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U.S. women soccer tops New Zealand

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U.S. women soccer tops New Zealand

NEWCASTLE, England (AP) -- These were supposed to be the Hope Solo Olympics for the U.S. women's soccer team. Or the Alex Morgan Games. Instead, they belong so far to the old reliable, Abby Wambach, who has scored in every match to lead the Americans into the semifinals.

The 32-year-old striker slid onto a pass in the 27th minute Friday to knock home her fourth goal of the tournament and then celebrated with a cartwheel in the United States' 2-0 win over New Zealand in the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament.

Sydney Leroux added an insurance goal in the 87th minute for the two-time defending Olympic champion Americans, who will play the winner of the Britain-Canada match in Manchester on Monday.

Wambach extended her U.S. record with her eighth career Olympic goal -- a mark she holds despite missing the Beijing Games with a broken leg -- and pushed her international tally to 142, only 16 behind Mia Hamm's world record. For most of the year, she has yielded much of the scoring load to youngster Morgan, but Morgan has played the role of catalyst in this tournament, getting three assists and doing much of the hard work to set up Wambach's goal Friday.

Taking a long ball from Rachel Buehler, Morgan juked one defender and threaded her pass through two others to put the ball on Wambach's sliding right foot at the far post. The U.S. players, always looking for novel ways to display their happiness, then ran to the corner of the field and started doing cartwheels before the crowd of 10,441 at venerable St. James' Park, home of Newcastle.

Wambach's scoring spurt is remarkable given all the attention she draws from the opposition. She's still one of the strongest players in the game and is unmatched in the air, yet three of her four goals have come with her feet. She's also constantly battling her nagging Achilles tendinitis and used a series of holistic and traditional treatments to get ready for the Olympics.

The only downside to Wambach's performance was a yellow card, picked up in the 42nd minute for a hard tackle on midfielder Katie Hoyle. U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd also was given a yellow card for a foul in the 79th.

Solo recorded her third consecutive shutout, although once again she was rarely challenged. The Americans haven't allowed a goal since France scored twice early in the first half of the Olympic opener.

New Zealand, ranked 23rd in the world, was making its first appearance in the knockout phase of a major tournament. The Football Ferns have lost nine straight to the U.S., with their only win in the series coming in 1987.

While still on a winning streak, the Americans had trouble turning control-of-play dominance into goals for the third straight game. They led Colombia 1-0 before getting two goals late in the second half and beat North Korea 1-0, albeit after slowing the game down in the second half to save their legs for the quarterfinals.

Morgan was just wide with a pair of solid scoring chances, and Morgan and Wambach both had scary collisions with New Zealand goalkeeper Jenny Bindon. Wambach kicked Bindon in the head in the first half, and Morgan did the same in the second half.

Leroux, the youngest player on the team and the only one who wasn't on last year's World Cup squad, entered as a substitute in the 81st minute and soon had her first Olympic goal, outpacing the New Zealand defenders with a run down the left side and beating Bindon with a strong left-footed finish.

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Get ready for the NFL Draft, and get ready for plenty of surprises

Get ready for the NFL Draft, and get ready for plenty of surprises

In some circles of modern culture, producing shocking commentary or content seems like the top goal. Being shocking gets clicks, gets attention, and in turn, gets dollars. 

On NFL Draft night, nothing should be shocking. Remember, last season there was no way Jonathan Allen would fall to the Redskins at 17. There was no way Kansas City would trade up for QB Patrick Maholmes. There was no way Chicago would trade up for Mitchell Trubisky. But all those things happened.

Sure, for months draft experts have expounded about what will happen, but the truth is, once the Browns are on the clock, nobody actually knows anything. 

With that in mind, let's look at a bunch of options that should not shock Redskins fans. 

