Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
Soccer: Women’s World Cup: Opening round: U.S. vs. North Korea, Tuesday at 8:45 a.m., ESPN; U.S. vs. Columbia, Saturday at 8:30 a.m., ESPN:
In the American’s first stop in the event, from Dresden, Germany, we’re trying to figure out the mind state of U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, still recovering from shoulder surgery, often a little cranky, maybe in need of some Jeremiah Weed premium malt beverage — if that can even be found in Deutschland. We’ve checked her Twitter account (@HopeSolo) and so far, nothing caustic. Nothing crazy. Nothing at all since June 20. “First of all, I’m not outspoken,” she told ESPN.com before her team’s first send-off game against Japan. “Say what you want about the tweets, say what you want about ‘opinionated.’ I would tell you right now, people don’t know me. They don’t know where I came from, they make their judgments off some stupid social media thing, and I’ll take my critics for what it is. Nobody really knows … what’s in my heart, why I believe in the things I believe, what I see behind the scenes and they don’t see.
“Unfortunately, people think I’m negative and bitter all the time and that’s not the case. It’s all about perspective. I have high expectations on the U.S. team, I always push for more. And I think that’s something that is our responsibility as older players. I’m 30 now, and I think that when we lost the Julie Foudys and the Mia Hamms, we lost that voice. And I think it’s our responsibility to push the envelope and try to get the best that we can get to be professional athletes.” OK, we got it. ESPN soccer analyst and former U.S. head coach Tony DiCicco said it about Solo’s performance needed for the American team to succeed: “It’s hard to win at this level, at these types of events, without a top goalkeeper, and Hope Solo right now in my opinion is the best in the world. She’s a great athlete. She has a great mentality when she gets in goal. She has almost an arrogance of how she plays.” By the way, DiCicco predicts a U.S. win over both Germany (in the semifinals) and Brazil (in the final). Before this U.S. opening match, catch Columbia vs. Sweden (5:45 a.m., ESPN).
MLB: Dodgers at Minnesota, 5:10 p.m., Prime:
Think Frank McCourt is being singled out? Chad Billingsley must feel like there’s got a target on his back. He fired his glove against the Dodgers’ dugout wall after manager Don Mattingly took him out of his last start with one out in the sixth inning — the right-hander had logged 110 pitches already, and just walked a batter to load the bases. The fact Billingsley had a 4-1 lead against Detroit at the time may have been the clincher — his teammates had only been giving him a little more than two runs at a time during his six losses. He ended up winning this one to improve to 6-6, but his 4.48 ERA and 40 walks (fourth worst in the NL) is hardly impressive for someone making $6.27 million this year. His next start, against a resurgent Minnesota, will be his first look at Target Field. This series includes games Tuesday (5:10 p.m., Channel 9) and Wednesday (10:10 a.m., Prime).
MLB: Angels vs. Washington, Angel Stadium, 7:05 p.m., Channel 13:
Another week, another series for the Angels facing a team with a new manager. After Nationals skipper Jim Riggleman suddenly resigned despite the team winning 11 of its last 12, former Dodgers manager Davey Johnson is now in charge. For those who show up on Tuesday (7:05 p.m., FSW), it’s Dan Haren bobblehead night, although he’s not scheduled to pitch in this series until Wednesday (4:05 p.m., FSW). The Angels also say every night of the series, they’ll do that crazy racing presidents race like they do in D.C. If only Richard Nixon was alive to watch it.
College World Series: Florida vs. South Carolina, 5 p.m., ESPN:
The defending-champion Gamecocks (53-14), who have won an NCAA record 14 consective CSW tournament games now, took two out of three from the Gators (53-17) down in Gainesville back in March. To the winner, a post-game live interview with ESPN’s Jenn “How important was is it to pick up this win today?” Brown. The best-of-three between the SEC foes continues Tuesday (5 p.m.) and if necessary on Wednesday (5 p.m.).
WNBA: Sparks at Connecticut, 5 p.m., ESPN2:
Back-to-back losses to San Antonio and New York was made worse by the latest injury to Candace Parker. This is the third stop in the Sparks’ seven-game road trip, and Parker is already back in L.A. getting her knee examed.
MLB: Boston at Philadelphia, 4 p.m., ESPN2:
Red Sox starter John Lackey comes off a tough loss against San Diego: Five earned runs, four hits, four walks in 3 1/3 innings.
PGA: AT&T National, first round, noon, Golf Channel:
Rory McIlroy has gone home, and the tournament from the Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., that benefit Tiger Woods’ foundation will go on — even if the host isn’t around to play in it. Maybe he’s just resting up for the July 14 British Open at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England, where he’ll see Rory again.
MLB: Dodgers vs. Angels, Angel Stadium, 7:05 p.m., Prime, FSW:
A rematch of Clayton Kershaw against Jered Weaver is set for Saturday (6:05 p.m., Channel 9, FSW). They’re also on track, if it works out, to face off as starting pitchers in the MLB All-Star Game on July 12 in Phoenix. Sunday’s finale (5:05 p.m.) goes to ESPN.
Cycling: Tour de France, Stage 1: 5 a.m., Versus; 11 a.m., Channel 4:
The favorite will be Spain’s Alberto Contador, known as the world’s best climber and winner of this year’s very hilly Giro d’Italia. But there’s still an on-going doping investigation after he tested positive for clenbuterol at last year’s Tour. Contador says it’s all related to tainted beef. Maybe he’ll soon join the Mexico national soccer team. Keep an eye on Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, Italy’s Ivan Basso and American longshot Chris Horner. This three-week event starts here from Passage du Grois to Mont des Alouettes.
Tennis: Wimbledon women’s final: 6 a.m., Channel 4:
Naw, we wouldn’t be all that disappointed if Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, who knocked China’s Li Na out of this thing late last week and could encounter Serena Williams in the quarterfinals, was here for the final curtsies. The semifinals are Thursday at noon (delayed), the quarterfinals are Tuesday at 10 a.m. (delayed).
MLS: Chivas vs. Chicago, Home Depot Center, 7 p.m., Prime:
Couldn’t have pushed this back a couple days, made it a July 4 doubleheader with the Galaxy, and all the fireworks that went with it?
Boxing: Wladimir Klitschko vs David Haye, 1:45 p.m., HBO:
Klitschko, the WBO, IBF, RING and IBO heavyweight champion, is finally trying to get Haye’s WBA title. They were due to fight once before, but Haye pulled out with a suspected back injury. Haye then tried talking to Wladimir’s older brother, WBC champ Vitali, but backed away, then took the WBA title from Nikolai Valuev. This one in Germany will be replayed at 9:45 p.m.
Tennis: Wimbledon men’s final, 6 a.m., Channel 4:
You take Rafael Nadal. We’ve still got Roger Federer. Until further grass-stained notice. The semifinals are Friday at noon (delayed), the quarterfinals are Wednesday at 10 a.m. (delayed).