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At least 10 deaths — including four people who died overnight in California — were blamed on the deep freeze that continued to grip the U.S. on Friday, canceling hundreds of flights and leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power.
A baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony must serve gay couples despite his religious beliefs or face fines, a judge said Friday. The order from administrative law judge Robert N.
A deep freeze gripped almost the entire United States on Friday — pushing temperatures to 20 below in Wyoming, emptying stores in Texas of firewood and threatening to knock out power across an ice-glazed swath of the South and Midwest.
The U.S. drew a daunting task for next year’s World Cup: difficult opponents, tropical venues and a wearying 9,000-mile zigzag journey across Brazil.
The Americans wound up with the potentially punishing group they feared and will play Ghana, Portugal and Germany next June as they try to achieve a U.S. first: reaching the knockout phase twice in a row.
While Ghana eliminated the Americans in 2006 and 2010, the Black Stars won’t do it again. The U.S. opens its seventh straight World Cup appearance against Ghana on June 16 at Natal.
The U.S. meets Portugal and 2008 FIFA Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo six days later in the Amazon rain forest city Manaus. The Americans have just three off days to recover before closing Group G on June 26 in Recife against three-time champion Germany.
“I think we have the quality, if we play our best ball, to get out of the group,” U.S. captain Clint Dempsey said after Friday’s draw set the eight four-nation groups. “You can’t think about, `Am I the favorite? Am I the underdog? What’s it going to be like playing in the heat? What’s it going to be like with the travel?’ Those are factors that come into it, but at the end of the day both teams have to deal with it.”
After having the shortest group-play travel in South Africa, the U.S. will have the longest in Brazil. The Americans will be based in Sao Paulo and face trips of 1,436 miles to Natal, 1,832 miles to Manaus and 1,321 miles to Recife. They also will play all three matches in the tropics, with the second and third matches in the afternoon.
And the U.S. group has the top average FIFA world ranking.
“It’s definitely one of the tougher groups, if not the toughest, but at the same time, this is what the World Cup’s all about. You go there to play against the best,” American forward Jozy Altidore said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I think the boys will be excited, will be up for it.”
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who replaced Bob Bradley 2 1/2 years ago, played for Germany’s 1990 World Cup championship team and coached his native country to third place at home in the 2006 tournament, commuting to Europe from his California house in Orange County.
“It couldn’t get any more difficult or any bigger,” he said at the draw in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil. “It’s a real challenge. And we’ll take it. We’ll take it on, and hopefully we’re going to surprise some people there.”
The U.S. and South Korea were the last remaining teams in draw pot three. While the Americans landed in a group with an average FIFA ranking of 11.25, South Korea wound up in Group H, creating a group with the poorest average at 28.25.
“I think the team’s mentality is that we can go and play with anybody,” American defender Matt Besler said. “Now we’re going to have to prove it.”
Germany beat the U.S. 2-0 in its 1998 World Cup opener in Paris – with Klinsmann setting up the first goal and scoring the second – then edged the Americans 1-0 on a controversial goal in the 2002 quarterfinal in South Korea.
Die Mannschaft is coached by Klinsmann’s former assistant, Joachim Loew. The Americans beat a second-tier German roster 4-3 in a June exhibition at Washington.
“With Jurgen Klinsmann, they have another mentality,” Loew said. “I learned a lot from Jurgen, so this is special.”
Ranked 14th in the world, the U.S. has alternated quick exits with advancement since returning to soccer’s showcase in 1990.
After the draw four years ago, one British paper used a headline “EASY” for England, Algeria, Slovenia and the Yanks, and The Sun called it the “best English group since the Beatles.” The Americans wound up atop a group for the first time, and England advanced as the second-place nation.
This time, second-ranked Germany and fifth-ranked Portugal are the favorites to advance to the second round. If the U.S. reaches the round of 16, it would face Belgium, Russia, Algeria or South Korea from Group H.
“I guarantee you Jurgen knows more about Germany than Jogi Loew knows about the U.S,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said.
As for the rest of the field, Brazil, Cameroon, Croatia, Mexico were put in Group A; Australia, Chile, Netherlands and Spain in Group B; Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan in Group C; Costa Rica, England, Italy and Uruguay in Group D; Ecuador, France, Honduras and Switzerland in Group E; and Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria in Group F.
The U.S. will feel pressure to open with a win against 24th-ranked Ghana. The Black Stars defeated the Americans 2-1 in the 2006 group stage and by the same score in overtime in the round of 16 at the last World Cup in South Africa.
“They’re the team that beat us, kind of crushed our dreams of being in the World Cup, so I think we’re due a little bit of luck and we’re due a win against them,” Dempsey said.
At the 2002 tournament, the U.S. opened with a 3-2 upset of Portugal after taking a shocking three-goal lead in the first 36 minutes.
The Americans will train at home from mid-May until early June and plan a series of exhibition games, which likely will include England as an opponent, before heading to Brazil.
