NWSL Roundup
NWSL Roundup avatar

Week three of NWSL season four got underway with two Friday night games. The Washington Spirit traveled to Rochester to face the Western New York Flash and the Houston Dash welcomed Sky Blue FC. The league then stood down on Saturday, leaving it to the rest of the sports world to battle for attention, before coming back with three more games on Sunday.

Little (L) was voted the NWSL player of the week. (ISI Photos/Mike Gridley)

Little (L) was voted the NWSL player of the week. (ISI Photos/Mike Gridley)

So let’s begin this week’s NWSL Roundup with Friday’s doubleheader. As always, home teams listed first.

Western New York (3-0-0, 9pts) 0-3 Washington Spirit (1-2-0, 3-pts)

Three weeks into the league’s fourth season and the Washington Spirit just keep rolling along, even if Friday night’s 3-0 win wasn’t quite as easy as the scoreline makes it appear. The Spirit did jump out to a quick lead just four minutes in when Canadian international Diana Matheson put the finishing touch on Crystal Dunn’s set up.

Matheson (L) (ISI Photos/Robyn McNeil)

Matheson (L) scored a brace against the Flash. (ISI Photos/Robyn McNeil)

The goal was the second of the season for Matheson and the helper was number three from 2015 NWSL MVP Dunn, but the floodgates hardly opened after that initial strike.

In fact, the outcome might have been different if the Flash had converted a penalty kick in the 49th minute, instead Sam Mewis clanked her spot kick off of the upright and into the waiting arms of Spirit netminder Stephanie Labbe to miss out on a potential equalizer.

Matheson wasn’t so wasteful when she faced down WNY keeper Sabrina D’Angelo from 11 yards out, making the Flash pay for Jaelene Hinkle’s takedown on the Spirit’s Cheyna Williams and extending Washington’s lead to 2-0 with her 70th-minute pk.

A late own goal added to Western New York’s misery and assured Washington of a perfect 3-0-0 record and continued residence atop the NWSL standings.

Houston Dash (1-1-1, 4pts) 0-0 Sky Blue FC (1-1-1, 4pts)

The Dash will be without the services of Carli Lloyd for the next three to six weeks and the deleterious effect of her absence was clear to all in game one of the post-Carli era with Houston unable to muster a goal in a 0-0 home draw.

Houston will miss the attacking prowess of Llody. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

Houston will miss the attacking prowess of Llody. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

In fairness to Lloyd’s remaining attacking colleagues, a good deal of the credit for the zero on the home side of the ledger Friday night is down to Sky Blue keeper Caroline Stanley. Stanley’s primary victim at BBVA Compass Stadium was Dash rookie striker Rachel Daly who was unable to convert on a quartet of chances, with a 50/50 split on those lost chances divvied up between Stanley saves and Daly misses.

Andressa also troubled the Sky blue defense while New Jersey-based Sky Blue received a promising offensive performance from Costa Rican international midfielder Raquel Rodriguez; who last year earned the MAC Hermann Trophy for her outstanding season with Penn State.

The result leaves the teams stranded in mediocrity with four points each, with identical 1-1-1 records.

Seattle Reign (2-0-1, 7pts) 1-0 FC Kansas City (0-2-1, 1pt)

The Reign earned a small measure of revenge for last season’s NWSL Championship loss with Sunday’s 1-0 win over two-time defending champions FCKC. Kim Little continued her stellar play for the Reign, scoring the game’s lone goal in the 56th minute, and the Scot’s second tally of the year was too much for the still winless champs to overcome.

Fishlock's injury will surely be a blow to Seattle. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Fishlock’s injury will surely be a blow to Seattle. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The victory, the second in a row for the Reign, took some of the sting out of the news that the team will be without Jessica Fishlock for the next four to six weeks due to a fracture to the Welsh midfielders left tibia.

The result and the score was a reversal of Kansas City’s win in last year’s final, so a tight match was no surprise. It is, however, a shock to look at the NWSL standings and find only the Boston Breakers at 0-0-3 below the 2014 and 2015 NWSL title holders.

Boston Breakers (0-3-0, 0pts) 0-1 Portland Thorns (2-0-1, 7pts)

Boston hosted the Portland Thorns on Sunday with hopes of eliminating that ugly ought from its win column, but the Thorns would see to it that the Bostonians misery would continue for another week at least by handing the home side a 1-0 loss.

Portland’s Tobin Heath maintained her sizzling form setting up Dagny Brynjarsdottir for the game’s only goal, picking up her fourth helper of the young season. Goalkeeper Adrianna Franch earned a shutout in her first game as a Thorn, her first in the league since the 2013 NWSL Championship match, which Franch lost 1-0 to Portland as a member of the Western New York Flash.

After spending time playing in Norway, the former U20 and U23 U.S. WNT keeper was sharp in her return on Sunday and she gives coach Mark Parsons another option on a talent-laden squad.

Chicago Red Stars (2-1-0, 6pts) 1-0 Orlando Pride (1-2-0, 3pts)

In a match rife with implications for the U.S. WNT Olympic Gold Medal defense, Chicago’s Christen Press beat Orlando keeper Alyssa Harris for the only goal of the game as Red Stars netminder Alyssa Naeher picked up the shutout in a battle between Hope Solo’s backups.

Press was once again on the scoresheet for Chicago. (ISI Photos/Daniel Bartel)

Press was once again on the scoresheet for Chicago. (ISI Photos/Daniel Bartel)

That is not to say that Harris did not play well, she did, but in earning a second shutout on the trot Naeher will surely have caught national team coach Jill Ellis’ eye, remember Ellis is on record as saying that league form will have a lot to do with her Rio selections.

On that same note, Ellis is sure to be happy with Press’ performance early in the NWSL campaign. Not only has Press scored in back to back weeks, the forward’s overall game has been outstanding.

Washington Spirit  9 3 3 0 0 6 1 5
Portland Thorns FC  7 3 2 0 1 4 2 2
Seattle Reign FC  6 3 2 1 0 5 2 3
Chicago Red Stars  6 3 2 1 0 3 3 0
Houston Dash  4 3 1 1 1 4 4 0
Sky Blue FC  4 3 1 1 1 3 3 0
Orlando Pride  3 3 1 2 0 4 4 0
Western New York Flash  3 3 1 2 0 1 4 -3
FC Kansas City  1 3 0 2 1 1 3 -2
Boston Breakers  0 3 0 3 0 0 5 -5
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Klinsmann Names 40 Provisional Roster for Copa
Klinsmann Names 40 Provisional Roster for Copa avatar

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has named his 40 man Provisional roster for next month’s Copa America Centenario, and as expected, there are a few surprises.

John Brooks was once again the hero. (ISI Photo/Thomas Eisenhuth)

Chandler joins the defense once more. (ISI Photo/Thomas Eisenhuth)

Most of the intrigue around this 40 man group is at the often troublesome left back position, where Brek Shea and Jorge Villafana did not receive a call but Tim Ream, Tim Chandler, Kellyn Acosta, Edgar Castillo, and even forgotten man Eric Lichaj did.

Mix Diskerud was named as one of 15 midfielders despite finding himself relegated to bench duty for New York City FC, and Perry Kitchen got the nod from Klinsmann following his move to Scottish club Heart of Midlothian, undoubtedly the most Game of Thrones sounding club name among the roster invitees.

The versatile Fabian Johnson is listed at midfield, where he has shone this season for Borussia Monchengladbach, although we need only think back to Brazil 2014 to recall that Johnson is the best fullback on this U.S. roster. Johnson played on the right side of the defense in Brazil but is equally adept on either flank.

When the U.S. shockingly fell 2-0 to Guatemala in World Cup Qualifying on March 26, Klinsmann was called to task for playing players out of position, a charge Klinsmann refuted in the wake of that historic loss to Guatemala, who had never previously defeated the U.S in World Cup Qualifiers, or in fact, in any competition since 1988.

It is the usual suspect upfront for the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

It is the usual suspect upfront for the U.S. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Led by Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, the forward pool contains no surprises, although it does provide a promising glimpse into the future with the inclusions of 17- year-old Dortmund sensation Christian Pulisic, Seattle’s suddenly red-hot Jordan Morris, and fast rising Bundesliga II goalscorer Bobby Wood.

But let’s take a quick look at the left back candidates, remembering that all players named to the 23 man Copa roster must come from this preliminary list, with a May 20 decision day looming for Klinsmann and all the national teams.

First the two non-invitees, Brek Shea, and Jorge Villafana. Shea is relatively new to the fullback position and an injury last season robbed the Orlando club man of precious developmental time, and maybe of his chance to make this team. Shea still has all the ingredients to make the grade at the position, Copa may have simply come too soon.

Jorge Villafana’s continued inability to get a look is the bigger surprise. The 26 old Mexican-American earned his place with Chivas USA after winning a contest, Sueno MLS.

But last season the one-time novelty was a key piece in Portland’s MLS Cup run, impressing in both the Conference Final and the Championship match, contributing some lockdown marking first against Dallas’ Fabian Castillo and then against the Crews’ Ethan Finlay. Those performances earned Villafana a $1 million transfer to Santos Laguna in Liga MX, but still no call from U.S. Soccer.

Tim Ream (ISI Photos/Joe Toth)

Tim Ream (ISI Photos/Joe Toth)

That leaves a somewhat imperfect bunch fighting for the left fullback spot. Castillo does not defend well, a problem given the job description and the Copa level competition. Tim Ream is steady but provides little going forward and as a center back, Ream brings center back pace to the wide role. Chandler is back in the mix with Eintracht Frankfurt after a long spell out of favor and can play either fullback position. But Chandler has rarely impressed on national team duty and has often seemed indifferent to the honor.

