It’s Puli-Time at BVB!
It’s Puli-Time at BVB! avatar

The Bundesliga is back and that means one thing and one thing only for the American soccer fan- it’s Puli-time!

Christian Pulisic in action for the U.S. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Yes, Christian Pulisic is back playing with Borussia Dortmund, so how did he do in week one? Pretty well, thanks. The 18-year-old, he turns 19 on September 19, scored Dortmund’s first Bundesliga goal of the campaign and then capped his afternoon by putting the ball on a platter for Pierre Emerick Aubameyang to set the 3-0 final score at Wolfsburg before departing to enthusiastic applause from Dortmund’s traveling fans.

It was an auspicious start for the young man from Hershey, Pennsylvania and one that his Dortmund side badly needed, given a glut of injuries, along with the slow moving Ousmane Dembele defection to Barcelona.

When Peter Bosz moved over from Ajax to replace Thomas Tuchel, the manager who gave Pulisic his start, there was some concern that the U.S. MNT’s most important player might see his role with the Black and Yellows diminish, instead necessity may increase Pulisic’s stature within the BVB universe.

Marco Reus (R) is out for a lengthy period.  (ISI Photos/Osnapix)

German internationals Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle lead a lengthy injury list, 20-year-old rising star Ousmane Dembele is suspended indefinitely as his push to join Barca drags on and recent reports indicate that Aubameyang could be on the move before the transfer window finally slams shut at month’s end.

It seems like a lot to put on a young American but we have seen Pulisic accelerate his timetable with the U.S. Men’s National Team, moving quickly from promising youngster to the team’s best player, so it would be unwise to bet against the skilled attacker.

Pulisic met 2017-18 head on with a goal in a 2-2 draw versus German giants Bayern Munich in the German Super Cup on August 5, Bayern won on penalty kicks.

So perhaps we should have seen Saturday’s performance in Dortmund’s Bundesliga opener coming. And maybe we should brace ourselves for the pending arrival of America’s first genuine international soccer star.

To reach that lofty status Pulisic will need to continue the progress he made last season, his first full season in the Bundesliga. Playing almost exclusively as a winger at BVB Pulisic has already made the transition to a central attacking and playmaking role with the national team.

Pulisic looks to continue playing wide.  (ISI Photos/Pixathlon)

Odds are that Pulisic will remain a wide threat for Dortmund, although one who likes to cut in on goal, though an Aubameyang move could change that.

With a pair of World Cup Qualifiers coming up on September 1st and 5th versus Costa Rica, at Red Bull Arena, in Harrison, New Jersey, and Honduras, in Honduras, the U.S. will be looking to Pulisic to lead them.

And while he remains in a supporting role for now at Dortmund, it is beginning to look like Puli-time could be coming to the Bundesliga ahead of schedule.

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Lloyd Lone U.S. Nominee for FIFA Prize as Ronaldo Tops Men’s Group
Lloyd Lone U.S. Nominee for FIFA Prize as Ronaldo Tops Men’s Group avatar

FIFA has released the shortlists for both the men’s and women’s Player of the Year Awards, the first since the sport’s governing body separated its award from the Ballon d’Or.

Carli Lloyd once again got shortlisted for the FIFA Player of the year. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The big news from a U.S. point of view is that just one American woman has made the top 10. Not big news is the identity of the American standard bearer, two time defending Women’s Player of the Year Carli Lloyd.

Potential U.S. nominees were hindered by the lack of an official FIFA competition held during the time being considered- November 26, 2016, through August 6, 2017- while their European counterparts benefitted from exposure gained at the highly competitive 2017 Euro, won by the Netherlands.

Of course, finishing last in one four team tournament hosted on home soil and second in the other, did little to advance the Americans cause.

Consisting of 24 names the men’s shortlist was considerably longer than the 10 player women’s list and also includes the 2017 winner Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as his long time nemesis Lionel Messi. The time frame for the judges to consider in the men’s race runs from November 20, 2016, through July 2, 2017.

Cristiano Ronaldo is favored over Messi. (ISI Photos/Ben Queensborough)

Ronaldo is favored to add another bauble to his impressive collection, if not Messi is always a likely winner. But what if the judges go in a different direction? Will a defender be considered? Or perhaps one of the Bundesliga goalscoring aces, Robert Lewandowski or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang?

N’Golo Kante’s contribution to the 2016-17 Premier League title run by Chelsea and Leicester’s Cinderella title the previous season were acknowledged when the defensive midfielder won this year’s PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year honors.

Lloyd faces an uphill battle in her quest to three-peat, although her successful stint with Manchester City could earn her some votes.

But Lloyd is up against an impressive range of talented European stars who shone in the cauldron of the best women’s Confederation tournament while Lloyd and the U.S. WNT struggled in what is acknowledged as a quiet year for the Yanks with no World Cup or Olympic challenges.

Club versus country is another component at play as the judges consider their votes, with Australia’s Sam Kerr a very strong candidate if her play for Sky Blue FC in the NWSL is given enough weight. Kerr was also superb in the Tournament of Nations, although shining in that friendly tournament doesn’t stand out on the resume quite so much as the career burnishing accomplishments of all but one other candidate on this list who starred at the Euros.

