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Gordon hoping for elusive 1st cap with US

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Gordon hoping for elusive 1st cap with US

MIAMI (AP) Alan Gordon celebrates his 31st birthday Tuesday. Maybe U.S. Soccer will give him a cap.

Gordon is the fifth-oldest player currently in camp with the U.S. national team, which is prepping for two matches that will essentially decide if the Americans will continue having a chance to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Of the 24 players originally picked by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann for these games, Gordon is younger than only defenders Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra, along with goalkeepers Tim Howard and Nick Rimando.

Combined, those four players have 279 appearances - caps, in soccer vernacular - for the U.S.

Gordon has zero.

But he's having a breakout season with the San Jose Earthquakes: His 13 goals in 23 games translate to a 0.9-goal-per-90-minute ratio, the best in Major League Soccer. So Gordon got the call to be part of the U.S. side for these qualifiers, first on Friday on the road against Antigua and Barbuda, then in Kansas City, Kan., on Oct. 16 against Guatemala, the match that coincides with his birthday.

``I'm happy to be here,'' Gordon said. ``It doesn't matter what age I am. I'm playing good soccer right now. The coaches here feel that I can be of some help, and I hope I can prove them right.''

Klinsmann said Gordon earned his chance.

``I think it's great to see,'' Klinsmann said. ``He's a guy that went through ups and downs. He saw it all. He struggled physically. He had a lot of injuries. But he always had the right spirit toward his job. He never took things for granted. He worked always hard and he's a giver.''

The U.S., Guatemala and Jamaica each has seven points after the first four matches in this qualifying round, while Antigua and Barbuda has one. For the U.S. to reach next year's regional finals, four points - which the Americans would get with a win and a tie - would seem to be the most probable requirement.

Dogged by injuries in recent years - including hip surgery last year - Gordon acknowledges that he thought his window of having a chance with the national team had closed. But he was summoned to join the Americans for their friendly at Mexico over the summer (the U.S. pulled off a 1-0 victory, though Gordon did not play), and Klinsmann apparently kept watching him in the weeks that followed.

When the Americans opened training in Miami on Tuesday, Gordon seemed to fit right in, even though he's the only player on the roster without a cap and is nearly nine years older than the team's youngest member.

``Some guys are just late bloomers and I see that all over the place,'' Howard said. ``He's been good. He's come in and he's really got his head down, and he's been a good guy to be around off the field. He works hard on the field. He knows what his strengths are and what his abilities are and he plays to them.''

It's not just luck, either. Or the fact that he's putting the ball in the net for the Earthquakes.

There simply was a point when Gordon got tired of being hurt. So he changed his ways, working harder and trying to take advantage of whatever time is left in his career.

``I had to spend some extra time, be a better professional and take it a lot more serious and do a lot more work than other guys do,'' Gordon said. ``Come early, stay late - that's what I've been doing.''

Gordon may still be a long shot to actually play - only Klinsmann knows where he sits on the depth chart for certain - though his odds figure to have improved by default in recent days. The U.S. ruled Landon Donovan and Brek Shea out of these two qualifiers earlier this week because of injuries, meaning what was a 24-man roster is down to 22.

So there might be need for a goal-scorer who's playing well right now, like Gordon.

``I'm blessed to be here,'' Gordon said. ``And I'm just going to enjoy it and do the best I can and try to help the team, if I can.''

Klinsmann points to Gordon as an example that, as he said, ``the door is always open'' for players who keep working.

``It's another opportunity again for Alan Gordon after he came with us to Mexico,'' Klinsmann said. ``It shows them that if they stay focused and work hard and give everything they have, there are chances for 2014 in Brazil.''

NOTES: D Fabian Johnson (flu) will miss the Antigua match and D Edgar Castillo will miss both. Bocanegra and Michael Parkhurst appear to be the best options at left back, with Geoff Cameron paired in the center with Clarence Goodson or Maurice Edu.