Acosta is a talented young player, but the FC Dallas man had a nightmare at the fullback position in U23 Olympic Qualifiers versus Colombia and looks far more comfortable as a defensive midfielder.

Lichaj is the roster’s biggest shock, the Notts Forest defender has long been viewed as the defense’s version of Benny Feilhaber, deserving of a call-up, but destined never to receive one.

Unlike Benny, however, Lichaj refrained from public pronouncements on the topic and amusing, if possibly detrimental stunts; see Feilhaber modeling a Klinsmann jersey at Sporting KC’s jersey day.

Lichaj is another that can play on the right or left side, bring a robust physicality to either wing.

We will have more on this roster in the coming days.

Here is the upcoming schedule as the U.S MNT prepare for the June 3, opener in Santa Clara, California vs Colombia.

U.S.A. vs Puerto Rico: Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Sunday, May 22 (12 p.m. ET; FS1, UniMas, UDN).
USA vs. Ecuador: Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. May 25 (7 p.m. CT; ESPN2 and UniMas)
U.S.A. vs. Bolivia: Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. May 28(7 p.m. CT; FS1 and Univision networks).


GOALKEEPERS (5): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Ethan Horvath (Molde), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (15): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Ventura Alvarado (Club America), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Monterrey), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea FC), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland)

MIDFIELDERS (12): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (FC Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Perry Kitchen (Heart of Midlothian), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Danny Williams (Reading FC), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS (8): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund),Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

MLS Expansion is in the news again and so are refereeing decisions, the L.A. Galaxy, and Didier Drogba, but first, we have to ask, does NYCFC have a …

1) Pirlo Problem?

It was just last June that Andrea Pirlo started against Barcelona in a losing effort in the Champions League Final. A 3-1 loss left “The Maestro” in tears that night, as Pirlo turned the page on that chapter of his career.

Pirlo’s 13 game intro to MLS was not all that was hoped, but with a decent rest and a full pre-season under his belt, NYCFC fans hoped to see the real Pirlo in 2016.

Pirlo's signing originally brought excitement to the NYCFC fans.(ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

Pirlo’s signing originally brought excitement to the NYCFC fans.(ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

Instead with Pirlo’s fellow big name, big money DP Frank Lampard out since pre-season with the world’s most stubborn calf injury, NYCFC’s rookie coach Patrick Vieira saw fit to bench Pirlo for last Saturday’s 2-0 loss in Philadelphia. Pirlo was not injured, Vieira said simply “it’s my decision. I’m just trying to choose the best team to win football matches, regarding the team we’re going to play against, on how we can hurt them and how we can defend their strengths.”

And Vieira gave no assurances that Pirlo would be in the lineup for tonight’s (Wednesday’s) home match versus Montreal. So, does Vieira have a Pirlo problem?

Well, yes and no. On the plus side, Pirlo has been active offensively and even with a zero beside his name in the stat sheets assist column, it is clear that the Italian legend retains the vision and the skills to deliver a good pass.

No, the problem lies on the other side of the ball where Vieira has struggled to find the right midfield combination to fortify the team’s defense. Pirlo is a defensive liability in the coach’s preferred 4-3-3, and while the team looked a bit more solid when Vieira paired Pirlo with defensive minded midfielder Federico Bravo, NYC’s lack of punch is amplified with Pirlo in street clothes.

So, what to do with Pirlo is clearly is a conundrum, if not a quite a problem for NYCFC. How will Vieira sort the situation out? Tonight’s lineup at Yankee Stadium should provide some clues.

2) Detroit City and Don Garber are in the Flirting Stage

And it just got serious. On Tuesday NBA rival owners Tom Gores, Detroit Pistons, and Dan Gilbert, Cleveland Cavaliers announced that they had teamed up to bid for an MLS franchise. This announcement comes just a week after MLS Commissioner Don Garber named Detroit as a top candidate for future expansion.

Don Garber named Detroit as the  (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Don Garber named Detroit as the top candidate.  (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The two potential MLS owners attended Michigan State and Quicken Loans founder Gilbert is widely known for his efforts to revitalize Detroit, efforts that included moving the company’s headquarters to the Motor City.

3) L.A. Galaxy and Expectations

The Galaxy look old, L.A. looks stale, the pieces don’t fit. These are the type of things MLS’ most successful franchise hears when it hits any sort of bump in the road. And the Galaxy heard plenty when it opened the 2016 MLS season just days after taking a 4-0 pasting from Santos Laguna. The road loss knocked L.A. out of the CCL and raised questions about the team’s winter reload.

A 4-1 home win over DC United to open league play calmed some frayed nerves but a 1-0 loss in Colorado and a 3-1 win at the StubHub over San Jose led to a pair of concerning ties, 0-0 at Vancouver and 1-1 at home to Portland.

Yes, there were injuries to key players like Steven Gerrard, Giovani Dos Santos, and goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, but a suspension to Nigel de Jong for taking out Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe and a 2-1-2 record through five games had tongues wagging.

Mike Magee (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Mike Magee is performing well for the Galaxy.  (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Then Bruce Arena’s crew flipped the script with a pair of dominant displays, first a 4-1 win in Houston, then a 5-2 thumping of previously unbeaten Real Salt Lake. Dos Santos is scoring goals, Gerrard is performing well and Gyasi Zardes and Mike Magee are making up for the absence of Robbie Keane while Brian Rowe is trying to Wally Pipp Dan Kennedy – Google it – just like Jesse Gonzalez did last year in Dallas.

What does it all mean? It means that come playoff time the rest of the league can expect to hear from the Galaxy.

4) Drogba Plays…

Sometimes, when the turf is right. The field at Yankee Stadium is rarely noted in a positive light, but tonight the grass surface in the Bronx has been approved and so the 38-year-old star is set to play his fourth game of the MLS season.

Drogba looks set to play (ISI Photos/Michael Jarosz)

Drogba looks set to play (ISI Photos/Michael Jarosz)

Montreal has done fine in his absence, the Impact is tied for first place with Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference with 12 points from a 4-3-0 record. Drogba has played just three of the seven games, starting once and scoring one goal.

Of course, the powerful striker bossed the league in 2015, notching 9 goals in 11 games, so New York’s shaky defense could be in for a torrid time tonight when Drogba teams with Ignacio Piatti.

5) Oh, those referees

It is a tough job, we know. And someone’s got to do it. We get it and replay and high-definition television’s make it easier than ever to criticize. Right, right. It’s just that there is so very much to be critical of.

Karl Ouimette (L) should have been shown a red card. (ISI Photos/Celso Bayo)

Karl Ouimette (L) should have been shown a red card. (ISI Photos/Celso Bayo)

The latest controversy came Sunday at Red Bull Arena. Orlando was leading 1-0 when Karl Ouimette dragged/scissored Cyle Larin to the ground just outside the box. Watched live the infraction seemed a sure penalty and a red card for Ouimette as last defender back. Replays showed the initial contact took place outside the box, leaving a free kick and a red card as a possible outcome. But there was no whistle, play continued and New York went the other way and equalized through Mike Grella.

With the controversy still fresh PRO boss Peter Walton conceded on the Fox Sports 1 broadcast that the Red Bulls defender should have seen red for his challenge.

Upon further review, the embarrassment index for the league and the referee’s association has only deepened with this subsequent statement from Paul Rejer, the PRO training and development manager, who said to MLSSoccer.com. “This should have been a red card to Ouimette for DOGSO (Denial of Obvious goal scoring opportunity).” “The referee was caught behind play and didn’t anticipate the long ball from the ‘keeper which meant he was too far behind play.

“When the ball was played Larin was actually offside, which was missed by the [assistant referee].”

So, we get it. It is a difficult job. But performances like the one turned in by Hilario Grajeda Sunday night in Harrison, New Jersey simply aren’t good enough for a league with Major League right there in its name.

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NWSL Roundup
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It was a day to celebrate Women’s soccer as an NWSL record 22,403 fans came out to support the Orlando Pride (1W-1L-0D) in the club’s first-ever home game. The Pride responded to the celebratory mood with a 3-1 win over the Houston Dash (1-1-0) with goals coming from Lianne Sanderson, and Alex Morgan following an opening own goal to the home team as the Pride built a 3-1 lead.

Morgan looks back to her best. (ISI Photos/Roy K. Miller)

Orlando’s Morgan looks back to her best. (ISI Photos/Roy K. Miller)

A late goal from Houston’s Andressa never threatened to spoil the party, no the only bad note on an otherwise splendid day for the women’s game in the U.S. was the sight of Carli Lloyd walking slowly off of the Citrus Bowl pitch after only 12 minutes of action.

With the Olympic Games on the horizon all of the U.S. soccer world held its collective breath, only breathing normally again with Tuesday’s relatively good news that the FIFA Player of the Year had suffered a knee sprain and would be back terrorizing defense in 3-6 weeks, in plenty of time to chase a third consecutive Gold Medal with the U.S. WNT.

With Sunday’s 2-1 away win over Sky Blue FC (1-1-0) the Washington Spirit (2-0-0) remain the lone perfect team in NWSL after just two weeks of play. Goals from a pair of internationals, Ali Krieger (USA) and Diana Matheson (Canada) set the visiting Spirit on the road to victory, spoiling Sky Blues home opener in the process.

Another U.S. player shining in the NWSL. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Krieger is another of the  U.S. players shining in the NWSL. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Sky Blue fought back with a 66th-minute goal from Maya Hayes but the New Jersey-based side could not find the goal it needed to knock Washington off of its perch. The competitive nature of this game saw Kelly O’Hara enter the referee’s book with a yellow card for a hard tackle on fellow U.S. WNT star Crystal Dunn.

Dunn, the 2015 NWSL MVP and leading goal scorer, has gone two games now without scoring but Washington coach Jim Gabarra is hardly panicking, the multi-talented Dunn has chipped in with two assists so far and can be expected to find the range shortly.