  • Don't be shocked if Washington takes Minkah Fitzpatrick. They want him.
  • Don't be shocked if the Redskins draft Da'Ron Payne over Vita Vea. Washington loves Payne's potential to be a disruptor in the pass game and his incredible strength. 
  • Then again, don't be shocked if the 'Skins take Vita. Plenty of folks like him too. 
  • Don't be shocked if a team makes a move for Louisville QB Lamar Jackson. That could happen after the Redskins pick at 13, but Washington's pick could also prove important in the race for the former Heisman Trophy winner.
  • Derwin James will be on the 'Skins list, but don't be shocked if he goes off the board before the Redskins pick. 
  • Don't be shocked with a trade back, but remember that isn't the goal. With four QBs expected in the Top 10, an elite talent should make it to Washington at 13. If that happens, the Redskins should take advantage of adding a blue chip to their squad. 
  • Don't be shocked if Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds ends up wearing the Redskins draft hat. Also, don't be shocked if he plays some outside linebacker in the Washington 3-4 scheme, not just the inside LB role most project for Edmunds. 
  • Don't be shocked if a seemingly sure thing slips all the way to 13. Perhaps that's Quenton Nelson? Or Denzel Ward? Remember, there was no way Jon Allen was supposed to fall to 17 last year.

There are some things Redskins fans should be shocked by. 

  • Washington should not trade up. 
  • Washington should not draft a running back at 13 unless Saquon Barley is available. He won't be.
  • Washington should not draft a wide receiver at 13. 
  • If one of the top four QBs is available at 13, Washington should vigorously work the phones to move the pick. Move down a few spots and get Payne should be the exact plan in that scenario. Arizona at 15 needs a QB. 

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Fourth quarter has been an issue for the Wizards in series vs. Raptors

Fourth quarter has been an issue for the Wizards in series vs. Raptors

It was all going so well for the Wizards in Game 5 on Wednesday night until just over four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. That's when their offense went from good enough to win to bad enough to alter a series and put their 2017-18 season on life support.

The Wizards head back to Washington down 3-2 and have only themselves to blame. From the 4:05 mark in the fourth quarter all the way until 16.2 seconds remining in the game, they did not score a single point. Meanwhile, the Raptors kept rolling and finished that stretch on a 14-5 run. 

The Wizards missed 11 of their final 15 shots. They stopped moving the ball and moving off the ball and even some of their open shots clanged off the backboard or the rim.

It was a stunning display of offensive ineptitude from a team that was above average in scoring during the regular season. 

"We just missed some shots," guard Bradley Beal said. "We feel like we got some good ones, especially down the stretch."

The Wizards managed 20 points in the fourth quarter and 15 came in the first 7:55 of the frame. That would put them on pace for a solid quarter. If they maintained that course, they may have won the game.

Instead, the fourth quarter amounted to a disaster and it cost them dearly. Teams that lose Game 5 to break a 2-2 tie have a 17.2 percent chance of winning the series, based on the league's history.

Otto Porter went scoreless and took one shot in the fourth quarter of Game 5. John Wall had two of his seven turnovers and shot 2-for-6.

"I had two crucial turnovers trying to split screens in the fourth quarter," Wall said. "Just bad reads on my part."

Beal shot 1-for-6 from the field and 1-for-4 from three. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who shot just 40.3 percent from the field during the regular season, took six shots in the fourth quarter, tied for most on the team. He made two of them and missed all three of his threes.

The Wizards had six of their 18 giveaways in the fourth. Though they outrebounded the Raptors 50-35 for the game, they were outdone 15-12 in the frame.

The Wizards' scoreless drought of three minutes and 49 seconds in the fourth quarter was perhaps foreshadowed by some problems with their offense early in the game. There were plenty of stretches characterized by bad shots, turnovers and a lack of passing.

The Wizards' 21 assists in Game 5 were their fewest in the playoffs so far.

"We need more ball movement," Beal said. "We need more player movement. We were way too stagnant."

The fourth quarter has been an issue all series. Only once, in Game 2, did they outscore the Raptors in the final frame. 

The Wizards rank 14th out of 16 playoff teams in fourth quarter points (23.4/g) and dead-last with a 40.4 field goal percentage and 28.1 three point percentage.

This is a bit of a carryover from the regular season. Only five teams shot worse than the Wizards in the fourth quarter (43.7%) and only five teams allowed more points (26.5) to their opponents.

Washington has had issues closing games all year and throughout this series. Wednesday night was an extreme example and it has them just one loss away from elimination.

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