US tops Japan to take Olympic women's soccer gold

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US tops Japan to take Olympic women's soccer gold

WEMBLEY, England (AP) -- Hope Solo found herself enveloped in a group hug at the final whistle. Abby Wambach ran to join the fun in a celebration that unleashed a year of bottled-up frustration. The U.S. women's soccer team won its third straight Olympic gold medal Thursday, beating Japan 2-1 in a rematch of last year's World Cup final and avenging the most painful loss in its history. Carli Lloyd scored early in both halves, Solo leaped and dived to make saves, and the entire roster found the redemption it had been seeking since that penalty kick shootout loss in Germany last summer. Before 80,203 at Wembley Stadium, a record crowd for a women's soccer game at the Olympics, the teams put on a back-and-forth, don't-turn-your-head soccer showcase, proving again that these are the two premier teams in the world. Women's soccer is still in its formative stages in Britain, but the match proved more than worthy for the hallowed grounds of the beautiful game. And the Japanese perhaps played just as beautifully as the Americans, using their speed and discipline to dominate possession and scoring chances for long stretches before finally cutting a 2-0 deficit in half with about a half-hour to go. Back home, America was paying attention -- just as it was last year and despite the rest of the Olympic events. Even President Barack Obama, during a campaign speech at Colorado College during the second half of the game, noted that, "The women are doing pretty good right now in soccer." Lloyd's goals came in eighth and 54th minutes, making it four goals in the tournament for the midfielder who lost her long-held starting job weeks before the Olympics. She got back on the pitch when Shannon Boxx injured her hamstring in the opening game and started every game since. Yuki Ogimi answered in the 63rd minute, and Asuna Tanaka nearly had the equalizer in the 83rd -- only to be thwarted when Solo flung her entire body to the left to push the ball away. The U.S. team has won four of the five Olympic titles since women's soccer was introduced at the 1996 Atlanta Games, settling for mere silver at the 2000 Games in Sydney. In the first half, Japan was unfortunate not to have a penalty kick awarded for a clear hand ball by U.S. midfielder Tobin Heath, who stuck out her left arm to stop a free kick inside the area. Japan also had two shots hit the crossbar, one off the left hand of a leaping Solo, who was kept consistently busy for the first time this tournament. The closest the U.S. came to doubling the lead in the first 45 minutes came when Azusa Iwashimizu attempted to clear a routine ball played in front of the net -- and headed it off the post. The U.S. goal in the eighth minute began with a run by Heath down the left side. She fed Alex Morgan, who settled the ball near the goal line, spun and chipped it toward Wambach. Wambach raised her left foot for the shot, but Lloyd charged in and got to it first, her strong running header beating goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto from 6 yards out. Lloyd extended the lead with a 20-yard right-footer just inside the left post after a long run with the ball through the middle of the Japanese defense. Ogimi soon cut the deficit to one after a mad scramble in front of the net. Captain Christie Rampone saved a shot off the line, but the ball went to Homare Sawa, who fed Ogimi for the tap-in. Another scramble followed after U.S. defender Amy LePeilbet saved yet another shot off the line in the 74th minute, but this time her teammates were able to corral the ball before a Japanese player could pounce on it. Boxx was back into the starting lineup after the missing four games with the hamstring injury. Lauren Cheney, who injured an ankle in the semifinals, began the game on the bench for the first time this tournament. Canada won the bronze earlier Thursday, beating France 1-0 at Coventry.

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Nats rotation remains in flux: how Lopez' workload and Giolito fit in

Nats rotation remains in flux: how Lopez' workload and Giolito fit in

The Nationals' starting rotation has been a work in progress ever since Joe Ross went down with right shoulder inflammation on July 3 in a start against the Reds. Since that day, they've tried three different rookies with varying levels of failure and success. Unfortunately for them, it's been much more the former than the latter.

It was already a complicated and precarious situation, and then Stephen Strasburg landed on the disabled list with right elbow soreness on Monday. Even with Ross making progress on Tuesday by throwing a bullpen session, the Nationals starting group is currently a patchwork operation.

