US men’s soccer to play Costa Rica in June 9 exhibition
CHICAGO — The U.S. men’s soccer team will play Costa Rica in an exhibition on June 9 at Sandy, Utah, the Americans’ fourth match in an 11-day span designed to simulate the compacted World Cup qualifying schedule.
The team gathers in Europe and starts the run of games on May 30 with a friendly against Switzerland in St. Gallen.
The Americans then play Honduras on June 3 at Denver in the semifinal of the first CONCACAF Nations League, their first competitive match since beating Cuba 4-0 in the Nations League group stage on Nov. 19, 2019.
The Nations League championship or third-place match, against Mexico or Costa Rica, will be at Denver on June 6.
The friendly match against Costa Rica was announced Thursday.
These figure to be the last prep matches for the full U.S. player pool ahead of the delayed start of World Cup qualifying. U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter expects to let his Europe-based regulars take vacation during the CONCACAF Gold Cup, where the Americans open against Canada from July 10-12, then finish the group stage against Martinique and then either Guatemala, Haiti, Guyana or St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the Americans open qualifying for the 2022 tournament in Qatar on Sept. 2, likely at either Trinidad and Tobago or El Salvador.
Blue Jays shuffling back to Buffalo starting June 1
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Toronto Blue Jays are returning to their home away from home, Buffalo, New York, starting in June. And this time, they’ll have a limited number of fans in attendance.
Forced from Canada by that government’s coronavirus travel restrictions, the Blue Jays posted a note on their Twitter account on Wednesday saying: “Buffalo, we’re BACK! We’ll see you June 1st.” The words were over a picture of Buffalo’s downtown Sahlen Field, the regular home of the Blue Jays’ Triple-A farm team.
Toronto played its first two homestands at its spring training ballpark in Dunedin, Florida, and will play its third there from May 14-24. But the Blue Jays did not want to remain in Florida for the hotter, more humid portion of the year.
The Blue Jays return to Buffalo with a homestand that includes games against Miami on June 1-2 and Houston from June 4-6. They’ll travel to Buffalo after a five-game trip that ends in Cleveland.
Tickets in Buffalo will initially be available through the Blue Jays’ 10-game homestand concluding on July 4 before the team considers whether it can return to Toronto following the All-Star break, said Mike Buczkowski, president of Rich Baseball Operations, which owns the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. The Blue Jays come out of the break opening a six-game homestand starting with Texas on July 16.
The price of tickets have yet to be determined, and scheduled to go on sale next week.
Toronto last played at 49,000-capacity Rogers Centre on Sept. 29, 2019, an 8-3 win over Tampa Bay.
The Blue Jays played home games during the shortened 2020 season in Buffalo and were 17-9 at Sahlen Field. They finished 32-28 to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and were swept in losing twice at eventual AL champion Tampa Bay in the wild-card round.
The Jays are 7-4 in Dunedin this season and 7-10 on the road.
NCAA aims for less contact in preseason football practice
The NCAA football oversight committee is preparing to recommend changes to preseason camp that will include fewer fully padded practices and the elimination of some old-school collision drills.
The latest move to scale back contact in practice comes in response to a five-year study involving six major college football teams that found more head impact exposure and concussions happened in preseason practice than during games.
The committee’s initial proposal called for at least nine of a team’s 25 preseason practices to be run with players wearing helmets but no other pads, and no more than eight fully-padded, full-contact practices. That proposal went out to NCAA membership for feedback two weeks ago.
The committee is scheduled to meet again Thursday. West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons, the chairman of the committee, said the plan is to hand over a final recommendation for a new preseason model for the Division I Council to consider at its May 19 meeting.
If passed, the new model would go into effect this year.
Lyons refers to the model as 9-8-8: eight days of players practicing in helmets and shoulder pads with no live tackling to the ground, nine days in just helmets and no more than eight full-contact days. The current proposal would also limit full-contact practices to no more than two consecutive days.