On the strength of a first ever, NWSL goal from local girl made good, Casey Short, the Chicago Red Stars (1-1-0) defeated the Western New York Flash (1-1-0) 1-0 at home Saturday afternoon.

The Red Stars got the game’s only goal on a fine team play with Christen Press, Sofia Huerta, and Vanessa DiBernardo all involved in the build-up to the Naperville, Illinois products tally.

Press was lively throughout the match. (ISI Photos/Daniel Bartel)

Press was lively throughout the match. (ISI Photos/Daniel Bartel)

U.S. international attacker Press was lively throughout and looked set to enter her name in the scoresheet on an audacious 35-yard chip only to see WNY keeper Sabrina D’Angelo scramble back and tip her shot away.

The Seattle Reign (1-1-0) were rude guests visiting Massachusetts Sunday and coming away with a 3-0 victory, leaving the Boston Breakers (0-2-0) as the only club to emerge from the first two week’s of NWSL play without a point to its name.

This game was never really in doubt once Manon Melis staked the visitors to a ninth-minute lead, which Seattle doubled via Rachel Corsie in the 39th minute. Both first half Reign goals were orchestrated by Kim Little who earned assists on the brace before capping her day with a nicely taken second half goal.

Little in action against Boston. (ISI Photos/Mike Gridley)

Little was once again the star for Seattle. (ISI Photos/Mike Gridley)

That second stanza strike from the Scottish international short-circuited a Boston revival that was sparked when influential Seattle midfielder Jessica Fishlock limped off with an ankle injury late in the first half. The Reign will be without the Welsh woman for four to six weeks.

Two-time NWSL defending champions FC Kansas City (0-1-1) hung on against the visiting Portland Thorns (1-0-1) to gain its first point of the season despite playing with 10 players for most of the second half.

The Blues took a 30th minute lead on a diving header by Shea Groom but it would be the same player that put KC at a disadvantage when she was sent to the lockers following a second yellow card early in the final 45.

 Lindsey Horan  was once again on the scoresheet for Portland. (ISI Photos/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Lindsey Horan was once again on the scoresheet for Portland. (ISI Photos/Craig Mitchelldyer)

FCKC faced a challenge in holding off the Thorns with just that one goal lead and sure enough, Lindsey Horan broke the deadlock in the 78th minute. It was the second goal in as many NWSL games for the U.S. WNT star who turned professional right out of high school with French side PSG where she notched 46 goals in 58 games for the Parisians.

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A Stop at Miazga’s Old Home Raises Comparisons for Orlando’s Redding
A Stop at Miazga’s Old Home Raises Comparisons for Orlando’s Redding avatar

Harrison, N.J. – It was almost exactly 13 months ago that New York Red Bulls 19-year-old center back Matt Miazga started his first game of the 2015 season, a 2-0 home win for New York over DC United. Miazga was solid that day against United but his rough edges showed too in a clumsy tackle that gifted DC a penalty kick that Chris Pontius would fail to convert.

Matt Miazga was shown red (ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Matt Miazga in action for the U-23′s(ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Miazga was a well thought of prospect at the time but there few, let’s be honest, there were no pundits who would have been bold enough that day to predict the New Jersey native’s meteoric 10-month ascent from aspiring MLS player and U.S. youth international to full national teamer and Chelsea player.

And so comparisons were difficult to avoid on Sunday night when, in the same Red Bull Arena that Miazga so recently called home, Tommy Redding another 19-year-old U.S. MNT central defender came to town as a member of visiting Orlando SC. Redding and his club would head back to the Sunshine State on the wrong the wrong side of a 3-2 loss on Sunday night, but Redding can find hope in Miazga’s path.

Tommy Redding in action for Orlando. (Getty Images)

Tommy Redding (L) in action for Orlando. (Getty Images)

GotSoccer spoke to Redding late Sunday night and even after a difficult match that saw the young defender taught some hard lessons by Bradley Wright-Phillips and the Red Bulls resurgent attack, Redding refused to hang his head.

“I think it’s very important for my development to be going against guys like him (Wright-Phillips) and David Villa,” Redding told GotSoccer in the visitors locker room at Red Bull Arena on Sunday. Redding believes that going against, “those really well-known strikers at such a young age, learning from those guys and learning their movements will only benefit me going forward.”

Like Miazga, Redding came to MLS on a Homegrown Player contract, unlike his elder, Redding signed before his club had even entered the league. In 2014, a 17-year-old Redding cut his teeth in Orlando’s USL side but the youngster saw the pitch just twice when the Lions made the jump to MLS last season.

Orland's coach Adrian Heath's team will be playing their soccer in(Getty Images)

Orland’s coach Adrian Heath .(Getty Images)

Orlando coach Adrian Heath acknowledges that “it’s difficult for him, he’s learning on the job, at times,” but even after Sunday’s loss, Heath told GotSoccer, “we feel as if he’s developing.”

Playing time is key to that development and a look at Miazga’s route to a regular starting position in MLS could be instructive as we project Redding’s future.

18-year-old Miazga made his Red Bulls debut in 2013, although that would be his one appearance on the season. A year later the young back made six starts and came off of the bench once before losing the trust of then coach Mike Petke and spending the rest of the campaign rooted to the bench.

With those two appearances as an 18-year-old Redding has Miazga beat, and despite Sunday’s result Heath told GotSoccer on Sunday that, “we’re not worried about playing him now.”

Heath described Redding as, “becoming more and more of a figure in the team,” a notion in line with the teenagers thinking. “Last year,” Redding told GotSoccer, “was my first year in the league and I was just getting the hang of it and this year,” Redding explained without so much as a trace of irony, “I feel I’m more of a veteran, not so much just the young guy on the team.”

That feeling is a crucial part of the process, one Miazga went through last year at Red Bull Arena, and one he is just beginning at Stamford Bridge. Redding has represented the U.S. at the U18, U19 and U20 grade, recently playing three of the team’s five matches at the Dallas Cup, but the Orlando man has yet to have as defining an experience as the one Miazga experienced with the U20 team last year.

Miazga in action for Chelsea. (ISI Photos/Kieran McManus)

Miazga in action for Chelsea. (ISI Photos/Kieran McManus)

Miazga had been through a challenging U20 CONCACAF World Qualifying campaign before that first 2015 club start last March, and his growth was accelerated at the U20 World Cup last spring in New Zealand.

Redding doesn’t have that stage available to him but Heath believes, “if you’re playing well in this league opportunities are there for the young guys now. If they get in the team and play well, there’s a lot of eyes watching them.”

It’s not that he is itching to get out, as pointedly Miazga was, but Redding told GotSoccer, “ I think all the young players who make a name for themselves here and overseas are all inspirations to me and many other young players because they’re so relatable, just because of age, so guys like him definitely make it easier to push yourself.”

For now, the primary focus of that push will be to keep the job he has earned in Orlando and continue to progress through the U.S. MNT ranks, for now at the U20 level.

Like any young player Redding will have some rough moments, in fact, he had some yesterday. But Heath isn’t worried about his defender’s youth telling GotSoccer, “in Europe, you know what it’s like, if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.” So far Redding has been good enough that Heath has left veteran MLS defender Aurelien Collin on the bench in favor of the youngster.

Heath sees in Redding someone, “who can develop into a really good center back, who can come out with the ball.” That fits with the passing style Orlando is trying to play and Heath adds that if Redding, “keeps listening, and learning, and developing, then he’s got a really big future.”

13 months ago Miazga was a promising young American with “a really big future,” still trying to prove that he was good enough for Major League Soccer. The hype machine had yet to click into gear around the New Jerseyan who is now going through the whole process all over again, only this time on a much bigger stage.

For Redding, that process is just beginning. How far can he take it? Let his coach tell it. “Oh, he’s a good kid. He wants to do well and we keep on at him every day, and he wants that.” “He wants to be a pro,” Heath told GotSoccer Sunday night at Matt Miazga’s old stomping ground, “so he has a chance.”

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Summer is Coming
Summer is Coming avatar

U.S. soccer will be dominated this summer by the women’s bid to win a third consecutive Olympic Gold Medal in August, and to get paid accordingly, while the men try to erase the memory of a dismal run that saw the side fail miserably at the Gold Cup, the subsequent CONCACAF Cup and in two attempts at qualifying for the Rio Olympics.

Klinsmann had stated that only a win would do. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Klinsmann will have time to look at multiple players. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

The June schedule should be a boon to U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann who will populate his 23 man roster with MLS and Liga MX players in mid-season form, complemented by players fresh from just completed European competitions.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard will join the U.S. MNT more or less directly after wrapping up his fine Everton career, even before he makes his Colorado Rapids debut. But if Howard has secured his future, his co-number one Brad Guzan leads a group of U.S. nats that face important summer time decisions, decisions that will impact both the players involved and the path of the U.S. MNT.

Guzan, DeAndre Yedlin, and Bobby Wood will be “in the shop window” at the Copa America Centenario this June, while Matt Miazga also has a chance to make the roster that faces Colombia, Costa Rica, and Paraguay in Group A play beginning on June 3rd with Colombia, in Santa Clara, California.

Hyndman (ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Hyndman will probably miss out on a spot. (ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Less likely to make the Copa panel, but perhaps as important to the near and long term future of the U.S. MNT is another promising young player whose next career move will be closely monitored by Klinsmann, former U.S. U20 captain Emerson Hyndman.

First, let’s take a look at the first group.

Brad Guzan – The 31-year-old goalkeeper has endured a rough couple of seasons with the recently relegated Villians, losing his job earlier this season, before earning it back. Then again, not much has been easy for the Illinois native since his 2008 move from the since folded Chivas USA to the Birmingham club.

