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Biggest threat to Heat in East now?

The Eastern Conference playoffs were turned upside down over the weekend, with three of the top four seeds suffering home defeats in Game 1. How concerned should the Pacers, Raptors and Bulls be? Who is the biggest threat to the Heat in the East now? Let's debate!

1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how concerned should the Pacers be?

Israel Gutierrez, 10. Because it's so difficult to tell exactly where the biggest problem is. Is it Roy Hibbert's lack of effectiveness? Is it Paul George and Lance Stephenson not encouraging ball movement? Is it passive play from George Hill? Is it off-the-court chemistry that's a problem? Does Frank Vogel have an answer? I mean, when you've got this many potential issues, I'd say concern should be at the highest level possible.

James Herbert, TrueHoop Network: 9. Really, the Pacers should be way past concerned. They lost their mojo a couple of months ago, and the Hawks are a terrible matchup for them. Indiana's way too talented to be playing this poorly, but there haven't been any encouraging signs here. If the Pacers are really a championship team, they should be dominating Atlanta.

David Thorpe, ESPN Insider: 10. Their next three games seem like do-or-die ones. Their team is close to panic level, and only a 3-1 lead heading back to Indy for Game 5 will settle their collective nerves.

Michael Wallace, Heat Index: 8. This is not just a slump or a funk the Pacers have been in recently. These struggles are starting to redefine exactly what they are as a team. I'm not sure I even remember the Indiana team that dominated the first half of the regular season. The players, for the most part, are the same. But the psyche is completely different. They're in an identity crisis.

Kyle Weidie, Truth About It: 7. There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the Pacers, who seem to be under a mysterious, unspoken spell that has kicked open the window of wild speculation. That said, it's not worthy of 10-alarm concern just yet. While the Hawks have seemingly had their number, it's easier to adjust against the same opponent over a series. The reality could be that Paul George and Roy Hibbert are not as experienced as perceived, but they've acted like veterans before.

2. On a scale of 1 to 10, how concerned should the Raptors be?

Gutierrez: 7. The Raptors' best chance in this series is to make the Nets run, but Toronto, despite its athleticism on the wings, is one of the least productive teams in transition. However, if the Raptors can get a better performance from DeMar DeRozan -- he's not the most efficient shooter, but he is top-10 in terms of points scored off jump shots -- they'll realize they have a chance against Brooklyn.

Herbert: 4. Dropping Game 1 at home was not ideal, but there's still a good chance this will be a long series. Toronto came close the first time out, despite three starters contributing next to nothing. It just can't afford to lose the next one.

Thorpe: 8. These are very even teams, and Toronto knows it can get hot and win a few straight, just as it knows Brooklyn can do the same. I think the Raptors' "underdog" mindset -- because of their lack of playoff experience against a team with so much experience -- will help them avoid the extra pressure often associated with potential "upsets."

Wallace: 5. This is a team that doesn't have much playoff experience, outside of a couple of veterans who gained it elsewhere. The savvy Nets are a tough draw, even if they played well short of their best game in the series opener. If the Raptors can get back to playing at their pace and with the balance we've come to know, they should recover in Game 2.

Weidie: 6. The Raptors are a darn good team. If they can shed the "happy to be here" stigma and kick the playoff jitters to the curb, there's no reason they can't cut down on the 17 turnovers from Game 1 and punch Brooklyn back in the mouth. Age catches up to humans at random times in mysterious ways -- if Toronto can prove it has the better bench (which it does), its youthful legs should be able to win one at home and steal one in Brooklyn to tie the series up heading into Game 5.

3. On a scale of 1 to 10, how concerned should the Bulls be?

Gutierrez: 6. If there's one certainty in this first round, it's this: The Bulls, having lost Game 1 and Joakim Noah being awarded defensive player of the year since that loss, will play as ferocious a defense as you will see in these playoffs in Game 2. If that translates into a Bulls win, then Chicago knows it can recover. If the Wiz win anyway, the Bulls are toast.

Herbert: 5. It's never good to relinquish home-court advantage right away, but these resilient Bulls know better than to panic. They're going to need to figure out some easier ways to score against Washington, though.

Thorpe: 10. "Concern" is always relative -- and in this case, the Bulls were at a concern level of 10 before Game 1 because they always knew how good the Wizards were when healthy, as Washington is now. The Wizards' size and skill inside can not be schemed up easily, so it will be a factor at all times.