New York Rangers abruptly dump team president, GM
The New York Rangers abruptly fired president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton on Wednesday with three games left in the season, a shocking move in the aftermath of the latest controversy for the storied NHL organization.
Chris Drury was named president and GM. He previously served as associate GM under Davidson and Gorton.
”We want to thank JD and Jeff for their contributions to the organization,” owner James Dolan said in a statement. “They are both great hockey professionals who worked hard for the Rangers. However, in order for the team to succeed in the manner our fans deserve, there needs to be a change in leadership.”
The stunning news came less than 24 hours after the team ripped the league for fining but not suspending Washington’s Tom Wilson for his role in a scrum Monday night that injured Rangers star Artemi Panarin. A team statement called the decisiona dereliction of duty and that George Parros was “unfit” to remain in his job as head of player safety.
It was not immediately clear if the front office shakeup had any connection to the criticism of the league.
Whatever the reason, cutting ties with Davidson and Gorton is a surprise. Since Gorton became GM in 2015 and Davidson joined the organization in spring 2019, the Rangers have built one of the most impressive collections of young talent in hockey.
The Rangers qualified for the NHL’s expanded, 24-team playoffs in 2020, won the draft lottery and the opportunity to select Alexis Lafreniere with the top pick, and are expected to finish fifth in the eight-team East Division this season.
Cowboys release Antwaun Woods after drafting 2 DTs
FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys released defensive tackle Antwaun Woods on Wednesday, less than a week after drafting two potential replacements for a starter from each of the past three seasons.
Woods had signed a non-guaranteed $2.1 million contract as a restricted free agent last month, so his release won’t cost anything against the salary cap.
After giving up a franchise-record 473 points and having the second-worst run defense in the NFL, the Cowboys used eight of their 11 draft picks on defensive players last week, the most since the draft was reduced to seven rounds in 1994.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the club hoped some rookies could replace higher-priced veterans to help with the salary cap, and the 28-year-old Woods is the first example of it.
Dallas drafted a pair of defensive tackles in UCLA’s Osa Odighizuwa and Quinton Bohanna of Kentucky. While Odighizuwa’s build could be a fit for a rush end, Bohanna is a prototypical interior defensive lineman at 327 pounds.
Yankees, Mets to lift capacity limits for vaccinated fans
NEW YORK — The Yankees and Mets can increase capacity from 20% to 100% at their ballparks for home games starting May 19 — as along as fans are vaccinated against COVID-19.
And both teams will be giving away free tickets along with vaccinations.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement at a news conference on Wednesday with Yankees president Randy Levine and Mets president Sandy Alderson.
“Theoretically if you had 100% vaccinated, you could fill the entire stadium with 100% vaccinated,” Cuomo said. “Unvaccinated, it is still the 6-foot social distancing. In other words, our capacity restrictions have been relaxed subject to the federal CDC social-distancing guideline of 6 feet.”
The Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccination will be offered at the ballparks, and a person receiving a vaccination can get a free game ticket.
“If we can encourage more people to get vaccinated by giving away Yankees tickets, we are all in,” the Yankees said in a statement.
The current requirement for fans to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test will be dropped because it is burdensome, Cuomo said. Masks will continue to be required. Sections for unvaccinated fans will be at 33% capacity.
AP source: Jaguars fire 4 execs who spent 66 years with team
The Jacksonville Jaguars have fired four longtime scouting executives, including two who had been with the team more than two decades, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The person said the Jaguars parted with Chris Driggers, Andy Dengler, Mark Ellenz and Paul Roell following the NFL draft. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the moves were not publicly announced.
Driggers, Dengler, Ellenz and Roell had been with the Jags a combined 66 seasons. Each of them was either hired or promoted by former general manager Dave Caldwell, who was fired in November.
The team removed all four fired execs from its website Wednesday.
Driggers was the team’s director of pro personnel since 2015. He had been one of six staff members who joined the franchise in 1994, shortly after its inception.
Dengler was the team’s assistant director of player personnel since 2013. He first joined the Jags as a regional scout in 1998.
Ellenz was the team’s director of college scouting since 2016. He joined the Jaguars as a regional scout in 2013. He started his NFL career as an assistant training camp coordinator with New Orleans in 1998.
College pitcher turning theft of prosthetic arm into charity
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A college baseball player from South Dakota whose prosthetic arm was stolen plans to give away moneydonated by people who want to buy him a replacement.
Augustana’s Parker Hanson, a right-handed pitcher, was born without a left hand, but found a way to adapt at a young age so he play his favorite game all the way up through the college level. His prosthetic arm and the attachments were in a backpack that was stolen from his unlocked pickup outside his home.
“It’s only for me. I’m the only person in the world that can use that arm,” Hanson said.
Hanson talked to his neighbor and got surveillance footage of the suspect in the theft. The footage was shared Monday on Facebook and on Tuesday Sioux Falls police found his bag on the side of the road near Hanson’s home. The prosthetic attachments were returned to Hanson, but his arm is still missing, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported.
“I’m guessing the news stories kind of rattled them, maybe made them feel a little bad or guilty about what they took,” Hanson said.
In the meantime, he’s had people offer to give and raise money for a replacement. NCAA rules prohibit him from accepting donations until the end of his season, at which time he said “whatever funds I don’t need I’m looking to donate back into the community or charities that help people with disabilities.”
NFL reminds teams are off the hook if injury occurs off-site
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The NFL is reminding teams following Ja’Wuan James’ potentially season-ending Achilles injury that they’re not obligated to pay salaries of players who get hurt away from team facilities.
The memo sent to all 32 teams Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press was spurred by James’ injury he sustained while working out at a private gym away from Broncos headquarters on Tuesday.
The league encouraged teams to “remind players of the significant injury-related protection provided if they choose to work out at the club facility and the risks they undertake in choosing to train in non-NFL locations.”
Players are protected against lost wages if they sustain an injury at a team’s facility. They don’t have the same protection if they’re injured working out anywhere else.
Players from 20 teams, including the Broncos, are boycotting voluntary offseason workouts at team facilities over COVID-19 concerns.
Full speed ahead: DK Metcalf set to take on elite sprinters
The newest sprinter in the game is tall just like world-record holder Usain Bolt and has quite an explosive burst — off the line of scrimmage, anyway.
DK Metcalf will soon see just how quick he is from a different line, the starting line.
The speedy Seattle Seahawks receiver is scheduled to trade his football cleats for track spikes Sunday as he ventures into a new, faster lane for a 100-meter competition at the USA Track and Field Golden Games in Walnut, California.
He will put his feet to the test against Olympic-caliber sprinters. It’s a decision that definitely caught the attention of the track world, where athletes have for years been challenged by anyone, in any sport, who just happens to be fast.
This may be their chance to show, once and for all, that track speed is far different from football fast.
“There’s not a sprinter in the world who will let this guy think he can run with them. They will destroy him,” said track agent and former 110-meter hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah, who also played three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. “It’s a noble gesture but an exercise in futility. It really is. No offense to DK, I’m a fan of his.
“I applaud him for wanting to find out — and find out he will.”
The 6-foot-4 Metcalf — an inch shorter than the retired Bolt — is quick. Metcalf ran 4.33 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine prior to the 2019 NFL draft.
Chelsea ousts Madrid to set up all-English CL final vs City
LONDON — Chelsea will end a turbulent season by playing in the Champions League final after making the competition’s most successful team look ordinary.
Timo Werner and Mason Mount scored to secure a 2-0 victory over Real Madrid in the second of their semifinal on Wednesday to oust the record 13-time European champions 3-1 on aggregate.
It will be an all-English final against Manchester City on May 29 but the Premier League rivals will have to fly four hours to play the UEFA showpiece in Istanbul, which is currently in a coronavirus lockdown.
Getting a shot at adding to its 2012 Champions League title will vindicate Chelsea’s decision in January to fire club great Frank Lampard and hire Thomas Tuchel, the manager who led Paris Saint-Germain to last season’s final.