First, Guzan had to sit behind U.S. legend Brad Friedel and then Republic of Ireland number one Shay Given and was even released by Aston Villa following the 2011-12 season. But Guzan signed a new deal with Villa and pushed Given aside to establish himself as a solid Premier League keeper.

Brad Guzan should benefit from this as it will give him an opportunity to prove himself. (Getty Images)

Brad Guzan and co have struggled in the EPL and are now relegated to the Championship. . (Getty Images)

Now, with Aston Villa headed down a level to the Championship budget cuts will be made and Guzan and Villa will have decisions to make.

Where might Guzan land if he does elect to move, and is a return to MLS a possibility? When new Fire coach Veljko Pauonivic dropped a long time starter Sean Johnson for Matt Lampson at the start of the season, a return home to Chicago seemed a possibility for Guzan. But following a 4-3 opening day loss to NYCFC Lampson and his defense have been stingy, pitching three shutouts while allowing just three goals in five matches.

Guzan could stay with Villa and count on a quick return to the Premier League or he could make a move to another club in the English top flight. His willingness to fight for his position could see Guzan take a potential backup job in the Premier League and bet on himself to unseat the presumed starter.

Or perhaps Guzan will once again follow in the footsteps of Friedel (Turkey) and Kasey Keller (Spain, Germany) and try his luck on the European continent? The market might not be red hot for a just relegated goalkeeper, but at 31 Guzan should just be entering his prime marking this as a very important summer for Jurgen Klinsmann’s co-number one.

DeAndre Yedlin – Yedlin parlayed a breakthrough at the 2014 World Cup into a contract with Tottenham Hotspurs, who eventually shipped the speedster off to Sunderland for some needed EPL seasoning.

Yedlin has been starting for Sunderland this season. (Getty Images)

Yedlin has been starting for Sunderland this season. (Getty Images)

Following a challenging but ultimately successful campaign for Yedlin with Sunderland, who are still in a relegation dogfight, it is clear that the former Seattle Sounder has both the skill and the fortitude to make it in the Premier League.

The question is will that be with Spurs and if so, then when. Yedlin showed himself able for the defensive rigors of fullback play with Sunderland but Spurs are loaded at the position. Kyle Walker could block Yedlin for years but the talented Englishman could be moved for the right price if Mauricio Pochettino deems Yedlin ready to fight Kieran Trippier for Walker’s spot.

If Sunderland survives this relegation battle the loan could be made permanent, if not Tottenham could loan Yedlin to another Premier League side in need of a speedy fullback. I don’t see Yedlin accepting a loan to a Championship side but if Tottenham elect to stand pat with its current fullback core Yedlin could be on the transfer block.

Another Premier League club could come in, but Roma was hot for the Yedlin’s signature before Spurs won out, might I Giallorossi come back in for the 22-year-old?

Bobby Wood – After years spent trying to establish himself in Germany, Wood has positioned himself nicely for a move from the Bundesliga 2 to the top tier of the German game with a 17 goal season for FC Berlin, so far.

Bobby Wood (ISI Photos/Thomas/Eisenhuth)

Bobby Wood has set a new American record in the Bundesliga.(ISI Photos/Thomas/Eisenhuth)

Wood has already passed Conor Casey with the most goals by an American in the Bundesliga 2, and with four league games remaining the 23-year-old Hawaiian is just two goals behind the league’s co- leaders.

Next up for Wood is a potential career-making move. Hamburg is one Bundesliga side said to be interested in Wood and there should be more. Wood could potentially make a move away from Germany but the smarter move would seem to be to a Bundesliga side looking for goals.

Matt Miazga – The 20-year-old caused quite a stir in U.S. soccer circles when he completed a move to perennial Premier League powers Chelsea in January. Some said it was a step too far, too soon for the lanky center back and early returns don’t entirely refute that theory.

Matt Miazga was shown red (ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Matt Miazga has made two starts for the Blues.(ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Miazga has had two starts for the Blues, one good, one bad. That second start, against Swansea, was a bit of a disaster, with New Jersey’s finest pulled at the intermission. But growing pains are a part of the process for any young player. The question for Miazga is what’s next, and where will that growth take place.

Antonio Conte will take over from Guus Hiddink prior to next season and there is no way of knowing what the experienced tactician makes of Miazga at this point. Conte is known for playing three center backs, will that benefit Miazga? Or will the current Italy national team manager bring the likes of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci over to London to solidify the Chelsea defense.

Andreas Christensen in action for Chelsea. (ISI Photos/Jed Leicester)

Andreas Christensen in action for Chelsea. (ISI Photos/Jed Leicester)

Chelsea also has an army of loan players stashed all across Europe, players like Andreas Christensen, who just turned 20 and is just wrapping up a season on loan with Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach that has reportedly piqued the interest of no less than German superpower Bayern Munich.

A loan could be a good thing as long as Miazga sees plenty of pitch at his temporary home and he may get another chance or two to impress at Chelsea before the 2015/16 season closes. Either way, Miazga remains a talented young player with a bright future.

Emerson Hyndman – The 20-year-old midfielder has been with Fulham since signing a youth deal at 15-year-old in 2011 but his time at Craven Cottage appears to be just about up with top clubs like Manchester United rumored to be set to swoop.

Those rumors may well be a bit fantastic but the skillful midfielder looks set to move on after scoring his first professional goal, a stoppage time winner to give Fulham a key victory in its relegation battle.

That the goal came on Hyndman’s 20th birthday was icing on the cake for the distributor, who found himself banished to the bench for much of the season after making clear his intention to test the market.

Following Hyndman’s breakthrough Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic second guessed the club’s strategy. “He’s probably one of the more talented players. I am little bit disappointed with myself that I haven’t found more minutes for him this season.”

Jokanovic likely won’t get the chance to make up for that oversight next season, and now it is up to Hyndman and his advisors to find the right landing spot for the 20-year-old to continue his career. If they do Hyndman could soon add to his tally of one full international cap.

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NWSL Round Up
NWSL Round Up avatar

This weekend the National Women’s Soccer League became the first top flight professional women’s league in the United States to last into season four, outlasting the WUSA and the WPS, neither of which survived past year three.

Sam Witteman was Orlando's 1st ever college pick. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Sam Witteman was Orlando’s 1st ever college pick. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The U.S. Soccer-backed NWSL played a full slate of games over the weekend with all 10 teams seeing action, including expansion side Orlando, who dropped a 2-1 decision to the Portland Thorns.

Let’s take a look at that result and all the rest scores from Season 4- Week 1 in the NWSL.

Home teams listed first.

Seattle Reign 1-2 Sky Blue FC

With a new coach, Christy Holly, and six NWSL debutantes, Sky Blue FC were long shots going into Sunday’s season opener in Seattle. Oh, and did I mention that the Reign had never lost at Memorial Stadium?

No, well, that’s okay, the have now. Two of the six league newcomers accounted for the Sky Blue goals, although Tasha Kai, who scored the opener, is anything but a frightened rookie.

Tasha Kai (ISI Photos/Jane Gershovich)

Tasha Kai scored the opener. (ISI Photos/Jane Gershovich)

The 32-year-old is a former U.S. WNT Olympic and World Cup veteran that chose to step away from soccer after a WPS stint that included a stop with the WPS version of Sky Blue FC. And what did Kai do to keep fit during her soccer sabbatical? She played rugby with the U.S.A. 7’s.

So frightened? No.

Kelly Conheeney scored the other Sky Blue goal just about a month after impressing Holly at an open tryout. And then there is goalkeeper Karen Casey. The 2016 3rd round draft choice is coming off of an All-American season at Wake Forest University, so she is not unaccomplished. It’s just that the Reign are backstopped by the All-World keeper Hope Solo, so Casey had to be pleased to outperform the World Cup and Olympic Gold Medal winner.

FC Kansas City 0-1 Western New York Flash

In another surprise result on Saturday, The Western New York Flash defeated two-time defending league champion FC Kansas City on a 72nd-minute penalty kick by U.S. WNT defender Sam Mewis.

Samantha Mewis has closed the season on a high. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Samantha Mewis scored the only goal of the game. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Mewis’ national team co- captain Becky Sauerbrunn got caught out on a handball to give WNY the break it needed to erase the goose egg from the visitors side of the ledger and the Flash escaped the midwest with the win when another U.S. international, Heather O’Reilly banged her stoppage time free kick off of the post.

Houston Dash 3-1 Chicago Red Stars

The Red Stars scored first after just 13 minutes via U.S. WNT star Christen Press but the Dash were not to be denied in front of a crowd of 7,440 fans at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium.

Houston’s GM/coach duo Brian Ching and Randy Waldron had three first round picks in the 2016 NWSL Draft and if opening day is anything to go by the Dash picked wisely.

Rachel Daly got her NWSL career off to a good start. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

Rachel Daly got her NWSL career off to a good start. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

6th pick Rachel Daly scored the equalizer 22 minutes into her debut, before setting up FIFA Women’s Player of the Year Carli Lloyd in the 51st minute. Daly also had a role to play in Houston’s third goal, scored by the number eight pick in the first round of the Draft, forward Janine Beckie.

Daly was recognized as the NWSL Player of the Week for her efforts as the Dash laid down a marker with a decisive first win of the season.

Portland Thorns FC 2-1 Orlando Pride

Portland fell behind 2-1 in the 12th minute on a Steph Catley free kick, with the defender earning the honor of scoring the first goal in Orlando history. The Thorns fought back, giving the crowd of 16, 073 plenty to cheer about as goals by Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Lindsey Horan claimed the spoils for the home team.

