Steven Davis’ second-half strike ensured Northern Ireland’s disappointing World Cup campaign ended on something of a positive with a battling draw in Israel. Captain Davis lashed home a powerful effort with 18 minutes left, responding to Eden Ben Basat’s headed opener just before the break. A share of the spoils represented a fair verdict – and a surprising one given Northern Ireland’s form and depleted numbers – allowing Michael O’Neill’s men to banish at least some of the scars accrued during defeats to Luxembourg and Azerbaijan. He had been on the pitch a matter of minutes when he collected Davis’ lay-off and shot a yard over from outside the area. Israel spurned a presentable opportunity of their own when McArdle’s defensive header found Lior Refaelov lurking on the right but his first touch was with his knee and the ball bobbled out of play. In the 33rd minute a back-tracking Niall McGinn found himself needing to make a crucial tackle on Eyal Meshumar as he homed in on goal. The Aberdeen winger would not be anyone’s first choice for such a task but he managed to muscle out the full-back without attracting the referee’s attention. From then on Israel were well on top, Roy Carroll awkwardly saving a Natcho free-kick with his feet then coming to collect a bouncing ball at the edge of his area only for McArdle to get in the way and leave him stranded. Cathcart was on hand with a sliding block to prevent Ben Basat taking advantage of the unguarded net but he did not miss his next chance. Meshumar was proving a constant threat down the right and and it was his cross that allowed Ben Basat to head home from eight yards. Carroll was rightly upset to see the striker nip between both centre-halves in order to do so. Five minutes into the second half a clash of heads between Cathcart and Keinan left both men bleeding, though the Blackpool man at least earned a rare corner in the process. Paterson was the target but he could not get a clean connection. Clingan, putting in a highly impressive shift, got back well to mop up a dangerous ball at the opposite end but his side needed some attacking spark now too. Davis attempted to supply it when he shook off Yeini and let fly but his shot flew just wide after a slight deflection. Ward replaced the quiet McGinn with 25 minutes remaining and instantly brought some energy to proceedings. The equaliser came after O’Neill had gone back to 3-5-2, Clingan putting a foot in to regain possession and begin a new attack. Ward spotted the well-placed Davis arriving at the edge of the area and he buried a first-time that was left Aouate grasping at air. Northern Ireland were energised, Ward shooting wide seconds after the restart and Paterson’s volley beaten clear by the goalkeeper following Brunt’s clever chip. It was a wonderful chance but Aouate’s reflexes matched the finish. Hodson, given licence to attack now, hesitated when Davis’ header seemed to put him clear on the right and from there on Israel were in the ascendance. They camped out in Northern Ireland’s final third but a series of tackles, blocks and clearances ensured a deserved point. Davis, after a hard first campaign as skipper, was also fully deserving of a leading role and a fifth international goal. Just four days after abandoning his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation for 3-5-2 in Baku, O’Neill reverted to type. Personnel-wise there were no fewer than six changes, half unavoidable due to suspensions for Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley and Oliver Norwood. Bradford’s Rory McArdle was the main beneficiary of those absences, handed a first competitive start alongside Craig Cathcart at centre-half. O’Neill’s decision to voluntarily leave out another of his senior men in Chris Brunt – stood down alongside Shane Ferguson and Jamie Ward – may have raised eyebrows but the return of the rock solid Chris Baird and Sammy Clingan in midfield ensured there would be no lack of experience. With Ward warming the bench it quickly became clear that Davis would be Martin Paterson’s main attacking support, the Southampton midfielder handed a more advanced role after several matches in the engine room. Northern Ireland’s early strategy involved balls over the top for Paterson, who made a half-hearted penalty appeal after nine minutes when Dudu Aouate challenged him for Baird’s chipped pass. In the 19th minute Corry Evans crumpled after both he and Sheran Yeini slid to retrieve a loose ball, making way for Brunt’s belated arrival. Press Association
Friedman doesn’t make knee-jerk reactive moves. Anyone who thought Roberts would lose his job over this must have missed that memo. Yet just because Roberts doesn’t lose his job doesn’t mean the end of Game 5 has no practical implications for the manager. He might get a new bench coach (more on that in a bit). The template for Roberts’ analytic cheat sheet in the dugout might change. Something about it probably should change, because Roberts’ opinion of Clayton Kershaw seems, well, less than current.2. The coaching staff will change.Rick Honeycutt will not be the Dodgers’ full-time pitching coach in 2020. He’ll transition into a special advisor’s role. The last couple years were difficult on Honeycutt physically, and he certainly would have preferred to exit with a championship ring. I would caution against thinking of this as an “exit,” however. Much of a pitching coach’s job can be performed by analyzing frame-by-frame video of a pitcher’s delivery, in games and in bullpen sessions. It serves as a surrogate eye, one that is more accurate than a human’s. Honeycutt can review that video for the Dodgers’ pitchers from wherever he chooses to spend his semi-retirement.The interesting part here is how much influence Honeycutt will have in 2020. Let’s assume the next pitching coach is Mark Prior – a safe bet, considering Friedman was willing to publicly say so Monday. How much video review will be delegated to Honeycutt? How much will pitchers incorporate his feedback in-between their starts? Will Honeycutt get video of every starting pitcher’s bullpen sessions?Bob Geren might not be back, either. He is a candidate for the managerial vacancy in San Francisco. 