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    VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Whitecaps forward Erik Hurtado was known more for his wild hair style than his ability on the pitch prior to Saturdays match against the Columbus Crew. That bleach blonde Mohawk still stands out, but not as much as his first goal in Major League Soccer -- a wonder strike in the first half that helped propel Vancouver to a 1-0 victory in Ohio. The fifth overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, Hurtado has had to bide his time with the Whitecaps and he took full advantage of his first league start of the season. The 23-year-old controlled a long free kick in front of a Columbus defender on the right before cutting into the middle and unleashing a vicious left-footed shot from outside the 18-yard box that curled into the top corner. "You know how when you hit it on the sweet spot and you just know its going in? Thats what happened," Hurtado said after Mondays training session. "As soon as it left my foot, I was like Oh my God yes. Thank you God." The Fredericksburg, Va., native has played 22 MLS games since joining Vancouver last season, including five starts. But with the club parting ways with veteran striker Kenny Miller earlier this month, and with Darren Mattocks on the shelf with a hamstring injury, Hurtado is finally getting an opportunity under Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson. "Im maturing as a player. I matured over my rookie season last year a lot," he said. "(Robinson) having faith in me has been great. Hes going to give players opportunities if they deserve it. "Ive been working really hard on the field and I got my chance and took it." Hurtado stands out because of his raw talent, but also for a hairstyle that has earned him an array of nicknames from teammates, including Rufio from the movie "Hook" and Sonic the Hedgehog, in honour of the video game character. "I dont know if its like a Brazilian blowout mixed with a mohawk and some bleach -- got in a fight with a bottle of bleach or something like that," Whitecaps defender Jordan Harvey said with a chuckle. "Thats his style and how he wants to express it and more power to him." Hurtado is fine with the jabs. "I dont know if Im trying to achieve anything," he said. "Im just trying to stay fresh." In his first season at the Whitecaps helm, Robinson couldnt care less what Hurtados hair looks like as long as he continues to develop and stays committed to his craft. "Hes an example to all the young players that things dont go your way sometimes," said Robinson. "Its important you put the work in and youll get your reward. It might not come in the next week or two weeks. It might come in the next two or three months, and thats what happened with Erik." Hurtados raw talent was evident to his teammates as soon as he arrived in Vancouver, but it was clear his game needed to be honed. "It was kind of like corralling a wild stallion, if you know what I mean," said Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit. "Hes one of those guys (where) you can see his athletic ability. You can see his pace, his power, and its about corralling that and making sure that turns into good football. You can see it really start to take shape now, you can see him gaining in a little bit of confidence." Speaking of confidence, Hurtado and his teammates have loads of it heading into Wednesdays second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinal against Toronto FC. Robinson fielded a "younger than young" squad in last weeks 2-1 away defeat in the first leg, but that result means that a 1-0 victory for Vancouver at B.C. Place Stadium would see the Whitecaps advance to the final on the away goals rule. DeMerit and many of Vancouvers other veterans watched from the sidelines as the baby-faced Whitecaps, including Hurtado, battled hard against Torontos star-studded roster. "Guys are contributing when asked upon. Guys are staying on the same page and as a collective were continuing to work on our brand of soccer," said DeMerit, who looks likely to sit out against Toronto again this week after playing Saturday in Columbus. "That needs to continue. That mentality needs to continue to shift and even get better." Apart from Hurtados recent success, former No. 1 pick Omar Salgado has impressed since rejoining the Whitecaps from the second-tier Charleston Battery last week. A big target who has been plagued by injuries in his young career, Salgado seems fitter and had a great chance late against Columbus that just bounced wide in the games dying minutes. "Im still a little disappointed I missed that but every striker in the world misses chances," said Salgado, the top choice in 2011. "Its something youve just got to get over and score against Toronto." Robinson said saying goodbye to Miller was difficult because of their personal friendship, but added that it was a move that had to be made with youngsters like Hurtado, Salgado and Kekuta Manneh clamouring for minutes. "It was the right decision for the club and me moving forward with this group of players that Ive got," said Robinson. "It will give the young players more opportunities to play and Ive said from Day 1 that I will give them more opportunities and I think you will see that more now." Pat Valaika Jersey . Rodriguez, who has steadfastly denied using banned substances while with the New York Yankees, made the decision nearly four weeks after arbitrator Fredric Horowitz largely upheld the discipline issued last summer by baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. "I think its a good move for him," former Commissioner Fay Vincent said. Tyler Anderson Jersey . He was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 5th. The 34-year-old Laval, Que. native has played six seasons with the Penguins. http://www.rockiesgearproshop.com/Ro...o-Kids-Jersey/. The lightning strike was in the parking lot of Crew Stadium on Saturday night, but its not known if the off-duty lieutenant was struck directly, Columbus Fire Department Battalion Chief Tracy Smith said. The firefighter, identified as Lt. Carlos Gonzalez Jersey . -- The court fight over NFL concussions should heat up soon as a judge in Philadelphia weighs the fairness of the proposed $765 million settlement. Bryan Shaw Jersey .Y. - Brooklyn Nets centre Brook Lopez has a strained lower back and will miss at least a week.NEW YORK, N.Y. - New Orleans forward Anthony Davis was chosen Friday to replace the injured Kobe Bryant in the NBA All-Star game that will be played in his home city. "Its a great opportunity for me. Im excited to play in the game," said Davis, who was informed hed been added to the Western Conference roster by Pelicans coach Monty Williams. "When coach said it. I was speechless. I didnt know what to say. Im glad they chose me. Ill try to go out and represent New Orleans and the Pelicans." Davis was nearly chosen as a reserve, but missed by one spot in voting by Western Conference head coaches, a person with knowledge of the details told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because vote totals were not released. Speaking before the Pelicans hosted the Minnesota Timberwolves, Davis acknowledged he was disappointed when he was initially left off the roster. "I was down, but I moved on. I understand that I have a lot more opportunities to try to get in the game," Davis recalled. "Today, it was great." The 2012 U.S. Olympian ended up getting into the Feb. 16 game at Smoothie King Center when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver chose him to replace Bryant, who was voted by fans to start but is still recovering from a broken knee. Davis is averaging 20.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and a league-leading 3.3 blocks for the Peliicans.dddddddddddd Davis, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, is also scheduled to play in the Rising Stars Challenge for rookies and second-year players next Friday. Davis confirmed he still intended to play in that game as well, but Williams was gratified he got into the main event as well. Williams said he thought Davis had worked so hard and was having such a stellar season that he had taken the unusual step of lobbying the coaches he knows best to vote for Davis as a reserve. "I cant tell you how happy I was to be able to tell him the news after having to tell him the first time that he didnt make it. It was a cool moment. I cant express that enough, how happy I am for him," Williams said. "He thought I was joking. He said, Not a game, coach? And I was like, No, not a game. You made it. And he was speechless and laughing. You know, hes 20. I didnt expect a poem or anything. "I thought he deserved it the first time," Williams added. Minnesota coach Rick Adelman agreed. "He certainly deserves it. Hes the leading shot-blocker in the league," Adelman said. "I had a feeling hed be the one they would chose and rightfully so, getting a representative from New Orleans in the game. Hes certainly worth it." Western Conference coach Scott Brooks of Oklahoma City will decide who replaces Bryant in the starting lineup. ' ' '
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