 Lindsey Horan and Dagny Brynjarsdottir were the goal scores for Portland. (ISI Photos/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Lindsey Horan and Dagny Brynjarsdottir were the goal scores for Portland. (ISI Photos/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Portland’s revival was sparked by playmaker Tobin Heath, who assisted on both Portland scores. Portland coach Mark Parsons revealed after the game that he fired up his troops with a halftime speech reminding that, “we’ve got *%#$* Tobin Heath.”

Washington Spirit 1-0 Boston Breakers

Midfielder Joanna Lohman gave the Washington Spirit a 1-0 lead just three minutes into Saturday’s opener with a spectacular bicycle kick goal that Spirit made it hold up to give coach Jim Gabarra a win in his first game since moving down I-95 after coaching Sky Blue.

Lohman and Co celebrating the game winner. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Lohman and Co celebrating the game winner. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

2015 MVP and goal-scoring leader Crystal Dunn turned provider Saturday when she crossed for Lohman’s acrobatic strike.

Houston Dash  3 1 1 0 0 3 1 2
Sky Blue FC  3 1 1 0 0 2 1 1
Portland Thorns FC  3 1 1 0 0 2 1 1
Western New York Flash  3 1 1 0 0 1 0 1
Washington Spirit  3 1 1 0 0 1 0 1
Seattle Reign FC  0 1 0 1 0 1 2 -1
Orlando Pride  0 1 0 1 0 1 2 -1
FC Kansas City  0 1 0 1 0 0 1 -1
Boston Breakers  0 1 0 1 0 0 1 -1
Chicago Red Stars  0 1 0 1 0 1 3 -2
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MLS – Big 5
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It was a big week for young Americans in MLS and beyond, so let’s get to it keeping in mind that…

1) You Never Forget Your First

Professional goal, that is. And for Seattle Sounders 21-year-old striker Jordan Morris, his memory will be doubly sweet; his 71st-minute tally held up as the match-winner in the Sounders 2-1 win Saturday in Philadelphia.

While still playing for Stanford University Morris earned eight full U.S. MNT caps and he scored his first international goal, versus Mexico no less, one year and one day before Saturday’s professional icebreaker.

Morris (Getty Images)

Morris to off to a good start.  (Getty Images)

Morris could have turned pro with German outfit Werder Bremen but the Mercer Island, Washington native elected to stay home with Seattle. Making a different decision was the pride of Hershey, Pennsylvania Christian Pulisic, whose rapid rise through the Borussia Dortmund system was rewarded with the first professional goal of his career on Sunday versus Hamburg.

The 17-year-old became the fourth youngest ever goal scorer in the German top flight and with Pulisic’s full U.S. MNT debut recently behind him, when American soccer fans laid their heads on their pillows Sunday night they slept the sleep of the contented, heads full with sweet dreams of Pulisic and Morris filling foreign nets and of better days to come for the U.S. MNT.

2) Let’s Play Two. Twice the Pleasure, Twice the Pain from Midweek Games

Similar to a baseball doubleheader the midweek/weekend soccer twin bill can bring heartache or happiness in double doses, that is unless your team splits, leaving you right back where you started 180 minutes and thousands of miles later.

Kevin Doyle of the Colorado Rapids.(ISI Photos/Celso Bayo)

Kevin Doyle of the Colorado Rapids.(ISI Photos/Celso Bayo)

FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids emerged from the busy schedule with a pair of wins for six valuable points, Sporting KC joined the New York Red Bulls as two-time losers, and as for Portland and San Jose, neither side progressed nor faltered.

This week’s double dip has shown up in the standings with the Western Conference especially impacted as Sporting KC slid down the table to fourth place while Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids raced past them into second and third place respectively.

First place Dallas is hardly a surprising phrase but what about “playoff-bound Colorado?” It is still early to be printing up postseason ducats but a 2-1 win in Kansas City followed by a 2-1 Snow Classico II over the reeling New York Red Bulls is to be applauded, and even though the Raps gave up a goal to the toothless NYRB attack, it was just the one in keeping with a season-long trend in which Pablo Mastroeni’s side has yet to concede more than one goal in any of the team’s seven matches.

3) The Big Least?

Sitting atop the MLS Eastern Conference with 12 points from a 4-2-0 record the Montreal Impact have been the one team in the East that can actually have been said to impress this season. Second place Philadelphia has surprised and Orlando City has shown promise, after that, the East has been inconsistent, Toronto and New England, frustrating, NYCFC, somewhat promising, Chicago, frustrating, again, DCU and confusing Columbus and the Red Bulls.

Portland have got off to a slow start. (Getty Images)

Portland have got off to a slow start. (Getty Images)

Meanwhile out West, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver have been slow to start. Houston have been explosive, but also a shambles, San Jose have been ok, maybe even pretty good, L.A. have battled the injury bug and survived, Sporting KC started fast before a two-loss week, and Colorado and RSL have started surprisingly well and trail just FCD who have gotten untracked after an up and down start and look ready to rumble.

A couple of quick, if early numbers that demonstrate the Western Conference current superiority. San Jose sit in sixth place in the West, tied with Los Angeles on 11 points. 11 points would be good for second place in the Big Least, and that second place club would trail the first place Impact by a single point.

The second number? One. As in one win. From fifth place New England through the 10th place New York Red Bulls, every team in the Conference has amassed one win each. Other than cellar-dwelling Houston, every team out West has a minimum of two w’s in the standings.

4) Drogba and Jones Back and Making it Look Easy

Didier Drogba has returned from his self-imposed turf exile while Jermaine Jones is back from his league-mandated sabbatical earned from last year’s playoff meltdown and returning veterans are making this whole MLS thing look a bit too easy.

Drogba (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Drogba scored early.(ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

While the New York Red Bulls have made the act of putting the ball in the other team’s net appear harder than nuclear physics this season, Jones scored just 21 minutes into his Colorado debut while Drogba, who had one previous goalless half an hour earlier in the year, netted just six minutes after jogging onto the lush, natural greenery of the Fire’s Toyota Park.

5) More, More, More is the Watchword in Don Garber’s Ever Expanding MLS

When MLS Commissioner Don Garber came to town last Thursday dangling a potential place in the league, Mayor Kevin Johnson wanted to let the Commissioner know just how badly the California capitol wanted in, so the city threw a midday MLS Block party.

Don Garber (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Don Garber talked about team expansion. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Over 1,000 people attended and Garber went away impressed, saying, “we hope and expect,” that Sacramento will be an MLS city in the relatively near future. Garber said as soon as 2020, which would put Sactown at the front of the cue of the next wave of MLS expansion once the current round wraps up.

While in Sacramento Garber reiterated his previously stated plan to have Atlanta and Minnesota join MLS in 2017, with L.A.F.C and Miami coming on board the following season. Interesting given the trouble the Miami franchise has had in finding a suitable stadium site but Garber expressed confidence that the David Beckham-fronted group will be ready.

Garber also announced the formation of an expansion committee and named St. Louis and Detroit as cities the fledgling committee would rule on. San Antonio and San Diego are two of the other cities frequently linked with the league as the Commissioner continues to push MLS toward his goal of 28 teams.

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U.S. WNT Learn Olympic Foes but state Boycott is ‘On The Table’
U.S. WNT Learn Olympic Foes but state Boycott is ‘On The Table’ avatar

The U.S. WNT won’t have an easy time of it this August in Rio de Janeiro when they look to make it a hat-trick of Olympic Gold Medals. The Americans will be challenged by a tough trio in the opening round where they are drawn against France, New Zealand, and Colombia in Group G.

Ellis will (ISI Photos/Brad Smoth)

The U.S. has beaten both Colombia and France this year. (ISI Photos/Brad Smoth)

Then again, even against a backdrop of player unrest the World Cup Champions are on a high right now having compiled an 11-0-0 record so far in 2016. Jill Ellis’s squad rolled through the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers with a minimum of fuss before emerging from the much more competitive SheBelieves Cup, where the host nation went undefeated against top international sides Germany, France, and England.

And just last week a Colombia team battling far worse economic issues than the U.S. was swept aside by a combined 10-0 score over two matches by a U.S. WNT that is operating at a very high level just now.

After backstopping the U.S. to a 7-0 win in the first game of that twin bill in Hartford, Connecticut last week, Hope Solo brought up one possible concern, “I don’t know if we are peaking a little bit too early for Brazil,” before conceding that, “we looked really good.”

Solo once again led her team to victory. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Solo has concerns about the zika virus. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The controversial keeper has also raised the issue of the Zika virus telling Sports Illustrated back in February, “If I had to make the choice today, I wouldn’t go.” The U.S. number has since changed course on the issue, on Thursday telling the same outlet, “it’s clear there are still so many unknowns and risks involved with going to the Games, but I will compete in Rio and take the necessary precautions to protect myself as best I can.”

And then there is the issue of relations between U.S. Soccer and the members of the Women’s National Team. As we know, the Federation has sued the players, in part because the players refused to waive their right to strike, and the players responded by filing a Wage Discrimination Action versus U.S. Soccer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

After winning in Hartford Solo struck a conciliatory note praising the team’s staff for its professionalism and noting that “at the end of the day, we all want to win when it comes down to Rio, we want to win a back to back World Cup, followed by an Olympic Gold. It’s never been done before,” Solo said, adding, “I think having that common goal just brings us all together.”

Sauerbrunn training in preparation for their friendly agains Colombia. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Sauerbrunn didn’t rule out an Olympic boycott if their complaint is not resolved.  (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Less encouraging was this from team co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn, with Solo one of five signators of the team’s EEOC complaint. Speaking to former U.S. WNT great Julie Foudy, now working for ESPN, Sauerbrunn was asked about a possible Olympic boycott.

“It would still be on the table,” Sauerbrunn said. “We are reserving every right to do so and we’re leaving every avenue open. If nothing has changed and we don’t feel any progress has been made, then it’s a conversation that we’re going to have.”

