The Pulse: Does the U.S. have a chance?

Welcome to The Pulse, the place to find out what the sports world is thinking. Every day on ESPN.com, SportsNation registers its opinion on a wide range of topics by casting votes and offering opinions. We'll collect the daily highlights and create a running file throughout the week to measure The Pulse of SportsNation on a wide variety of issues. Check this page every day for an update of what the 'Nation is saying.

Friday's Big Questions

1. Can the U.S. beat Italy in the World Cup?
2. What happens now in the NBA Finals?

Bruce Arena has been feeling the heat since Monday's embarassing loss.
The United States' 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic on Monday has been dissected ad nauseam leading up to Saturday's match against a powerful Italian squad, a must-win if the U.S. has any hope of advancing past group play. The fallout has led coach Bruce Arena and his players to engage in public blame games, sniping and even trash talk as they prepares to take on Italy.

The Americans have never beaten a European team on European soil in the World Cup, though, and SportsNation doesn't think that streak will end this weekend. Only one-third think the U.S. will actually win the game and nearly 60 percent give Italy the nod.

  • What will happen in Saturday's World Cup matchup between Italy and the United States?
    58% Italy wins
    34% United States wins
    7% Draw

    My thought is the US has a 0% chance of winning tomorrow.
    John (Portland, ME)

    What's funny is the World Cup will be forgotten by everyone in America if the US loses this one.
    The Big EZ (Louisville)

    Arena needs to go dictatorial and sit any players grousing. You work your tail off for 4 years and now decide that "I" trumps "team"? Sit Beasley, sit Convey. Play those that want to play.
    Rafael (Blacksburg)

    Italy has, outside of Spain, looked like the best team in the tourney thus far, so needless to say, I don't think the U.S. has a chance. They have had a tough schedule, though. I'll lend that excuse to any U.S. soccer fans. In the meantime, let's go Spain.
    Dave (Toronto)

    I am telling you all: we will win! The best story of the weekend, our first win over a European team in Europe and first win against Italy! Then, we can tie or beat Ghana to advance. USA! USA! USA!
    The Rob (DC)

    Shaq and Flash are SportsNation's pick to win the title.
    Dallas seemed to be firmly in control of the NBA Finals after two easy home wins in Games 1 and 2, but the Mavs have gone cold from the floor and Dwyane Wade has put the Heat on his shoulders to help Miami storm back and even the series heading into Sunday's pivotal Game 5.

    SportsNation credits Wade and his 78 combined points and 19 combined rebounds for the turnaround in Games 3 and 4 and likes Miami to win Game, 5 but SN thinks all hope for a title might be lost should the Heat come out on the losing end. Still, more than 60 percent of the 'Nation picks Miami to eventually lay claim to the NBA championship.

  • Who deserves the largest share of the credit for Miami's comeback in the last two games?
    91% Dwyane Wade
    3% Pat Riley
    3% Other players
    2% Shaquille O'Neal

  • 67% The Heat will win Game 5 Sunday night in Miami

  • 70% The Heat cannot realistically hope to win the series if they lose Game 5

  • Which team will win the NBA Finals?
    33% Heat in six games
    29% Heat in seven games
    23% Mavericks in six games
    16% Mavericks in seven games

    Stunned. I was fully expecting Dallas to go up 3-1. I think the big key is that Riles is showing what a great coach he is. For the first time this postseason Avery was completely outcoached. What makes this so great is that Game 5 is now HUGE. Talk about pivotal, it may be the deciding game!
    Jake (VA Beach)

    Why anyone would be shocked is beyond me. This is same thing Detroit did last year. Lose the first two then suddenly turn it on at home. Now we have a series. And Dallas needs to hit a shot.
    Vik (Fort Myers, FL)

    My Heat in six prediction is starting to gain some steam!
    Darin (Orlando)

    I think the Mavs will come out blazing Sunday and stomp the Heat.
    Bo (Dallas)

    The series doesn't start until the home team loses. Miami is tough at home, but even if they win on Sunday they haven't shown they can win in Dallas.
    Reggie (Orlando)

    Remember when everyone was thinking Dirk was the best player in the playoffs? Not anymore. Welcome, Dwyane Wade.
    Jon (Dallas)

    Wednesday's Big Questions

    1. Did Ozzie Guillen violate baseball's unwritten rules?
    2. What to expect in the U.S. Open?

    Was Ozzie Guillen in the wrong on Wednesday night?
    The Chicago White Sox were shut out for just the second time this season Wednesday night, suffering an 8-0 loss at the hands of the Texas Ranges, but that wasn't the only thing that had manager Ozzie Guillen steamed.

