Everything went splendidly for the United States in its Olympic qualifying match against Cuba until the final minutes, when Marc Pelosi went down in a collision and clutched his shin. For a moment, coach Andi Herzog feared the talented midfielder had broken his leg again.
It turned out the budding San Jose Earthquakes star merely sustained a deep gash, one that should not keep him out too long. Good thing for the Americans, whose 6-1 victory over a depleted Cuba squad Saturday guaranteed them a spot in the CONCACAF semifinals.
"This was important," Herzog said. "What we said in the meeting and in the locker room before we went to the field, we wanted to set the tone right from the beginning, and the boys did."
The Americans play their final group stage match against Panama, which lost 3-1 to Canada, on Tuesday night in Colorado. The top two teams from each group advance to the semifinals, and the two finalists qualify for the Rio Games, something that the U.S. failed to do for the London Olympics four years ago. The winner of the third-place match faces Colombia in a one-game playoff for another berth.
Won it early: Venus Williams, who won the Wuhan Open in China when her opponent, fifth-seeded Garbine Muguruza, retired because of a left ankle injury while trailing 6-3, 3-0.
Gained ground: Regan Smith, who took a NASCAR Xfinity victory at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Smith moved within 36 points of series leader Chris Buescher with five races left.
Hit an end: Nikoloz Tskitishvili, waived by the Los Angeles Clippers. He was a No. 5 overall pick in 2002 and averaged 2.9 points for Denver, Golden State, Phoenix and the Timberwolves.
Bickell remains with Blackhawks
Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell cleared waivers and will remain with the Stanley Cup champions for now.
Bickell could have been sent down to Rockford of the American Hockey League after he cleared waivers on Saturday, but coach Joel Quenneville said he is staying and put him into the Blackhawks' exhibition game against Dallas.
The Blackhawks are looking for more production from Bickell, 29, after he had 14 goals and 14 assists in 80 games last season and then struggled in the playoffs.
Gonchar's push hits sudden end
•Veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar's bid to make the Pittsburgh Penguins ended when the 41-year-old four-time All-Star was cut.
•The New Jersey Devils signed right wing Lee Stempniak to a one-year, $850,000 contract. Stempniak had 15 goals and 13 assists in 71 games last season with the New York Rangers and Winnipeg.
Tonalist wins Jockey Club Gold Cup
Tonalist easily beat five rivals in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup in the slop to earn a return trip to the Breeders' Cup Classic.
The Gold Cup was one of four challenge races at Belmont Park with each winner getting a fees-paid spot in the corresponding Breeders' Cup race on Oct. 31 at Keeneland.
Tonalist, winner of six of his 14 starts, will face a deep lineup in the $5 million Classic, including Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and the sensational mare Beholder.
Others winning and claiming Breeders' Cup spots: Greenpointcrusader in the Juvenile, Nickname in the Juvenile Fillies and Stephanie's Kitten in the Filly & Mare Turf.
AROUND THE HORN
NBA: Forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was taken to a hospital for evaluation after injuring his right shoulder in Charlotte's 106-100 exhibition win in Orlando. He was fouled hard while coming around a screen.
International basketball: Yi Jianlian had 15 rebounds and 11 points, helping China to a 78-67 win over the Philippines in the FIBA Asia final on Changsha, China. China secured an Olympic slot with the victory.
Swimming: Worsening smog in Singapore prompted World Cup organizers to cancel 15 finals races just an hour before the session was to start. Singapore has been shrouded with smoke and haze from Indonesian forest fires for weeks.
Golf: Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen shot a 7-under 65 at St. Andrews to take a three-stroke lead in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
2The Milwaukee Bucks say they'll be the first NBA team to use an alternate court design and alternate jerseys, building on their "Fear the Deer" motto. The alternate court will be used for four games this season, when players also will wear a new alternate uniform. The new looks will debut for the Dec. 9 game against the Los Angeles Clippers.