Sauerbrunn’s comments were consistent with what the lock down defender told GotSoccer when she sat down with us for an exclusive interview in the team’s hotel lobby in Hartford one day prior to that April 6th dismantling of Colombia.

“We felt that U.S. Soccer wasn’t going to meet the compensation objectives that we set for ourselves,” the increasingly vocal Sauerbrunn said then, “and so the talks kind of stagnated and this we felt was the next logical step in order to fight for what we felt we were owed.”

The two sides clearly have work to do before August and so, we will wait to see how this all plays out, and if the U.S. WNT does indeed play in Rio, will these very serious outside issues affect a team that has been known for its laser-like focus in the face of past distractions.

Lloyd had another quiet game and has failed to be the threat she was at the WWC. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Assuming the team does defend its 2008 and 2012 Olympic titles this summer, the Americans will be expected to advance from Group play, most likely with France. The top two teams in each group move on to the quarterfinals, as do the best two third place finishers, so even in a fairly tough group anything other than advancing would be a shock of historical proportions for the world’s number one team.

The other two groups in the 12 team tournament have their challenges as well, even in a tournament that is without 2012 finalists Japan and FIFA’s fourth-ranked team, England. Group E is led by host’s Brazil, sixth-ranked Sweden, coached by Pia Sundhage, who led the U.S. WNT to gold four years ago, and China, with only South Africa an easy touch. Germany, Australia, and Canada make Group F the most treacherous of the three groups with Zimbabwe bringing up the rear.

Below are the groups for the women and men’s tournaments at the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics.

Women’s Olympic Draw

Group E
Brazil (BRA)
China PR (CHN)
Sweden (SWE)
South Africa (RSA)

Group F
Canada (CAN)
Australia (AUS)
Zimbabwe (ZIM)
Germany (GER)

Group G
New Zealand (NZL)
France (FRA)
Colombia (COL)

Men’s Olympic Draw

Group A
Brazil (BRA)
South Africa (RSA)
Iraq (IRQ)
Denmark (DEN)

Group B
Sweden (SWE)
Colombia (COL)
Nigeria (NGA)
Japan (JPN)

Group C
Fiji (FIJ)
Korea Republic (KOR)
Mexico (MEX)
Germany (GER)

Group D
Honduras (HON)
Algeria (ALG)
Portugal (POR)
Argentina (ARG)

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

Unfortunately, this week’s MLS Big – 5 can only start with one item, so here we go.

Nigel De Jong Takes Out Nagbe

For fans of the U.S. MNT Nigel De Jong will forever be reviled as the man who broke Stuart Holden’s leg in a friendly prior to the 2010 World Cup, an injury that was one of a series of blows that eventually cost Holden his career and deprived the U.S. team of a talented midfielder.

De Jong (Getty Images)

De Jong committed a cynical foul on Nagve. (Getty Images)

Other, less Americacentric soccer lovers remember De Jong for his infamous flying kung-fu kick into the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup final. A transgression so blatant that Howard Webb’s decision to allow the Dutch Destroyer to remain on the pitch with just a yellow card remains one of the worst calls in World Cup history.

On Sunday night in Los Angeles referee, Allen Chapman had his own Howard Webb moment when De Jong did what De Jong does, and took out Darlington Nagbe with a reckless, dirty tackle. Somehow when the referee reached into his pocket he produced not the well deserved red card, but instead a yellow card.

When Bruce Arena and the Galaxy signed De Jong before the season the club touted his toughness and was applauded in many corners for adding a hard-nosed veteran. But De Jong’s reputation was no secret. L.A. chose to go into business with De Jong, and now Nagbe, a talented, skill player, the type of player MLS has said it is trying to protect, has paid the price.

Nagbe’s leg wasn’t broken, the Timbers and U.S. MNT midfielder suffered a medial ankle sprain and contusion. De Jong apologized, so what. He eventually apologized to Holden too, but as the saying goes, you can’t unring the bell. Perhaps in De Jong’s case, the saying should be amended to say: you can’t unbreak the leg.

2) Real? Salt Lake

So far, so good for the lone remaining undefeated team in MLS. With Saturday’s 1-0 home win RSL improved to three wins and two draws on the young campaign, even if the RSL goal required a bit of help from their opponents.

Joao Plata got the lone goal to keep RSL's (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

Joao Plata got the lone goal to keep RSL’s undefeated record alive. (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

Joao Plata got the goal, his fourth of 2016, good for a share of the league lead. Plata also has three assists, second in MLS. On Saturday Plata’s tally was gifted to him when Colorado goalkeeper Zac MacMath needlessly tried to get to a ball 10 yards outside the box, a decision he regretted when defender Axel Sjoberg poked the ball over his head.

Plata ran it down and scored. The other key moment in the RSL win came when Aaron Maund made a spectacular diving header save with his keeper Nick Rimando beat.

Two unlikely plays led to Salt Lake’s win, even more unlikely, RSL’s status as the only unbeaten team in MLS.

3) Odd NYCFC Suspensions

When the NYCFC team sheet was released before Saturday night’s match against the Chicago Fire forward Khiry Shelton and midfielder Mikey Lopez were both missing from the 18. Given that the attacker had started three games for the club, missing out only while on international duty with the U.S. U23 side, Shelton’s absence was odd, odder still was the reason given.

NYCFC's Khiry Shelton was excluded from the team due to remarks(Getty Images)

NYCFC’s Khiry Shelton was excluded from the team due to remarks made. (Getty Images)

NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira sat the pair over remarks made on a video that the coach did not care for. After the match, a 0-0 tie with Chicago, Vieira explained. “Khiry and Mikey Lopez were supposed to be part of the team but I was not really pleased about the message on the internet about the video. I think that was disrespectful to Chicago and that is not the message that I want from the players.”

The video seemed harmless enough with Lopez and Shelton joking about the weather at Friday’s training session before saying that they didn’t care who the team was playing on Sunday, with Lopez concluding, “we’re gonna get that W.”

NYC did not get that W, a problem reflected in the team’s record of 0 wins, one loss and three draws from a recent homestand. Come playoff time Vieira could well regret picking up just three points from a possible 12 during this favorable stretch.

Meanwhile Chicago’s new coach Veljko Paunovic seems to have solved his team’s defensive issues, with his surprising number one keeper Matt Lampson twice coming up big against NYC star David Villa as his team registered a third shutout after starting the season with a 4-3 loss at home to New York and a 1-1 tie at Orlando.

4) Opposite Trajectories

When the New York Red Bulls hosted Sporting Kansas City in Harrison, New Jersey on Saturday night the Red Bulls were hoping to get 2015’s highest-scoring attack untracked while Sporting KC looked to rebound from last week’s 2-1 home loss to Real Salt Lake, the club’s first loss of the young campaign.

Red Bull's Head Coach Jesse Marsch  (ISI Photos /Mike Lawrence)

Red Bull’s Head Coach Jesse Marsch (ISI Photos /Mike Lawrence)

NYRB coach Jesse Marsch inserted Sean Davis into the midfield and continued to mix and match his injury-ravaged defense, putting fullback Chris Duvall in at fullback. SKC had injury issues as well, playing without U.S. international CB Matt Besler and then losing another central defender, Kevin Ellis, and fullback Chance Myers to injury during the match.

KC got goals from Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer as New York were shutout yet again. That makes it four shutouts suffered by the 2015 Supporters Shield winners, who have scored in just one game this season, a 4-3 home win over Houston.

The Red Bulls have a quick turnaround with a Wednesday night game in San Jose. Marsch gave off-season Homegrown signing Alex Muyl five minutes versus SKC and fellow 2016 HG, striker Brandon Allen was in the 18. Marsch is unlikely to panic just yet but lead striker Bradley Wright-Phillips is goalless this year, even missing a pk on Saturday, so the NYRB boss might want to try something new against the Earthquakes.

5) Wondo Still Has It

Whenever a player has a breakout season the natural inclination among us cynical human types is to say, ok, great let’s see it again. In the last couple of years, fans of England’s Premiership have asked it of Harry Kane and now Jamie Vardy. Kane has answered firmly in the affirmative, we will have to wait until next year to see if Vardy can follow up.

Wondolowski (Getty Images)

Wondolowski is currently the top scorer in the MLS. (Getty Images)

Over here in the New World Chris Wondolowski had his doubters after his from nowhere success in 2010, but here we are six years later and who should be leading the MLS goalscoring race but the 31-year-old San Jose Earthquake finisher.

Wondo may never live down his World Cup miss versus Belgium but when it comes to MLS, Wondo cannot be doubted. Wondo entered the 2010 MLS season with seven goals to show for six seasons, only to shock the league by banging home 18 to win the Golden Boot.

He followed with 16, and then a league record 27 (shared by Roy Lassiter and Bradley Wright-Phillips), adding 11, 14, and 16 before this year.

Now tied with three other players for the league with four the veteran is still counted on to carry the Earthquakes attack as the only multiple goal scorer on the squad. So, yes Wondo could do it again, and all these years later he’s still at it.

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U.S. Top Colombia
U.S. Top Colombia avatar

Chester, Pa. – The U.S. WNT improved its 2016 record to 11-0-0 with a 3-0 win today over a badly outmatched Colombia side who came out with one intention, to lose by a less lopsided score than they did Wednesday in East Hartford.

Four days ago the U.S. WNT roughed up Colombia 7-0, today Colombia sat deep and frustrated the U.S. at times, although the home team had plenty of chances to make it more.

Oddly, several of those missed opportunities fell to local girl Carli Lloyd who had mentioned on Saturday that she always liked to put on a show for the home crowd.

Llloyd is always looking to get on the scoresheet. (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

Llloyd is always looking to get on the scoresheet. (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

After finishing without a goal Lloyd didn’t lend much credence to the suggestion that she was pressing for a score, at least not any more than usual. “I’m always pressing for a goal,” Lloyd said after the win above the din of screaming fans. “That’s just the life of a soccer player.”

