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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Yordan Alvarez's homer in Wednesday's game gave him 100 RBI on the season. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Winners of three straight, six of their last seven, and eight of their last ten, the Astros had the chance to move yet another game closer to clinching their playoff spot if they could secure the series with a win against the Angels on Wednesday. Even though it looked as though they were headed towards a loss in extra innings, they would ultimately come out ahead.

Final Score (12 innings): Astros 9, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 91-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yimi Garcia (4-9)

Losing Pitcher: Sam Selman (0-1)

Garcia goes six shutout innings

Although he didn't have swing-and-miss dominance in this start, Luis Garcia could still capitalize on a struggling Angels offense and post a shutout quality start against them. He allowed three walks and three hits throughout his outing but stranded all of them while getting outs on balls in play. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 79 P.

Alvarez reaches 100 RBI as Houston's offense keeps rolling

That performance had Garcia in line for the win, as two homers handed him a 3-0 advantage which he held. Houston once again used early offense to take a first-inning lead, as a leadoff walk by Jose Altuve turned into a monster 456-foot by Yordan Alvarez, pushing him to 100 RBI on the season. The score held at 2-0 until the top of the fifth, when Jason Castro led that frame off with a solo homer to extend the lead to three runs.

Extras in Anaheim

Phil Maton was first out of Houston's bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, but a single, double, and walk loaded the bases with no outs to put him in a jam. A lineout kept the runners put for the first out, but a single and a walk would make it a one-run game and left the bases loaded as Maton would get pulled.

Kendall Graveman entered to try and stop the bleeding, but after a force out at home to put that within reach, Jack Mayfield came through for Los Angeles with a go-ahead three-run double, giving the Angels their first lead of the series at 5-3. In the top of the eighth, a walk by Alex Bregman brought Alvarez back to the plate, and he would nearly miss a game-tying homer and instead got an RBI-single to make it 5-4.

Alvarez would still come in to tie the game, hustling home from second on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel to knot things up 5-5. Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he sat down LA in order with two strikeouts. Still tied in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly came in to force extras, and despite being shadowed by the winning run on the bases after a leadoff single, retired the next three batters to send the game to the tenth.

Astros keep battling and take it in the twelfth

Jake Meyers took second base as Houston's free runner in the top of the tenth, but he would go nowhere as the Astros went down in order, giving the Angels another chance at a walk-off. Instead of giving Shohei Ohtani a free pass immediately, Houston would let Blake Taylor throw two balls to him before giving him the intentional walk.

Taylor then gave up a single to load the bases with no outs, and after getting a force out at home for the first out, Yimi Garcia would replace him. Thanks to a great play by Chas McCormick, giving him multiple in the game, the Astros would live to see another inning as he would make a great catch in right field and then throw out Ohtani at home.

In the top of the eleventh, a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel moved Aledmys Diaz to third, but that's as close as Houston would come, leaving them stuck at five runs. After Garcia retired three more batters in the bottom of the eleventh, the game moved to the twelfth, where Houston would get back in front on an RBI single by Jake Meyers, then padded the new lead on a two-RBI double by Jose Altuve, who would also score on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it 9-5. Josh James came in and wrapped things up in the bottom half as Houston secured the series victory and reduced their magic number to two against Oakland and three against Seattle.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game series, and the last time these two teams will meet this year, will be an 8:38 PM Central start on Thursday. The expected pitching matchup is Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.59 ERA) for Los Angeles and Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.11 ERA) for Houston.

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