This weekend they will yet again have decisions to make as to which rookie starts and when. A.J. Cole is lined up to start Saturday against the Rockies and is likely to do so. Sunday would be Reynaldo Lopez' turn, but Lopez got blasted by the Orioles on Tuesday and lasted just 2 2/3 innings. Like the O's, the Rockies are a tough opponent, no matter the ballpark.

Cole going Saturday and Lopez on Sunday appears to be the plan for now, but Lucas Giolito is another name to watch. The former first round pick tossed just one inning for Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday night as a plan to set him up for this weekend.

"If necessary," manager Dusty Baker said of the plan for Giolito. "You want him to sharpen up to get some work, but you don't want him to overwork in case we need him. Who knows? We don't think that we will need him right now because of the way [Cole] pitched the other day. That was just in case because you don't know. You don't know until you get to that day and you still don't know what you're going to get come Saturday."

Another factor to keep in mind is the workload of each young pitcher, particularly for Lopez who is already at 127 2/3 innings this season combined between the minor leagues and the majors. His previous career-high for one year was 99 innings, set in 2015. Before that, in 2014, he pitched 83 1/3 innings.

Lopez is already in uncharted territory, but the Nationals aren't close to shutting him down or shifting him to the bullpen.

"That subject really hasn't come up right now, yet," he said. "Do we put too much emphasis in workload, or are we not sometimes overworking them? I think it varies per person. He doesn't look like he's tired to me. Who is to replace these guys? How many replacements do you have if you want to win the pennant? It doesn't work both ways."

Baker, who has been criticized for his handling of young starting pitchers in the past, then explained how the Nats have a lot at stake this season. They will do their best to look out for young pitchers, but also have World Series aspirations in mind.

"It's hard to have it both ways. You try to monitor it, but at the same time you're trying to win. The teams that are in the playoffs a lot, the teams that are in the playoffs a lot in basketball and football, they don't get many breaks. LeBron James and these guys, how many breaks have they gotten from being in consecutive playoff situations? They're playing 20 percent of their season in the playoffs every year. It's hard to have it both ways," he said.

[RELATED: Lopez rocked as Nats suffer lopsided loss to Orioles]

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Tanner Roark starts as Nats look for better luck against Orioles

Tanner Roark starts as Nats look for better luck against Orioles

Nats (73-52) at Orioles (69-56) at Nationals Park

The Nationals didn't have much luck in Baltimore, as they dropped the first two games of their four-game set against the Orioles. On Wednesday, the series tilts to Washington where the Nats return home for the first time since Aug. 14. 

Tanner Roark (13-6, 2.87) will get the start, and it's coming at a good time for the Nats. He's their most consistent pitcher at going deep in games and their bullpen could use some help after Reynaldo Lopez made it just 2 2/3 innings on Tuesday.

Starting for Baltimore will be lefty Wade Miley (7-10, 5.58). Like Lopez, he got shelled in his last outing when he gave up six earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings against the Astros.

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Tanner Roark vs. Orioles - Wade Miley

NATS

CF Trea Turner
LF Jayson Werth
2B Daniel Murphy
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Tanner Roark

ORIOLES

TBA
LHP Wade Miley

CLICK HERE FOR LIVE STATS AND SCORES

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Is Bryan Stork retiring instead of joining the Redskins?

Is Bryan Stork retiring instead of joining the Redskins?

On Wednesday afternoon, the New England Patriots traded center Bryan Stork to the Washington Redskins for a conditional draft pick, confirmed CSN Insider JP Finlay.

But shortly after news of the deal broke, it appeared as if Stork, a 25-year-old former Florida State offensive lineman, was leaning toward retiring instead of joining the Redskins.

Former Redskins tight end and ESPN 980 host Chris Cooley was the first to reveal the information, doing so in a somewhat cryptic tweet.

However, nothing is official and the situation is very up in the air.

Stork started for the 2014 National Championship Seminoles team and the Super Bowl XLIX-winning Patriots team.

Stork is known for his physicality, but started the 2015 on injured reserve due to a concussion and neck injury. He was activated on Nov. 7, 2015 and played the very next day against the Redskins. 

The trade with the Redskins came a few hours after it was reported that the Patriots were going to release him.

RELATED: WHAT WILL THE 53-MAN ROSTER LOOK LIKE?