monday night. And it certainly didn’t in Tuesday’s 6-3 defeat.

But the thing is, the Yankees very much needed it both nights. In the middle of arguably their biggest series to this point, it was important they used these games at Minute Maid Park to send an early message. Although much of their first-month schedule is against teams that were sub-.500 last season, the Houston Astros likely will be in the playoff picture once the season ends.

The games on Monday and Tuesday were prime opportunities to put all of baseball on notice: Even with 11 players on the injured list, these Yankees can compete with the best. That message might have turned some heads this week.

Team-by-team look at how to approach NHL playoff fantasy action

Last season was an example of just how straightforward this can sometimes be when it comes to picking among the scorers. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom were the most obvious choices from the Washington Capitals, so if you liked this squad to make a run for the Stanley Cup, these would have been no-brainer selections for your squad. In fact, they finished one-two-three in scoring (Kuznetsov, Ovechkin, Backstrom) and that was that.

Yet, that was about the only predictable aspect. The run by the Vegas Golden Knights was impressive and pushed Reilly Smith to finish fourth in scoring. Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby exploded together for 21 points each in just 12 games to finish tied for fifth, even though the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t escape the second round. Despite being a fantasy trainwreck in the regular season, Braden Holtby ended up with the most wins (16) and posted two shutouts, while Marc-Andre Fleury was right behind him in scoring with 13 wins and four shutouts.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

So, with uncertainty still likely to come into play, there is a general strategy to fall back on:5

You want players from the teams that will advance the furthest. This is pretty obvious, as more games played equals more points. Of the 36 players that scored more than 10 points during last season’s playoffs, only 12 were not on teams that made the conference finals.

In most formats, goaltenders will earn the most points. This is, of course, assuming most teams will ride one goaltender through the playoffs. The Fleury/Matt Murray show we saw for the Pittsburgh Penguins in their back-to-back Stanley Cups has been the exception, not the rule. The goalie that wins it all will probably get 16 wins and a couple of shutouts sprinkled in. If your league awards two points per win, that’s already more points than the top-scoring skater of the playoffs is probably going to get. Evgeni Malkin’s 36 points in 2008-09 is the only example from the past 10 years of a player eclipsing 32 points.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

All your eggs should be in a minimal number of baskets. Pick your teams that you think will go far and take players from those teams. Sean Couturier and Mitch Marner both scored better than a point-per-game during the playoffs last year, but that doesn’t help you much if they don’t get out of the first round.

The bigger your pool, the more contrarian you need to be. This is the same approach you take for daily fantasy sports, as the more opponents you are facing in your pool will usually translate into more of the same lineup decisions. If you are in a pool with 10 of your co-workers, go ahead and stack the top teams and pick all the superstars. There should be enough variety among only 10 teams. However, if your friend runs a playoff pool with 50-100 entries, all of a sudden you need to zig a little while everyone else is zagging to have a chance at winning. You don’t want to go completely contrarian, but a couple of sleeper picks will be needed to separate you from the pack. Taking part in an online pool with thousands of entries? You may need to predict something like a Colorado Avalanche-Columbus Blue Jackets final — and be right — in order to win the crown.

Wild’s Brown arrested for public intoxication

Minnesota Wild forward J.T. Brown was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication in Dallas hours before the Wild’s season finale.

Police reports indicate the incident happened at British Beverage Co. early Saturday. Brown did not play in the Wild’s final game that night against the Dallas Stars, who beat the Wild 3-0 to take the Western Conference’s top wild-card spot. The Wild announced he was out because of illness.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Brown apologized to the Wild, his teammates, family and fans for making a “poor decision.” He said in a statement to the Star Tribune that he put himself in “a bad situation” and takes full responsibility.4

The Wild said the team is aware of the report and has no comment.

Dallas police say an off-duty police officer was advised by employees of a nearby business that Brown was causing a disturbance with other patrons and employees inside the business. Brown was asked to leave and escorted off the premises. Police say Brown later returned and caused a verbal altercation with the staff. He was taken into custody by officers and processed for public intoxication, a misdemeanor. Police say it was later discovered that Brown was a member of the Wild.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Brown, 28, is in his first season with the Wild after signing a two-year, $1.375 million contract last July as a free agent. The Burnsville, Minnesota, native and former Minnesota Duluth standout appeared in 56 games, recording three goals and eight points as the fourth-line right-winger. He previously played for the Tampa Bay Lightning and Anaheim Ducks.

Texans still in need of left tackle to protect Deshaun Watson

For as good a quarterback as Deshaun Watson has been in his first two seasons, the Houston Texans have been unable to put a solid offensive line in front of their franchise player.

And while Watson’s ability to move around in the pocket has covered some of the mistakes made by his offensive linemen, he was still sacked an NFL-leading 62 times last season. Watson didn’t miss a game, but he had to play through injuries to his ribs and lungs, while continuing to take those hard hits.