“Everybody is saying that this is the `Group of Death’ and it’s such a hard challenge,” former American captain John Harkes said. “I still think that the U.S. can rise to the occasion.”
AP Sports Writers Tales Azzoni in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil, and Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Kan., contributed to this report.
COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil - Defending champion Spain will play its opening World Cup game against the Netherlands, a repeat of the 2010 final, while host Brazil faces a relatively easy path to the knockout stage after Friday’s draw.
The United States was drawn into the toughest group with Germany, Portugal and Ghana.
“Difficult draw, but a group the U.S. can get through if they play well,” former U.S. coach Bruce Arena told The Associated Press.
Brazil starts its campaign for a sixth World Cup title with an opener against Croatia. Mexico and Cameroon are also in the group.
Bosnia-Herzegovina, the only World Cup newcomer among the 32 teams, plays its opener against Argentina. Iran and Nigeria were also drawn in that Group F.
Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan are in Group C, with Uruguay, Costa Rica, England and Italy in a strong Group D.
One of the easiest groups on paper looked to be E, with Switzerland, Ecuador, France and Honduras.
Russia, host of the next World Cup, is in Group H with Belgium, Algeria and Korea.
SEATTLE (AP) Even as the Seattle Mariners were remaining silent about a potential deal with free agent second baseman Robinson Cano, the New York Yankees were ready to move on.
“He was a great Yankee. He was a great player. I think everybody tried hard to get the deal done. We just never got close enough obviously. We wish him the best. We hope he has a long, healthy career,” Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said on Friday. “We’re going to keep going. We’re still looking at all the same guys that we were looking at a week ago or two ago. We’re going to continue to improve. We’re not done spending.”
Goodbye New York. Hello Seattle?
The Mariners weren’t saying much of anything on Friday, only issuing a statement in response to an ESPN report that Cano and the team had reached agreement on a $240 million, 10-year contract pending a physical. It would be tied for the fourth-richest contract in baseball history and a striking blow from a franchise that’s done little to get noticed for the past decade. The reported deal would blow away the Yankees’ last offer of $175 million over seven years.
Only the two deals signed by Alex Rodriguez – first with Texas and then the Yankees – and Joey Votto’s contract with Cincinnati were worth more. Albert Pujols also signed a $240 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.
Cano’s representatives and Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik did not return messages seeking comment on Friday.
“We are not able to confirm any news regarding Robinson Cano at this time. If and when an agreement is completed and finalized, we will announce,” the Mariners statement read.
Cano’s reported deal would be one of the largest in baseball history and a coup for a franchise that’s gone a dozen years since making the postseason. It would bring creditability for the Mariners after striking out in the past in their pursuits of big free agents like Prince Fielder and Josh Hamilton.
Cano was a five-time All-Star second baseman for the Yankees. Last season, he played in 160 games, hitting .314 with 27 homers and 107 RBIs, while posting a .899 on-base plus slugging percentage. He finished fifth in American League most valuable player voting.
He’s been one of the most durable players in baseball for the past seven seasons, missing only 14 out of 1,120 games since the start of the 2007 season. He’s a career .309 hitter who has averaged 24 homers and 97 RBIs per 162-game season. Cano has hit at least 25 homers and had a slugging percentage above .500 in every season since 2009.
Cano could be the anchor for a lineup that’s lacked consistency at the plate most of the past decade.
Between 2009 and 2012, Seattle’s offense ranked last in baseball in batting average, and was near the bottom in runs scored and homers. The Mariners showed some pop this past season with 188 home runs – second-most in baseball – but 52 of those came from the combo of Kendrys Morales and 41-year-old Raul Ibanez, both free agents.
It’s the second straight offseason Seattle will have made a massive financial commitment after giving a $175 million, seven-year deal to ace Felix Hernandez last winter. Seattle has plenty of financial room to make significant cash commitments because the only major contracts on the books for 2014 are for Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, and only Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak are entering arbitration.
Helping provide room to increase the payroll is the Mariners’ investment in a new regional sports network that is expected to net Seattle significant revenue in the coming years and it’s not a surprise the club was able to make such a staggering offer.
But finalizing a deal with Cano won’t solve all of Seattle’s problems. It’s a start, immediately adding a legitimate slugger to the middle of a lineup that finally showed some pop last season after years of floundering with one of the worst offenses in baseball. The Mariners have plenty of other problems to solve, including adding another established starter to their rotation and finding solutions for an outfield filled with questions.
The potential acquisition of Cano could mean a move is made with Nick Franklin or Dustin Ackley. Franklin became Seattle’s starting second baseman for the majority of last season after an early promotion from the minors. He showed flashes at the plate but slumped badly in the later months of the season and his defense was always a concern.
Ackley was Seattle’s second baseman of the future when he was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft, but went through his own hitting swoon. Ackley was demoted to the minors to try to find his swing and was moved from second base to playing in the outfield.
AP Baseball Writers Ronald Blum and Janie McCauley and AP freelance writer Mark Didtler contributed to this report.