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Sports in brief: WSOP main event field down to nine

Seattle Sounders forward Freddie Ljungberg, left, will honor his two-year contract with the team instead of transferring to Europe. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Seattle Sounders forward Freddie Ljungberg, left, will honor his two-year contract with the team instead of transferring to Europe. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

Poker: The World Series of Poker has thrust nine millionaire winners into the spotlight as they wait 116 days to get back to the table for the rest of the no-limit Texas Hold ’em main event in Las Vegas.

Each of the nine players hung on to win at least $1.26 million as poker’s richest tournament played at an unexpectedly brisk pace, and now must decide how to best spend the next four months to set up a run at the $8.55 million crown.

“So I guess I’m going to actually start watching some poker on TV,” said Phil Ivey, a 33-year-old poker legend who regularly plays the biggest cash games in Las Vegas and is one of the best players in the world.

“So far I’ve just made the final table, so it’s a pretty big accomplishment,” said Ivey, who has won $3.46 million at the series, not including this year’s main event. “Winning it would be top of the line.”

To do it, he’ll have to get past eight relatively unknown players, including a former Bear Stearns Cos. executive who won his seat in a hometown poker league, and Darvin Moon, a married, self-employed logger from Oakland, Md., who currently leads with 30 percent of the chips at the table.

The other players at the final table include Card Player Publisher Jeff Schulman, 34, of Las Vegas; Joseph Cada, 21, of Shelby Township, Mich., who would be the youngest main event champion if he wins; Antoine “Tonio” Saout, 25, of Saint Martin des Champs, France; James Akenhead, 26, of London; and Eric Buchman, 29, of Valley Stream, N.Y.

Ljungberg staying with Sounders

Soccer: Swedish midfielder Freddie Ljungberg reiterated his commitment to the MLS on Thursday, just two days before playing against a former English Premier League foe Chelsea.

The Seattle Sounders FC midfielder dispelled rumors that he might be looking to return to Europe, saying he’s content playing in MLS and intends to honor his two-year contract.

“I will stay here. I like it in Seattle,” Ljungberg said after the Sounders wrapped up practice at Microsoft Corp. headquarters. “I just want to say that there may be rumors and stuff but I want to stay here and want to play, and let the fans and everyone know that I’m staying.”

Sounders release injured forward: Jarrod Smith has been released by the Sounders after spending all season on the disabled list.

The Sounders forward had surgery last week to repair a torn right hamstring tendon and will continue his rehabilitation with the team. His MLS rights also remain with Seattle.

Beckham returns; L.A. tops New York: David Beckham returned to Major League Soccer with a whisper, not a shout.

Playing in a stadium nearly three-quarters empty, the star midfielder was slow and had little role in the Los Angeles Galaxy’s 3-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls at East Rutherford, N.J.

US playing short-handed against Panama: The United States will not be at full strength in Saturday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal against Panama.

Four of the 23 players on the original U.S. roster have returned to their European clubs: forwards Charlie Davies (Sochaux) and Freddy Adu (Benfica), and defenders Steve Cherundolo (Hannover) and Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaellands).

Minnesota working to lower Rubio’s buyout

Basketball: The Minnesota Timberwolves cannot do much financially to help Ricky Rubio with a multimillion-dollar buyout of his contract with DKV Joventut in Spain.

So team president David Kahn will head across the Atlantic next week to meet with the team personally in hopes of lowering the $6.6 million price tag that has threatened to keep the wunderkind point guard in Europe for at least next season.

Rubio, who was drafted fifth overall by the Timberwolves in June, is still under contract with Joventut for the next two seasons. He made less than $100,000 playing for Joventut last season.

Jazz will match Blazers: The Utah Jazz are going to hang on to forward Paul Millsap. The Jazz posted on their Web site that they plan to match Portland’s offer to Millsap, a restricted free agent. A formal announcement was scheduled for today, the last day Utah can match the $32 million deal that includes $10.3 million up front.

Gym owner denies supplying Clemens

Miscellany: A former gym owner in the Houston area says he never supplied Roger Clemens with performance- enhancing drugs and is looking forward to meeting with a grand jury investigating whether Clemens lied to Congress.

Kelly Blair received a subpoena and will testify before a grand jury in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 4. The FBI met with Blair in March 2008, about a month after opening its perjury investigation into Clemens.

New-look Americans win home debut: Jenae Leles made up for costly back-to-back errors with a three-run homer and the U.S. beat the Netherlands 7-2 in a World Cup softball game at Oklahoma City, its first game on American soil since losing the gold-medal game of the Beijing Olympics.

Leaders tied at 6 under at US Bank: Greg Chalmers had success with his new putting grip and Jeff Klauk only needed nine putts in his first nine holes for each to shoot 6-under 64s during a blustery first round of golf at the U.S. Bank Championship at Milwaukee.