Lloyd’s words echoed Jill Ellis’ answer when the subject was put to her in the coach’s post game press conference. “I wouldn’t say it matters, Carli can play in front of five people and she is going to want to press for a goal.”

The U.S. were finally able to break down the Colombian's defense. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The U.S. were finally able to break down the Colombian’s defense. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Lloyd didn’t get a goal but the Yanks eventually did knock in three to bring the team’s goal difference to an impressive 41 on the year via a 42-1 combined scoreline over 11 games. And Ellis was happy that two of those goals came from free kicks.

The coach noted that “(Lauren) Holiday, and (Megan) Rapinoe, were our players that had taken set pieces for us.” The coach noted that Morgan Brian and Tobin Heath have assumed those duties and complimented Heath’s work in setting up both of Julie Johnston’s goals today.

Johnston scored a brace to help lead her team to a 3-0 victory. (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

Johnston scored a brace to help lead her team to a 3-0 victory. (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

“I thought Tobin’s vision today was phenomenal. She saw the spaces, knew J.J. makes that run consistently, so I credit Tobin with the service and J.J. with the bravery and the execution.”

For her part, “J.J.” said, “at the end of the day, it’s all Tobin. Tobin played the set piece right where it needed to be and I was lucky enough to be in the right spot.”

Putting aside Johnston’s modesty, Ellis recognizes the importance of scoring from dead ball situations, which the coach acknowledged, “we haven’t done for a while,” and which she reminds, “is something that’s always been a strength of ours.”

Ellis experimented with Tobin Heath at fullback today and while she did fine against a Colombia side that provided little offensive threat, the skilfull attacker admitted with a smile, “I prefer to be attacking.”

Heath (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

Heath played a more defensive role than usual but was still able to earn herself 2 assists.  (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

In the end, it wasn’t 7-0 and the goals were a little harder to come by today than they might have been. But the U.S. WNT will take a 10-0 two game aggregate over Colombia as a job well done and move on.

Up next is a June 2 date with Japan in Colorado, followed by three more games with details yet to be finalized. Then it is on the summer Olympics where the U.S. WNT will try to claim a third straight Gold Medal, this one in Brazil, the home of the Beautiful Game.

Scoring Summary:   1          2          F
USA                            2          1          3                                              
COL                            0          0          0

USA – Christen Press (Lindsey Horan)          26th minute
USA – Julie Johnston (Tobin Heath)              42
USA – Julie Johnston (Tobin Heath)              79


USA: 21-Alyssa Naeher; 17-Tobin Heath, 8-Julie Johnston, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (6-Whitney Engen, 61), 7-Meghan Klingenberg (5-Kelley O’Hara, 61); 3-Samantha Mewis, 20-Lindsey Horan (23-Allie Long, 61), 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.) (11-Ali Krieger, 73); 12-Christen Press, 16-Crystal Dunn, 2-Mallory Pugh
Subs not used: 1-Hope Solo, 9-Heather O’Reilly, 15-Emily Sonnett
Head coach: Jill Ellis

COL: 1-Catalina Perez, 3-Natalia Gaitan, 14-Nataly Arias, 2-Carolina Arbelaez, 9-Orianica Velasquez, 5-Isabella Echeverri, 6-Liana Salazar, 15-Tatiana Ariza (7-Nicole Regnier, 87), 4-Diana Ospina (10-Yorely Rincon, 87), 16-Leicy Santos, 11-Catalina Usme (18-Yisela Cuesta, 90+1)
Subs not used: 12-Paula Forero, 8-Carolina Pineda, 13-Maria Jaramillo, 17-Leidy Asprilla
Head Coach: Fabian Taborda

Stats Summary: USA / COL
Shots: 22 / 3
Shots on Goal: 10 / 0
Saves: 0 / 7
Corner Kicks: 7 / 1
Fouls: 7 / 9
Offside: 3 / 0 

Misconduct Summary:
COL – Liana Salazar (caution)                                  54th minute

COL – Natalia Gaitan (caution)                               77



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3 Things From the Big U.S. WNT Win
3 Things From the Big U.S. WNT Win avatar

East Hartford, Ct. – A few thoughts after last night’s command performance from the U.S. WNT.

1) Crystal Dunn has to play.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis has stated that she prefers Dunn in the striker position, a spot assumed to belong to Alex Morgan, who has been showing signs of late that she is back to full effectiveness after a long battle with injuries.

Morgan missed Wednesday night’s game with what U.S. Soccer are calling a minor hip issue, allowing Ellis to play Dunn in the middle of a three player forward line flanked by Tobin Heath and Mallory Pugh.

Crystal Dunn was outstanding once again. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Crystal Dunn was outstanding once again. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Dunn was fantastic even inspiring this mid-game tweet from Los Angeles Galaxy defender A.J. De La Garza.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 00.14.33After Wednesday’s game, I asked Dunn if she was concerned that Ellis’ edict could cost her some playing time on this packed roster. “No,” Dunn began, “the Olympics is an 18 person roster and for me, I think versatility is on my side.”

“If she sees me as a forward one day,” Dunn continued, “that’s great, but I would love to believe that I can play just about anywhere on the field.”

She’s right of course, it falls to Ellis to decide just where.

2) The NWSL is making its mark on this team

It is not just that every player on the U.S. team other than 17-year-old Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado/UCLA) plays in the league, although that does reflect well on the NWSL as it gets set for season four.

Allie Long got 2 goals for the U.S. against Colombia.  (ISI Phtos/Brad Smith)

Allie Long got 2 goals for the U.S. against Colombia. (ISI Phtos/Brad Smith)

Here is what Ellis had to say after her team took care of Colombia. After citing Allie Long’s good 2015 season for Portland as a factor in her call up, Ellis was asked when she expected to name her Olympic roster.

The coach said, “early July-ish,” before sharing this. “What I’ve told the players is performance in the league is a factor, making sure they are getting minutes regularly, making sure that they’re staying sharp, I want to see them in that environment.” Ellis added, “it also lets me access and evaluate players in the league.”

Remember that it was just last year that Abby Wambach elected to train on her own to prepare for the 2015 World Cup. Given that context, Ellis’ words must be music to the ears of NWSL officials.

3) Tobin Heath – More than just the Megs

At times over the years, it has seemed that Tobin Heath’s flamboyant skills have overshadowed her abilities as a complete player. The emphasis on the midfielders trickery may have led to the perception of Heath as something of a “luxury” player.

That began to change when Heath started five of the seven matches as the U.S. won the 2015 World Cup, its first since 1999, with Heath scoring a goal in the final.

Ellis agreed that Heath has raised her game. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Ellis agreed that Heath has raised her game. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Ellis didn’t disagree when GotSoccer asked if Heath has raised her game. “First, we’ve asked more output from her,” Ellis revealed at Wednesday’s post-game press conference.

Ellis praised Heath’s decision making and creativity, long staples of the 27 year old’s game, before getting to the crux of it. “I think the confidence of knowing that she’s an impact player that we rely on now,” Ellis said, adding that she, “is certainly seeing a maturity in her game and a confidence that she incredibly valuable.”

Ellis noted that she has asked Heath to take on a leadership role, and Heath described her approach to that role. “I’m not like a rah, rah person,” Heath told the press after the win over Colombia. She sees herself as more of a lead by example type joking, “I’ve been on this team long enough, so I guess I should know how it works by now.”

As for that praise from the coach? “It’s a really nice compliment,” the winger said noting that she feels healthy, “and really good about my football right now.”

It may be because the team is finally coming around to Heath’s preferred possession style of play after years of success with a brawnier brand of soccer.

“I feel really good about the way that we’re trying to play,” she explained. “I think it’s really great to have people with a lot of soccer sense on the field, with good feet, so it’s really positive.”

And don’t worry the “luxury” player skills that Heath brings to the table are going nowhere. Colombia’s defenders found that out in the fifth minute when Heath nutmegged a defender to set up a Crystal Dunn shot that was saved.

And when she scored the fifth U.S. goal of the night it was pure Heath. Typically modest, Heath gave all of the credit to Dunn for her perfect cross. “Oh, it was just a fantastic pass from Crystal, who had a fantastic game, she pretty much put it on a platter for me.”

It was, and Dunn did but Heath’s casual looking volley was a fine example of style meeting substance, an equation that Tobin Heath seems to have solved.

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Players Shine as U.S. Rout Colombia
Players Shine as U.S. Rout Colombia avatar

East Hartford, Ct. – The U.S. WNT came to East Hartford on Wednesday night expecting a tough challenge from a Colombia team that has given the World Champions trouble in the past but before the first half was done the Americans had overwhelmed the Cafeteros on the way to a 7-0 victory.

The U.S. got off to a good start. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The U.S. got off to a good start. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

U.S. Soccer sued the players in February and just one week ago the players countered with a wage discrimination complaint but Wednesday night in Connecticut this team once again demonstrated its uncanny ability to ignore outside distractions and get the job done on the field.

Colombia, on the other hand, were unable to deliver the kind of performance most have come to expect from the team that gave the U.S. fits in the 2015 World Cup before eventually succumbing 2-0.

Llloyd was once again influential offensively  for the U.S. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Llloyd was once again influential offensively for the U.S. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

After captaining her side to that surprisingly easy 7-0 victory Carli Lloyd addressed Colombia’s struggle for a decent wage. “I’m really good friends with Yorely Rincon,” Lloyd said, “and she was texting with me and I wasn’t sure if they were actually going to come over here and play.”

Colombia’s federation was said to have come up with some money owed to the team before traveling to the U.S. but according to Lloyd, “they (Colombia) haven’t been paid for four months, especially coming off of a great World Cup.”