Wallace: 7. The Wizards are for real, folks. (I picked them to win this series.) They can score from every position on the floor and proved in Game 1 that they could survive and win on a night when John Wall and Bradley Beal weren't necessarily on top of their games

Weidie: 5. I think the Bulls knew exactly what type of threat the Wizards were going to be in this series. Thus, the loss in Game 1 probably hasn't raised the panic levels inside Chicago's locker room that much, as they are good at converting any nerves into defensive energy against opponents. That said, if Tom Thibodeau adjusts to compensate for Washington's size advantage imposed in Game 1, then the Wizards' perimeter players might shoot the lights out in Game 2, at which point the level of concern will rise like sounds from the scratchy frogs that inhabit Thibodeau's throat.

4. Which lower seed in the East has the best chance to advance?

Gutierrez: Nets. They're the only lower seed that doesn't feel like an underdog. And after withstanding that emotional scene in Toronto to kick off the postseason, the Nets have to be extremely confident about their chances.

Herbert: Wizards. They are simply more talented than the Bulls. Washington stole a road win and should get much more out of its backcourt going forward. Every Chicago possession is a slog.

Thorpe: Nets. I think Brooklyn has the best chance, just because they are not facing Tom Thibodeau and Joakim Noah.

Wallace: Very, very tough one. All signs point to that team being the Atlanta Hawks. But I believe the Pacers will eventually get back on their feet and do enough to win this series. I really love the Wizards' chances against the Bulls, but it's tough to count out such a prideful Chicago team. So I'll go with the Nets pulling the 6-3 upset against the seemingly just-happy-to-be-there Raptors.

Weidie: The Wizards might be the safe pick, seeing as the discrepancy between the 4- and 5-seeds over the years has been relatively minimal (since 2003-04, the 4-seed has won 53 percent of the games played between the seeds). I don't see the Raptors wilting under inexperience against the Nets as some might expect, so if John Wall's budding stardom rises to the playoff occasion, he could be the one difference-maker other lower seeds do not possess.

5. Which team in the East is the biggest threat to the Heat now?

With Roy Hibbert playing inefficiently on defense, Kevin Pelton examines both the case for and against the Pacers benching Hibbert in the playoffs. Story Insider

Gutierrez: Currently, it looks like Brooklyn. But ask that question again after the first round is over, and it could be any number of different answers. If the Bulls recover well, it may be Chicago. If Indiana rebounds (finally), then it'll be the Pacers. If Washington runs through Chicago, it could be a Wizards team that trounced Miami twice in Washington. It's still too soon to say definitively.

Herbert: This will sound crazy, but it's still Indiana. While Brooklyn swept Miami in the regular season, the Pacers' defense presents problems for the Heat unlike any other team. It's just a question of whether or not they can get to the conference finals.

Thorpe: Too hard to tell at this point. The Wizards have size and athleticism, two valuable strengths to beat Miami, but it's still 50-50 they get past the Bulls. I don't care that the Nets beat Miami all four times this season, but I do care that they have talented veterans and some level of confidence that they can win the series. I still see either team beating Miami as a severe long shot, though.

Wallace: The Nets are the more immediate threat, simply because they went 4-0 against Miami in the regular season in four close games and could face the Heat in the very next round. But if the Pacers can get through their side of the bracket, they will certainly have regained enough confidence and rhythm to present the same potential headaches they always have against LeBron James and crew.

Weidie: Nets, if only because they volunteered to be a threat to the Heat by purportedly losing games down the stretch in order to match up against Toronto instead of the Bulls (and thus also placing themselves in Miami's side of the bracket). Plus, we can presume that, via Russian billionaire technology, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are driving hybrids now instead of gas-guzzlers from the past. If they continue to pay the electric bill, then Brooklyn's threat level will continue to rise.

CHART: Michael Jordan Is Still The Most Loved Athlete In America 11 Years After Retiring

For the third straight year, Michael Jordan was chosen by the most Americans as their "favorite athlete" according to a Sports Business Journal poll.

Jordan was named as the favorite athlete of 4.1% of respondents, well-ahead of Peyton Manning, who finished second.

That Jordan is still the most popular athlete 11 years after playing his final game is a bit surprising. However, he is not alone. Muhammad Ali, Joe Montana, and Larry Bird are all among the top 30, long after their playing days came to an end.