    White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, a known agitator, was hit twice by pitches from Rangers starter Vicente Padilla and Guillen reportedly ordered rookie reliever Sean Tracey to plunk Rangers third baseman Hank Blalock as retaliation. Try as he might, Tracey could not hit Blalock and instead ended up inducing a groundball out. Tracey was promptly removed from the game and berated by his manager in the dugout, then demoted to the minors Thursday.

    There is very little doubt in SportsNation that Guillen actually ordered the attempted retaliation, but voters believe Guillen should have turned to someone other than a rookie with barely four innings to his credit and three-fourths of the 'Nation say the manager was wrong to dress down his pitcher in plain sight.

    Was the retaliation out of line in the first place? Not according to SN. Better than 80 percent say retaliation for a teammate being hit is justifiable and two-thirds say a hitter showboating at the plate is also reason for a plunking. There is little support, though, for hitting an opponent simply to set a tone or inspire teammates.

  • 96% Guillen expressly ordered Tracey to hit Blalock

  • 75% Have a problem with Guillen berating Tracey in the dugout

  • 61% It was unfair for Guillen to send in a rookie to retaliate

  • 81% Can justify a pitcher hitting a batter in retaliation for a teammate being hit

  • 66% Can justify a pitcher hitting a batter in retaliation for showboating at home plate

  • 67% Cannot justify a pitcher hitting a batter to set the tone or fire up his teammates

    Fine and suspend Ozzie Guillen for his stupidity and classless actions last night.
    Gary (Millville, Va.)

    Ozzie Guillen is a nut. He should have never asked a rookie to do the job of a veteran. The rookie should have listened but Ozzie took it way too far.
    Ben (Annapolis)

    When your manager tells you to drill someone and you're a rookie, you do it. Especially if that manager is Ozzie Guillen.
    Reggie (Orlando)

    This retaliation thing in the MLB is archaic. Ozzie Guillen was clueless with what he did to that rookie. Can you say "anger management"?
    Kevin J (Hope, NJ)

    The kid tried to hit Blalock, he was obviously just a little nervous. Cut him a break and cut out the tough-guy act, Ozzie! It's not like A.J. is a saint with no blemishes on his record.
    Billy Corn (Chicago)

    Can we all get off Ozzie's back here? He won the Series last year and might have the best team in the majors again this season. You don't become the champs by being nice guys.
    Jon (Dallas)

    Tiger is finally back in the public eye.
    Tiger Woods makes his return to competitive golf this week at the U.S. Open following the death of his father. How will he do as he shakes off the rust and deals with the mental pressures of answering questions all week about his state of mind?

    SportsNation is confident Tiger can handle it with better than 50 percent saying he will be in contention all weekend and more than a third picking him to win. And among a group of four of the biggest names in the field Tiger edges Phil Mickelson as SN's best bet to win the title.

  • What do you expect from Tiger Woods in his return to golf at the U.S. Open?
    51% Contend all weekend
    35% Win the tournament
    12% Middle of the pack
    2% Miss the cut

  • Who is the best bet to win the U.S. Open?
    49% Tiger Woods
    39% Phil Mickelson
    7% Vijay Singh
    5% Retief Goosen

    Tiger gets off to a fast start and leads wire to wire!!!!
    Kito (NJ)

    Between Tiger, Phil and the field I'll always take Tiger. His putter is apparently in top form and his mental state seems focused. If he doesn't win I'll be shocked.
    Vik (Fort Myers, FL)

    I'll take the field versus Phil and Tiger. If I have to pick a winner, it's Goosen.
    Reggie (Orlando)

    I love watching pro's struggle to crack par. I think Phil runs away, like Tiger did at Pebble
    The Rob (DC)

    Wednesday's Big Questions

    1. When will Ben Roethlisberger's body and psyche be completely healed?
    2. What happens now that Miami has a win in the NBA Finals?

    How long before Big Ben is back on the field and in top form?
    Ben Roethlisberger has not had a good week. On Monday the Super Bowl-winning quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident and underwent seven hours of surgery, then came reports that the team warned Roethlisberger in writing that his motorcycle riding could potentially jeopardize his contract and that he was riding without a license at the time of the accident.

    Legal issues aside, there is also the question of when and if Roethlisberger will be the same player he was before the accident. Injuries to his knees appear to be superficial and the team believes he will participate in most of training camp, but his broken jaw will be wired shut and he also suffered a broken nose and a 9-inch laceration to the back of his head. He will likely be prevented from working out for some time and how his state of mind will be affected could be an issue.

