Battle of the Birds: Fly or die with Matt Ryan 

The NFL season opener began with a bang, or better yet a Thunderstorm, as the weather delay during the Philadelphia Eagles-Atlanta Falcons game on Thursday night became symbolic for a messy, rough evening at Lincoln Financial Field.

The defending Super Bowl champs gave the Falcons numerous chances to win; failing to convert on offense, and turning the ball over late in 4th, Matt Ryan and company still didn’t get the job done. This was certainly a game that the Atlanta should have won, but instead will start the season with a loss.

This game reeked anything but a NFC Championship rematch that fans and media hoped for, the hype was very much downplayed after an abysmal first half, 6-3 (Philadelphia).

Both quarterbacks struggled to say the least, and the team as a whole looked like it was still preseason. Fans were actually booing the Eagles by halftime, showing their displeasure with a long awaited evening, especially with the weather delay.

Thursday night revealed and highlighted the lingering questions at quarterback, where as the surrounding unit for both teams prove to be solid. The Falcons have a tremendous offensive line, as do the Eagles, and are also complemented with a great defense all-around.

While QB Nick Foles wasn’t able to get the passing game going, he stuck to his team’s motto of running the football and trusted his line to do the rest. Jay Ajayi took advantage of the great blocking and scored two touchdowns for Eagles, but it was still a one possession game.

Ryan appeared to lean on his star wide receiver Julio Jones, who had a tremendous night with 10-of-19 targets for 161 yards, all game long.

Jones was getting doubled most the game, but still continued to be the focal point for the Falcons. It was almost if Mohamed Sanu wasn’t in the game, or any other wide receivers for that matter.

I was surprised that Head Coach Dan Quinn and his staff didn’t come up with some kind of RPO, or trick play to throw off the defense, rather than just throwing it to a fully-blanketed Julio Jones in the red zone. These were obvious passing situations, and clearly the Falcons failed to come up with a “Philly Special” of their own.

The Falcons certainly has to address their Red Zone inefficiency, or else it will continue to haunt them all season long.

Photo by Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

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My first LAFC game will be one to remember 

It was an incredible ambiance at the Banc of California Stadium on Sunday night, thousands wearing the black and gold, LAFC really felt like the heart of Los Angeles.

I was blessed to see a great game by the LAFC, defeating the Colorado Rapids 2-0. The home team dominated the game, controlling possession all game long and creating the most chances on goal.

I bought two tickets in the Field Club, so going into the game I knew I had pretty good seats, but not nearly as good as I anticipated.

When we first arrive, we of course are lost trying to find our seats, so I looked for the nearest employee at the stadium. Finding out where my seats were, was actually one of the best parts of my experience.

My girlfriend and I had to walk, basically to the “VIP” section downstairs, as we entered, little did I know that my tickets covered food and drinks. I was so confused, when they put a wrist band around my arm, asking myself, “what is going on”.

Before the game, we chowed down; enjoying everything from ribs to cookies, still awing over the buffet and lounge area. We thought the night couldn’t get any better, until we found out that drinks were also complimentary.

I looked at my girl and smiled, and then laughed with anticipation. It’s not often when you don’t spend an arm and a leg when you’re in LA.

The seats were incredible, right in the middle of the stadium – getting the best view of the field. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on some aisle seats, so I can get up and leave whenever without annoying anyone.

I definitely recommend the first or last seats of the row…so you can be in peace after you break the seal.

The only thing I was displeased with was that, I missed Lee Nguyen’s stunning goal right at the beginning of the half; I was stocking up on beer…you know how it is. Luckily, I was granted a reprieve with Diego Rossi’s powerful goal at the 80th minute, sealing the game.

Rossi was the MVP in regards to LAFC’s win yesterday, his overall play and influence on game was awesome to see.

I went nuts when I saw my first goal at Banc of California Stadium, as did the crowd; It was really an amazing feeling, grabbing my girlfriend, shouting for excitement.

After the game, me and my lady went back to the lounge to hang out, and let traffic die down. Not only did I avoid traffic, but was able to get a picture with a couple of the LAFC players.

I couldn’t believe it, that Latif Blessing was generous enough to greet the fans in the lobby and sign autographs, as well as Christian Ramirez.

LAFC is more than just a new franchise, it is a new beginning. Sunday night, what I saw was more than just a game – it was a new culture.

The excitement and passion for soccer from the fans was truly inspiring, and humbling to see the game growing in LA.

