Yahoo Sports AM: Meet Team USA

In today's edition: Meet America's cricket team, Christian Pulisic interview, Pinehurst in photos, Hot Dog King gets banned, and more.

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🚨 Headlines

⛳️ Rahm withdraws: 2021 U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm has withdrawn from this year's tournament due to an infected lesion on his left foot.

🏀 NBA Finals injuries: Kristaps Porziņģis is listed as day-to-day with a rare left leg injury ("a torn medial retinaculum allowing dislocation of the posterior tibialis tendon"); Luka Dončić had a pain-killing injection ahead of Game 2 to address his thoracic contusion (chest).

🎾 New No. 1: Jannik Sinner replaced the injured Novak Djokovic atop the ATP rankings, making him the first Italian to reach No. 1 since computerized rankings began in 1973.

🏈 Unexcused absence: Aaron Rodgers missed mandatory minicamp on Tuesday and his absence was considered "unexcused," but Jets head coach Robert Saleh seemed fine with it. "He had an event that was very important to him, which he communicated."

🏀 Victory at last: The Mystics finally won after losing their first 12 games to start the year. Their 87-68 victory over the Dream came nearly a month after their season-opener.

🏏 USA Cricket: Meet the team

Members of Team USA celebrate winning their World Cup opener against Canada. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Members of Team USA celebrate winning their World Cup opener against Canada. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Team USA has aced its T20 Cricket World Cup debut so far behind a multicultural roster that has a chance to shock the world and emerge from one of the tournament's toughest groups.

Where it stands: The Americans are 2-0 in group play after beating Canada and shocking Pakistan, and they can clinch a spot in the "Super 8" round today if they pull off an even bigger stunner against India, the No. 1 team in the world.

David vs. Goliath:

  • India's captain, Rohit Sharma, is an all-time great batsman with a net worth of $24 million, while teammate and former captain Virat Kohli — who has 269 million Instagram followers and a net worth of $122 million — may be even better.

  • Meanwhile, Team USA captain Monank Patel owned a Chinese restaurant in South Carolina as recently as 2018, and star bowler (pitcher) Saurabh Nethralvakar is currently on leave from his day job as a software engineer at Oracle.

What they're saying: "I always said that we could beat a top nation," said USA manager Kerk Higgins after beating Pakistan. "I saw the way the boys are playing over the last month or so. This is not really surprising to me."

Meet the team: The 15-player melting pot of a roster hails from six different birthplaces, with more players born in India (five) than the states (four).

  • India: Patel (captain), Nethralvakar, Harmeet Singh, Milind Kumar, Nisarg Patel

  • USA: Aaron Jones (vice-captain), Jessy Singh, Noshtush Kenjige, Steven Taylor

  • Pakistan: Ali Khan, Shayan Jahangir

  • South Africa: Andries Gous, Shadley Van Schalkwyk

  • New Zealand: Corey Anderson

  • Canada: Nitish Kumar

Cricket in America: Many of Team USA's players came to the U.S. a few years ago to join Major League Cricket, a T20 league that launched last July. A majority of the roster will suit up for MLC's second season, which kicks off a week after the World Cup concludes.

The big picture: While cricket has a long way to go before it gains a real foothold in the U.S., the World Cup and MLC are helping drive unprecedented interest. And proponents are already looking ahead to LA 2028 — the first Summer Olympics to feature the sport since 1900.

⚽️ Checking in on Captain America

(Robin Alam/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
(Robin Alam/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

There was a time, not too long ago, when Christian Pulisic was one of the few Americans competing at the highest levels of European soccer. Now, many of his USMNT teammates have joined him, which has taken some of the attention away from "Captain America."

  • Overall, that's a good thing: It's generally not healthy for a young athlete to take on the pressure of "saving" American soccer, and the shared spotlight speaks to the USMNT's growth and the rise of a true "Golden Generation."

  • The flip side, of course, is that many American soccer fans seem to have forgotten just how good Pulisic is now that he has more talent around him. Lumping him in with "the guys who play in Europe" is fine, but make no mistake: He's still the guy.

In his prime: Pulisic, 25, was brilliant for AC Milan this season, scoring 15 goals (the most by a Milan midfielder since Kaka in 2009) and registering nine assists en route to being named one of three finalists for Serie A Midfielder of the Year.

  • "I've been given a lot of trust and confidence, and just the opportunity to play consistently," Pulisic told me in a phone interview. "That was the biggest change. It's not like I suddenly became a good player."

  • He's thriving off the field, too. Our interview was on behalf of Muscle Milk, which just signed Pulisic to an endorsement deal and has him starring in their new ad campaign. There's also a multi-season docuseries about his life coming soon to Paramount+.

Back with the boys: Soccer's unique schedule requires players to switch between club and country numerous times throughout the year. I asked Christian what that transition is like as he settles back in with his USMNT brethren and prepares for a big summer ahead.

"I've known a lot of the guys for quite a long time, so it's always great coming back. The transition is something I've gotten used to over the years, but it's definitely still a challenge."

"That's kind of the beauty of [international soccer], though. Every country is in the same boat. You've got a bunch of players arriving from different clubs all over the world. Who can come together and form the best team?"

What to watch: The USMNT faces Brazil tonight (7pm ET, TNT/truTV/Max) in their final tune-up friendly before Copa América 2024, which begins later this month.

🏒 Caps buy CapFriendly

Capitals fans cheer on their team during the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. (Alex Edelman/Getty Images)
Capitals fans cheer on their team during the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. (Alex Edelman/Getty Images)

The Capitals have reached an agreement to buy, a website that fans, journalists and even NHL front offices have long relied on to track contracts and salaries.

Details: The Caps plan to integrate CapFriendly's data and tools into their in-house hockey operations while also hiring some of the site's employees, per Sportico. Once the deal is finalized, the team will close the site to the public.

Why fans are angry, via Defector's Barry Petchesky:

[CapFriendly] is more than just contract information, though it is the best-designed and organized site there is for that. It's the trade machine, and draft and roster simulators, and scouting reports, and buyout and offer sheet calculators, CBA information, and historical data.

Any fan wondering if their team can afford that big free agent signing goes to CapFriendly first; so does anyone wondering if it's feasible to shed a roster albatross. Whether you're a casual fan or a true [diehard], CapFriendly has it.

A competitive advantage? From Sportico's Eben Novy-Williams…

CapFriendly specializes in all things related to salary caps and player contracts. It tracks not only each team’s cap status and available money, but also the active contract status of players.

Those details, which other teams may track in-house, are useful to franchises as they evaluate their own player development, signings and scouting, and those of their rivals. There also might be a competitive advantage by subtraction — the Capitals are not only gaining a resource, but simultaneously taking one off the table for other teams.

⛳️ In photos: Pinehurst No. 2

Tiger Woods plays a bunker shot on the 17th hole during Monday's practice round. (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Tiger Woods plays a bunker shot on the 17th hole during Monday's practice round. (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

The 124th U.S. Open tees off tomorrow at Pinehurst No. 2, one of nine 18-hole courses at the iconic North Carolina resort, which previously hosted in 1999, 2005 and 2014.

Hole No. 16 is the second-hardest on the course. (John Mummert/USGA)
Hole No. 16 is the second-hardest on the course. (John Mummert/USGA)

The course will play to 7,543 yards this week with a par of 70. It's usually a par 72, but two par 5's — the 536-yard 16th (above) and 492-yard 8th — will instead play as long par 4's.

Fans roaming around the practice range and clubhouse on Tuesday. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA Tour via Getty Images)
Fans roaming around the practice range and clubhouse on Tuesday. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA Tour via Getty Images)

Pinehurst No. 2 was restored in 2011 to more closely approximate Donald Ross' original 1907 design. The biggest change was the removal of all rough, which was replaced by native wiregrass and sand intended to punish wayward shots.

Hole No. 6 is a monster. (John Mummert/USGA)
Hole No. 6 is a monster. (John Mummert/USGA)

Beware the sixth hole: The 216-yard par 3 plays as the toughest on the course. There were just 12 birdies here during the 2014 U.S. Open, compared to 270 pars, 150 bogeys and 13 doubles.

📆 June 12, 1970: Dock's no-hitter on acid

Dock circa 1970. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Dock circa 1970. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

54 years ago today, Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis threw his infamous no-hitter against the Padres while high on LSD.

Whoops: The L.A. native spent his off day back at home dropping acid, but accidentally took another hit on Friday, thinking it was still Thursday. His friend then reminded him he had to be back in San Diego to pitch, so he hopped on a plane, arrived 90 minutes before the game, and threw a 6-strikeout, 8-walk no-no.

"I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home plate umpire. And once I thought I was pitching to Jimi Hendrix, who was holding a guitar and swinging it over the plate." — Ellis, years later

More on this day:

  • ⚾️ 1939: The National Baseball Hall of Fame opened in Cooperstown.

  • 🏀 2002: The Lakers swept the Nets in the NBA Finals, completing the fifth* and most recent three-peat in league history.

*The other four: Lakers (1952-54), Celtics (1959-66), Bulls (1991-93), Bulls (1996-98).

📺 Watchlist: Game 3 in Dallas

(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)
(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

The Mavericks host the Celtics tonight in Game 3 of the NBA Finals (8:30pm ET, ABC), where Boston is eyeing its 10th straight win and a commanding 3-0 series lead.

A rare occurrence: The Celtics (+1.5 at BetMGM) are underdogs for the first time in these playoffs — and just the fourth time* in their last 99 games (!!!).

More to watch:

  • ⚽️ Friendly: USMNT vs. Brazil (7pm, TNT/truTV/Max) … In Orlando.

  • 🏏 T20 World Cup: USA vs. India (10:30am, Willow TV) … In New York. Free broadcast available to FuboTV, DirecTV and Optimum customers.

  • ⚾️ Bipartisan Baseball: Congressional Baseball Game (7pm, FS1) … The annual game at Nationals Park between Republicans and Democrats.

*The other three: The Celtics were underdogs against the Kings on Dec. 20 and against the Bucks on Jan. 11 and April 9. They beat the Sacramento but lost both games to Milwaukee.

🏈 Madden trivia

(EA Sports)
(EA Sports)

Christian McCaffrey is the "Madden NFL 25" cover athlete, which marks the first time since 2014 that a running back got the prized spot.

  • Question: Which two RBs were on the cover in 2014?

  • Hint: One was active, one was retired. They went to college in the same state.

Answer at the bottom.

🌭 Nathan's bans Chestnut

(Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
(Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

Joey "Jaws" Chestnut has been banned from the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest due to his endorsement deal with Impossible Foods, a rival vegan brand.

  • Chestnut reportedly received $200,000 to take part in the 2023 contest, which he won for the 16th time, and was offered a four-year, $1.2 million deal moving forward.

  • It's safe to assume Impossible made a more lucrative offer to land Chestnut, who set a world record in 2021 when he ate 76 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.

Déjà vu: This wouldn't be the first high-profile conflict to disrupt Nathan's annual event. Six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi stopped competing in 2010 after he refused to sign an exclusive contract with Major League Eating, which sanctions the contest.

Trivia answer: Adrian Peterson and Barry Sanders

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