Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba determined to stick this time

Thinking he had finished a short interview in the hallway outside of the Minnesota Wild’s dressing room on Wednesday, Matt Dumba reached down for the lunch he had laid on the floor.

Considering the Wild’s depth on the blue line, would the young defenseman be disappointed if he started next season with the franchise’s minor league team in Des Moines?

Dumba froze halfway to his food and glanced sideways at his inquisitor as if to say, “Dude, seriously?”

“Uh,” he started, searching for the politically correct answer. “That’s not my goal. I’m going to do whatever it takes to stay here.”

It’s hard to blame Dumba if he’s tired of discussing roster moves.

Minnesota Wild defenseman Mathew Dumba watches from the bench during the second period of a preseason NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues in St.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Mathew Dumba watches from the bench during the second period of a preseason NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues in St. Paul, Minn., Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

The seventh overall pick in the 2012 draft spent his first, short stint in the NHL addressing the topic as the Wild debated keeping the 19-year-old defenseman or sending him back to the major junior Western Hockey League.

And there he was, on the first day of the Wild’s prospects camp, two weeks shy of his 20th birthday, answering the same dang question he answered nearly every day before the Wild sent him to play for Canada’s junior national team on Dec. 11.

Only this time, it would be the Des Moines Wild of the American Hockey League, a step up from the Portland Winterhawks, the team he led to the WHL finals last spring with eight goals among 18 points in 21 playoff games.

In 26 regular-season games, the last of his four major-junior seasons, Dumba had eight goals and 16 assists. But after starting the season in the NHL — Dumba had a goal and assist in 13 games with the Wild — he must have felt like the biggest kid on the block.

“You feel like that, but you come back to reality real quick,” he said.

The WHL is generally regarded as the toughest, physically, of the Canadian Hockey League’s major junior circuits, and league champ Edmonton — which beat Dumba’s Winterhawks in seven games for the title — went on to win the CHL championship.

“These kids in that league are going to push you and challenge you every night knowing who you are,” Dumba said. “You have to keep a level head, because if you start thinking…

via Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba determined to stick this time – TwinCities.com.

Midfield Trio: Daigo Kobayashi, Kelyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen Talk about Saturday’s Success

Head coach Jay Heaps made a bold decision on Saturday when he chose to start Daigo Kobayashi over Teal Bunbury. The switch put Kobayashi, Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe in the same starting lineup for only the second time this year. Although the first instance ended in a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake, the three creative midfielders were able to harmonize against Chivas USA in a match that could serve as a preview of things to come.

With Kobayashi, Nguyen and Rowe all in the starting eleven, there were questions of how the trio would line up. When the whistled blew, Kobayashi and Nguyen operated centrally while Rowe played on the right side, opposite of Diego Fagundez.

The adjustment is something that Rowe is more than willing to do because, as he told media after the game, he just “wants to play.” He did admit, however that the move requires a change in mindset.

“You just got to stay wide a little,” Rowe enlightened. “I found myself coming in a lot, trying to find the ball and the guys gave it me every once and awhile. It was good. I think we connected well.”

In the center, Nguyen and Kobayashi have formed a dangerous partnership after starting together on 13 occasions. The likeminded creators played alongside each other during the Revolution’s seven-game unbeaten run. In their first season playing together, Kobayashi and Nguyen have already developed quite the chemistry.

“I love playing with (Daigo Kobayashi),” Nguyen said. “We’re on the same wavelength. He doesn’t speak much English, but I feel we’ve been playing together for a long time. He’s very smart, very composed and can keep possession in tight spaces so I think that help us out.”

Kobayashi, Nguyen, Rowe and Fagundez didn’t remain in their starting positions for long as they frequently swapped in an effort to dupe defenders and create opportunities. This preplanned tactic comes naturally for all four attacking midfielders as they’ve played together often and know each other’s strengths.

The familiarity among the midfielders was on display in the second half when Rowe, Kobayashi and Nguyen combined to create the game’s only goal. Rowe played a pass to Kobayashi, who returned the favor with a nifty backheel. After beating a defender, Rowe moved the ball to Nguyen, who scored a beautiful curler.