3. It doesn’t sound like Russell Martin is coming back.David Freese already retired. Rich Hill, 39, and Russell Martin, 36, are getting up there in years, but both have indicated they want to play in 2020. “Russ came in and fit a role extremely well for us – just great veteran presence,” Friedman said. “Did a lot for Barnesy, did a lot for Will Smith. At this point, I think with our catching depth it’s a more difficult fit, but that doesn’t mean things won’t play out in a different way.”If I could pull up what Friedman was saying about Chase Utley in November 2017, I imagine it would sound more similar than different to what he just said about Martin. Utley waited to re-sign until Feb. 13 of the following year, days before position players reported to spring training. Similarly, a lot of dominoes would have to fall to bring Martin back, and that might take four months – if those dominoes fall at all.4. Kenley Jansen’s status is questionable.The question was pretty straightforward: “Do you guys go into the offseason thinking Kenley Jansen is still your closer, or is that a place where you might make changes?” The first words out of Friedman’s mouth: “I’m not sure.”The POBO went on to hedge a little, saying “my sense sitting here is that Kenley will be our closer” in 2020, but we were already into some interesting weeds. Jansen signed an $80 million extension prior to the 2017 season. He can opt out of that contract as soon as the World Series ends, leaving two years and $38 million on the table. That seems like an unwise choice for a pitcher who blew eight saves and was limited to five batters in the five-game series against the Nationals. From a cynical point of view, Friedman’s tepid vote of confidence could be seen as a means of encouraging Jansen to opt out. (He won’t opt out.)If anything, it’s easier now to see the Dodgers making a play for a closer this offseason. Aroldis Chapman and Sean Doolittle can opt out of their contracts like Jansen. Will Smith, Daniel Hudson and Sergio Romo are becoming free agents. The Dodgers are gaining about $40 million in flexibility because of the expiring contracts of Martin, Hill, Ryu and Matt Kemp(!), so they can certainly spend on a new closer, either via free agency or via trade, if they choose to.5. Early exit ≠ bigger roster changes.Friedman is open to bringing back the same group in 2020. Or not.“I think we have a really talented core group of players returning,” he said. “I think we have depth in areas that we can make trades. I think we have financial flexibility. I think as we sit here today, as a jumping off point for the offseason, I think it’s a really good position to be in. We’re not closing the door on anything right now and we have to go into it very open-minded, open to changing the complexion a little bit. That doesn’t necessarily mean we will, but I feel like we have to really look at that and figure out what we think is best, to put us in the best position for 2020 and beyond.”-J.P.Editor’s note: Thanks for reading the Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.More readingBack, back, back – Friedman expects his own contract to be finalized within days.In the running – Hyun-Jin Ryu is a finalist for the MLBPA’s comeback player of the year award.Rather see me in the ’pen? – Ice Cube thinks the Dodgers need more black players.Money can try – Should the Dodgers throw a ton of money at Gerrit Cole and/or Anthony Rendon this offseason? How starters got their groove back – Via Jared Diamond and Brian Costa in the Wall Street Journal: “After years in which a growing reliance on relievers showed the new path to October glory, this postseason is proof of something else: The other way can still work.” Analyze that – The St. Louis Cardinals’ analytics department found that baseballs are flying 4 ½ fewer feet on average in the postseason. (Friedman said he did not ask his analytics department to investigate this.)Legal fallout – What can the legal system do to the Angels and their employees after Tyler Skaggs’ death? Among other things, writes Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann: “If (Angels) players are engaged in the illegal purchase of drugs, they could be charged with crimes, as could those who sold them drugs.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Editor’s note: This is the Oct. 15 edition of the Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman addressed the media for 28 minutes Monday morning. You can watch the complete press conference here. It’s not mandatory viewing before diving into this newsletter, though I’ll try to expand on some things Friedman said, and some things he left unsaid. The major takeaways:1. Dave Roberts is returning.In last Thursday’s newsletter, I went to some length to demonstrate that Roberts’ head-scratching decisions in the NLDS were mostly (if not entirely) limited to the end of Game 5. “The final three innings Wednesday cannot make the first 43 innings of the series disappear,” I wrote. The last person who needed this perspective on Roberts’ managing skill was Friedman. “Frankly, I was surprised by the question,” Friedman said of Roberts’ job security.