    A good portion of SportsNation believes Big Ben will be back to 100 percent at some point before this year, but more than 20 percent think it will be next year before Roethlisberger is his old self or that he will never be the same player. As for the sometimes dangerous mix of players and motorcycles, a vast majority of SN does not believe the NFL should get involved by banning players from riding.

  • When will Ben Roethlisberger be back to full strength both physically and mentally?
    40% Regular season
    19% 2007 season
    18% Preseason
    17% Never
    7% Training camp

  • Should the NFL ban its players from riding motorcycles?
    55% No, should be negotiated player-by-player in contracts
    30% No, but individual teams should be able to prohibit them
    15% Yes

    Not having a license changes nothing and all will be forgotten by week 12 if the Steelers are in first place and in the playoff hunt. If not, it's open season on Big Ben's stupidity.
    Beau (Houston)

    Don't worry about Ben, he'll be back with a vengeance after he heals up. Too tough to let this keep him down.
    Mike (Pennsylvania)

    I find it hard to believe Roethlisberger won't be a little gun-shy once he comes back. This has to affect that feeling he obviously had of being bulletproof.
    Bryan (Michigan)

    Any one agree that there would be a whole lot more outrage if Ben had badly hurt his knees instead of cosmetic damage? It's not about helmets or licenses, its about being able to play.
    Hende (OH)

    The issue for me has never been whether or not he should have had a helmet on. The issue is what is he was doing on a Suzuki super-speed motorcycle in the first place. He is a professional athlete with a responsibility to his team and young fans. What he did was irresponsible. Period.
    Dave (Toronto)

    The funny thing is in Pittsburgh the public thinks Ben owes THEM an apology. He doesn't owe the public crap. You can question his judgement, but just because football is religion here doesn't mean he answers to the fans.
    Brian (Pittsburgh)

    During his weekly chat, Scouts Inc.'s Gary Horton offered his thoughts:

    Sticky Ricky: Can a guy with multiple fractures in his face and a broken jaw really be ready by the start of the season? Big Ben will lose 20-plus pounds having his jaw wired shut. His face will take many months to heal correctly.

    Gary Horton: Great question. The jaw wired shut and the dental work to be done were the first things I thought about, too. He'll lose weight and working out won't be much of an option, so his conditioning heading into camp will be poor and he'll be weak. I also worry about his mental frame of mind. This has to be a life-changing experience for him and I just wonder if he'll be emotionally ready to regain his toughness and swagger for a long NFL season.

    Flash finally had reason to celebrate.
    Dwyane Wade hoisted the Miami Heat onto his shoulders Tuesday night, dropping 42 points and getting a little help from Gary Payton's jumper in the final seconds as the Heat came through with a 98-96 win in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Miami has pulled to within 2-1 in the series and answered some of the questions asked in the wake of two losses in Dallas.

    Does that mean we're looking at a series headed for a 2-2 deadlock? The 'Nation is somewhat split on that with a virtual dead heat between those who think Miami has the momentum to win Game 4 and those who like Dallas to bounce back and take a 3-1 series lead.

  • After Miami's comeback victory in Game 3, what will happen in Game 4?
    52% Miami will ride the momentum and tie the series
    48% Dallas will bounce back and take a 3-1 series lead

    Heat in seven. Could wind up being the best series in the history of the Finals if Wade/Dirk/Shaq take turns taking over games.
    Matt "The Intern" (Chicago)

    I think we all expected the Heat to win Game 3. Let's see how they do Thursday before we start patting them on the back.
    Kito (NJ)

    I still don't buy the Heat. Avery is gonna make the adjustments to stop Wade from driving to the basket so easy. Because if there's one thing Flash can't do, it's shoot a 'J'.
    Mike (New Jersey)

    So it took 42 points from an exhausted D-Wade, a dream shot from GP and a missed free throw from a 90 percent FT shooter, all on their home court, for the Heat to win a game? I'm sticking with the Mavs.
    Reggie (Orlando)

    Tuesday's Big Questions

    1. With the series moving to Miami, how do the NBA Finals play out?

    2. Do the Hurricanes finish off the Stanley Cup in Game 5?

    74% of the 'Nation picks Avery Johnson over Pat Riley.
    Miami hosts Game 3 of the NBA Finals Tuesday night, in what is a pivotal game for the Heat. Dallas leads the series 2-0 and one more win puts the Mavericks on the brink of their first championship. Miami has yet to establish itself at either end of the floor, leading to the 2-0 hole. Dallas, on the other hand, has defended its homecourt in the first two games.