More than a game-winner, the goal could be a harbinger of things to come.

“I think we’re still getting use to each other with spacing and whatnot, but playing with Daigo and Lee is kind of easy,” Rowe stated. “You know they’re going to get the ball in a great spot, you know they’re going to turn and look for you. Today, just as a preview, I think we had a really good game today.”

via Midfield Trio: Rowe and Nguyen Talk about Saturday’s Success – The Bent Musket.

Lee Nguyen’s Career Year is no Surprise to Teammates

A solitary statistic will never tell the full story, but the fact that the New England Revolution are now 6-1-1 when Lee Nguyen scores does help illuminate his importance. Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Chivas USA was just another game that showcased Nguyen’s significance.

The lone goal of the night came in the 56th minute when Nguyen beat Dan Kennedy with a shot from just outside the penalty box. The goal was the product of some creative interplay between Kelyn RoweDaigo Kobayashi and Nguyen. Kobayashi used a backheel to return Rowe’s pass, prompting the Washington native to push the ball to Nguyen. The midfield maestro would then offer up a beautiful curler that found the upper left corner of the net.

The goal solidified Nguyen’s status as the team’s leading scorer. Currently sitting on nine goals, Nguyen has already equaled his scoring output of the last two years combined. He has also offered two assists.

“I think he’s finished a lot of balls,” Kelyn Rowe said when asked about Nguyen’s success. “Like the shot today, it’s incredible. It’s something that Lee puts away 8-9 times out of 10. We’re giving him chances and he’s taking them.”

Goals and assists are only part of the reason why Nguyen has been so imperative this year. According to WhoScored.com, the Texas native has provided 49 key passes, 32 successful dribbles and 15 interceptions. Of course, his team-leading four game-winning goals will always capture the headlines.

Nguyen’s creative mind and tireless effort come with repercussions. The midfielder is currently the most fouled player for the Revolution with 53 total fouls, which averages out to 2.41 per game. Against the New York Red Bulls, Nguyen was cleaned out by Matt Miazga, an infraction that led to a first half exit for the defender. Erik Torres earned a yellow card on Saturday when he chopped down Nguyen out of frustration. The constant barrage of fouls have forced Nguyen to adapt.

“He got kicked pretty hard a lot,” head coach Jay Heaps commented. “When he gets it off his foot the first time and he finds the second ball…the game is his.”

Already a career year, Nguyen has caught the attention of many. After being called the “best player in MLS you’re not watching” by the Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle, Nguyen has appeared on both MLSSoccer.com’s Team of the Week and SI.com Planet Futbol’s Best XI three times. He has also gotten requests to be called up by the US national team and to be named as the league’s MVP.

While Nguyen is receiving more love from media pundits this season, his teammates are quick to point out that he’s always been a good player.

“People think that Lee wasn’t as good last year (but) I think he was just as good,” Rowe explained. “I think he’s just gotten more chances and he’s taken his chances very well this year.”

As for the player himself, he’s just happy to be helping his team.

“It was great to get three points, that’s the main thing,” Nguyen said.

via Lee Nguyen’s Career Year is no Surprise to Teammates – The Bent Musket.

Arthur Chu – The Greatest Asian Jeopardy contestant

Arthur Chu was once a quiet office worker who got a shot on JEOPARDY! – and blew it up. Twelve shows later, Chu had racked up nearly $300,000 in winnings and created an international hatestorm. Chu threw the usual JEOPARDY! geeky politeness out the window. Instead he preened, he postured, and he found daily doubles…all of them. His strategies—bouncing around the board, pragmatic wagers, and keeping a hyper-aggressive pace to the game—have led some to declare his $300,000 winning streak akin to a MONEYBALL moment on JEOPARDY!. He crushed his opponents and he tangled with host Alex Trebek. While his detractors called him a “thug,” or simply the “the Jeopardy! villain,” Chu ate it up. Living his version of the American Dream, Jeopardy! gave him his 15 minutes of fame. He has something to tell you, and you should listen. The uproar has already caught the attention of the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, USA Today…and bloggers around the world.