Solskjaer urges United fans to be ‘civilized’ with protests
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer called on the team’s fans to be more “civilized” with their protests after violence marred a demonstration against the club’s American owners that forced the postponement of a Premier League match with Liverpool.
Acting again as United’s spokesman on Wednesday amid continuing silence by the Glazer family, Solskjaer defended the right of supporters to protest and accepted there needs to be better dialogue between the fans and United’s leadership to rebuild their frayed relationship.
Solskjaer, though, said things went too far on the concourse outside Old Trafford on Sunday when baton-wielding police clashed with fans, some of whom managed to breach the biosecure perimeter of the stadium and get on the field ahead of the Liverpool game, causing it to be postponed. Six police officers were injured, with one sustaining a fractured eye socket and another a facial wound after glass bottles were thrown.
Postponed Man United-Liverpool game rescheduled for May 13
Manchester United’s game against Liverpool will be played on May 13 after being postponed because of protests by home fans at Old Trafford on Sunday.
It means United will play three Premier League games in five days. It faces Aston Villa away on Sunday and now has a home game against Leicester on Tuesday followed by the Liverpool game two days later. The Leicester game had originally been scheduled for Wednesday but was moved forward.
United is second in the Premier League.
Sunday’s high-profile game against archrival Liverpool was postponed after a fan protest against the Glazer family — United’s American owners — turned violent with some supporters clashing with police and others invading the pitch inside Old Trafford.
Only home fans allowed for final 2 rounds in Premier League
LONDON — Only home fans will be allowed into games when the Premier League welcomes back spectators to stadiums for the final two rounds of the season.
Supporters will return in a reduced capacity from May 17, subject to the British government easing lockdown restrictions as planned, and the Premier League has rearranged its schedule to ensure each of its 20 teams plays at least one game at home in front of fans.
The league said away supporters would not get tickets for those matches “due to varying operational challenges” and to maximize the opportunity for home fans to attend.
“This marks a key step towards full stadiums, including away fans, from the start of the 2021-22 season,” the league said in a statement.
The next-to-last round of games will take place on May 18-19. The final round is on May 23.
15-year-old sues for right to play in NWSL
PORTLAND, Ore. — A 15-year-old has sued in federal court for the right to play in the National Women’s Soccer League, which doesn’t allow players under 18.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Portland, Oregon, on behalf of Olivia Moultrie alleges the league’s age rule violates antitrust law and also hinders her career development and chances of reaching the U.S. national team.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play professionally in the U.S. I know girls my age are competing around the world and I just want to get on the field and officially compete,” Moultrie said in a statement released by the firm representing her, Miller Nash Graham & Dunn.
Moultrie, who trains with the Portland Thorns but does not play in games, is asking for a preliminary injunction that would her allow to play in the league, which opens the regular season on May 15.
The lawsuit also points out the gender disparity in the rules at the top tier of soccer in the United States.
“The truth is that if Olivia Moultrie was male, she’d already be playing in MLS,” attorney Max Forer said in a statement. “Further, she’s already eligible to play for the U.S. Women’s National Team but can’t officially play in the league that develops and prepares talent for the National Team, that’s unfair.”
Moultrie, who signed a sponsorship deal with Nike when she was 13, can’t join a team overseas under FIFA rules — meaning the NWSL is the only pro league available to her.
Madrid Open: Nadal cruises past Spanish teenage sensation
MADRID — In a much-anticipated battle of generations, Rafael Nadal showed he is still clearly the man to beat in Spanish tennis, cruising to a 6-1, 6-2 win over teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz in the second round of the Madrid Open on Wednesday.
Nadal, seeking his sixth title in Madrid and looking to regain top form ahead of the French Open, was never threatened by Alcaraz, who turned 18 on Wednesday.
The 120th-ranked Alcaraz was coming off his first victory at a Masters 1000 event and had called the match against his idol a “dream come true.” He has been touted by many as the successor to the 34-year-old Nadal.