That outlier is 18-year-old Venezuelan Deyna Castellanos, and her inclusion has to be considered a shocker, given that she plays her club soccer for the Santa Clara Blue Heat, a team in the United Women’s Soccer league. The UWS only began play in May 2016, so the Venezuelan must have turned a lot of heads with her Golden Boot winning performance at the 2016 U17 Women’s World Cup.

Here are the nominees.

Women:
* Lucy Bronze (ENG – Manchester City Women)
* Deyna Castellanos (VEN – Santa Clarita Blue Heat)
* Pernille Harder (DEN – Linkopings / VfL Wolfsburg (Women))
* Sam Kerr (AUS – Perth Glory / Sky Blue FC)
* Carli Lloyd (USA – Houston Dash / Manchester City Women)
* Dzsenifer Marozsan (GER – Olympique Lyonnais Feminin)
* Lieke Martens (NED – FC Barcelona Femeni)
* Vivianne Miedema (NED – FC Bayern Munich Frauen)
* Wendie Renard (FRA – Olympique Lyonnais Feminin)
* Jodie Taylor (ENG – Arsenal Women)

Men:
* Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (GAB – Borussia Dortmund)
* Leonardo Bonucci (ITA – Juventus/AC Milan)
* Gianluigi Buffon (ITA – Juventus)
* Dani Carvajal (ESP – Real Madrid)
* Cristiano Ronaldo (POR – Real Madrid)
* Paulo Dybala (ARG – Juventus)
* Antoine Griezmann (FRA – Atlético Madrid)
* Eden Hazard (BEL – Chelsea)
* Zlatan Ibrahimovic (SWE – Manchester United)
* Andres Iniesta (ESP – FC Barcelona)
* Harry Kane (ENG – Tottenham Hotspur)
* Ngolo Kante (FRA – Chelsea)
* Toni Kroos (GER – Real Madrid)
* Robert Lewandowski (POL – FC Bayern Munich)
* Marcelo (BRA – Real Madrid)
* Lionel Messi (ARG – FC Barcelona)
* Luka Modric (CRO – Real Madrid)
* Keylor Navas (CRC – Real Madrid)
* Manuel Neuer (GER – FC Bayern Munich)
* Neymar (BRA – FC Barcelona/Paris Saint-Germain)
* Sergio Ramos (ESP – Real Madrid)
* Alexis Sanchez (CHI – Arsenal)
* Luis Suarez (URU – FC Barcelona)
* Arturo Vidal (CHI – FC Bayern Munich)

The Best FIFA Men’s Coach:
Massimiliano Allegri (Italy, coach of Juventus), Carlo Ancelotti (Italy, Bayern Munich), Antonio Conte (Italy, Chelsea), Luis Enrique (Spain, Barcelona), Pep Guardiola (Spain, Manchester City), Leonardo Jardim (Portugal, Monaco), Joachim Loew (Germany, German national team), Jose Mourinho (Portugal, Manchester United), Mauricio Pochettino (Argentina, Tottenham Hotspur), Diego Simeone (Argentina, Atletico Madrid), Tite (Brazil, Brazilian national team), Zinedine Zidane (France, Real Madrid)

The Best FIFA Women’s Coach:
Olivier Echouafni (France, French national team), Emma Hayes (England, Chelsea), Ralf Kellermann (Germany, Wolfsburg), Xavi Llorens (Spain, Barcelona), Nils Nielsen (Denmark, Danish national team), Florence Omagbemi (Nigeria, Nigerian national team), Gerard Precheur (France, Lyon), Dominik Thalhammer (Austria, Austrian national team), Sarina Wiegman (Netherlands, Netherlands national team), Hwang Yong-Bong (North Korea, North Korean national and under-20 teams).

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USA, Mexico, Canada Bid Unveils Preliminary City Host Candidates for 2026 World Cup
USA, Mexico, Canada Bid Unveils Preliminary City Host Candidates for 2026 World Cup avatar

49 stadiums in 44 cities are on the list of potential World Cup host cities released today by the 2026 United Bid Committee. The U.S. will host 60 of the 80 games, so it is no surprise that American cities and stadia dominate the list with 44 cities and 49 facilities appearing on this initial list.

Canada has submitted nine stadiums from seven municipalities while Mexico has proposed just three stadiums from three cities

Although FIFA rules stipulate that stadiums must hold at least 40,000 to host group stage matches and 80,000 to be considered for the World Cup opener or final, several stadiums fall short of the 40,000 threshold.

This will be the first World Cup to field 48 nations, up from 32, so there may well be some less attractive games, making the smaller capacity stadiums attractive, making a FIFA exception or rule change possible.

Below is the full list of potential World Cup host cities and stadia.