This fall, Chu will participate in the JEOPARDY! Tournament of Champions and we will be there to capture it, with exclusive access to this unlikely hero and the Jeopardy! studio. 24 million use the app QuizUp, and 9 million people watch Jeopardy a day. Now is the time to give you a closer look at this wonderful world of trivia. But we need your help. We have one month to get to Ohio to film with Arthur before the Tournament of Champions. Then to LA. Then to Taiwan. Even documentaries have expenses: anything from production insurance, to travel expenses, to legal fees, to more legal fees. With such themes as ethnicity in the media, the politics of being a champion, the new American dream, and the nature of viral celebrity in the modern world, we know this story will have lasting education value.

So Who is Arthur Chu? Support our documentary to find the clue.

via Who is Arthur Chu? by Scott Drucker — Kickstarter.

UFC Veteran Nam Phan Set for Pancrase Debut Oct. 5 in Tokyo

Two weeks after making a successful post-UFC debut, Nam Phan has signed on to compete for long-running Japanese organization Pancrase.

The promotion Monday announced that Phan will meet Yuki Baba in a three-round featherweight contest at Pancrase 261. The event takes place Oct. 5 at Tokyo’s Differ Ariake arena and will also feature a 120-pound bout between former Shooto contender Hiroyuki Abe and Yukitaka Musashi.

Phan, 31, snapped the three-fight losing skid which led to his Octagon exit when he punched outKenichi Ito in the first round of their July 13 meeting at Grandslam MMA “Way of the Cage” in Tokyo. The stoppage marked Phan’s first knockout since 2009, having gone the distance in all eight of his UFC appearances.

Baba is currently Pancrase’s top-ranked featherweight, due largely to his March 30 knockout of American Guy Delumeau. A training partner of current UFC lightweight Naoyuki Kotani, the 27-year-old “Brave Devil” will look to add Phan’s name to his résumé and earn a shot at reigning King of Pancrase Takumi Nakayama.

via UFC Veteran Nam Phan Set for Pancrase Debut Oct. 5 in Tokyo.

Fantasy Roundup: Scouting Tsuyoshi Wada

cindy-cupcakes-and-a-baseball-bat

One reason why I watch most baseball games with sound off is because the TV analyst (usually an ex-player) uses way too many cliches. I’m about to use one of the most overused cliches in baseball, but it’s the only way I can describe Tsuyoshi Wada: He just knows how to pitch.

On Sunday Wada had a no hitter after six innings despite not having overpowering stuff. His fastball sits 89-90 mph and can touch 91. That may not sound impressive but he was missing bats with it and, most importantly, the Oriole batters were not squaring him up. The reason why his fastball is so good is because he can run it in and away and change speeds; in other words, he keeps batters off balance. He only allowed one hit against the fastball, a home run to Steve Pearce, that on which he missed his location by a lot.

He also features a changeup, curveball, and slider. On Sunday he threw mostly fastballs and changeups, which is unusual because normally throws more curveballs. He has the best feel for the changeup as he can throw it any situation, which allows his fastball to play up. The fastball can be a little flat, which means he’s going to be a fly ball pitcher and, therefore, will be at higher risk of allowing home runs.

Wada doesn’t have high upside, but his floor is relatively high. At the end of Sunday he has a 2.56 ERA, which is unsustainable, but I can see him being 3.20-3.35 ERA with a sub-1.20 WHIP and enough strikeouts to make him a must start in 12-team mixed leagues because of how good his command is and how good the Cubs defense is.

via Fantasy Roundup: Scouting Tsuyoshi Wada.

China’s ‘Great Wall’ Takes A Hit At U.S. Heavyweight Boxing

In boxing, it’s not often that the first fight of the night gets a lot of attention. But at Longshoreman’s Hall in San Francisco last month, the fans, the announcers, even the viewers watching the broadcast on FOX Sports One were all captivated by the boxer in the blue corner.

“Tonight he makes his professional debut and joins us from Beijing, China,” chimed the announcer. “Here is The Great Wall: Taishan!”

