Shanoff's WUC: U.S. Soccer, NBA Draft, Ubaldo!

Today's Calls: U.S. vs. Algeria, England vs. Slovenia, DeMarcus Cousins vs. NBA GMs, Wes Johnson vs. Derrick Favors, Chris Paul vs. the Magic, Ubaldo Jimenez vs. the Red Sox, Stephen Strasburg vs. the Royals, Chris Johnson vs. Jeff Fisher, Arizona State baseball vs. Oblivion, Andres Escobar vs. Pablo Escobar and More. ↵

↵soccer fanThe Opening Pitch: Today is the biggest soccer game in U.S. history. Bigger than 1950 vs. England, which took 60 years to resonate. Bigger than 2010 vs. England, which was very big, yes, but not do-or-die big. ↵

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↵The scenario is pretty simple: With a win, the U.S. advances to the anything-can-happen knockout round. With a loss, the U.S. is out. (A tie begets a hoary situation where we are simultaneously and uncomfortably reliant on Slovenia to beat or tie England.) ↵

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↵The outcome of those scenarios is also pretty simple: ↵

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↵If the U.S. wins, it sends national fan interest in soccer into the stratosphere. It makes the weekend's second round knock-out game one of the most must-see national sports events of the past few decades. ↵

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↵If the U.S. loses, it doesn't necessarily set back soccer in the states for the foreseeable future — overall World Cup interest has been too high, MLS has been too promising and ESPN will only get better at selling the sport through the English Premier League — but it thins out what should be a standing-room-only bandwagon. ↵

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↵But let's set aside the long-term ramifications of today's result and focus on this: ↵

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↵The World Cup has simply been too fun to have it all end for the U.S. today. ↵

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↵Die-hard U.S. soccer fans might find the bandwagon fans annoying, but those bandwagon fans are the ones who make this a national event, rather than a noisy niche. ↵

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↵Here's to having something for all of us to root for tomorrow. ↵

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↵Be sure to check back here at 10 for Dan Levy's live-blog of the U.S.-Algeria game. ↵

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↵Let's not forget: The England-Slovenia game — also at 10 ET this morning — is even more important to England than the Algeria game is to the U.S. The U.S. team was predicted to advance; England was expected to advance. To get knocked out now would be one of the greatest sports humiliations England has ever experienced. ↵

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↵World Cup Yesterday: There was no "let's-just-tie-and-advance-together" for Uruguay, who recognized that winning Group A would mean that they avoid playing Group B winner Argentina in the second-round knock-out game. Tough luck, Mexico. ↵

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↵NBA Draft: DeMarcus Cousins is arguably as talented a player as there is in this draft — certainly the most talented big man. And yet questions about his attitude are hurting his draft stock; he is currently slotted anywhere from 5th to 7th in leading mock drafts. I love that Mike DeCourcy is warning NBA GMs that they will be sorry for passing on Cousins. (I still like Derrick Favors' upside, but you have to love, with Cousins, being able to lock in a double-double for the next 10 years.) ↵

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↵One reason Cousins is slipping? The Nets, picking third and presumed to be interested in a power forward (either Cousins or super-upside 18-year-old Favors), are apparently leaning toward taking Syracuse swingman Wesley Johnson, then figuring they can pick up a star PF through free agency (Bosh, Amare, Boozer). The T-wolves at No. 4, who coveted Johnson, already have a Cousins-like player in Al Jefferson. That tees things up for the Kings at No. 5. ↵

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↵(Frankly, I think Cousins should be thankful he isn't going No. 2 to the Sixers — Doug Collins isn't the kind of rookie-nurturing coach who will be good for a temperamental young talent.) ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points: That the Rockies cooled off the Red Sox in Denver last night was only an appetizer to today's main event — arguably the most intriguing non-Strasburg pitching start of the season: Ubaldo vs. the BoSox lineup. ↵

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↵Speaking of Strasburg: Tonight, start No. 4 versus the Royals at Nats Park. (He already has the record for most strikeouts through the first three starts of a career.) ↵

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↵More: ↵

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↵— Super-Duel: Lincecum > Oswalt ↵

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↵— All-Star Balloting: Pujols on top (obvious) ↵

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↵— Remember the Name: Mike Trout ↵

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↵— Fantasy Stud: Angel Pagan (4 RBI) ↵

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↵College World Series: Arizona State, the top-seeded team left in the CWS, is outbounced ignominiously in two games. Making it more interesting: It was the first time this year that ASU had lost back-to-back games. ↵

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↵NBA Offseason: Magic want CP3? Well, who wouldn't? And Orlando certainly has the depth to offer New Orleans a compelling package for him. Why deny it? (Because you don't want to offend Jameer Nelson? Eh: It would be worth it.) ↵

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↵Bucks get mild makeover: They picked up good-but-never-quite-great Corey Maggette from the Warriors and Chris Douglas-Roberts from the Nets. (CDR was acquired for a second-round pick, which feels like a bargain.) Nice complementary pieces to fit around Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut. ↵

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↵NFL Offseason: Chris Johnson wants to get paid, and he isn't playing until that happens. You're darn right Jeff Fisher should be concerned; Johnson is only the best player in the NFL — and, yes, woefully underpaid. Instead of just paying him, the Titans are figuring out how to work around him. I don't get that. ↵

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↵CFB Countdown: No. 73 Central Michigan. Life after LeFevour. ↵

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↵Hockey: Great to see the first two women — Cammi Granato and Angela James — headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame. ↵

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↵TV: Wow, you really need to watch "The Two Escobars" when the documentary is replayed on ESPN over the next few days or weeks. Incredibly well done. ↵

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↵The Last Word: "I think he's done now."
↵— Phil Jackson's daughter, Chelsea, on the coach's future. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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