After the crowd at the “Magic Box” center court sang “Happy Birthday” to him, Alcaraz squandered a break point in the first game and then struggled to keep up with the 20-time Grand Slam champion. The wild-card entry was marred by unforced errors, earning his lone break toward the end of the second set.
Alcaraz needed medical attention in the third game after losing a long rally, apparently hurting his arm or shoulder while going for an overhead smash.
The two Spaniards had never played a match against each other but practiced together at the Australian Open, when Alcaraz reached the second round.
“It was a difficult match against a youngster who has been playing very well and who has an enormous potential ahead of him,” Nadal said on Wednesday. “All he needs is some time. In addition to being a great tennis player, he also has great values, which is something society needs right now.”
After the match, tournament director Feliciano Lopez, who lost to Alcaraz in the Andalucia Open last month, brought out a birthday cake, and Nadal also joined the celebration.
Earlier, second-seeded Daniil Medvedev broke his six-match tour-level losing streak on clay with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. The third-ranked Medvedev hadn’t played since March at the Miami Open. He will next face Chilean Cristian Garin, who defeated Dominik Koepfer 6-3, 6-4.
Alexander Zverev, the 2018 Madrid champion, comfortably defeated 2014 finalist Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2.
Hamilton and Verstappen to resume title fight in Barcelona
MADRID — The race for the Formula One title has quickly become a two-man show, and it’s not expected to change when the circuit goes to Barcelona this week for the Spanish Grand Prix.
At a track all teams know well, Mercedes and Red Bull are expected to continue to dominate with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen separated by eight points after three races.
“The picture is starting to clarify. Red Bull and Mercedes are the two standout teams, and Lewis and Max are the two standout drivers,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. “If we get a pretty standard Barcelona, I think you’ll get the four races and we can see where our strengths and weaknesses are. But what we can see is it’s incredibly tight.”
Hamilton, the four-time defending champion with Mercedes, has the edge over Verstappen after winning the season-opener in Bahrain and last week’s race in Portugal. But Red Bull has significantly closed the gap this season, with Verstappen picking up a win in Italy and a pole position in Bahrain in the first three races. The teams are 18 points apart in the constructors’ championship.
American Pharoah, Todd Pletcher elected to Hall of Fame
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — The highlight of Bob Baffert’s Hall of Fame career as a thoroughbred trainer happened six years ago. Nothing else comes close.
“Winning the Triple Crown with American Pharoah was the greatest sports moment of my life,” said Baffert, fresh from winning his seventh Kentucky Derby. “It was so emotional and such a terrific thing for racing. He deserves all the accolades he gets.”
The greatest accolade came at Wednesday’s announcement that American Pharoah has been elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame. Seven-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher and 13-time champion steeplechase trainer Jack Fisher also were elected.
American Pharoah ended racing’s 37-year Triple Crown drought when he swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes in 2015. A bay colt bred in Kentucky by owner Zayat Stables, American Pharoah went on to win the Haskell Invitational and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Coupled with his victories earlier in the year in the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby, he was voted Horse of the Year and Champion 3-Year-Old Male for 2015, a year after he was crowned as the top 2-year-old.
Overall, American Pharoah posted a career record of 9-1-0 from 11 starts and earned $8,650,300. He now stands at stud in Kentucky.
Grosjean gets special test with Mercedes at French GP
BRACKLEY, England — Romain Grosjean will make a brief return to Formula One with a special one-off test for Mercedes exactly seven months after he escaped a fiery crash in Bahrain.
Mercedes announced Wednesday that Grosjean will drive Lewis Hamilton’s 2019 championship-winning car in demonstration laps at the French Grand Prix on June 27 before a full test day at Circuit Paul Ricard two days later.
It fulfills a promise Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff made following Grosjean’s crash last November when the Frenchman drove for Haas. Grosjean pulled himself from the fiery wreckage and as he lay hospitalized, Wolff said in a news conference he did not want that to be Grosjean’s final experience in F1.