Taishan Dong is a mountain of a man in every sense of the word. His name comes from Mount Taishan, one of China’s five sacred mountains. At 6 feet 11 and 285 pounds, the 26-year-old Chinese boxer towers over his opponents in the ring.

Announcers call him the Great Wall. His promoters call him the soon-to-be Yao Ming of American boxing. But JianJun Dong — his real name — just prefers Taishan, because someday he hopes to tower over the sport of heavyweight boxing like Mount Taishan over China’s Shandong province.

Dong says he hiked to the top of Mount Taishan six years ago and liked the feeling he got looking down.

“I want to feel that way with boxing,” he said through an interpreter.

Heavyweight Boxing’s Next Big Thing?

The stage is set for a new challenger in the sport’s marquee division.

There’s an old adage in boxing: “As goes the heavyweight division, so goes the boxing business.” Lately — here, in the U.S. — the going has been slow.

For the better part of the past decade, the world heavyweight scene had been dominated by two Ukrainian brothers, Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko. Vitali has retired and is now the mayor of Kiev. Wladimir, 38, is said to be nearing retirement. Below him, there are no clear successors.

That’s got every promoter in the sport looking for the next big thing. Physically, Dong certainly qualifies. He has signed with Golden Boy Promotions, one of the largest promoters in the sport.

At Longshoreman’s Hall, Dong went to work on his opponent, the 6-foot-3 Alex Rozman. In the second round, a jab to the top of Rozman’s head knocked the former bodybuilder to the mat and out of the fight.

“[His punch] is a battering ram,” says John Bray, Dong’s trainer.

A Student Of The Sport

Bray and Dong train at the Glendale Fighting Club, north of Los Angeles. In a raised ring at the back of the gym, Bray barks out orders to Dong, counting off punches as Dong strikes at a pad he’s holding.

At the end of the session, Bray is drenched in sweat. A former heavyweight and no small man himself, Bray says he doesn’t think he could compete with Dong, even in his prime.

“He’s just too big,” Bray says. More than that, Bray says, Dong is fast and flexible (he can do the splits from a stand), and he’s driven.

Dong doesn’t speak English. Bray doesn’t speak Chinese. But Bray says communication isn’t a problem.

“It’s boxing,” Bray says. “I just show him and he’s such a student that he just picks up on this stuff. I work with kids that speak English that don’t get it as fast as he does.”

Dong competed in basketball and kickboxing before moving to the U.S. That background and his physicality make him unique, says Bill Caplan, his promoter with Golden Boy Promotions.

But Caplan and boxing analysts say Dong still has a long way to go.

“This is a guy that did not have a particularly huge amateur background,” says Dan Rafael, senior boxing writer at ESPN. “He’s 1-0 against the lowest possible level of opponent that there is.”

China Is Ripe With Boxing Talent

Dong is an intriguing prospect, though, Rafael says. And he’s only one of a few Chinese fighters who are trying to make names for themselves on the American boxing scene.

Since Chinese boxers medaled in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, boxing’s popularity has exploded in China. Dino Duva, a longtime boxing promoter, says it’s the country’s third most popular sport and is growing fast.

“The professional boxing scene in China is by far the biggest growth area for the future, and it’s really, really going to explode here in the next couple of years,” Duva says.

That boost in popularity is drawing more athletes. Without a sport like football taking big, strong athletes, China is ripe with new boxing talent. That boost also creates a larger market of fans — a fact not lost on Duva.

“I think that a Chinese heavyweight boxer can be as big as any Chinese athlete that there’s ever been,” he says.

That’s why Duva recently started Dynasty Boxing, a promoting company that focuses on Chinese fighters. His first heavyweight, 2012 Olympic medal winner Zhang Zhilei, recorded a KO in his U.S. professional debut earlier this month.

Duva brought Zhilei to America to train him in a country with a rich boxing tradition and a fan base looking for heavyweights — the same draws that brought Dong to the U.S.

It’s a challenge, training in a new country and a new language, but Dong says he’s excited for the opportunity.

“I will do my best in boxing,” he says. “I hope that all of these people continue to support me down the road.”

via China’s ‘Great Wall’ Takes A Hit At U.S. Heavyweight Boxing : NPR.