Proposed stadiums and metropolitan markets for further consideration

Metropolitan Market – Stadium – Capacity

United States (34 cities, 37 stadiums)

Atlanta, GA
Mercedes-Benz Stadium – 75,000

Baltimore, MD
M&T Bank Stadium – 71,008

Birmingham, AL
Legion Field – 71,594

Boston, MA (Foxborough, MA)
Gillette Stadium – 65,892

Charlotte, NC
Bank of America Stadium – 75,400

Chicago, IL
Soldier Field – 61,500

Cincinnati, OH
Paul Brown Stadium – 65,515

Cleveland, OH
FirstEnergy Stadium – 68,710

Dallas, TX
Cotton Bowl – 92,100

Dallas, TX (Arlington, TX)
AT&T Stadium – 105,000

Denver, CO
Sports Authority Field at Mile High – 76,125

Detroit, MI
Ford Field – 65,000

Green Bay, WI
Lambeau Field – 81,441

Houston, TX
NRG Stadium – 71,500

Indianapolis, IN
Lucas Oil Stadium – 65,700

Jacksonville, FL
EverBank Field – 64,000

Kansas City, MO
Arrowhead Stadium – 76,416

Las Vegas, NV
Raiders Stadium – 72,000

Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – 78,500

Los Angeles, CA (Inglewood, CA)
LA Stadium at Hollywood Park – TBD

Los Angeles, CA (Pasadena, CA)
Rose Bowl – 87,527

Miami, FL
Hard Rock Stadium – 65,767

Minneapolis, MN
U.S. Bank Stadium – 63,000

Nashville, TN
Nissan Stadium – 69,143

New Orleans, LA
Mercedes-Benz Superdome – 72,000

New York/New Jersey (East Rutherford, NJ)
MetLife Stadium – 82,500

Orlando, FL
Camping World Stadium – 65,000

Philadelphia, PA
Lincoln Financial Field -69,328

Phoenix, AZ (Glendale, AZ)
University of Phoenix Stadium – 73,000

Pittsburgh, PA
Heinz Field – 68,400

Salt Lake City, UT
Rice-Eccles Stadium – 45,807

San Antonio, TX
Alamodome – 72,000

San Diego, CA
Qualcomm Stadium – 71,500

San Francisco/San Jose, CA (Santa Clara, CA)
Levi’s Stadium – 75,000

Seattle, WA
CenturyLink Field – 69,000

Tampa, FL
Raymond James Stadium – 73,309

Washington, DC (Landover, MD)
FedEx Field – 82,000

Canada (7 cities, 9 stadiums)

Calgary, Alberta
McMahon Stadium – 35,650

Edmonton, Alberta
Commonwealth Stadium – 56,335

Montréal, Québec
Stade Olympique – 61,004

Montréal, Québec
Stade Saputo – 20,801

Ottawa, Ontario
TD Place Stadium – 24,341

Regina, Saskatchewan
Mosaic Stadium – 30,048

Toronto, Ontario
Rogers Centre – 53,506

Toronto, Ontario
BMO Field – 28,026

Vancouver, British Columbia
BC Place – 55,165

Mexico (3 cities, 3 stadiums)

Guadalajara, Jalisco
Estadio Chivas – 45,364

Mexico City
Estadio Azteca – 87,000

Monterrey, Nuevo León
Estadio Rayados – 52,237

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NWSL – Roundup
NWSL – Roundup avatar

Unfortunately, injuries to Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd top this week’s NWSL Roundup. Seattle Reign winger Rapinoe has already undergone arthroscopic surgery on her knee and the league’s leading goal scorer will miss five weeks, while Lloyd injured her ankle in Houston’s 1-0 loss to FC Kansas City.

To the Roundup, home teams listed first.

Orlando Pride (26 pts, 4th place) 3-0 vs Washington Spirit (16 pts, 10th/last place)

Morgan and Marta celebrating scoring. (ISI Photos/Jeremy Reper)

Let’s go back to last Tuesday and this week’s big winners, Orlando, who started the week with an impressive 3-0 win over the struggling Spirit. The Pride got a goal each from Marta and Alex Morgan sandwiched around one from Camila, all in a 12-minute stretch started with Marta’s 52nd-minute goal on a Morgan assist.

Orlando Pride (26 pts, 4th place) 5-0 vs Sky Blue FC (24 pts, 6th place) Saturday, Aug. 12.

Tuesday’s victory was a nice appetizer for the Pride’s main course, Saturday’s 5-0 demolition of Sky Blue, a victory that moved Tom Sermanni’s side into the fourth and final NWSL playoff position.

The back to back victories also saw the rise of the M&M Women, Marta and Morgan. The duo each contributed a brace versus Sky Blue with Marta setting up Morgan’s fourth-minute opener while Morgan returned the favor by adding a helper on Marta second goal of the match.

With that pair leading from the front Orlando will be hard to beat and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris has returned from injury to strengthen the Pride defense.

Saturday’s game was the last for Maddy Evans, a 26-year-old midfielder, who announced her retirement from the sport earlier in the week.

Evans announced that she was leaving to take a job in her home state of Pennsylvania, saying that she simply couldn’t get by on her $16,000 a season salary.

FC Kansas City (17 pts, 8th place) 0-1 vs North Carolina Courage (36 pts, 1st place) Thursday, August 10.

Kansas City will be frustrated that they couldn’t hold out for just four more minutes, finally conceding to Lynn Williams, who had a bit of good fortune when a late cross deflected to her as FCKC tried to hang on.

Lynn Williams got the game winner against the Courage (ISI Photos/Jane Gersovich)

Williams took her chance well and the Courage striker needed to, KC keeper Nicole Barnhart got a piece, but her fine night was ruined when he the shot crossed her goal line.