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Follow Tim Reynolds on Twitter athttp://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds

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Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 22, four days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Five safe picks for the Redskins

Sometimes teams try to hit home runs with their draft picks. They may hit a few but they also will strike out a lot. Teams often are better off trying to hit solid singles and doubles. Here are five picks who would are unlikely to make many Pro Bowls but the Redskins would not regret the pick if they turned in the cards with their names on it. 

RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn—I’m starting off here with a player who would be a safe pick in the third round. Of course, the Redskins don’t have a third right now but if they do swing a trade and get one, Johnson would be a good pick. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, which is one reason why he might be available in the third. He is a grinder who will be an upgrade over Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley. 

DL Vita Vea, Washington—There is plenty of hand wringing over whether Vea is a three-down player or just a base defense nose tackle. But even if he can’t rush the passer very well his floor is a player who can go a long way towards helping the Redskins stop the run, a chronic weakness. This is why a lot of fans and media are urging the Redskins to not overthink this and take a player that will, at a minimum, bolster one of their weakest areas. 

OL Billy Price, Ohio State—He started 55 games for the Buckeyes, the most of any player in the storied history of the program. He did suffer the partial tear of a chest muscle in the combine but that will be fully healed by training camp. When he’s ready, he’s an explosive, smart, and powerful player. Just plug him in at left guard and the Redskins’ O-line is set with all home-grown talent. 

LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State—He doesn’t have the ceiling that the more heralded Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds have. However, he may have a higher floor. Smith is undersized, and Edmunds will be highly drafted based more on potential than on production. At 6-4, 256, Vander Esch has plenty of size, and he racked up 141 tackles last year on his way to defensive player of the year honors in the Mountain West. 

 CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado—The All-Pac-12 selection has the size and athleticism that add up to a safe pick in the second round. He needs some work on technique, but he has enough natural athletic ability—he competed in the decathlon—to be a productive cornerback right out of the gate. One other plus that fans will appreciate is that his strength is press coverage, not off man. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 30
—Training camp starts (7/26) 95
—Redskins @ Cardinals (9/9) 140

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and the Washington Wizards battle Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night in Game 4 of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

GAME 4: TORONTO RAPTORS AT WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Series: Raptors lead 2-1
Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 6 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 5 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Time to get even

After a momentous Game 3 win, the Wizards have breathed some life back into their season. On Sunday, they can make this a brand new series.

With a win in Game 4 for the Wizards, they would tie the series and send it back to Toronto ensuring another home game in Washington. A loss would put them down 3-1, a deficit that has historically been hard to overcome.

Only 11 teams have accomplished the feat, most notably the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors did the same that year in the conference finals. It has only been done three times since 2006. 

How will Raptors respond?

Game 3 took on a much different tone and style than the previous two and it played into the Wizards' hands. It was much more physical and Washington did a good job of instigating contact and using it to their advanage. After the game, several players highlighted Markieff Morris shoving OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka as a turning point.

Just because it worked in Game 3 doesn't mean it will carry over successfully in Game 4. Not only could the Raptors respond with their own dose of brutality, but the referees may try to nip anything of the sort in the bud early on.

It would not be surprising if Game 4 was officiated very tightly and if a message was sent in the first quarter to the players. After seeing how well it worked in Game 3, the Wizards will likely try to test the limits.

Playoff Beal

The Raptors will also try to adjust their defense following Bradley Beal's 28-point outburst in Game 3. He wasn't much of a factor in the first two games of the series, but broke out in Game 3 to lead the Wizards to a win.

The Wizards did a good job of getting Beal involved early. He was found for open looks from three in the first half and had two three-pointers in each of the first two quarters. Beal also took it upon himself to attack the rim and force the issue.

The Raptors held Beal back in the first two games by being rough with him and in Game 2 they got him in foul trouble. Surely he will be a big emphasis of their gameplan on Sunday.

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For more on the Wizards-Raptors series, check out or latest Wizards Tipoff podcast: