Can the Houston Dynamo Get a Playoff Spot?

Over the weekend, the Houston Dynamo suffered another road defeat, getting shutout by the Columbus Crew 3-0. The Dynamo have managed to win only one road game all season long, the primary reason why they are currently mired in 9th place in the Eastern Conference. They have picked up just seven wins in twenty-four games, losing thirteen times and drawing four matchups. Currently sitting at twenty-five points, the Dynamo will most likely need to come very close to doubling their point total in the final ten games of the season if they wish to make the playoffs in 2014.

Photo: AP

Photo: AP

While fans are rather expectedly frustrated with their recent play, the Dynamo have notoriously finished the season strong. Over the past eight seasons, they have lost more than three games out of their final ten just once. And even in that season (2010) they were able to scratch out 13 points by winning four games and drawing one. In 2008, Houston lost just one of their final ten games, winning five of them and drawing the other four for a total of 19 points. If they can replicate that type of success, they just may be able to sneak in to the 5th and final playoff spot on the Eastern Conference.

Depending upon how these next two or three games go, it’s certainly fair for fans to be cautiously optimistic about the Dynamo’s chances. They’ll play this Friday at Sporting KC before heading back home for two in a row. The first home matchup will be against the Montreal Impact, the line team trailing the Dynamo in the Eastern Conference standings. After that, the Columbus Crew will come to town as Houston seeks revenge after this weekend’s poor showing. The average ticket prices for Dynamo tickets to the Impact game is $30 while just a tick more expensive for the Crew game at $32.

If the Dynamo can find a way to draw against KC and then win the two home games, they’d be sitting at 32 points with seven games to go. From there, just winning out the final three home games and finding a way to get a win or a couple draws on the road would probably be good enough to reach the postseason. The final three home games are against the Chicago Fire on September 28th, D.C. United on October 12th, and the New England Revolution on October 16th. Each game has seen a progressively higher average ticket price on the secondary market at $32, $33, and $34 for each matchup, respectively. Though it’s too early to tell just how the end of this season will play out, expect ticket prices to gradually rise over the next few weeks if the Dynamo can remain in the hunt. A history of strong finishes will keep the fan base on their toes. And with a few newcomers firmly entrenched in the lineup now, it’s within reason to expect Houston to provide their fans with a very exciting finish to the 2014 campaign.

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Ranking the Texas Longhorns Home Football Games

Entering the 2013 season for the Texas Longhorns, expectations were tempered as the quarterback position was still much in question and several key performers on both sides of the ball had graduated or departed for the draft.  Had fans been offered a 7-2 record in the Big 12 Conference, many would have likely jumped on it.  With Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Baylor, the Big 12 had three top-15 programs in the nation, as well as dangerous teams in West Virginia and Texas Tech.  Nonetheless, Texas did in fact go 7-2 in the Big 12, but struggled out of the gate in non-conference play.  After soundly beating New Mexico State in the home opener, the Longhorns were trounced at BYU, losing 40-21, and then followed that up with a loss at home against Ole Miss, 44-23.

The Longhorns then went on to win six in a row in the Big 12, positioning themselves well to potentially stake a claim in the Big 12 championship, but they lost to Oklahoma State 38-13 and then were defeated by Baylor 30-10.  After an embarrassing 30-7 loss against Oregon in the Alamo Bowl, the Mack Brown era officially ended at the University of Texas.

Enter Charlie Strong.  The former Louisville coach will begin his tenure as the main man on the Longhorns sidelines in 2014 and his best hope of winning over the Texas faithful is by protecting the Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium turf.  The Longhorns have six home games at Texas Memorial Stadium on the schedule in 2014 (they will also be playing at AT&T Stadium against the UCLA Bruins and at the Cotton Bowl against the Oklahoma Sooners.)  The opener will be against the North Texas Mean Green and a chance for Strong to provide a good first impression for the Longhorns fans.  Texas football tickets have a median ticket price of $75 for the first game of the regular season, the cheapest of any game on the Texas schedule.

Texas Longhorns Home Games Median Price

The game garnering the highest median ticket price is currently the Saturday, October 4th matchup against the Baylor Bears. Baylor returns starting quarterback Bryce Petty and many other starters to a team that lost just once last year before being narrowly defeated by the University of Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl.  This will be the first opportunity for Strong to show how his team matches up against the Big XII’s finest at home.  Currently, the median ticket price for Texas vs. Baylor tickets is $118.

The median ticket price for the Longhorns season finale against TCU is currently $100, the second highest priced ticket on the Texas home schedule.  Expect this number to fluctuate quite a bit depending on how Texas fares during the season.  If Strong and company struggle out of the gate and the finale has little meaning, there’s a good chance the median ticket price will end up much closer to the $75 that the North Texas game currently is seeing, rather than the $118 of the Baylor game.  But if a win against TCU means a berth into a College Football National Championship playoff spot, the sky is the limit for how much these Longhorns fans will pay to see their team return to glory!

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US Open Ticket Demand Up from Last Year

The end of August means only one thing for tennis fans around the United States: the beginning of the U.S. open, the final major of the professional tennis schedule.  Held every year in Flushing Meadows, New York, the U.S. Open has been the scene of some truly tremendous tennis over the past few years.  In 2003, American sensation Andy Roddick won his first (and what would be only major) in thrilling fashion against Juan Carlos Ferrero.  And just two years ago, Andy Murray sent away the demons and won his first major title.  On the women’s side, not much will ever match the 1999 U.S. Open when Serena Williams became the first African-American women to ever win a Grand Slam title, displacing defending champion Lindsey Davenport in the semifinals and World #1 Martina Hingis in the finals.us-open-logo

This year, fans should expect just as much fireworks and excitement as the tournament begins.  In the Men’s draw, there is the notable absence of Rafael Nadal who had to withdraw due to a lingering wrist injury.  On the top half of the bracket, Novak Djokovic will have a potentially very difficult draw with American fan favorite Jon Isner looming before the quarterfinals and then Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka as potential matches in the quarters and semifinals.  That leaves Roger Federer rather uncontested in the bottom half of the bracket.  Though no match is ever a given, Federer must be very pleased that he will avoid several of the game’s best.

For the women, the 2014 U.S. Open looks to be an absolute dogfight.  Anyone looking to get to the finals in the top half of the bracket will need to defeat Serena Williams, a daunting task, especially since she recently played exceptionally at the Western & Southern Open, taking home the title.  Nonetheless, Serena can certainly be beaten and if we had to bet who could do it, Ana Ivanovic and Eugenie Borchard pose the strongest threats to taking her down.  On the bottom half, Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki figure to be two of the heavy favorites to make a deep run in the tourney.  American favorite Sloane Stephens also lurks as a potential winner.

With so much uncertainty on both men’s and women’s sides, demand for U.S. Open tickets has increased this year compared to last.  Prices for each of the first five sessions are up year-over-year, with the most noticeable increase for Session 5, currently at $93 in 2014, compared to just $74 last year. Of the first five sessions, the cheapest day session this year is Session 3 at $80.  Last year, only Session 1 cracked $80 the first few days, at $83.

A crowded field with many youngsters trying to prove their mettle against the game’s best, along with several stars who have either struggled at times this year or have looked very beatable of late, is a recipe for great tennis and the fans seem to believe as such.  Throw in projected sunshine and mid-80’s temperatures for the first three days and it’s easy to see why 2014 U.S. Open tickets for the first few sessions are so in demand!

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Chicago Blackhawks Season Preview

The 2013 season for the Chicago Blackhawks would have been considered quite a success for at least 25 teams in the NHL. The Blackhawks won 46 games, racked up 107 points and made it to Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. All that stood between them and the Stanley Cup Finals was won OT goal from the eventual champion LA Kings. The Blackhawks are at such an elite level however, it’s championship or bust every season which means they’ll come into the 2014 NHL season with something to prove.

The good news is they bring back almost all of the key pieces from last year’s deep playoff run. Most importantly they locked both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews up for the next 8 years with contract extensions ensuring they’ll be competitive for a long time. The Blackhawks did make one major addition in the form of Brad Richards who should help sure up the forward lines after losing some depth there to free agency this offseason.

Jonathan Toews (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Jonathan Toews (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The bad news is they have two young, upstart teams in their division looking to build on last year’s success. The Avalanche were a worst to first story so it’ll be interesting to see if they can repeat last year’s division championship. The Blues should be the Blackhawks toughest competition however. The two teams squared off in the first round of last year’s playoffs with St. Louis winning the first two games. A questionable hit knocked the Blues’best player, David Backes, out for the rest of the series. The Blackhawks won the next four so I think it’s safe to say the Blues might be looking to even the score.

