I myself prefer "tight" crops from the camera. Shooting wide and cropping later to me in just being lazy in getting that shot. I find it sporting to get that shot composed and shot "tight" and nailing it so to speak.
I don't shoot for publishing sake so that is where I stand with that. My personal tastes are like the "Barbarian" for the most part.
Blurring the background is a matter of personal taste as well. I don't find the focused background distracting at all. Makes it more interesting to look at the picture even more. I do see the "center of interest" here in this shot and it looks very good to me.
I see that thislookslike "Premier Level" teams or perhaps 1st Division in Tournament play.