The Courage applied most of the pressure in this makeup game, the original was postponed for storms back on July 22. With an 11-5 record, the defending champs extended their lead at the top of the table to five points with Sunday’s 2-1 win in Seattle.

Chicago Red Stars (29 pts, 3rd place) 2-3 vs Portland (31 pts, 2nd place) Saturday, August 12.

With second place on the line, the Portland Thorns traveled to Bridgeview, Illinois and emerged with a 3-2 victory to climb over the Red Stars in the league standings.

Meghan Klingenberg set up the game winner for Portland. (ISI Photos/Daniel Bartel)

The visitors jumped out to a 2-0 lead inside of 10 minutes on goals from Hayley Raso and Christine Sinclair only to allow the home team to equalize in the 38th minute on goals from Christen Press and Sofia Huerta.

The visitors claimed the spoils when Emily Sonnet headed home a fantastic free kick from Meghan Klingenberg for her second goal in as many matches.

Washington Spirit (16pts, 10th place) 2-2 vs Boston Breakers 16 pts, 9th place) Saturday, Aug. 12.

With last place in the offing, neither team could put the other away despite a plethora of chances for each side to score a winner.

Adriana Leon scored a brace to help earn her team a point. (ISI Photos/Jose Argueta)

Estelle Johnson followed her own rebound to give the home side a sixth minute lead after some inattentive defending by the Breakers. Adriana Leon scored the first of her two goals just before the intermission, with Cheyna Williams ( Washington) and Leon trading second half goals to set up an exciting, if unproductive finish.

Spirit star Mal Pugh nearly broke the crossbar with her 83rd-minute blast, the first of a series of late chances that neither side could convert. Johnson headed a Pugh pass off the crossbar leading to a Boston counter attack that saw Rosie White miss wide under pressure from Spirit keeper Didi Haracic just before the final whistle.

Seattle Reign (24 pts, 5th place) 1-2 vs North Carolina Courage (36 pts, 1st place) Sunday, August 13.

Sam Mewis pair of goals was enough to help her team take all 3 points. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

First place North Carolina capped a two win week with a 2-1 win over the Reign on a visit to the Emerald City. A pair of goals from Sam Mewis was enough to earn the points for the Courage over Seattle, who answered with just one tally from Rumi Utsugi.

Houston Dash (20 pts, 7th place) 0-1 vs FC Kansas City (17 pts, 8th place) Sunday, August 13.

The Dash lost for the second match in a row following a six game unbeaten run which had inspired playoff talk in Houston. Those post-season hopes took a further hit when Carli Lloyd limped off the field in the 35th minute with an ankle problem.

Reports are that X-Rays came back negative, a positive for Houston, although the extent of the damage is not yet known.

Groom celebrating the only goal of the game. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

Kansas City scored the only goal of the game in the 83rd minute. Shea Groom’s game winner gave KC its first victory since May 27, and the shutout is the 36th of Nicole Barnhart’s career, a league record.

Barnhart also put in a strong effort in FCKC’s 1-0 loss on Thursday versus first place North Carolina. Maybe U.S. coach Jill Ellis should try and convince the former national teamer to reconsider her international retirement.

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Morocco Challenge Bid for 2026 World Cup
Morocco Challenge Bid for 2026 World Cup avatar

The United States, Mexico, and Canada will hope to keep the 2026 World Cup off of the Road to Morocco, as the African nation emerged as the only challenger to the three nation North American bid announced at the top of One World Trade Center amidst great fanfare in April.

Galati sounded confident in his statement. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

In a statement released today by U.S. Soccer, the organization’s President, Sunil Gulati, sounded confident in the three way bid.

“We’ve always been prepared for the fact that other countries could also decide to bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup,” Gulati said. “Competition is good, and overall it shows the value and importance of the World Cup. We’re excited to prepare a bid that will demonstrate to FIFA that the first World Cup to be held in the CONCACAF region since 1994 should be awarded to Canada, Mexico, and the United States.”

Only Morocco and the United States met today’s filing deadline to be considered to host the 2026 games, now the two bidders have until March 16th to put their proposals in order. The U.S was burned in FIFA’s previous go round when the Americans lost out to Qatar, a development that shocked virtually all onlookers and left Gulati reluctant to bid again.

That experience may have encouraged the U.S.S.F. to join forces with their neighbors, although the Americans did consider going it alone.

With time being of the essence, Gulati sounds like a man determined not to get burned again, saying, “over the next eight months we’ve got a lot of work to do. The United Bid Committee has already started that work, and we will now go into full motion with our team in New York, in collaborations with our partners in Canada and Mexico.”

“Next week we will provide an update on the number of cities that are interested in being part of the World Cup in 2026 across all three countries,” Gulati continued, “and we’ll continue to put together a bid that will meet and exceed the final regulations and specifications required by FIFA.”

Gianni Infantino and co will surely see the appeal with the Trio’s bid.  (ISI Photos/Kieran McManus)

Back in April the deal we wrote the following:

Under the deal worked out by the three federations 60 of the 80 matches at the 48 nation 2026 World Cup would be played in the United States, including all of the games from the quarterfinals onward.

Mexico and Canada would have 10 games each in the negotiated agreement, which all three federation Presidents signed at the end of Monday’s ceremony.

Speaking to a cluster of reporters after the official program Gulati indicated the U.S. had the upper hand in negotiations with their new partners, saying, “if we went alone we had the strongest bid.” The U.S. Soccer President admitted that “we considered bidding alone until very, very recently, even until about a month ago.”

Gulati sounded as confident in April as he did in today’s statement, saying then, “a World Cup in North America with 60 games in the United States will be by far the most successful World Cup in the history of FIFA in terms of economics.”

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Former NYCFC Trialist Ben Sweat Earns His Keep
Former NYCFC Trialist Ben Sweat Earns His Keep avatar

“Thank you, I appreciate it.” It is not often that a lowly scribe is thanked by a professional athlete at the end of an interview but that was my experience Sunday evening at Yankee Stadium as I wrapped a brief locker room chat with Ben Sweat just after the NYCFC fullback had put in a tidy 90 minute shift in his club’s thrilling 3-2 Hudson River Derby victory over the New York Red Bulls.

Ben Sweat put in a fine performance.  (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

Sweat cut something of a lonely figure when I approached him in front of his locker in the boisterous NYCFC dressing room. The Derby win had the players buzzing and with the media scrum waiting for resident superstar David Villa to discuss his first MLS hat trick I sidled over to one of the lesser known players on the club’s roster.

In Major League Soccer’s salary capped feudal system the serfs line up alongside the lords with contributions from both classes needed on any team with Championship aspirations.

And Sweat has fulfilled his role to a tee since grabbing hold of the starting right fullback job in recent weeks. A first round pick by the Columbus Crew in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, Sweat came to NYCFC as a trialist, having spent the previous two seasons with the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the NASL, after being cut loose by the Crew without having played in a league game.

On Sunday, I asked Sweat what it feels like to go from a trialist to a regular starter on an MLS contender.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” the 25-year-old defender told me. “To come here to such a prestige club and to impress Pat and some of the coaching staff and to be able to play with David and Andrea, it’s definitely been a huge confidence boost.”

Vieira has been impressed with Sweat. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

A fan of England’s Premier League, Sweat knows full well “Pat’s” – NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira’s – reputation as a star in the game, and he is delighted to have impressed the Arsenal and France legend.

“Oh, it’s huge. You know I’ve got to make sure I not only keep impressing them but that I’m giving them exactly what they want. They took me, they signed me, so I’ve got to make sure I do everything possible to give back and prove and show day in and day out that I want to be here and be a part of this club.”

The 6’2” Texan comes off as humble but don’t mistake that humility for a lack of self-belief. Sweat has 15 starts under his belt now, so I asked him if he is beginning to feel comfortable.

“Yeah, of course. I’ve been comfortable for quite some time now,” Sweat began. “After five, seven games, (you get a) good rhythm, you start to understand the players around you and you start to understand what they expect out of you. It’s been consistent confidence and consistent rhythm out of me,” Sweat added.

Comfort and rhythm are good but given where he came from I don’t see the fullback taking his hard earned status for granted.

“Nothing is guaranteed – signed or not signed,” Sweat said in talking about his initial contact with NYCFC. “I decided to come in and prove myself right away, work hard and show these guys I wanted to be here and be part of this club and this movement. It was a lot of hard work and it’s paid off so far.”

So, why has it come together for Sweat here with New York City and not with Columbus? The player himself seems unsure, still Sweat took a shot at working it out for me. “It’s tough, you know? Not everything breaks your way,” he started.

“I ended up leaving Columbus and going down and getting a ton of matches and that’s kind of shaped me and gotten me to this point in my career where I had an opportunity to come here and try out with NYCFC and I was ready because” – here is that confidence again – “I knew I could play at a high level and it definitely helped out getting games in the lower leagues.”

Sweat’s road has had more than a few detours, though being part of Sunday’s win over NYCFC’s cross river rivals demonstrates that Sweat was right to stay on that road.

“Oh, I love it,” Sweat answered when I asked him about playing in the Derby. “I’ve always watched the rivalries, growing up watching the Prem League and everything, with Man City and Man United and it’s pretty awesome to be part of one.”

Ben Sweat Earns his keep. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

So, does Sweat have any advice for any soccer strugglers out there? Yes, the starting fullback on New York City FC does.

“You can’t quit, you can’t give up. If this is really what you want to do in life, if this is your love and passion you’ve got to stick it out.” Speaking from experience, Sweat continued. “You know, not every player is lucky enough and fortunate enough to get the luck that bounces their way and you’re going to have up years and down years, so just sticking through it and battling and you’re going to have success and one break and that’s all you need.”

Good advice.

Oh, and Ben? You’re welcome.

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No Regrets for Carli Lloyd
No Regrets for Carli Lloyd avatar

The overlapping, intersecting worlds of Carli Lloyd, superstar, met Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium when Lloyd, the two time defending FIFA Women’s Player of the Year and the top attraction on her NWSL club, the Houston Dash, spoke to the assembled media while in town to promote Manchester City, the club she played for earlier this year, even taking time to “jokingly” lobby for a job with the as of yet non-existent NYCFC women’s club.

Carli Lloyd in action for Houston. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

Lloyd had been part of Houston’s 2-1 loss at Portland on Saturday morning, scoring the lone Dash goal from a penalty kick, having clocked 65 minutes Thursday night as the U.S. WNT defeated Japan 3-0 in the finale of the Tournament of Nations.

The 35-year-old veteran might have considered resting up for Houston’s home game next Sunday versus FC Kansas City – but duty called. Lloyd acknowledged some wear and tear from her busy schedule drawing laughs when asked if she had watched the Euro final. “I was sleeping during part of it,” Lloyd said regarding the Netherlands 4-2 win over Denmark. The U.S. WNT captain explained. “I had just gotten on a red eye this morning from Portland, played a game Thursday night, played a game Saturday morning.”

Lloyd was impressed by the Euro final saying, “the bit I saw was definitely a very entertaining match. Good quality from both sides, lots of goals.” The U.S. World Cup hero welcomed the increased competition in her sport. “When I first got on the national team you had three or four teams that would pose a threat to us.” “Now,” Lloyd said, “it’s mostly everybody.”

Lloyd training with Man City. (Courtesy of AP)

But what about Lloyd’s club team? While Lloyd was fulfilling her dream of playing in Europe the NWSL season got underway without her, and the Dash had a difficult time of it minus their leader. A 2-1 start was quickly forgotten when the Dash lost six consecutive matches including Lloyd’s return, a 4-2 home loss to Orlando on June 17.

The playoffs looked like a dead issue, then the Dash reeled off four wins and two draws prior to dropping a 2-1 decision on the road at Portland on Saturday, the day before Lloyd’s New York appearance.

That run jump started Houston’s playoff hopes, and given Houston’s precarious playoff chances I wondered if Lloyd had any regrets on leaving her teammates to fend for themselves at the start of the 2017 campaign. So, I asked her.

“Um, you know I don’t think I’ve ever looked at my career and thought I regret this, or I regret that,” Lloyd began. “I have carefully evaluated every situation and scenario that I’ve been in to make the best ultimate decision for me, personally, and to have gotten that experience, the timing was perfect and it was unfortunate that, yes, you know my third season here with the Dash I would be missing that first half of the season.”

“But,” Lloyd said, pressing ahead, “I’ve come back and I’m hungry and I’m trying to help the team push for a spot, so I think it’d be worse if we just kept going down further and further in the standings.” “We were dead last and now we’re sitting a point behind a playoff spot.” (Four after the weekend results). “So,” Lloyd concluded, “we’re right there and I’m going to do all I can to keep pushing for that spot.”

Houston has played 16 of the 24 games on its NWSL schedule, winning two and losing seven pre-Carli while compiling four victories, one loss, and two ties since her return.

Morgan and Lloyd’s oversea play was not that positively greeted. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

David Beckham and Frank Lampard were pilloried for making decisions similar to Lloyd’s while with MLS clubs the LA Galaxy and NYCFC. Lloyd and Orlando striker Alex Morgan, who missed part of this season while at Lyon, have not drawn the same reaction.

There are big differences in salary, etc and Lloyd has done an awful lot for women’s soccer in this country and around the world, and has earned some leeway but what if Houston should fall just short of the first playoff berth in its short history?

Any regrets then?

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Ellis Gets it Right as U.S. WNT Tops Japan
Ellis Gets it Right as U.S. WNT Tops Japan avatar

The U.S. WNT finished off the inaugural Tournament of Nations in fine style Thursday night in Carson, California with an impressive performance in a 3-0 victory over Japan.

Ellis is looking at the next generation by giving them playing time regardless. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

After starting the tournament with a 1-0 loss to Australia the Americans turned their TON around with a thrilling 4-3 comeback victory over Brazil to go into the third and final round of matches with an outside chance at overtaking Australia and winning the event.

The Matildas took that possibility off of the table when they brushed aside a second-minute goal by Brazil’s Camila to overpower the Canarinhas by a 6-1 scoreline to finish the tournament a perfect 3-0-0 and claim the inaugural Tournament of Nations Champions.

Australia much deserved champions. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Congratulations to Australia.

Perhaps knowing that first place was off of the table eased some of the pressure on the host nation, or maybe Ellis got her first 11 and tactics correct this time.

Whatever, the Americans were on the front foot from the beginning versus Japan, with Megan Rapinoe continuing her fine play to lead the American effort.

Pinoe came close early when her shot clipped the top of the crossbar in the ninth minute. Rapinoe also fired a shot into the side netting before opening the scoring in the 12th minute off a pair of fine passes. First Kelley O’Hara found Christian Press with a long pass out of the back. Then in a repeat of the Brazil game Press fed Rapinoe and the winger was coolness personified as she toyed with the Japanese defense before rifling home a perfectly placed shot.

The Americans would dominate most of the way, although the 1-0 score stood until he hour mark when substitute fullback Taylor Smith found a streaking Mal Pugh who finished in style to double the U.S. lead.