So far this offseason, the Texans have done little to fix that issue. The Texans re-signed Seantrel Henderson, who broke his lower leg in the 2018 season opener, and expect him to be their starting right tackle. Houston also added tackle Matt Kalil in free agency on a one-year deal, but he is coming off a knee injury that caused him to miss the entire 2018 season.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

General manager Brian Gaine didn’t think there was a deep tackle class in free agency, and the Texans didn’t want to overspend to sign tackle Trent Brown, who signed a four-year, $66 million contract with the Raiders last month. It’s easy to see why teams are hesitant to give out huge contracts to offensive linemen in free agency. Last offseason, Nate Solder signed a four-year, $62 million deal with the Giants and underperformed the contract in his first season. According to Pro Football Focus, Solder ranked 16th out of 35 qualifying left tackles in 2018.6

Of course, there’s still time to address the need at tackle, and Houston is likely to use at least one of its three picks in the first two rounds on the position. And there will be pressure to perform right away for that player.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

O’Brien said while it is possible for an offensive lineman to develop and play in his first year, “it’s not easy.” The head coach pointed out that the closer they play to the ball, the more difficult the transition is from a strength and knowledge standpoint.

“Most of these guys, first of all, in college, they’re in these great offenses in college, but they’re in two-point stances,” O’Brien said. “They’re not in three-point stances there. They’re not run blocking a whole lot — some of these schools — I’m not saying every school, but they’re throwing the ball 60, 70 times a game. So, they’re backpedaling. Now you’ve really got to train the guy how to run block, because we have to be able to run the football. There’s a lot that goes into it.

Chris Harris Jr. could get a new deal, but it won’t be without a bumpy ride

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. is now in territory where Von Miller, Peyton Manning and a long list of Denver Broncos players have been before: facing John Elway over money.

And Elway, the Broncos’ president of football operations/general manager, has developed a reputation as an ice-water-filled supervisor of the team’s checkbook.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

But if the negotiations with the high-profile players who came before him are any indication, it most certainly will be far from a smooth ride. So, Harris has not reported for the Broncos’ voluntary offseason program because he’d like a contract extension, and Elway has said he won’t address it until after the draft.5

“Once we get through the draft, we’ll see where we are, we’ll see where we are budget-wise,” Elway said. “Obviously, Chris has been a good football player for us for a long time. We’ll have to see where that goes. It’s something that we’d like to look at.”

And there you have the themes that have been in every major negotiation the team has had on Elway’s watch — with Broncos director of football administration Mike Sullivan — that Elway routinely says the new deal “has to make sense” and that he always says he needs to “see where we are budget-wide.”

One of the most familiar missives has been “we want to keep everybody, but there’s only so much money.”

That’s the situation as the Broncos have moved through their big-ticket business in free agency, including the trade for quarterback Joe Flacco, with his $18.5 million salary for 2019, to go with $105 million worth of contracts to tackle Ja’Wuan James and cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

The Broncos, with family ownership, have always had to time their spending to when the cash came in and then when the cash went out. Even in the free-agency pursuits of Mike Shanahan to Manning’s arrival to Miller’s $114.5 million deal in the summer of 2016.

Yanks’ Andujar (shoulder) upbeat about recovery

An upbeat Miguel Andujar reported to Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, one day after the New York Yankees third baseman was placed on the 10-day injured list because of a serious shoulder injury.

Season-ending surgery to repair the small labrum tear in Andujar’s right shoulder could be an option. So could simple rest and rehab. The latter would get him back on the field at some point later this season.cheap nfl jerseys nike china

“The plan right now is to do physical therapy for the next couple [weeks]. We’ll see where we’re going to be after that,” Andujar said through an interpreter. “The good thing is that I feel good, I feel better, and throughout the whole thing, you have to have positive thoughts. That’s very important.”

Manager Aaron Boone echoed those optimistic sentiments.6

“We’re in the very early stages, so it’s just got to play out over the next few days, and then as he starts ramping back up, it’ll become clear,” Boone said. “Try not to speculate on it too much right now when it’s a bit of an unknown.”

One reason both men are encouraged about Andujar’s recovery is the strength of the 24-year-old’s shoulder. In the 24 hours since an MRI revealed the tear, he has already been put through his share of physical activities to test it.

So far, he’s been passing.

“The physical test on my shoulder came back with good results,” Andujar said. “My strength is there.

“That’s encouraging. I feel good. I feel positive. I feel that the first step is the right step, which is to do physical therapy and see where we are in a couple of weeks.”cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

Andujar experienced the tear when he was diving back into third base while standing near the bag as a baserunner in the fourth inning of Sunday’s loss at home to the Baltimore Orioles. Even after what he called the “weird” headfirst slide, he finished the game.

Despite some discomfort the rest of that evening, Andujar didn’t think he had been seriously hurt.

While the Yankees wait to figure out exactly how Andujar’s recovery will progress, they could soon get back two of the other injured stars also on their stacked IL.

Celtics’ Irving, Horford ruled out for Nets game

Kyrie Irving and Al Horford will both miss Saturday night’s game between the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets.

After both Irving and Horford played 35 minutes in Friday night’s 114-112 victory in Boston over the Indiana Pacers — a win that moved Boston into a tie with Indiana for fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings with seven games to go — the Celtics announced Saturday morning that both Horford (left knee soreness) and Irving (lower back soreness) would sit. The Celtics also said that Jayson Tatum is questionable with an illness.new nike nfl jerseys cheap

Boston’s two best players sitting out is a potential boon for the Nets, who are desperate for any victory in the midst of what is easily the toughest closing stretch in the entire league. Coming off a seven-game road trip that saw Brooklyn face five playoff teams, Saturday marks the beginning of a six-game closing stretch that sees the Nets face six teams currently in the playoffs: the Celtics, the Milwaukee Bucks (twice), the Toronto Raptors, the Pacers and the Miami Heat — a game in Brooklyn on the final day of the season that very well could be a play-in game for one, or both, teams.6

The Nets begin Saturday in seventh place with a 38-38 record, a half-game behind the Detroit Pistons in sixth and a half-game ahead of the Heat in eighth. The Orlando Magic are another half-game behind the Heat in ninth, while the Charlotte Hornets are now two games back of eighth after losing to the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Boston, meanwhile, holds a 2-1 edge in the season series with Indiana, giving them the current edge in the race for fourth, and with it home-court advantage when the two teams all but certainly face each other in the Eastern Conference playoffs in a couple of weeks. Boston’s win Friday night meant that race will all but certainly be decided next Friday, when the Pacers host the Celtics in Indianapolis in the final meeting of the season between the two teams.

Celtics’ Ainge presents Wade with Garden parquet

Celtics president Danny Ainge presented Dwyane Wade with a plaque featuring a photo and a piece of the TD Garden parquet floor from 2008 on Monday to commemorate his retirement.

Ainge met Wade in a TD Garden hallway before the Celtics hosted the Heat in Wade’s final regular-season game in Boston.

“Thank you for your amazing career and inspiration. We’ve all benefited from it,” Ainge told Wade in front of a group of media. “You’ve been a remarkable player. We’ve had some good battles.”

“Yes, we have,” Wade said.cheap nfl nike jerseys china5

Ainge then took a not-too-subtle jab at Wade, bringing up an incident from the 2011 playoffs in which Wade and Rajon Rondo became tangled and Rondo came away with a dislocated elbow. Rondo later said Wade was a dirty player.

“I now forgive you for messing up Rondo’s elbow,” Ainge said.

Wade finished the game, a 110-105 loss, with 17 points and seven assists in 29 minutes off the bench.

“Like we talked about out there, we’ve had so many battles,” Wade said after the game. “I appreciate the respect they showed me as a player. I appreciate the respect of them to present me with a plaque, representing the history of Boston. That was so cool. I definitely didn’t expect it at all. I appreciate that gesture.”

The outpouring of appreciation was mutual and extended to Celtics forward Marcus Morris.new nike nfl jerseys cheap

“Playing against D-Wade these last few years and watching him as I grew up — he’s everything,” Morris said. “He’s been a veteran. He did a lot for the NBA. I’m happy that he’s going out on his own terms, and this is big-time, being able to play against him on his way out.”

Patriots’ Bill Belichick advocates for more time working with players

Coach Bill Belichick might have been tight-lipped with reporters at the NFL’s annual owners meetings in Arizona last week, but he was especially vocal behind the scenes on one topic he believes would benefit the game. He wants more time to work with players in the offseason, which struck a positive chord among his fellow coaches.

“I’m in total support of his position,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told china nike nfl jerseys cheap. “There’s so much down time for these guys. I think there was a time when older players were bargaining for these breaks when they thought less was better. But these guys [today] love the game and want to be part of it. And we love coaching and helping them.

“The game would just be better if we were able to do that, and if we were in connection with them more, they would be healthier as well — we could monitor their well-being. You don’t even have to mandate that. Just give them the option.”

When the most recent collective bargaining agreement was struck in 2011, offseason programs were reduced by five weeks.6

As for how the topic surfaced at last week’s annual meeting, it was described to me that the context of Belichick’s remarks came as coaches, general managers and others were being briefed on the successes of the league as it enters its 100th season. Belichick then passionately chimed in, and essentially said something along the lines of: While it is nice to hear good things, the focus should be on how it can be even better. One of the ways to do that, he said, was giving coaches more time with players.

“There’s so many positive things that could come out of it, in terms of development of young players, helping to really make sure these guys are learning the game and getting them ready for their opportunity,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera told ESPN.com. “Keeping players in a structured atmosphere, there are so many tools we have in terms of player development, it makes so much sense that the sooner we can get them and work with them, the better it will be.”

Given Belichick’s standing as a six-time Super Bowl-winning coach who enters his 45th NFL season, his advocacy on the issue was well-received.cheap nike nfl jersey

“It has a tremendous amount of weight,” Rivera said of Belichick leading the discussion on the topic, while also crediting Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid for taking a similar approach on league issues.

“He’s one of the soothsayers. He deserves that and has earned that,” Carroll said of Belichick. “He’s been very active, and we all appreciate it.”