    While Dallas has played superb basketball in the first two games, Miami's play has brought about many questions, first and foremost being what's going on with Shaquille O'Neal? The Big Diesel has just 22 points and 13 rebounds total through the first two games.

    Other issues with these two teams also became clear through the first two games and looking toward Game 3. Who has done the better coaching in this series? (SportsNation takes Avery Johnson.) Which team has the better supporting cast? (SN likes Dallas.) Which superstar would you rather have - Wade or Nowitzki? (SN wants Dirk.)

  • Dwyane Wade (age 24) and Dirk Nowitzki (28 next week) are the two best players still standing. Which one would you want for the next three years?
    65% Dirk Nowitzki
    35% Dwyane Wade

  • Dallas has the profile of a good team (one superstar, talented supporting cast). Miami has the profile of a great team (two superstars, talented supporting cast). Why are these profiles proving to be so misleading?
    44% Shaq is no longer in his prime and Dallas has the better supporting cast.
    33% Miami has a better 1-2 punch but the Dallas bench is better from top to bottom.
    23% Who says Miami has a good supporting cast? They haven't been tested in the postseason.

  • When does this series end and to whom will David Stern be handing the trophy?
    42.5% Mavericks in five
    28.4% Mavericks in six
    13.1% Mavericks in four
    10.8% Heat in seven
    3.4% Heat in six

    1.8% Mavericks in seven

    The Mavs will start losing games. They have been to game sevens the past two series so don't count the Heat out.
    Garrett (Arkansas)

    Dwayne Wade will not allow the heat to lose Game 3 despite Shaq's inability to be effective.
    Chris (Boston)

    The Heat might win Game 3, but this series is done. Wade can't do it by himself. The Mavs go 9-10 deep and don't miss a beat! The Heat are too old, and they are showing their age and lack of depth.
    Lance (NJ)

    Mavs are too deep. Howard, Terry, Stack ... the roles players are far superior, plus Shaq is no longer a superstar. Mavs in 5.
    Klinger (Yankees Nation)

    The Mavs are just a better team. Deep bench, better shooters, better fast break team and *gulp* dare I say it? Better defensively.
    Adam (Jersey)

    Mavs will win. Shaq looks pathetic, and Wade is worn down. Avery will have the Mavs focused, and they will pull out a nail bighter.
    Dan (Albany)

    Carolina's Cory Stillman scored one goal and assisted on the game-winner in Game 4.
    While Miami and Dallas prepared for a crucial Game 3 in the NBA Finals, Edmonton hosted Carolina in an Oilers' must-win Game 4 in the Stanley Cup Finals Monday night. The puck certainly didn't bounce Edmonton's way and the Hurricanes took a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. Game 5 is Wednesday.

    The Oilers continue to be hurt by a very light-hitting power play. Through the first four games, Edmonton is 1-for-25 in the Cup finals on the power play, including 0-for-5 in Game 4.

    All of it adds up to a very confident SportsNation, which looks for Carolina to close out the Stanley Cup finals in Game 5.

  • Will the Hurricanes close out the Oilers in Game 5?
    70% Yes
    30% No

    Oilers struggled with their power play, had their chances and couldn't come through. My original prediction still stands... Canes in 5
    Matt (Fairfax)

    Series over. The Oilers have as much chance of salvaging this series as US has of beating Italy on Saturday. In other words, no chance.
    Chris (CT)

    What's sad is all the prognasticators said Mako just had to play well (not give up bad goals) and the Oilers can win. Well, Monday night he was outstanding and they still spit the bit. It's over.
    Rob (Warwick)

    Cup = Canes, Conn Smythe = Brindamour.
    Earl (NY)

    Monday's Big Questions
    1. Are the United States' World Cup chances dashed already?
    2. Is the Miami Heat done?

    The U.S. had plenty to hang their heads over.
    It took only five minutes before the United States found itself scrambling from behind in its World Cup opener versus the Czech Republic.

    They were outplayed and outworked in a disappointing 3-0 defeat, and will now have to rally - and get some help - to escape Group E.

    Tomas Rosicky scored twice and Jan Koller once for the Czechs. Up next for the U.S. is Italy on Saturday in a game they most likely must win if they plan to advance.

    SportsNation certainly had plenty to say about the lackluster effort by Team USA. While there was plenty of negative sentiment, it was refreshing to see a fair share of optimism.

    Prior to the World Cup, 74 percent of the 'Nation predicted Bruce Arena's team would escape the group stage. That number dropped precipitously by Tuesday afternoon.

