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CONCACAF World Cup qualifying odds, predictions, picks: Canada nears clinching while pressure is up for U.S., Mexico – The Athletic

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Let’s all embrace our new Canadian overlords, which have somehow won five straight matches in World Cup qualifying. Canada’s 2-0 win against the U.S. men’s national team on Sunday was a humbling result for the Americans. It also has Canada four points clear at the top of the table with four matches left.

Canada can clinch on Wednesday, when the final matches of this international window will take place. It would take some unlikely results, but it is possible. Canada needs to win, Costa Rica to fail to win, a US loss at home to Honduras and Mexico to beat Panama.

Pressure is a bit higher on the USMNT and Mexico which look to bounce back from disappointing results. Both are still in a good spot, but another slip up would make things very interesting in the final window in March.

Let’s see if our pickers have finally embraced Canada as a dominant force in CONCACAF or if they still are skeptics.


Jamaica (+180) vs. Costa Rica (+155); Draw +210

Jamaica 1-5-4, 7 points; Costa Rica 3-3-4, 13 points

Writer Pick
Matt Pentz
Costa Rica
Jeff Rueter
Dan Santaromita
Costa Rica
Andrew DeWitt
Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s resurgence in qualifying is the only thing keeping the top four from feeling secure about their places. Getting a home win against Panama and a point at Mexico in this window has kept the Ticos in the race. Costa Rica was outplayed by Mexico, allowing 25 shots, but just one on target in a scoreless draw at Estadio Azteca. With Panama going to Azteca on Wednesday, it’s reasonable to think Costa Rica could get within a point of fourth place.

Jamaica led in Panama on Sunday, but an own goal a few minutes before halftime broke the dam and Panama added two more goals in the second half of a 3-2 win. The Reggae Boyz are on life support. A loss eliminates Jamaica from World Cup contention.


USA (-550) vs. Honduras (+1600); Draw +550

USA 5-2-3, 18 points; Honduras 0-7-3, 3 points

Writer Pick
Matt Pentz
Jeff Rueter
Dan Santaromita
Andrew DeWitt

The American fanbase is probably not in a good mood after being on the other end of a 2-0 scoreline on Sunday. The comparisons to the famous dos a cero scores against Mexico are unavoidable in so many ways. In many of those American triumphs, Mexico was the more talented and, even in some cases, the more dominant team in possession and territory. Yet, the Americans found a way to win by being better in front of both goals.

On Sunday, the Americans were the team with more possession and the ball around Canada’s box more often. However, Canada took advantage of a series of mistakes to score the first goal and avoided major trouble for the most part in its own box despite the Americans sniffing around the area for much of the match.

The good news for the USMNT is it is still in second place in the table and gets to host Honduras in St. Paul, Minn. Honduras is dead last, freshly eliminated, winless in qualifying and has lost five straight qualifiers. The Americans are the biggest favorite of Wednesday’s matches, and deservedly so.

Midfielder Tyler Adams and defender Chris Richards are both out with injuries for this match. It’s also going to be extremely cold.


El Salvador (+320) vs. Canada (-115); Draw +230

El Salvador 2-5-3, 9 points; Canada 6-0-4, 22 points

Writer Pick
Matt Pentz
Jeff Rueter
Dan Santaromita
Andrew DeWitt

People who followed CONCACAF closely enough expected Canada to make the 2022 World Cup, but few would have expected Canada to be the top team in qualifying. Not only is Canada the last remaining undefeated team, but everyone else in the region has at least two losses. Canada got eight points against Mexico and the US in qualifiers, something that has never been done before. The remaining road for Canada isn’t that easy with just one home match left, but a win here would put Canada on the verge of clinching a spot, even without help from the other matches.

El Salvador picked up a 2-0 win at Honduras on Sunday, but is still on the brink of elimination. La Selecta can’t quite get eliminated, but there is no room for error left.


Mexico (-300) vs. Panama (+1050); Draw +375

Mexico 5-2-3, 18 points; Panama 5-3-2, 17 points

Writer Pick
Matt Pentz
Jeff Rueter
Dan Santaromita
Andrew DeWitt

This is the biggest game of the day. Panama’s win against Jamaica pulled Los Canaleros to within a point of the USMNT and El Tri. After Mexico failed to beat Costa Rica despite producing 25 shots, El Tri is under a lot of pressure for this match. The odds say a Panama win is very unlikely, but it would cause a full-on panic among El Tri supporters.