A part of what makes sports so great, is that it brings people together. There are so many people with different ethnicities, backgrounds, but in the stadium we are all one.

Up, up, and away with Space Cake Double IPA 

It’s IPA season, which means there is every kind of pale ale possible right now, so do yourself a favor, and explore the Space Cake Double IPA.

Clown Shoes Brewing has made some interesting creations, and the Space Cake is certainly one of them. Clown Shoes applies a blend of citrusy Mosaic hops and an incredible West Coast style malt, giving this DIPA its signature sweet, cake-like taste.

The Space Cake overall soothing flavor makes it an easy beer to drink, especially for IPAs. It will definitely sneak up on you with its 9% ABV; remember it is a Double IPA after all.

If you are not a fan of malty beers, then this IPA is not for you. Sometimes with great taste, comes great malt.

I like this IPA because it is a sweet, but citrus at the same time. I think the balance is good overall with its malt quantity and mix of hops.

A strong, but smooth IPA…what more can you really ask for?

There are so many different kinds of pale ales nowadays, you can pretty much seek any creation you can think of. I could literally spend an hour perusing through all the different types of IPAs.

Shout out to Clown Shoes for their excellent brew quality and incredible artwork! I am a fan of this brewery and look forward to more projects from them – you definitely should too.

A Dez Bryant-Patriots signing would be Randy ‘Moss-esk’

With just a month left before the 2018 NFL season begins, Dez Bryant still has yet to sign with a team, but is rumored to be meeting with a contender.

There is little news about Dez Bryant or any of his potential suitors in free agency, except for his dis-interest in the Cleveland Browns. The Browns commented yesterday that Bryant didn’t really seem attracted to the idea of signing.

Bryant, recently just told the media that “he wants to play for a contender”, even after failing to sign with a team with just weeks away from regular season. He is basically limiting his options in free agency, but is sticking to his Owens-like character, wanting to win now.

Rumors have it that the Bryant’s next destination could be in New England, as the Patriots would make perfect sense for the Pro-Bowl wide receiver.

The Patriots reportedly have not contacted Bryant, which is the vintage “Patriot way” to not release any information to the media. The gossip starts with Tom Brady and his like for Bryant, many believe he is recruiting the former Dallas Cowboy.

The buzz continues after recent news that Patriots are releasing wide receiver Malcom Mitchell. Sources around the league speculate that New England is clearing a path to sign Dez.

New England needs help at the wide receiver position to say the least; with the Brandon Cooks trade to the Los Angeles Rams, and Julian Edelman still recovering from the ACL injury, Patriots might just have to roll the dice with Dez. While there is the “baggage” that comes with Bryant, the talent is still there, and derives a strong passion for the game – something key to spark the Patriots’ offense.

Tom Brady, 41, is most likely going to retire after the end of the 2018-2019 NFL season. It looks like this is a do-or-die season for the Brady-Belicheck era.

Could Dez give the Patriots the boost they need to make it another Super Bowl?

Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

How the Galaxy-LAFC rivalry is booming the MLS 

Different cultures, different identities, just one city…

MLS soccer is reborn in Los Angeles with the emergence of “El Trafico”, a birth of the new rivalry in Southern California, Galaxy vs LAFC.

The atmosphere at Banc of California Stadium Thursday night was euphoric; a sea of black surrounding the stadium – filled with tons of LAFC fans representing the team’s colors with jerseys, flags, and even smoke. Fans have been counting down 115 days’ since the first meeting between LAFC and the LA Galaxy, expressing their anticipation and love for the El Trafico.

Following Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s epic MLS debut on March 1st, the beginning of a new rivalry in LA quickly became about with LAFC’s illustrious play. LAFC has only been a MLS squad for seven months, but has established themselves to be one of the talented teams in the league.

For LAFC to lead most of the game against the Galaxy was surprising for most fans, and kept surprising everyone with their early success. Including World Cup pedigree on their side, Carlos Vela was a star on the Mexican National team, and now is for LAFC.

Vela is one of the central stars in the league, scoring his eighth goal of the season last night to give his team an early 1-0 lead within the seventh minute. He has been named the MLS All-Star captain on Thursday, giving even more recognition to his stardom.

This is huge for a team like LAFC, because sometimes it is difficult to attract household names to a brand new franchise. With talented attackers like Adama Diomande, Latif Blessing, and of course Vela, this is a special
offense.

With a balanced defense and midfield, led by Lee Nguyen and now André Horta, LAFC can be a very interesting team to say the least.

The anticipated Galaxy-LAFC rematch lived up to the hype, ending in a 2-2 draw. There was dominance, excitement, and drama last night as the LAFC once again dominated most of the game, but let The Galaxy come back in the final moments.

Taylor Twellman, ESPN and MLS broadcaster, stated that the rematch was like déjà vu, but still thought it was a better game. Prior to the second half of the game, Twellman spoke on the MLS-record deal with Vancouver Whitecaps star Alfonso Davies to Bayern Munich, and how this could change the league in a big way.

Pretty soon clubs all around the world are going to introduce players from the MLS, and this will help mature the growing process of the sport in the US. This is not only huge for the MLS, but soccer in general for this country.

Photo by andywitchger (Dos Santos – MLS – LA Galaxy – Soccer) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Watching the World Cup: A sideline perspective 

The World Cup is here at last, but for some, 2018 is completely a new experience. The USMT and their personnel, will have to watch from home for the first time since 1986.

FIFA has a different look and feel to it; top tier Italy, USA failing to qualify for the first time in years, and new faces like Peru, Tunisia surprising the rest of the world with their arrival.

Peru has been one of the most exciting headlines in 2018, qualifying for the first time in decades. They have been playing well against tough teams like Denmark, France, and now they have played one of their better games in a 2-0 shutout against Australia.

Tunisia has been another interesting World Cup story, but not as fulfilling as others, for they are on the brink of elimination after their last two losses. They however began with the hysteria of qualifying and the notion that they belong, with close matchups against some of the best in the world.

Let’s see if Tunisia can bounce back against Panama on Thursday.

The Round of 16 certainly features tons of parody; there is also countries like Morocco, Iran that are leveling with heavy-weights like Spain, Portugal. The possibility of more stunning upsets make this year an exciting
one, and especially with the likelihood for fan favorite teams to advance, like Mexico or Argentina.

If you are a faithful USMT soccer fan, but want a team to root for, who would it be? Not Mexico right…just kidding. 

My team I’m rooting for right now is Argentina, for a few reasons, mainly to see one of the greatest players in the world have a chance to win the World Cup. It is always a spectacle to see the great Lionel Messi play, as well as his respectable personal.

No matter where you are, and whoever you root for, always is what makes this ceremony so unique. Go root for your country, or your other your favorite team.

(IRN-MAR) Photo by Tasnim News Agency [CC BY 4.0],via Wikimedia Commons

(Peru) Photo by Антон Зайцев (soccer.ru) [CC BY-SA 3.0GFDL, CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

2018 Stanley Cup Finals: From tragedy to triumph, a Las Vegas Story 

The Golden Knights’ journey to the Stanley Cup Finals will be known as one the top Cinderella stories in all of sports, standing just four wins away from squashing the virtually impossible, 500-1 odds to win it all.

The Golden Knights have been fighting odds all season long, even before they stepped on the ice. Vegas’ first season with professional hockey was expected to be anything, but successful, for they were predicted to
be one of the worst the teams in the league.

Look at them now – the Golden Knights are in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Golden Knights’ incredible path to the Finals is something that has truly inspired Vegas. The aftershock of the Las Vegas music festival shooting last year was felt throughout the entire nation, giving the home town not much to hope for, until now.

Vegas’ unexpected success in the NHL, being a real underdog, really helped cast away some of the gloom after the catastrophe. The city of bright lights, is certainly shining bright again, but now is flashing “Stanley Cup Born.”

Their first playoff win at T-Mobile Arena looked like a scene out of a movie, seeing thousands of white towels being waved in unison and signs saying “Vegas Strong.” It was a powerful message that was felt throughout
the entire arena and the city of Las Vegas.

The Stanley Cup Finals will also preview another new face, for the Washington Capitals, are also making their first appearance in the championship.

The Capitals’ leader of the team, Alex Ovechkin, is one of the premier players in the league and he certainly will be the priority for the Golden Knights. Ovechkin has been having an incredible season, but so have these Golden Knights.

Vegas, in their inaugural season, has been one of the best teams in the entire NHL playing like a true team. They have swept the Los Angeles Kings, defeated a tough San Jose Sharks team, and the Winnipeg Jets on their trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Winning twice as many games as expected, 51 wins, also is certainly something that must be celebrated for this new team. The 2018 Stanley Cup Finals will certainly be one to remember.

Photo by David_Vasquez [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons