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De Guzman sees losing his national caps record as a positive for Canada soccer

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While proud of his accomplishments with the national team, Julian de Guzman only sees positives in the fact that his record for men’s Canadian caps is about to be broken.

For one, the player approaching the 89-cap mark is Atiba Hutchinson.

“We go back a long way, … He’s like a brother to me,” said de Guzman, who retired in January 2017 after a stellar career in France, Germany, Greece and Spain as well as North America.

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“I think he’s a great example of what a career should look like … So for him to be the guy to break this record, I mean you couldn’t ask for a better person to do it,” he added.

De Guzman, who also expects Cyle Larin or Jonathan David to surpass Dwayne De Rosario’s scoring mark of 22 goals, believes seeing such records fall shows Canadian soccer is headed in the right direction.

“I’ve told this to many players, from (Jonathan) Osorio to (Sam) Piette, Richie Laryea, Doneil Henry, I’ve always said ‘Hey, these records, if they don’t get broken, then that means we’re not going to the World Cup’” said de Guzman, who now doubles as a TV pundit and co-owner of League One Ontario’s Simcoe County Rovers FC.

“The moment these things are broken, those are all good signs pointing towards Qatar (2022), that’s pointing towards ‘Now this is a Canadian men’s national team that plays and performs in World Cups.’ These are good signs.”

And records are meant to be broken. Before de Guzman, there was Paul Stalteri (84 caps). And before him, Randy Samuel (82).

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The 38-year-old Hutchinson, who is a beloved captain at Turkey’s Besiktas where Larin also plays, is on 88 caps ahead of Canada’s World Cup qualifiers in Edmonton. He’ll also be Canada’s captain for the match.

Canada, currently ranked 48th in the world, plays No. 45 Costa Rica on Nov. 12 (available on Sportsnet and SN Now at 8 p.m. ET), and No. 9 Mexico on Nov. 16, both at Commonwealth Stadium.

Hutchinson, on his fifth World Cup qualifying campaign, is not big on records or personal accolades.

“It’s not something I was keeping in the back of my mind and really pushing for,” he told a virtual availability Monday from Edmonton. “Obviously now I’m very close to it so there’s been a little bit more thought put into it.”

Hutchinson was happier to talk about de Guzman, saying how much he respected his fellow midfielder — and appreciated his game.

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“I was more looking forward to just being part of what’s going on here with the national team still,” he added. “When I get the chance to get another game to be equal with Julian, it would be a great achievement, of course. To play that many games and to be the … leader for Canada would mean a lot to me.”

Christine Sinclair is Canada’s all-time leader in caps with 306. She tops the world in goal-scoring with 188.

A long line of Canadian coaches — John Herdman is his eighth senior Canada coach — have recognized Hutchinson’s talent. Hutchinson has started in 87 of his 88 senior appearances.

“Atiba is our best player,” then-coach Canada Benito Floro said in 2014. “He is the best player in Besiktas.”

At 46, Herdman is just eight years older than his skipper.

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Tajon Buchanan was three when a 19-year-old Hutchinson made his Canadian senior debut in a 4-0 loss to the U.S. in January 2003. David was also three at the time and Alphonso Davies was two.

His teammates marvel at Hutchinson’s professionalism, work ethic and ability to stay at the top of the game.

“I mean the guy’s a Canadian legend,” Laryea told a recent virtual Toronto FC availability. “He’s 38 and still playing at a high level, playing Champions League. And now leading this group of players that we have to try to qualify for a World Cup.

“So I would just say (he’s) a big role model of mine, he’s a top-class guy on and off the field, a true professional. I don’t know, I could sit on this call with you all day and explain things about him, because he’s a big piece of what this country has to offer.”

Defender Derek Cornelius says Hutchinson sets the tone for the team, in his own way.

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“Whenever he speaks, people listen. And he does it in the right way as well, because he’s also a guy that if you have an opinion or want to say something, he’s going to listen to you no matter if it’s your first camp or you’ve been around a while.

“And that makes a great leader.”

Hutchinson worked his way up the ranks and through Europe, building his career carefully, starting with Osters and Helsingborg in Sweden and FC Copenhagen in Denmark. He joined Dutch side PSV Eindhoven in 2010 before moving to Besiktas in 2013.

The six-foot-one Hutchinson, named Canada’s male player of the year six times, does not come with the flash or sizzle of a Davies. His spindly pipe-cleaner legs deceive at first notice.

But he sees the game, has a knack for being in the right place. He is like a soccer Hoover, vacuuming up balls then holding off opponents before finding a teammate.

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Besiktas fans call him Octopus for his long legs and long reach.

Canadian defender Sam Adekugbe, who recently made the move to Turkey’s Hatayspor, has firsthand experience of how Hutchinson is viewed in Turkey.

“The reputation Atiba has in the Canadian national team is the reputation he has in Turkey. And probably even more,” he said. “Atiba’s name carries a lot of heavy weight in Turkey. He’s known not just for his personality, but his quality on the pitch.”

Hutchinson, who is married with three kids, took time out to visit Adekugbe at his Istanbul hotel en route to Hatayspor in Antakya, some 1,100 kilometres south of the Turkish capital.

While in recent years his time with the Canadian team has been limited to games that matter, Hutchinson is still willing to make the long trip from Istanbul when needed.

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He thought about calling an end to his international career after the last failed World Cup qualifying cycle. But after talking to Herdman, he decided to see the journey through.

“It’s been a long road and a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “But I do definitely do feel happy and proud that I’m still involved in this program and to see the level it’s going to right now, with all the success we’ve been having. It’s something very special to be involved still in. I’ll continue to do as much as I can to be a part of it and to push the limits.”



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The NFL Preseason Is Finally Starting In Full Force

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(Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)

 

After a long wait, the 2022 NFL season is finally around the corner.

It wasn’t long ago when teams were building their rosters through free agency.

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Then, prospects went through the Scouting Combine before the annual rookie draft.

Voluntary OTAs happened next before mandatory training camps.

Not too long ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Las Vegas Raiders played in the Hall of Fame Game.

Now, the calendar moves into the preseason, meaning that the games that matter are just weeks away.

NFL Network national insider Ian Rapoport tweeted, “There are games today… as the preseason kicks into gear.”

Those words are like music to the ears of football fans even if the games do not reflect on the win-loss record yet.

What matters most is that football is back and they can witness the games.

In the first matchup, the New York Giants will face the New England Patriots.

The Patriots are coming off a season wherein they reached the playoffs with quarterback Mac Jones.

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They hope to enter the postseason again with an offense led by Jones, Damien Harris, Kendrick Bourne, Hunter Henry, and Jonnu Smith.

On defense, the Patriots will parade Deatrich Wise Jr., Matthew Judon, and Devin McCourty.

Meanwhile, the Giants are hoping to bounce back from five straight losing seasons by bringing in head coach Brian Daboll.

There has been renewed enthusiasm in the squad with the former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator now calling the shots.

 

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Ravens Take On The Titans

In the other preseason pairing, both the Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans would like to see if their rosters are back to full strength.

The Titans will pay attention to Derrick Henry‘s status after suffering a foot injury last season.

Meanwhile, the Ravens have been decimated by injuries, especially Lamar Jackson‘s ankle issue.

Both the Titans and Ravens hope for a healthy season for their key players.

The post The NFL Preseason Is Finally Starting In Full Force appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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UFC Fight Night: Vera vs. Cruz odds, predictions, lines: MMA expert reveals surprising fight card picks

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A potential title shot could be at stake Saturday when veteran ranked bantamweight contenders Marlon Vera and Dominick Cruz meet in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Vera vs. Cruz. Their showdown closes the curtain on the main UFC San Diego fight card (7 p.m. ET) from Pechanga Arena. The No. 8-ranked Cruz is a popular former champion who is trying to make his way back to the top after a series of injuries caused a nearly four-year hiatus in his career. He has won two straight fights but faces a daunting challenge in the No. 5-ranked Vera, a rugged veteran who could get closer to sealing his first title shot with a signature victory over a former champion.

Vera is a -250 favorite (risk $250 to win $100), while Cruz is a +210 underdog in the latest UFC Fight Night: Vera vs. Cruz odds from Caesars Sportsbook. The co-main event showcases featherweight prospects as David Onama (-290) meets Nate Landwehr (+245). Before locking in any UFC Fight Night: Vera vs. Cruz picks, make sure you check out the MMA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine expert Andrew Gombas.  

Gombas is a former NCAA wrestler who taps into his experience on the mat to help understand and dissect the X’s and O’s of MMA matchups in a manner that sets him apart from other MMA analysts. He started the MMA handicapping service MMA Knockout Bets in 2018 and has shown a profit every year since.

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With more than 1,400 selections tracked by the third-party monitoring service Bet MMA, he has shown a 6 percent return on investment for his followers. Over the past two years, his followers have netted a profit of more than $10,000.

At UFC 275 in June, Gombas swept the board with his main-card picks and the five-fight sweep included telling SportsLine members to back Jake Matthews (+125) against Andre Fialho (-145) in a matchup of welterweight prospects. Matthews dominated and scored a second-round stoppage to give Gombas’ backers another easy winner. Anyone who has followed Gombas already has seen massive returns.

Now, with UFC Fight Night: Vera vs. Cruz approaching, Gombas has studied the card from every angle and released his top MMA picks. Gombas’ UFC Fight Night picks are only available at SportsLine.  

UFC Fight Night: Vera vs. Cruz preview 

The main event will help create clarity at the top of a cluttered bantamweight division. Champion Aljamain Sterling is scheduled to face No. 2-ranked T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 280 in October. Either Cruz or Vera could be in line for the winner because all the contenders ranked above them have come up short in title fights or eliminators.

Cruz (24-3) is a popular and proven veteran who also has found success as a UFC analyst, a pursuit he discovered while shelved from fighting because of numerous lingering injuries. The 36-year-old San Diego native believes he has one more title run left in him, and an impressive win Saturday could provide that opportunity.

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The former champion faces a major litmus test in Vera (19-7-1), an eight-year UFC veteran whose resume includes several quality wins but who is still just 29 years old.

The sinister Ecuadorian brawler has seen his profile and ranking rise behind a 9-2 run in the past four years and a recent 4-1 stretch that includes numerous standout victories. Two years ago, he knocked out ultra-hyped prospect Sean O’Malley in the first round and is coming off a dominant five-round decision against rising contender Rob Font in April. Vera has earned three consecutive performance bonuses. You can only see who to pick at UFC Fight Night here.

UFC Fight Night predictions 

We’ll share one of Gombas’ UFC Fight Night picks here: He is siding with Bruno Silva (-310) to get past Gerald Meerschaert (+255) in a matchup of middleweights.

Silva (22-7) is a power puncher and former M-1 Challenge middleweight champion who started his stint with the UFC by notching three consecutive knockout victories. However, the 33-year-old Brazilian is looking to rebound from his first loss with the promotion. He dropped a decision to Alex Pereira in March.

Meerschaert (34-15) is a six-year UFC veteran and one of the promotion’s most accomplished grapplers, as evidenced by his 26 career submission victories. The 34-year-old Wisconsin native has won three of his past four.

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“Silva has a big power edge and is the better striker. Meerschaert is a tricky grappler who isn’t afraid to put himself in precarious positions. Sooner or later, I believe Silva will knock Meerschaert out,” Gombas told SportsLine. See who else to pick here.

How to make UFC Fight Night picks 

Gombas also has strong picks for Vera vs. Cruz and other fights on the UFC Fight Night card. He’s also backing a fighter who has “power and an exciting style” to emerge with a dominant victory. Those UFC Fight Night picks are only available at SportsLine.

Who wins Vera vs. Cruz? And which fighter is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed top picks on UFC Fight Night, all from the insider who’s up more than $10,000 on MMA picks the past two years, and find out. 

UFC Fight Night odds, fight card

See full UFC Fight Night picks, predictions, best bets at SportsLine.

Marlon Vera (-250) vs. Dominick Cruz (+210)
Cynthia Calvillo (-160) vs. Nina Nunes (+140)
Gabriel Benitez (-350) vs. Charlie Ontiveros (+290)
David Onama (-290) vs. Nate Landwehr (+245)
Ariane Lipski (-170) vs. Priscila Cachoeira (+150)
Ode Osbourne (-230) vs. Tyson Nam (+195)
Yazmin Jauregui (-190) vs. Iasmin Lucindo (+170)
Martin Buday (-250) vs. Lukasz Brzeski (+210)
Bruno Silva (-310) vs. Gerald Meerschaert (+255)
Youssef Zalal (-125) vs. Da’Mon Blackshear (+105)
Azamat Murzakanov (-155) vs. Devin Clark (+135)

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National Bank Open: Two Canadians left standing on Day 4 of action

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TORONTO — The undisputed Greatest of All Time said goodbye in one of her final tournaments ever on Wednesday in front of an appreciative Toronto crowd. And over in Montreal in the men’s side of the National Bank Open, the top 3 seeds also said goodbye (for now) after suffering upsets.

Now in Day 4 of action, there are just two Canadians standing in their home tournaments. Let’s take a look at the must-see matches of the day in the round of 16 (all times listed are ET).

Women’s headliner

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Bianca Andreescu (Canada) vs. Qinwen Zheng (China); Centre court draw opens at 1 p.m. and theirs is the third match scheduled.

On Wednesday night, Andreescu earned her second straight gutsy three-set victory of her home tournament, taking down Alize Cornet of France in a match the Canadian later told reporters was “very, very tough.” The Mississauga, Ont., native hasn’t had an easy road to this Round of 16, but she’s made it here thanks to her powerful groundstrokes, the broad variance in her game and a fighting spirit that’s been incredibly entertaining to watch.

Now up for Andreescu is Zheng, the 19-year-old who earlier this year reached the fourth round of the French Open before losing to the eventual champion and current world No. 1, Iga Swiatek.

This will mark the first meeting between Andreescu and Zheng. Andreescu, 22, who won this tournament three years ago in Toronto, is making her comeback this season after taking time off due to injury and a mental health break.

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Men’s headliner

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Felix Auger-Aliassime (Canada) vs. Cameron Norrie (Great Britain), not before 4 p.m.

The sixth seeded, Montreal-born Auger-Aliassime earned a two-set win over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka on Tuesday, and fired a whopping 17 aces in the process. At one point in the match the 22-year-old Auger-Aliassime stretched out both arms and soaked up the crowd’s adoration.

And the bracket has opened up significantly for the hometown kid (his parents live about 10 minutes from the stadium), with the top three seeds dispatched on Wednesday. Auger-Aliassime will have to get past Norrie, a four-time winner on Tour, in a rematch of last week. Norrie won that one, but Auger-Aliassime told reporters he’s heading into this match with confidence and optimism. And surely a heck of a lot of crowd support.

Other highlights

Iga Swiatek (Poland) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia (Brazil), following the 1 p.m. match on Centre Court

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Swiatek, the world No. 1, absolutely breezed through her opening match here on Wednesday, and once Swiatek gets rolling, she’s difficult to stop. The 21-year-old had an incredible 37-game, six tournament title win-streak going until Wimbledon.

She’ll face Haddad Maia, who played spoiler when she knocked out Canada’s Leylah Fernandez on Tuesday.

Nick Kyrgios (Australia) vs. Alex de Minaur (Great Britain), not before 3 p.m.

On Wednesday, Kyrgios took out the tournament’s defending champion and top seed, Daniil Medvedev, in three sets. Kyrgios is playing some of the best and most consistent tennis of his career, and he’s riding an eight-match winning streak.

He’ll take on de Minaur, who knocked off Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the first round. It marks the first-ever meeting between the two players.

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Full women’s schedule in Toronto

https://nationalbankopen.com/scoring/order-of-play/

Full men’s schedule in Montreal

https://nationalbankopen.com/scoring/order-of-play/?association=atp

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