Keri Hilson & Serge Ibaka reunite

R&B star Keri Hilson is back together with on/off boyfriend, basketball star Serge Ibaka.

The couple had been dating for several months before splitting earlier this year, but the romance is now back on after the Pretty Girl Rock hitmaker joined the Oklahoma City Thunder player ahead of his team's NBA play-off game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday April 19.

The sportsman confirmed the news by sharing a photo of the reunited pair posing on the basketball court at the team's Chesapeake Energy Arena on Thursday April 17, alongside the caption, "Had to get my girl back".

Her visit served as a lucky charm for the team - the Thunder won 100 to 86.

Rumor Roundup (April 21, 2014): TNA trouble, Roman Reigns plans, Shane Douglas news, more!

By Nick Bond

What in the world is going on with TNA this week? When will Roman Reigns be getting his push to the Moon? Why is Shane Douglas in the news? Possible answers to these questions in today's Rumor Round-Up.
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For many fans, reading about rumors -- and trawling the sites that traffic in them -- has become as popular as watching the matches themselves. In this daily column, we take a look at the biggest rumors and weirdest stories being churned out by those pro wrestling "news" sites.

Important reminders: Rumors are "rumors" and not "news" for a reason, folks. That which has not been confirmed as legitimate news or fact will be made clear. Also, don't let these things ruin your day. It gets better.

TNA Troubles:

With Jeff Jarrett's Global Force Wrestling coming online, Billy Corgan's Resistance Pro Wrestling coming to TV and the WWE finally coming to its senses regarding Daniel Bryan, times have been rough for TNA lately. After letting many of their former stars -- including then-current champion AJ Styles -- walk away from insultingly low contract offers and blatantly ripping off WWE storylines, it appears the problems have finally trickled down to the performers still on the show.

And like any other sinking ship, it's been leaking like a sieve. Just in the past two days, the following three stories have been making the rounds on the dirt screens:

  1. It appears that full-time TNA performers are unhappy about the results of one of TNA's One Night Only PPV tapings, this time for the X-Division themed show Xtravaganza. Specifically that there were several people being put over on the show that weren't currently with TNA, something seen backstage as bad for business.

  2. Although he tried to make it clear that he loves working there, Kurt Angle has made it even more obvious how badly he wants to leave TNA and retire in the WWE. While he says he thinks he has "at least" another five years left, given that he even brought up ending his career means that TNA should seriously consider how much of an investment it wants to make Kurt Angle's future production.

  3. There's serious development being put into repackaging Eric Young to give him the feel of a more credible champion than his "weirdo frenemy of Abyss" persona currently allows . Which seems like something they should have thought of before making him champion, but considering they put it on him in part to cross-promote his show on Animal Planet -- Off the Hook: Extreme Catches -- the amount of time spent thinking about this seems negligible.

When coupled with the devastating news that Impact has dropped out of the top 100 shows on cable, it really looks like TNA is getting closer and closer to a precipice. But at least Eric Bischoff isn't driving the bus there.
The Rest of the Rumors and News Bits for the day:
As hinted at by Roman Reigns' victory over Evolution underling Randy Orton (clean in the middle of the ring, with a spear) at a house show in Saudi Arabia, the plan for Reigns is currently a match with Big Boss Triple H at some point down the road. Whether that will be at SummerSlam or in the Night of Champions/Hell in a Cell part of the calendar depends on how much juice the story has going as they build towards the match.

Speaking of SummerSlam and Night of Champions/Hell in a Cell, it appears that the big four "special events" on the WWE calendar -- the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam and the Survivor Series -- will continue to be called PPVs. Everything else will be considered a "special event" only.
Although it would be a stretch to call it "starting", the "Franchise" Shane Douglas has reportedly done due diligence regarding the preliminary plans for a wrestling promotion.
One more bit of quasi-TNA news: stars in the promotion have been instructed to steer clear of Jeff and Karen Jarrett. Not for fear of Jeff breaking anyone's glasses or Karen trying to make sure she'll get a cut of sales of the photo, but because they don't want pictures of anyone associated with the organization getting hit with the dreaded #JoinTheForce hashtag.

Bonus: Roman Reigns gets into some twitter beef with Road Dogg

Roman's response to the challenge

DEREK JETER: A TRIBUTE to Air 4/29 on FOX Sports 1

Before he announced he would hang up his cleats at the end of the season, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter had already made a lasting impression as one of the most graceful, successful and iconic figures ever to play the game. Led by current and former players from around Major League Baseball, Fox Sports and MLB Productions honor one of baseball's best ambassadors in Derek JETER: A TRIBUTE, a one-hour special premiering Tuesday, April 29 (8:30 PM ET) on Fox Sports 1.

A career New York Yankee, Jeter's numerous accolades and achievements include the 1996 Rookie of the Year Award, 13 All-Star Game selections, five World Series rings, membership in MLB's prestigious 3,000 hits club and the longest-tenured captaincy of any Yankees player. In his two decades in baseball, he has been admired by fans, media and his peers for his professionalism, poise and leadership. Derek JETER: A TRIBUTE presents intimate and previously untold stories directly from those whom Jeter played with and against combined with 20 years of archival footage from Jeter's career.

Narrated by Jeter's longtime manager Joe Torre, Derek JETER: A TRIBUTE includes new interviews from more than 30 current players sharing personal anecdotes, memories and more recorded in the days following Jeter's retirement announcement. The outpouring of respect from players like Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Evan Longoria, David Price, Mike Trout, David Wright and many others offers a glimpse into why Jeter has become one of game's most recognizable faces and how he has influenced others throughout his career. The special also features former teammates such as David Cone, Don Mattingly, Paul O'Neill, Jorge Posada and others, as well as archival interviews with Commissioner Bud Selig, George Steinbrenner, Hal Steinbrenner, Joe Girardi, Billy Crystal, Bernie Williams, Dave Winfield, Don Zimmer and more.

Possible reasons abound for Michael Phelps' return to swimming

Record-setting Olympian will resume competition this week in Mesa, Ariz.
April 22, 2014|By Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

For almost a year, the question was "if" Michael Phelps would return to competitive swimming.

Now that Phelps is scheduled to end his 20-month retirement Thursday in Mesa, Ariz., a more nuanced question looms: Why?

Phelps sounded fairly certain he no longer wanted to confine his life to the pool when he walked away from the sport after the 2012 Olympics. He had seemingly put the perfect exclamation point on his career, winning gold in his last race to bring his record medal haul to 22, including 18 golds.

But several longtime Phelps observers say they see an athlete who's finally enjoying swimming on his own terms, without the pressure of outside expectations.

"I've never seen Michael this happy," says former Michigan coach Jon Urbancheck, who has known Phelps since the swimmer was 11 and recently visited with him in Baltimore. "This didn't come from his mom. It wasn't [coach] Bob [Bowman]. This was his decision."

Ian Crocker, one of Phelps' greatest historic rivals, wasn't surprised when he heard rumors of the impending return.

"Getting some time away, without the assumption he was coming back, was probably one of the best things for him mentally," Crocker says. "My hope is that he approaches it 100 percent on his own terms and just has his laughs with it. He's earned that."

After the London Games, Phelps immediately transitioned to a life many men his age would envy: playing golf and high-stakes poker, watching his favorite team, the Ravens, from luxury suites, dating beautiful women. He even made an acting cameo in his favorite television drama, "Suits."

So what drew the 28-year-old Phelps from his life of leisure back to the inglorious grind of daily practices at the Meadowbrook Aquatic Center in Mount Washington?

The immediate answer is that we don't know. Phelps hasn't commented since his return became official last week and doesn't plan to speak until Wednesday.

The only detailed comments from his camp have come from Bowman, his longtime coach, who has cast Phelps' comeback in simple terms — a master once more enjoying his art.

Bowman has brushed aside talk of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, insisting Phelps is merely testing his competitive form and has yet to design his path forward. If true, that's a distinct shift from the past, when Phelps and Bowman mapped years-long conquests of the sport's greatest records.

Great athletes end their retirements for any number of reasons. Some miss the adrenaline rush of competition. Some need the money. Some simply can't figure out what else to do with their lives.

Crocker says he has often felt the urge to return since retiring after the 2008 Olympics. "It's hard to resist chasing that thrill, once you've been on top of the mountain," he says, referring to both himself and Phelps.

Several people who saw Phelps at last year's world championships in Barcelona noted a restless fire in the swimmer's eyes as he watched the U.S. team compete without him. He wasn't used to being on the deck at a big meet, rather than in the water.

Urbancheck says Phelps also missed the familiar rhythms of a swimmer's life, the camaraderie of a world he had inhabited since he was a young boy.

"I think Michael likes having that structure in his life," the veteran coach says.

