Marouane Fellaini insists no Man Utd regretsby Paul Vegas14 days agoSend to a friendShare the loveFormer Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini has no regrets over his time at Old Trafford.United’s cup double and second placed finish in 2016 the undisputed highlight of his five-and-half years at the club.Fellaini, now with Shandong Luneng, told the Daily Mail: “I played five and half years for Manchester. My first season was a transition, so I was in transition, I know I didn’t have a great season. But after that I played my games, played well and I won things.”Okay, I didn’t win the Premier League but that’s part of football. Manchester City was a strong team and was difficult to battle against them.”But I did some great games, scored some important goals, so for me I was very happy with my time in Manchester.’ Unfortunately, Old Trafford isn’t quite so cheery right now.” About the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say
This NBA season has produced more than its fair share of ridiculous, eye-popping statistics. Russell Westbrook got his record-tying 41st triple-double of the season on Tuesday. The Rockets shattered the league record for threes made in a single campaign with two weeks left to play. And 20-year-old Devin Booker, who’d never even scored 40 points in a contest before, somehow logged 70 points in one game last month.But Booker’s team is on the cusp of crossing a less-than-ideal threshold as things wind down: The Phoenix Suns, who lead the NBA in fouls by a wide margin with 1,963 so far, are on pace to eclipse the 2,000-foul mark, which would make them the first NBA club to hit that mark in 10 years.The Suns commit 25 fouls per game (the NBA average is 20) and send their opponents to the free-throw line an NBA-high 29 times a night. It isn’t necessarily a new problem, since Phoenix allowed opponents to go to the stripe more than anyone last season, too. But the team’s fouls are up 10 percent from last year, and the team is becoming a bit of an outlier by fouling more often, given that NBA foul rates have decreased over the past decade as more and more shooters space the floor, leading to less contact from play to play.The chronic fouling is a symptom of two much larger issues: 1. The team’s inability to contain their opponents on defense, where the Suns allow 109 points per 100 plays, third-worst in the league. Being that bad leaves their players out of position, often leading to more desperate fouls as they try to recover. And 2. Phoenix’s relative youth and inexperience, especially in the post, where it’s fairly common for players to struggle with foul trouble at the beginning of their careers.This talented group is still developing, both physically and mentally. The Suns are one of the NBA’s shortest and lightest teams, which might make them a bit easier to push around. But Phoenix — which last month used the youngest starting five in NBA history — also has plenty to learn when it comes to countering the offensive tricks and techniques that veteran players acquire over the years.“You ever seen a young group of guys play against a group of older guys in pickup? The older guys somehow manage to physically take advantage of the younger guys without making it look like that’s what they’re doing. Then the young guy starts to hit back, and it’s completely obvious? That’s what we look like sometimes,” coach Earl Watson told me last week during his club’s East Coast trip. “Players in this league are so good, and our guys are still learning how to be aggressive without committing obvious fouls.”Those gaps in experience are most apparent in scenarios where a single defender is being asked to hold his own: 1-on-1s and post-ups. The Suns have committed the second- and fourth-highest rates of shooting fouls this season when guarding 1-on-1s and post-ups, respectively,1Phoenix has been whistled for shooting fouls 14 percent of the time in isolation scenarios and about 15 percent of the time when guarding post-up opportunities. according to Synergy Sports.It’s hard to fault the players’ intent, despite the dismal results. They often sacrifice their bodies in hopes of forcing a turnover, but many times they haven’t established good enough positioning to ward off defensive-foul calls. This has been especially true of some young players, like Booker, rookie power forward Marquese Chriss and fourth-year center Alex Len, who are 1-of-18, 5-of-28 and 0-of-14 when it comes drawing charge calls this season. (Those numbers are pretty abysmal, considering that the leaguewide average charge rate is 40 percent.)Phoenix’s learning curve has gotten considerably steeper in recent weeks, since the Suns elected to shut down a handful of healthy veteran players, including usual starters Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler, in pursuit of some lottery ping-pong balls and a chance to give their younger, less-used talent some spin over the final month of a losing season.That has meant fielding lineups that have little institutional knowledge of how to defend without fouling.“If I’m the only young guy out there with four veterans, those four can kind of direct traffic and help cover for me when I mess up,” said Chriss, who commits 5.5 fouls per 36 minutes, tied for the NBA’s fourth-highest rate among players who’ve logged at least 1,000 minutes.2He’s tied with Len. “But when it’s a situation where everybody on the floor is, at most, 3 or 4 years into their career, that’s kind of tough, because then we’re all kind of lost, and still learning how to communicate with each other as players.”It’s not just an issue of youth. There are several other, less-examined factors that help explain why they’ve committed so many fouls. Phoenix plays at a blistering pace, handling more possessions than most, which puts the team in a position to commit more fouls than any other club. The Suns have been in more close games where they trailed late than any other team, meaning a decent number of their infractions were likely intentional and committed in hopes of stopping the clock. And it’s worth noting that Phoenix also comfortably leads the NBA in offensive fouls. So, not every foul Phoenix commits is a symptom of the Suns’ weak defense.Make no mistake, though: The Suns do an absolute ton of hacking, and they usually get called for it.“Refs officiate games with a certain rhythm. They’re used to a certain speed and rhythm. When you jump out of that rhythm, it’s easy for them to see, and you’re going to get called for it,” said Chandler, an NBA champion who joined the league as a teenager and went from committing more than 5 fouls per 36 minutes in his fifth season to eventually winning Defensive Player of the Year. Chandler added that the Suns, much like he was as a youngster, are often overeager to make a play, and wind up swiping or jumping when they shouldn’t.Nevertheless, struggles and all, Watson is an eternal optimist. He takes ample time most days to walk through film of the team’s fouling tendencies, and he told me that he feels his team is only a reinforcement or two away from a huge turnaround if the young players keep developing.“I was with OKC during Russ’s first year” — Westbrook, of course — “and I always let [my Phoenix players] know: That year, [the Thunder] won 23 games. The next year they won 50, and did it because their young guys had gotten so much experience and developed a supreme confidence.”Phoenix may not go on to write the kind of success story that the Thunder did, at least not next season. But if putting in a year at the School of Hard Knocks helps this team improve on defense, maybe the Suns will eventually be able to say that this furious foul pace was a worthwhile learning experience.Check out our NBA predictions.