“They get paid 70 bucks a day,” Lloyd said, “and they’re not getting that, so it’s just really hard for me to understand.” “We want to help other countries out, I know Australia’s been fighting as well.” “I think,” Lloyd added, “all these team’s need the help of their federations.”

On the field, however, there was no help forthcoming for Colombia, not from a from a U.S. team that is playing at a very high level coming off a challenging SheBelieves Cup and is comprised of players fighting for Olympic places.

Given the scoreline, it is a bit surprising that Colombia kept the home team off of the board until Crystal Dunn broke the deadlock in the 27th minute. But the visitors came out strong at the start playing with confidence and a bit of trademark recklessness.

Allie Long will be delighted that she has opened her scoring tally for the U.S. (ISI Phtos/Brad Smith)

Allie Long will be delighted that she has opened her scoring tally for the U.S. (ISI Phtos/Brad Smith)

But Dunn’s goal opened the floodgates and by the 39th minute the game was done and dusted with the U.S. leading 4-0. Allie Long, Mallory Pugh and Carli Lloyd were the scorers in that impressive 12-minute burst.

Long’s goal was her first international tally and the defensive midfielder would add a second before the night was through, international goals one and two for the Portland Thorns midfielder.

With Morgan Brian joining Alex Morgan on the injured list (both injuries are said to be minor) for this match Long got the chance to add to her four caps, after being out of the national team since 2014.

Long surely made the most of that chance, a chance she later admitted she thought might never come. “I tried not to even think about that,” Long said, “of course there are times that, you know, what if it never happened and I’m doing all this work for nothing, but I always tried to stay positive and moving towards my goal.”

Long took a huge step tonight but the competition for 18 Olympic places is intense and nobody on the American squad hurt their chances versus Colombia.

The U.S. will be delighted with their performance. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The U.S. will be delighted with their performance. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Crystal Dunn, Tobin Heath, and Lloyd led the way, but there were stars all over the pitch for the Yanks who face this same likely demoralized Colombia side again on Sunday outside of Philadelphia.


Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 4 3 7
COL 0 0 0

USA – Crystal Dunn (Carli Lloyd) 27th minute
USA – Allie Long (Lindsey Horan) 32
USA – Mallory Pugh (Carli Lloyd) 33
USA – Carli Lloyd (Mallory Pugh) 39
USA – Tobin Heath (Crystal Dunn) 62
USA – Allie Long (Julie Johnston) 65
USA – Christen Press (Crystal Dunn) 74

USA: 1-Hope Solo; 5-Kelley O’Hara (9-Heather O’Reilly, 69), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (Emily Sonnett, 67), 8-Julie Johnston (6-Whitney Engen, 67), 7-Meghan Klingenberg (11-Ali Krieger, 70); 23-Allie Long, 20-Lindsey Horan (3-Samantha Mewis, 46), 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.); 2-Mallory Pugh (12-Christen Press, 46), 16-Crystal Dunn, 17-Tobin Heath
Subs not used: 21-Alyssa Naeher
Not available: Alex Morgan, Morgan Brian, Ashlyn Harris
Head coach: Jill Ellis

COL: 1-Catalina Perez; 3-Natalia Gaitan (capt.), 14-Nataly Arias, 17-Leidy Asprilla (2-Carolina Arbelaez, 78), 9-Orianica Velasquez; 5-Isabella Echeverri (13-Maria Jaramillo, 90), 6-Liana Salazar 8-Carolina Pineda, 68), 10-Yorely Rincon (18-Yisela Cuesta, 65), 4-Diana Ospina (15-Tatiana Ariza, 84), 16-Leicy Santos, 11-Catalina Usme (7-Nicole Regnier, 87)
Subs not used: 12-Paula Forero
Head coach: Felipe Taborda

Stats Summary: USA / COL
Shots: 24 / 6
Shots on Goal: 14 / 2
Saves: 2 / 5
Corner Kicks: 5 / 1
Fouls: 10 / 18
Offside: 3 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
COL – Orianica Velasquez (caution) 18th minute
COL – Yisela Cuesta (caution) 78

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Catching up with Becky Sauerbrunn
Catching up with Becky Sauerbrunn avatar

Hartford, Ct. – On Tuesday morning, less than one week after five of the most prominent players on the United States Women’s National Team filed a federal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charging U.S. Soccer with wage discrimination, the defending World Cup and Olympic Champions rolled into Hartford, Connecticut to prepare for Wednesday night’s friendly against Colombia.

Just in from sunny Florida the Americans practiced on an artificial turf field just that morning plowed clear of snow at the tony all girls Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut.

(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Becky Sauerbrunn during practice in Hartford. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Afterward, team co-captain, Becky Sauerbrunn, one of the five signees of the players complaint, sat down with GotSoccer in the team’s hotel lobby in downtown Hartford.

“100%,” was the center back’s immediate answer when asked if the EEOC complaint fits in with team’s image as positive role models for girls and women.

“I think this fight goes well beyond women’s soccer,” the World Cup winner told GotSoccer, adding, “it goes beyond women and sports.” In fact, the FC Kansas City stalwart sees this dispute as a battle for, “any woman that has been discriminated against in any workplace.”

Coach Jill Ellis named Sauerbrunn and Carli Lloyd co-captains in January putting the pair at the core of a new leadership group within the team that includes Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, and Megan Rapinoe, the other three signatories on the complaint, along with the co-captains.

Sauerbrunn explained how her name ended up on that EEOC complaint while also shedding some light on how the U.S. WNT players operate behind the scenes.

Sauerbrunn training in preparation for their friendly agains Colombia. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Sauerbrunn training in preparation for their friendly against Colombia. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

“It’s funny,” Sauerbrunn began, “because it was voted upon (by the team) who was going to be in the group that worked most closely with our general counsel, as far as negotiations went. And then there are also other voted upon groups within our team to help out with other things.”

“So, the five of us who signed the complaint are the five of us who worked most closely with the lawyers.”

With the group reporting back to rest of the team the decision was made to file the complaint, in part as a reaction to a lawsuit filed by U.S. Soccer in February. The U.S. Soccer lawsuit contends that the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players union and the governing body, which expired in 2012, is still in effect because the sides later signed a Memorandum of Agreement.

Given that the Memorandum of Agreement expires at the end of 2016 GotSoccer asked Sauerbrunn why the players chose this moment to file its EEOC complaint.

Sauerbrunn was blunt, “we felt that during our negotiations most recently that U.S. Soccer wasn’t going to meet the compensation objectives that we set for ourselves and talks kind of stagnated and this we felt was the next logical step in order to fight for what we felt we were owed.”

A small minority agree that the men should be paid more as they feel they are better. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

A small minority agree that the men should be paid more as they feel that men are better. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Reaction to the player’s action has been, “95 % positive,” Sauerbrunn said, though she admitted that, “ we get the occasional reaction, ‘well, you know, you’re women, you just don’t deserve to get paid as much cause not as good,’ but, for the most part, everyone’s super positive,” the defender said, “and just wondering how they can help.”

Less positive was the news that former U.S. WNT star Abby Wambach had been arrested on DUI charges this weekend in Oregon, so we asked Sauerbrunn for her reaction to her former teammates troubles.
“I appreciate that she owned up to it and took full responsibility,” Sauerbrunn said, adding, “she knows she did a stupid thing and now we just have to take her at her word that she won’t do anything like that again.”

The team has been through the mill more than once with Hope Solo’s legal issues and Sauerbrunn doesn’t believe that Wambach’s troubles will hurt its reputation as role models. “It shouldn’t,” the co-captain said. “I mean Abby is her own person, and once again, she took full responsibility and she knows that she should have set a better example for the people that look up to her and that’s a battle that she has to face now on her own.”

Sauerbrunn added quickly, “We’re obviously going to support her and help her but she did a stupid thing, and she knows it.”

The U.S. women are current World and Olympic Champions. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The U.S. women are current World and Olympic Champions. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Through it all, the U.S. has continued to win games and tournaments including the recent inaugural edition of the SheBelieves Cup which Sauerbrunn joked the players referred to as the “mini World Cup.”

“I think it was an amazing tournament,” Sauerbrunn enthused. “Each game was a battle and it was against a world-class team.” On Wednesday night at Pratt and Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, the U.S will be in for a battle against Colombia, who played the eventual champions close in a rugged 2-0 U.S. win in the 2015 World Cup.

The same sides will go at it again on April 10 at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania, and Sauerbrunn is looking forward to the games. “They’re a wonderful test,” the 30-year old said. “They’re a team that is really comfortable on the ball, has individual flair, they’ve got great set pieces.” “It’s just a great test to see where we are,” Sauerbrunn said with relish.

Could strained relations between U.S. Soccer and its most successful representatives cause problems on the pitch GotSoccer wondered? Sauerbrunn took a breath before answering in the negative. “When we step on the field, there’s no problem. We wouldn’t do the sport or our supporters the disservice of bringing off-field matters onto the field.”

So Colombia, consider yourselves warned if any warning was necessary. And while Sauerbrunn is anything but a braggart, the Olympic field might find a warning in the defenders answer when asked if going to Rio as two-time defending Gold Medalists as well as reigning World Champions might be a burden.

“No, we feel confident,” Sauerbrunn said well, confidently. “We been number one in the world pretty consistently now for a bunch of years, so we always have kind of a target on our back.”

“And,” Sauerbrunn went on, “just because we’re reigning Gold Medalists doesn’t mean that our motivation, inspiration, or our dedication or commitment changes in any way.”

“We’re going (to the Olympics) with the sole goal of winning the entire thing, again.” A warning? No, that wouldn’t be Becky Sauerbrunn’s style. Then again, it might be wise to take it as one.

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