Jordan-esque comeback?

As the star of two comeback stories — one wildly successful, the other bittersweet — Michael Jordan is the modern king of the genre. The former NBA great was also Phelps' boyhood idol.

The swimmer has long elicited comparisons to Jordan, not just for his peerless excellence but for his ability to take perceived slights and turn them into fuel for his best performances. Even Phelps' proclivities for golf and Las Vegas card games seem taken from the Jordan playbook.

Athletes in all sports will tell you fans have it wrong when they measure careers in the language of milestones and tidy narratives. The internal focus is more on winning the next race or game, mastering the next skill. It's how great athletes got great in the first place, and most don't flip off the switch simply because they achieve tremendous goals.

From the outside, perhaps, Jordan authored the perfect ending when he hit the series-winning shot in the 1998 NBA Finals. But that didn't mean the ending felt perfect to Jordan, who lived for competition and believed he could still play effectively three years later.

Some would argue Jordan tarnished his legacy by returning as a merely excellent guard in the unfamiliar jersey of the deeply mediocre Washington Wizards. Jordan has never expressed any such regrets.

Orioles great Jim Palmer attempted a comeback at age 45, the year after he'd been inducted to the Hall of Fame. He says he did it because he honestly believed he could help the Orioles. Palmer ended his quest after a rough spring training start against the Boston Red Sox, but he says he never cared if others judged the comeback a failure.

I Came With A Full Career:’ LaLa Anthony Talks To JET About Maintaining Her Independence
Alani “LaLa” Anthony may be married to one of the most popular players in the NBA, but “basketball wife” doesn’t even begin to describe who she is or what she does. The mother and media personality recently opened up to JET magazine about maintaining her independence and what drives her hustle.

“I have an independent, hustler’s spirit,” the “Love Playbook” author tells JET. “That drives me to this day. I never want to ask anyone for anything. And that simple thing has kept me motivated because there is something about having your 26 own.”

While it may seem like she has it all together on the outside, the “LaLa’s Full Court Life” star admits that being a devoted wife, mommy and mogul isn’t always easy. However, keeping these tips at the forefront of her mind helps her to keep things in perspective.

“1. Never Stop Doing You – “The difference with me is that when I first got to know my husband I was already hosting MTV’s Total Request Live, so I came with a full career,” she says.

2. Accept That Having It All Will Require Blood, Sweat and Stilettos – When asked about balancing a family, career and friendships, Anthony responded saying, “It’s tough. I always say that people who think it isn’t aren’t being honest.”

3. Sex May Sell, But Love Keeps You Off the Market – “If you don’t try to spice it up and keep it sexy, anyone can get bored but the key is really taking time with each other,” advises Anthony.”

Reality TV star LaLa Anthony talks to JET about maintaining her independence and what drives her hustle.

Source: JET

NHL rookie of the year finalists announced

This also was an excellent year for rookie defensemen - Winnipeg's Jacob Trouba, Boston's Torey Krug, Anaheim's Hampus Lindholm and Pittsburgh's Olli Maatta - but none finished among the top three.

Flashy San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl was the early leader this season, but MacKinnon emerged as the front-runner after Hertl was injured by a knee-on-knee hit from the Los Angeles Kings' Dustin Brown.

MacKinnon put together a 13-game point streak from Jan. 25 to March 6, breaking Wayne Gretzky's NHL record for the longest single-season point streak by a player age 18 or younger (12 games). MacKinnon had 18 points during that stretch.

Johnson's 24 goals broke a Lightning rookie record and Palat's point total was three shy of Brad Richards' Lightning record.

The winner of all the awards will be announced on June 24 at the NHL awards show in Las Vegas.

2014 World Cup: The position battles for U.S. team roster spots

With each passing weekend, and each set of matches around the world, the U.S. national team depth chart keeps on shifting like a volatile stock market. One week, a certain player might have an edge over his competition at a set position. The next week, an injury or benching or even a standout performance by a competitor can lead to the reversing of roles, with the hunter becoming the hunted in the quest for places on the U.S. World Cup team.

As we laid out last week, there is serious competition for invitations to the U.S. national team’s pre-World Cup training camp, and some of the battles for the final places are coming down to the wire.

When Klinsmann convenes the 25-28 player roster for the pre-World Cup camp at Stanford University, he will obviously have a nucleus of players who have been locks for some time, while also wanting to incorporate some players coming in playing at top form. Those players riding the momentum wave into the squad could provide Klinsmann a surprise option or two for the final 23-man World Cup squad.