Redshirt-junior goalkeeper Alex Ivanov (32) takes a goal kick during a game against Northwestern Oct. 20 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The teams tied, 0-0.Credit: Eric Seger / Sports editorThe Ohio State men’s soccer team is getting a break from its Big Ten schedule Wednesday, when it welcomes the Oakland Golden Grizzlies to Columbus.Oakland (5-3-5, 3-0-1) is a member of the Horizon League, but Buckeye coach John Bluem said his team would be wrong to take the small conference school lightly.“We’ve played Oakland many times before and they are a very good attacking team,” he said. “One of the things we’ll have to make sure we do is to first, (is) bounce back after (Sunday’s game). It’s a short turnaround to play again on Wednesday night. We’ll also have to make sure we respect our opponent, we can’t look at Oakland and say, ‘This is a team from a smaller conference and we should be able to win.’ Well you know, that’s not how it’s going to happen for us, we’re going to have to fight every single game as hard as we can if we want to get a result.”Oakland enters the match against the Buckeyes (2-6-5, 0-2-2) coming off a 3-0 loss to another Big Ten team, then-No. 14 Michigan State. The Grizzlies sit in second place in the conference.Defense has been crucial to The Golden Grizzlies’ success this season, as they have only allowed an average of 1.23 goals per game this year. Oakland junior forward Joey Tinnion leads the team with 14 points (six goals and two assists) in 2013.Bluem said the Buckeyes have been “riding the coattails of an incredible goalkeeper this year,” and the defense will have to remain strong in Wednesday’s match.OSU redshirt-junior goalkeeper Alex Ivanov said his job is to keep the team in the game at all times and that the team needs to remain focused in its upcoming matches.“It’s very important to keep the spirits of the younger guys up and make sure that they’re still checked in and focused on the season,” he said. “(The season) is still not over — everything is up for grabs. I think because we’ve been so close, the soccer gods will come through. We’ll get something eventually.”Three of OSU’s last four opponents have been ranked in the top 20 at the time it played them. Sophomore midfielder Zach Mason said confidence from playing those teams, after tying all three of them, will help the team finish the season strong.“We’re going to do what we’ve been doing (in practice),” he said. “I think we have a lot of confidence. You know, we’ll stick to the basics, stick to what we’ve been doing, we’ve been really close and I think we are right there.”Wednesday night’s game is set for 7 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The team’s next match is scheduled against Cleveland State Oct. 27, before it resumes conference play against No. 13 Penn State in Columbus Nov. 2.An earlier edition of this story noted that OSU had lost to the last three ranked teams it had played. The Buckeyes have in fact tied all three of these opponents.
Ohio State men’s soccer head coach Brian Maisonneuve watches the Buckeyes play in the first half of the game against the University of South Florida on Sept. 7, 2018. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorComing off a 0-0 draw at home against Northwestern on Friday while playing nearly half the game down a man, the Ohio State men’s soccer team (1-5-2, 0-1-1 Big Ten) heads to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to take on the Wolverines (5-1-1, 1-0-1 Big Ten) on Tuesday. Ohio State redshirt senior midfielder Brady Blackwell said even though Ohio State’s battles with Michigan are mostly noted on the gridiron, the rivalry transcends all sports between the two schools. “I think everyone comes here because they know about the rivalry in football obviously, but I think it carries over to every single sport, so we’re not very fond of them,” Blackwell said. “They don’t really like us very much.” The Wolverines come into this week ranked No. 21 in the nation, according to the United Soccer Coaches Poll, and are on a six-game unbeaten streak following their only loss of the season, at home to Tulsa on Aug. 24.Michigan is a team that is both effective and dangerous on offense. The Wolverines have outscored their opponents 15-5 on the season while outshooting them 101-48. The Wolverines’ attack is spearheaded by sophomore forward Umar Farouk Osman’s four goals and two assists, combined with eight points apiece from junior forward Jack Hallahan and sophomore forward Mohammed Zakyi.Meanwhile, the Wolverines are just as strong between the pipes, with sophomore goalkeeper Henry Mashburn currently holding a 0.68 goals against average for the season, accompanied by four clean sheets.“Michigan’s very good this year, very athletic, tough and they get after you,” Ohio State head coach Brian Maisonneuve said. “It’s going to be a battle and we’re going to have to match their fight because you know they’re going to come out a hundred miles per hour.”Maisonneuve said that a top concern of his is how his players will recover on such short rest following the tough double-overtime battle against the Wildcats Friday night in Columbus. “The hardest part about double overtime on Friday is we’ve got to turn around and do it on Tuesday, so it’s going to be a really quick turnaround,” Maisonneuve said. “Managing bodies is going to be the No. 1 thing.”With eight games under their belt, a new coaching staff and system and a whole lot of soccer left to be played, the Buckeyes seem to be settling in.The defense rebounded from a tough outing at Penn State last weekend to shut out Northwestern on Friday despite being a man down, while the offense played its most effective game of the season last time out. The Buckeyes and Wolverines are set to play in Ann Arbor at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.