Raul Jimenez is at training for Mexico after missing the previous two qualifiers due to an injury. His return would be huge after the finishing display against Costa Rica.


Picks records

Correct results Matches picked
Matt Pentz
Jeff Rueter
Dan Santaromita
Andrew DeWitt

(Photo of Cyle Larin and Richie Laryea: Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images; The Athletic may receive an affiliate commission if you open an account with BetMGM through links contained in the above article.)

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Dan Santaromita is the associate editor of sports betting for The Athletic. Dan previously wrote for NBC Sports Chicago and ProSoccerUSA. He attended the University of Missouri and is from Chicago. Follow Dan on Twitter @TheDanSanto.

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Late fumble costs Tiger-Cats in Elks win on Canada Day – TSN

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HAMILTON — Tre Ford was in his happy place Friday in Hamilton.

The Edmonton Elks quarterback got a win in his first career CFL start 30 minutes down the Queen Elizabeth Highway from his hometown of Niagara Falls, Ont.

The Elks came from behind to beat the Tiger-Cats 29-25 in front of 20,233 at Tim Hortons Field.

“To come back to Hamilton and have all my family watching me get that first start and that first win has been fantastic,” Ford said.

Among Ford’s supporters were his wife, parents, sister, sister-in-law and mother-in-law, his high school football coach from A.N. Myer Secondary, his University of Waterloo head coach Chris Bertoia, eight of his former university teammates and more friends.

Ford was shaky at times as the Elks trailed by 13 points early in the second half.

But the 2021 winner of the Hec Crighton Trophy winner that goes to the most outstanding Canadian university football player threw a game-tying touchdown pass to Kenny Lawler early in the fourth quarter.

The winning play for the Elks (1-3) arrived with 1:38 remaining when defensive back Scott Hutter tackled Hamilton quarterback Dane Evans and knocked the ball loose.

Jalen Collins recovered for a 14-yard touchdown.

“I saw him tackle him and thought, ‘please punch the ball out,” Collins said. “All we needed was an opportunity to close the game out. We were fighting all night. It was ugly.”

The winless Tiger-Cats opened a season with four straight losses for the first time since 2017 when they started 0-8.

“I want to apologize to all the guys. I put both home losses on me,” Evans said. “I just have to take care of it, and we win the game.”

Evans was 20-for-31 in passing for 197 yards and a touchdown throw. He was intercepted twice.

Ford’s numbers didn’t sparkle, although he did rush for 61 yards on six carries. The 24-year-old competed 15 of 26 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted once.

Edmonton’s defence helped out with interceptions by Sheldon Brady and Matthew Thomas, as well as the pivotal late-game recovered fumble by Collins.

“A big shout out to the defence,” Ford said. “They won us that game. They made what, three or four turnovers? They did super well.

“I have room for improvement. I’m not going to complain because we did win. But I’m going to hit the film room to see what I can critique and where I can get better.”

Hamilton went after the rookie with various blitzes in the first half.
“My legs are going to open things up for my arm,” Ford said.

Ford credited teammate and quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who started in Edmonton’s three losses this season, for advising him during the game on defensive reads.

“He’s been like that since day one, even though we’re competitors for the position,” Ford said.

He admitted to early jitters as Hamilton led 16-6 after the first quarter and 19-9 at halftime.

“I always get nervous for the first play of every game,” Ford said. “I think it’s a good thing because it means I care and that I want to win.”

Evans hit Steven Dunbar for a 21-yard strike, and Lawrence Woods returned a kickoff of 72 yards for Hamilton’s first-half touchdowns.

Edmonton’s Kai Locksley scored on a one-yard plunge.

Elks kicker Sergio Castillo made two of his three field-goal attempts, while Hamilton counterpart Michael Domagala nailed his three and gave the Ticats at lead with a 33-yarder with 3:10 remaining in the game

“We’re not good enough right now,” Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer said. “We’re not executing at the level which needs to happen. We’re just not making those plays we need to make.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2022.

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Raptors sign forward Otto Porter Jr. to 2-year deal: reports – CBC.ca

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The Toronto Raptors have signed forward Otto Porter Jr., who was a key member of the Golden State Warriors’ NBA championship team.

The two-year deal was first reported by Yahoo Sports, and confirmed to The Canadian Press by a source close to negotiations.

The 29-year-old Porter averaged 8.2 points per game this past season. He’s a tenacious defender and solid long-range shooter, with a career average of 39.8 per cent from behind the arc.

Porter was selected third overall by Washington in the 2013 draft, and played the first six seasons of his career there before being traded to Chicago in 2019. Orlando then acquired him at the 2021 trade deadline, and he signed with the Warriors in the 2021 off-season.

The Raptors have been busy since free agency opened at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, signing Canadian forward Chris Boucher to a three-year deal, and signing veteran forward Thaddeus Young to a multi-year contract extension.

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Blue Jays’ bats assist bullpen, carry the day in comfortable win over Rays – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – The Blue Jays may have discovered the solution to their bullpen issues: score nine runs a game.

Sustainable? Maybe not, but the Blue Jays are hitting at their best right now, with an MLB-leading 170 runs scored in June to go along with 50 home runs last month. Wearing their red jerseys in front of a sellout Canada Day crowd of 44,445 Friday, some of that offensive output carried into July with a festive 9-2 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Rays.

“It was so special,” said starter Jose Berrios. “I’ve heard a lot about this day, but being here and pitching today was very emotional. I know a lot of Canadians enjoy it and want to be at the ballpark on a day like today.”

“It was amazing, to say the least,” added Cavan Biggio, who reached base four times Friday. “In 2020 and 2021 we definitely missed this place. Now we’re finally back and we’re experiencing that energy that we’ve all been looking forward to on a nightly basis.”

A Lourdes Gurriel Jr. home run put the finishing touch on this one, but the Blue Jays also hit six doubles, five of which came off Rays starter Corey Kluber in a five-run third inning. A three-run sixth created necessary breathing room for the Blue Jays, who were able to rest most of their high-leverage relievers on a day Berrios was not at his sharpest.

With three hits, including his fifth home run of the season, Gurriel Jr. helped drive the Blue Jays’ offence. But don’t overlook Biggio, who walked twice while also hitting two doubles on a day his season on-base percentage climbed to .385.

“Today was great,” Biggio said. “Just hit after hit. A good pitcher, a good experienced guy on the mound, but we had a plan and we were able to execute it.”

Even before a pitch was thrown, Blue Jays fans had plenty to cheer about Friday. The recently retired Russell Martin was honoured with a memorable video narrated by former teammate Jose Bautista and personal messages from the likes of former Jays manager John Gibbons and fellow Canadian Joey Votto.

As the video tributes played in centre field, most Blue Jays players watched from the dugout. The fans also responded warmly to Martin, who later threw out the ceremonial first pitch to another athletic catcher who wears No. 55: Gabriel Moreno.

“Unbelievable career,” Biggio said of Martin. “What stands out to me the most is he played 14 years in the majors and made the playoffs 10 times. That’s what this game’s all about: it’s about winning.”

As for Berrios, he was effective enough, allowing two runs on eight hits over the course of five innings. He worked in and out of trouble, though, stranding nine runners, including both of the batters he walked.

While his fastball averaged 93.6 m.p.h., the Rays weren’t often fooled by the right-hander, who generated eight swinging strikes on 98 total pitches. Still, the Blue Jays will take that from Berrios, especially considering he had allowed 14 earned runs over the course of his previous two starts.

“He’s better than what he did today,” Montoyo said. “He was missing by a little bit and that made him throw even more pitches and work harder …  at the end of the day, he did the job.”

But realistically, the Blue Jays would have been in a tough spot without so much help from their offence. Adam Cimber was presumed unavailable after pitching three days in a row, and David Phelps was likely off limits given that he’d just pitched in four of five. This was not an ideal day for the Blue Jays to try preserving a one- or two-run lead.

Thanks to their lineup, they didn’t have to. With the exception of one inning from Trent Thornton, the Blue Jays were able to avoid their high-leverage relievers, putting them in a relatively strong position entering Saturday’s double-header. 

“If our pitching gives us a chance, our offence is going to go and that’s exactly what happened,” Montoyo said. “We should be better tomorrow because of that.”

Sergio Romo made his Blue Jays debut with a clean inning seventh inning that featured two strikeouts and Max Castillo pitched the final two innings without incident as Toronto improved to 44-33 on the season while increasing their lead over the Rays to 3.5 games.

All told, this was pretty close to how the Blue Jays would have drawn it up. And end of the day, they’re in Toronto again, playing at home on Canada Day for the first time since 2019. In case any doubt remained as to the day’s significance, an impromptu rendition of O Canada broke out in the stands as the Blue Jays closed out the win. Soon after the fans finished singing, the players completed their 9-2 win.

“The energy and pride that this country embodies was definitely on full display,” Biggio said.

Or, as Montoyo put it: “You could tell the happiness about it.”

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