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Marla Ridenour on Sports

Soccer's 'Metcalf up the middle' and other weekend musings

By Marla Published: July 18, 2011

It's hard for me to be disappointed in Japan's victory over the United States in an overtime shootout in the women's World Cup final Sunday because of how much the triumph meant to Japan, ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

Perhaps the match should merely be taken for what it was -- 117 minutes of heart-stopping competition between two talented and unified teams.

And before I write this, I must admit that I'm far from an expert on soccer and saw little of the competition until Sunday. Perhaps one of our readers can answer my questions.

But I'm still baffled as to how the U.S. could go scoreless on its first three penalty kicks, except perhaps that exhaustion had set in after 30 minutes of extra time.

Japan's coach Norio Sasaki was smiling as his players huddled before the penalty kick phase began. Was that because he was confident after scouting the U.S. players' tendencies in this situation? I read today that the team that comes from behind to tie the game and force penalty kicks usually has momentum. But does that explain how one of the U.S. kick's went totally over the goal? Did the first kick save by Japan goalie Ayumi Kaihori on Shannon Boxx's attempt give Japan even more momentum? Was U.S. goalie Hope Solo more injured than she let on? Did U.S. coach Pia Sundhage play into Japan's hands by using the same strategy on penalty kicks that she had against Brazil in the quarterfinals?

The U.S. team lived on drama during its run to the final and Sundhage seemed masterful in alleviating the pressure. But I can't help but wonder if her strategy during the penalty kick phase was women's soccer's equivalent of Metcalf up the middle

  • Other thoughts from the weekend:

  • Darren Clarke has been my favorite golfer since he captured the 2003 NEC Invitational. Clarke was a breath of fresh air among golfers usually afraid to talk about their lives off the course. Clarke revels in his passsions -- race cars, fine wine, smoking and his affiinity for a pint or two of Guinness. But my affinity for Clarke took on another layer when his wife Heather was diagnosed with breast cancer and died five years ago. That's why I raced home from the gym on Sunday, afraid that if Clarke broke down while walking down the 18th fairway that I would be sobbing in front of the television at Bally Total Fitness. Clarke handled himself with class, as usual, keeping his emotions in check during the televised portion, at least. I also loved the co-runner-up Phil Mickelson came over to speak to Clarke during the trophy presentation, presumably thanking him for his help with wife Amy's battle with breast cancer. Even Davis Love III stuck around to congratulate Clarke. I can only imagine Clarke's smile when he arrives at Firestone Country Club for the Aug. 4-7 Bridgestone. Rory McIlroy may still be the biggest draw in the field, but patrons should consider walking a round with Clarke to share in some of his joy.

  • Clarke showed up for a 9 a.m. press conference Monday morning at Royal St. George's without having been to bed, which should endear him to the common people even more. "I probably won't get any sleep until tomorrow at some stage. Have to enjoy it when you can,'' he said. His victory celebration included "quite a few beers and quite a few glasses of red wine, and it all continued until about 30 minutes ago. It's been a very good night.''

  • In preparation for the NFL's supplemental draft, former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review he's working on his footwork and the position of his hips during his throwing motion with former Bengals quarterback and longtime NFL assistant Ken Anderson.  "I’m getting a chance to work on things I didn’t do well at Ohio State,'' Pryor told the paper. "I have a chance to get better. I want to be the best quarterback I can possibly be." Pryor still harbors hope of playing quarterback in the NFL, which certainly would pay better than playing receiver or tight end. But his comments almost sounded like a slap at the OSU coaching staff and those who tutored Pryor during his time in Columbus. Is it possible he was so consumed with selling jerseys and memorabilia back then that he wasn't listening?

  • With Indians centerfielder Grady Sizemore going on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised knee, will the Tribe shop the trade market for two outfieldlers instead of one? They already needed a replacement for the injured Shin-Soo Choo. And those who follow the Indians on a regular basis believe they also need another starting pitcher. Sounds like they need to find three rent-a-players with relatively high salaries to help for the stretch run. But that flies in the face of everything this management group believes in.

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