Smith came off the bench to set up Morgan. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Smith replaced an ill O’Hara in the 30th minute, and whatever problems Ellis is having with her team, right fullback looks to be just fine. Smith, who plays her club soccer for the North Carolina Courage, would pick up a second assist 20 minutes later when, after receiving a fine ball from Sam Mewis, she found Alex Morgan for Morgan’s first international goal of 2017.

Morgan had some good fortune from a deflection but it may be what the struggling striker needs to get going.

Perhaps Ellis, who has been rivaling Mexico’s Juan Carlos Osorio with her squad rotation, got word from on high to stop with the tinkering, or maybe the coach decided on her own that a win was needed. Either way against Japan Ellis pulled the right strings and was rewarded with the team’s first complete effort of the tournament.

Casey Short started at her best position left fullback, flanked by O’Hara with Becky Sauerbrunn back where she belongs at center back, alongside Abby Dahlkemper, who was very solid as she bids for the role of Sauerbrunn’s sidekick.

Sauerbrunn’s ex-partner, Julie Ertz was rewarded for her play off of the bench versus Brazil and the versatile Chicago Red Star was excellent providing athleticism, passing ability and bit of swagger from the center of the midfield while combining very nicely with Sam Mewis, who was honored for her efforts as the Woman of the Match.

Carli Lloyd was also more involved as the third midfielder in the U.S. 4-3-3. That midfield provided plenty of ball for the three frontrunners, Press, Pugh and Rapinoe.

Finally fit after a long recovery from ACL surgery Rapinoe is having a monster season for Seattle in NWSL and has reasserted her place in the U.S. side while making a case for herself for year end honors.

Pugh celebrating her goal against Japan. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Pugh was her old self, if such a thing can be said about a 19-year-old, shredding defenders and finishing a chance for her first U.S. goal of the year.

Then there is Press. The 28-year-old has been around the U.S. team long enough to rack up 43 goals in 90 caps, but somehow Press has failed to cement a place for herself as a front line player for the U.S. WNT.

In 90 caps Press has often been used off of the bench, finding her path to the starting lineup blocked by Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd and other high wattage stars.

But Lloyd will be pushing 40 come Russia 2019 while Morgan has struggled with injury and consistency. All the while Press has been outstanding for the Chicago Red Stars and with her play at the international level Press is making a case that she needs to be in the first 11.

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

USA – Megan Rapinoe (Christen Press) 12th minute
USA – Mallory Pugh (Taylor Smith) 60
USA – Alex Morgan (Taylor Smith) 80

Lineups:
USA : 1-Alyssa Naeher; 14-Casey Short, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 7-Abby Dahlkemper, 5-Kelley O’Hara (16-Taylor Smith, 30); 8-Julie Ertz (20-Allie Long, 54), 3-Samantha Mewis, 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.) (9-Lindsey Horan, 65); 22-Mallory Pugh (12-Lynn Williams, 73), 23-Christen Press (13-Alex Morgan, 73), 15-Megan Rapinoe (2-Sydney Leroux, 73)
Subs not used :, 11-Ali Krieger, 17-Margaret Purce, 18-Jane Campbell, 21-Abby Smith
Not available: 6-Morgan Brian, 19-Crystal Dunn
Head coach: Jill Ellis

JPN : 18-Ayaka Yamashita; 4-Miho Manya (19-Hikaru Kitagawa, 46), 3-Aya Sameshima, 23-Nana Ichise; 6-Rumi Utsugi, 10-Mizuho Sakaguchi (capt.), 7-Emi Nakajima (17-Yui Hasegawa, 46), 5-Madoka Haji (22-Shiho Tomari, 85), 16-Rin Sumida; 15-Yuka Momiki (14-Yu Nakasato, 79) 11-Mina Tanaka (9-Kumi Yokoyama, 64)
Subs not used: 1-Sakiko Ikeda, Hikari Takagi, 8-Riho Sakamoto, 12-Hikaru Naomoto, 13-Yuika Sugasawa, 20-Ayumi Oya, 21-Ayaka Saitoh
Head coach: Asako Takakura

Final Stats Summary: USA / JPN
Shots: 19 / 11
Shots on Goal: 7 / 5
Saves: 5 / 4
Corner Kicks: 7 / 2
Fouls: 4 / 6
Offside: 5 / 1

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Shots Fired in Pro/Rel War
Shots Fired in Pro/Rel War avatar

Another shot was fired Thursday in the increasingly volatile Pro/Rel war as Miami FC and Kingston Stockdale FC filed a claim against the U.S. Soccer Federation, FIFA, and CONCACAF with the Court of Arbitration for Sport seeking to introduce a system of promotion and relegation to the sport in the United States.

Riccardo Silva (C) Courtesy of Miami FC

This filing comes on the heels of Miami FC owner Riccardo Silva’s widely reported offer to pay $4 billion dollars for MLS media rights if the league would get on the pro/rel bandwagon.

That offer was widely considered to be a publicity stunt, a successful one it would appear, but what about this latest maneuver?

Miami FC plays in the second division NASL, while Kingston Stockdale, is an ambitious team from upstate New York that recently completed its second season in the NPSL, an amateur league.

Kingston claims fourth division status, although the USSF does not recognize formal levels of the soccer pyramid below the professional third division.