Here are some head-to-head battles that might be taking place on Klinsmann’s U.S. depth chart, and which players have the edge with three weeks to go before the national team reports for pre-World Cup camp:

John Brooks vs. Michael Orozco

Two weeks ago Brooks looked like he might not score an invitation for Stanford. He wasn’t starting regularly, and reports out of Germany stating he was in hot water with his club coach after adding a back tattoo that forced him to miss practice time. Luckily for Brooks, the incident didn’t keep him out of the starting lineup, and he started in Hertha Berlin’s 0-0 tie against Augsburg over the weekend.

The timing of Brooks’ reprieve couldn’t be better for him because Michael Orozco was sidelined by a hamstring injury two weeks ago. Orozco had been enjoying a steady and injury-free season with Puebla, and is seen as a more natural backup to Matt Besler.

Has Brooks edged ahead of Orozco? Brooks is the better overall long-term prospect and has more upside, but Orozco has done well in central defense for the national team when given the chance. If Brooks continues to earn starts in the final weeks of the Bundesliga season, he should make it to the pre-World Cup camp, with an outside chance of making it to the World Cup.

Maurice Edu vs. Danny Williams

As recently as a month ago, Williams would have been considered the favorite to win this matchup due to his excellent form for League Championship side Reading, but Edu has been outstanding for the Philadelphia Union and has catapulted himself back into the World Cup conversation.

Working against Williams down the stretch has been some lingering knee issues that have forced him to miss a few games in recent weeks. Those setbacks have come after his most impressive run of form for Reading, which saw him score three goals in seven matches as the Royals were fighting for a promotion playoff place.

As well as Williams has played, he doesn’t have Edu’s experience, and Edu’s ability to potentially contribute as a central defender makes him an even more intriguing option. Edu should roll into the pre-World Cup camp as a strong contender to grab one of the 23 roster spots. Williams has an outside chance of still making the training camp, but the wealth of options in the middle could leave him out.
Julian Green (AP Images)

Mix Diskerud vs. Joe Corona

These former U.S. Under-23 and 2013 Gold Cup teammates are both very promising young midfielders, but it seems unlikely we will see both in the May training camp.

It is tough to see Diskerud not making it to the pre-World Cup camp, which means Corona is likely looking at an uphill battle to even make it to Stanford, let alone earn a World Cup roster spot. Klinsmann’s decision to make Michael Bradley a clear-cut attacking option makes the race for attacking midfield roles an even tighter one.

The edge will likely go to Diskerud, even though his more recent showings with the national team haven’t exactly been outstanding. His efforts during World Cup qualifying, at a time when Corona wasn’t playing for Club Tijuana and fell out of the national team picture, should give Diskerud the edge.

Julian Green vs. Brek Shea

Okay, so this one seems to be a foregone conclusion at this point, but it merits a closer look given Shea’s long-standing place as a Klinsmann favorite and an effective bench option.

Whether or not you believe Klinsmann has already promised Green a World Cup roster spot, there are very few scenarios that exist that consist of Green not even being invited to the pre-World Cup camp. With the time frame on his shoulder injury expected to see him be healthy in more than enough time to participate in the camp.

And Shea? His move to Stoke City didn’t lead to much playing time, and while a few League Championship loans saw him earn some minutes, he has spent the past month collecting dust at Stoke City. For that reason, even his history of being a strong option off the bench for Klinsmann isn’t likely to help him earn a ticket to the training camp.

Terrence Boyd vs. Juan Agudelo

These two forwards picked bad times to hit slumps, and for Boyd, who had long seemed a safe bet for the World Cup roster, an eight-game drought began raising questions about whether he was really a lock.

A two-goal performance this past weekend for Rapid Vienna shows that Boyd is still capable of finding the net, and the fact remains he is the American player best-equipped to step in for Jozy Altidore as a target forward.

Agudelo is also a capable target-forward option, but his stint at FC Utrecht hasn’t exactly catapulted him ahead of the other forward options in the player pool. Right now, Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Chris Wondolowski and Eddie Johnson are the safe bets to be in Stanford, and barring any injuries, Boyd seems a good bet to hold off Agudelo for the final forward spot at the pre-World Cup camp.

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tyfyt ! Who ya'll got in the playoffs ?