KEEPING IT RAHEEL

Raheel Ramzanali: Help me find a country to root for in the World Cup

Leo Messi will lead Argentina in the World Cup. Is he Raheel worthy? Dennis Doyle/Getty Images

Usually, these posts are reserved for the writer showing off or writing about something they have answers to and want you to know, but I am not that kind of writer. I know when to admit weakness and right now I’m weak. Ever since the USA failed to qualify for the World Cup I’ve been searching for a team to root for so I can enjoy the tournament even more. 

I’ve taken the online quizzes, spoke to soccer officials I respect, and taken requests on Twitter, but I still can’t find the perfect team to root for starting this week. 

This is why I need YOUR help. I’ll layout a few things that are important to me as a sports fan and you can make a case for a country I should root for in the World Cup. Send me your submissions on Twitter

  1. No Bandwagons - I appreciate greatness, but there is something more fun in rooting for a team that is close, but not the best in the world already. Now, I’m not saying I want to root for a team that is more than likely going to be knocked out in the group stage, but I also don’t want to root for one of the top favorites. I know wild things will happen and even favorites might have a tough road to win it all, but there is something exciting about rooting for a team that could get knocked out in the first round OR win it all. I just don’t want a team that will be filled with a bunch of bandwagon fans. 
  2. A Good Backstory - I know this will be a one time deal rooting for this country, but I’d like one of their best players to have a really good backstory. I’m talking about E:60 caliber drama. I want this player to be driven by hurt AND the desire to be great. I want to be all in on this ride and nothing connects me more to a team than a good backstory. 
  3. Style - Naturally, all soccer players are stylish and have unique fashion forward looks, but I need my team to be about that life. From a stylish haircut to maybe even wearing a male romper to the match, my team has to be in top 5 most stylish team rankings. 
  4. Food - After sports, food is one of my favorite things to enjoy so it would only be right that I enjoy my new rooting country’s food. Look, I’m sure Germany is really damn good at soccer, but I can’t even name you one German staple dish so I can’t root for them. 
  5. Sellout Factor - I’m a Pakistani born American and there are certain factors that go into rooting for another country where I don’t want to be labeled a sellout. This country should be relatively cool with both Pakistan and ‘Merica! 
  6. Not Mexico - No, I’m not rooting for Mexico. Never. 

All right, so there you go. Let me know what you come up with and recommend! 

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Houston's offense once again obliterated Baltimore in Wednesday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Owners of a nine-game winning streak, the Astros tried to keep the train rolling to make it double digits and complete the three-game sweep of the Orioles in Baltimore. Not only would they get the win, but they also did it by dominating on both sides of the ball again in a one-sided shutout.

Final Score: Astros 13, Orioles 0

Astros' Record: 46-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (6-3)

Losing Pitcher: Thomas Eshelman (0-1)

Houston keeps mashing

Unlike Tuesday's game which ended 3-1 in a much closer affair, the finale on Wednesday was once again a lopsided affair like Monda's opener, favoring the Astros. Houston once again put up double-digit runs in an offensive explosion. It started right off the bat, with three runs scoring in the top of the first on a two-RBI double by Carlos Correa and an RBI single by Kyle Tucker to grab a 3-0 lead.

Yuli Gurriel extended it to 4-0 with a two-out RBI single in the second, then Jose Altuve made it a six-run game with a two-run blast in the top of the fourth. Michael Brantley joined in with an RBI single in the top of the sixth, then Yordan Alvarez led off a four-run seventh with a solo bomb before a three-run homer by Abraham Toro made it 11-0.

Urquidy cruises through seven scoreless

Jose Urquidy was cruising all the while, allowing just three baserunners over that span, a double to start his night, which he erased, then a one-out walk in the second and leadoff single in the sixth. He returned at the bottom of the seventh with a manageable pitch count, where he'd erase a one-out single to keep Baltimore scoreless. With the insurmountable lead, he'd be given the rest of the night off. His final line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 84 P.

Astros complete the sweep and grab tenth straight win

Chas McCormick, who came off the bench defensively in the bottom of the seventh, made it a twelve-run lead with a one-out solo homer in the top of the eighth, then later Abraham Toro notched his fourth RBI with a run-scoring single to make it 13-0. Brandon Bielak took over for Urquidy in the bottom of the eighth, and after loading the bases with no outs, was able to escape with a strikeout and double play.

Ralph Garza Jr. was Houston's third pitcher, wrapping things up at the bottom of the ninth. He erased a one-out walk and a single with a double play to end the game, giving Houston the three-game sweep and extending their winning streak to ten games as they continue to look like baseball's best team.

Up Next: The next stop on this road trip for Houston is Detroit, where they will kick off a four-game set with the Tigers on Thursday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup for the opener will be Luis Garcia (5-4, 2.82 ERA) for Houston and Jose Urena (2-7, 5.79 ERA) for Detroit.

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