  • How damaging is the 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic for Team USA's hopes of advancing to the World Cup round of 16?
    40% It hurts, but there's still hope
    30% They won't advance now
    30% They weren't going to advance anyway

  • How will the U.S. fare Saturday versus Italy?
    66% Lose
    26% Win
    8% Tie

    In-Game chatters had their say:

    Uh, oh. It looks like everyone is jumping off the bandwagon already.
    Rich (Atlanta)

    Weak. For the amount of hype that has been directed towards this team, this was very lame.
    Matt (Memphis)

    Losing to the Czechs is no embarrassment. They're that good. Losing to Ghana? Now, that would be an embarrassment!
    Carlos (Chicago)

    Hey, a win over Ghana and a tie with Italy that they are very capable of, can get us in the second round.
    Alex (Chicago)

    During his postgame chat, Dom Raynor offered plenty of quality insight:

    Pete: My question is are we even up to par? I know we have a tough group but this was a whipping. Are we now looking back saying we had over-hyped the ability of this squad?

    Dom Raynor: Hi Pete. I don't think the USA are as bad as the doomsayers are now lamenting, but they were taught a lesson today.The Czech Republic are a very good team and many have them as outsiders to win the whole tournament, so that puts the quality of their side in to some perspective.The FIFA rankings are not the be all and end all and, as some newcomers to football may now be aware, the USA are not the fifth best team in the world.

    Nate (Alexandria, VA): I understand that the Czech Republic is a better, more talented team. But how do you explain the lack of energy and fight in an overmatched U.S. team? I don't think anybody is necessarily surprised by this loss. But to lose in this way . . . red flag?

    Dom Raynor: I think the early goal had a big part to play in the mindset of the USA team. That early blow was a big set back.Also the Czechs are a very talented and skillfull team who can simply play their way around a physical approach - such as the USA adopted. The team played too direct, giving the ball away cheaply, and paid for not being in possession.

    Edgar (Los Angeles): If the U.S. team falls in the first round, do you think it's time to move on and replace Bruce Arena?

    Dom Raynor: I would say yes. If the USA doesn't pick up their game then the team has not progressed since the feat of Korea 2002 and that has to be what a manager achieves - at the very least. Arena has been a great servant for U.S. football but he may have taken the team as far as he can. New ideas and a new approach can move things forward. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves if the USA gets a draw against Italy, then they may well be able to go through with a win over Ghana . . . but they will need to play better.

    In the NBA Finals, Dallas took a 2-0 series lead with a convincing 99-85 victory at home. The series now heads to Miami, where the Heat will hope to get on track. Shaquille O'Neal's playoff career-low five points may have been most alarming, at least if you ask those that frequent The Daily Quickie:

    Erick Dampier answered his critic by outplaying him.
    Shaq at the foul line has evolved from funny to sad.
    Tom (Parkville, MD)

    Stud to Erick Dampier for finally outscoring Shaq in his 25th matchup against him... Dampier 6, O'Neal 5... Congrats big man.
    Matt "The Intern" (Chicago)

    Heat just don't match up well with the Mavs. Shaq is old and slow and everyone else on the team is pretty bad outside of Wade... and he can't do it all alone.
    Geoff (Detroit)

    Heat are done. People need to take off the rose-colored glasses and realize that this isn't Shaq of old, even two years ago. He's hitting a wall, and as good as Wade is, he can't compensate for JWill and 'Toine's shortcomings.
    Hende (OH)

    Shaq cannot deal with the double teams and dominate like the old days. Over the course of seven games he will probably dominate for a game or two, but all of the shooters on the wing need to pick it up and hit a shot, or this series will be over quicker than you could get to the beach and catch some rays.
    Dougie Fresh (DC)

    Chris Broussard is sticking by his guns, just for consistency's sake. But is still giving Dallas props:

    Dave (Charlottesville): Is this going to be an anticlimatic end to a fantastic playoffs?

    Chris Broussard: I want to stay with my pick of Miami winning just for shere consistency. So I want to believe they can make this a series by taking 2 games at home. But they are getting beat in every way conceivable. Dallas is deeper. Dirk had a great game last night but there were lots of players that were great. Dallas is far from a one-man show. We heard so much about Detroit being a true ''team'' but Dallas is very bit as much a team as Detroit was. Stackhouse was great. Howard was good. Terry was good. Dampier outplayed Shaq! This is a true team.

  • Can the Heat win Game 3 if Shaquille O'Neal scores fewer than 20 points?
    79% No
    21% Yes

  • Can the Heat come back from an 0-2 hole and win the NBA Finals
    69% No
    31% Yes

  • Will the NBA Finals return to Dallas for Game 6?
    52% Yes
    48% No

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