The Blues aren’t the only team who’ll bring their A game when they travel to Chicago. If you want Chicago Blackhawks ticket, here are a few games that should be on your short list.

Key Games

October 28th vs. the Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks finished last season with the most points in the Western Conference and lost out on the Presidents’Trophy by one point to Boston. They lost in seven games to the LA Kings and will be looking to make an early statement against another power of the Western Conference. They also have a dynamic duo of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to match the firepower of the Blackhawks. The Ducks have also acquired Ryan Kesler this offseason which just adds more firepower to this arms race. These might be the two most skilled teams in the league and they should go at it in this early season clash.

December 3rd vs. the ST. Louis Blues

I’ve already talked about the bad blood between these two teams. Expect a hard hitting game between the young Blues trying to make a statement and the Blackhawks trying to keep their place atop the conference.

February 22nd vs. the Boston Bruins

The East is generally considered to be the weaker division but the Bruins are as good as anyone in the league. This is the only chance Chicago will get to see the Stanley Cup favorite Bruins in action. And watching 6 ft 8 in Zdeno Chara is worth the ticket price alone. This is also a rematch of the 2013 cup finals and could be a preview of 2015.

March 30th vs. the LA Kings

This is going to be the game everyone will be waiting for. After getting knocked out of the playoffs by an Alec Martinez OT goal the Blackhawks will have had 8 months to stew over that loss. These two teams will have played twice already but both times in LA. This will be the first chance the Hawks fans will have to boo the champions and hope for a little bit of revenge. The atmosphere will be electric inside the United Center.

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Where to go for MLB Playoffs

And down the stretch they come! With less than two weeks left in August, the Major League Baseball playoff races are quickly heating up. There are tons of teams still alive and several newcomers looking to make it to the postseason. As the season begins to dwindle there will be some great match ups in the first round of the playoffs and some even better viewing to be had. If you’re looking for a great place to watch playoff baseball here’s where you should go.

Camden Yards – Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles have been an afterthought in the AL East to the Yankees and Red Sox for the last two decades. The only memorable moments their franchise has had in that time span have been associated with Cal Ripken Jr. This season looks like they’ll finally get to change that. As of writing, they sit 9 games up in the division and Baltimore couldn’t be happier. Camden Yards is nestled into the heart of Baltimore which gives it a classic feel. It’s not an oversized super stadium that’s used for multiple sports on the outskirts of a city in a giant sports complex. This is what a baseball stadium should look like and the patio in right field is one of the best places in the entire country to watch a baseball game. With the division lead right now their first round series will be rocking. They’ll have a few days to watch the Wild Card game play out which will just let the excitement around the team build. A great team, a raucous fan base and a beautiful stadium will make for one of the best atmospheres in sports when the first pitch in the American League Divisional series is thrown in Camden Yards.

Busch Stadium – St. Louis Cardinals

Busch Stadium (Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

Busch Stadium (Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

Is there any better place to watch a baseball game than in the St. Louis Cardinals’Busch Stadium? You’ve got the St. Louis skyline serving as the backdrop for the stadium with the St. Louis Arch rising up out of the distance. No park in the country is as connected with its city as Busch. The Cardinals are currently sitting in the first NL Wild Card spot and have a 2 1/2 game lead over second. This means they’ll be hosting the winner take all wild card play in game. The Cardinals have and a rough season so it’s hard for me seeing them overtaking division leading Milwaukee. With this being a winner take all game the Cards will definitely send ace and CY Young candidate Adam Wainwright to the mound. If you’re venturing to the ball park for this game you’ll get the electric atmosphere of a single elimination game with both teams pulling out all the stops to survive and advance. If you’re looking for the epitome of playoff baseball it will be found in St. Louis.

Kaufman Stadium – Kansas City Royals

While the Royals have a very nice stadium the reason to go see them will be because they will have made the playoffs in 28 years. With that kind of weight lifted off the shoulders of Royals fans, I expect them to have the time of their lives for the first game of the post season. They lead the high priced Detroit Tigers for the division by 1 1/2 games and if they can keep this hot streak going they’ll secure at least two home games. While the fans there will make for a great atmosphere the stadium is no slouch either. Kauffman stadium has a bowl shape design that puts the fans right up against the field. It was originally opened in 1973 but the Royals just finished a $250 million renovation in 2009 to bring the stadium into the modern era. Combined the fans with that stadium and the freewheeling brand of baseball the Royals are playing at the moment and you’ll have one of the best post season experiences of the year.

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