The clubs are pinning their hopes on FIFA bylaws that they say mandate pro/rel. “The closed system for soccer used here in the United States is in violation of FIFA rules,” Miami FC CEO Sean Flynn said in a statement. “By adopting the rules followed by virtually every other soccer playing nation around the globe, soccer in America will be open, resulting in better teams through all divisions, compelling story lines to increase fan excitement and greater financial success for everyone involved in this beautiful game.”

In the “The Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes,” Article 9.1 reads: “A club’s entitlement to take part in a domestic league championship shall depend principally on sporting merit. A club shall qualify for a domestic league championship by remaining in a certain division or by being promoted or relegated to another at the end of a season.”

Article 9.2 offers leagues like MLS some wiggle room, with this. “In addition to qualification on sporting merit, a club’s participation in a domestic league championship may be subject to other criteria within the scope of the licensing procedure, whereby the emphasis is on sporting, infrastructural, administrative, legal and financial considerations. Licensing decisions must be able to be examined by the member association’s body of appeal.”

Other criteria, meaning stadiums, and financial considerations would have to be met if a team was to play in the top flight. For example, Miami has buckets of cash available through Silva and his media empire but the same cannot be said for most other clubs in the USSF second divisions, NASL and USL.

It is difficult to see how this war will turn out, although it is escalating rapidly.

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U.S. WNT Face Japan With Australia in Sight
U.S. WNT Face Japan With Australia in Sight avatar

Fresh off of a thrilling 4-3 comeback victory over Brazil that saved the U.S WNT from a historic fourth home loss in a single year Jill Ellis’ side take on old rivals Japan tonight in Carson, California with revived hopes a first place finish in the inaugural Tournament of Nations.

If Australia win or draw their match they will be crowned champions.. (ISI Photos/Al Sermeno)

The odds are still with the Aussies, who will be crowned as champions of the Tournament of Nations with a win or a draw against Brazil. The Matildas carry a plus three goal differential over the Americans, making the U.S task that much more difficult.

Australia has been the story of the tournament so far, having beaten the Americans for the first time before thumping Japan 4-2 behind a hat trick from the current best player in the women’s game 23-year-old Sam Kerr.

That leaves the Yanks needing a victory over Japan, a Brazil win over Australia, plus the U.S. would have to overturn that three goal differential. No easy task.

With one point each as we head into the third and final round of the tournament neither Brazil or Japan can win the tournament.

Given where the U.S. stood 78’ minutes into its second round match against Brazil, trailing 3-1 and staring at a second consecutive last place finish in a tournament on U.S. soil, Ellis would likely accept a solid performance and a respectable second place finish.

Ellis is looking at the next generation by giving them playing time regardless. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The U.S. coach has consistently maintained that she is building for the 2019 World Cup in France and that results like the dismal last place finish in the SheBelieves Cup in March don’t matter.

That is a brave stance when you are responsible for a team with a record of success like the one enjoyed by the U.S. WNT, Ellis can ask Tom Sermanni if she needs confirmation.

That brings us to tonight’s match and the question, will Ellis continue to indulge her experimental streak? Results and performance indicate that Christen Press deserves to start up front, Julie Ertz has earned a chance to clock 90 minutes in front of the back four and we learned, if we needed confirmation, that Becky Sauerbrunn is a central defender of the highest caliber and should be left to play there.

Elsewhere, Ellis has decisions to make. Starting in goal where Alyssa Naeher had the inside track on replacing she who must not be named – Hope Solo – even before Ashlyn Harris was injured.

But even discounting Naeher’s second-minute gaffe that gifted Brazil an early lead, the Chicago keeper wasn’t great versus Marta and company, so in the spirit of experimentation why not give one her backups, former U.S. youth internationals Jane Campbell or Abby Smith a look?

Did Ertz do enough to get herself a starting position. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Further afield, Allie Long has been an automatic for Ellis up until the Brazil match. Ellis has previously shoehorned Long into an ill-fitting role at the heart of a three back set, was the coach persuaded by Ertz’ performance versus Brazil? Or does Long return to the starting 11?

Other fixtures such as Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn, and Mallory Pugh have been ineffective in this tournament, how will Ellis handle that? Sydney Leroux brought energy in a late cameo, did the FC Kansas City star do enough to warrant a longer look?

We realize that results in 2017 mean little, it is a problem for the women’s game in North America. Having said that, U.S. Soccer is not accustomed to seeing its flagship product flounder. At some point, there will be a price to pay for too many losses.

A win versus Japan would table any such conversations. A loss? For all the talk of 2019, Ellis could really use a win versus Japan, tonight.

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

It’s All-Star week in MLS but before we get to that, let’s take a look at the L.A. coaching scene.

1) Bradley is Back and LAFC’s Got Him!

Bradley looks like he is back in the States for good.  (ISI Craig Cowie)

Two big questions were answered in one fell swoop when Bradley was announced as the first ever coach of the highly ambitious new Los Angeles soccer club LAFC.

This hiring likely ends Bradley’s European coaching career, at 59 years of age Bradley may have to settle for building an MLS powerhouse from scratch as the final addition to his coaching legacy.

As for the LA club, without going for a foreign option, a la Atlanta and Tata Martinez, the new kids on the block could have hardly done better. Bradley has the experience, the reputation, and the gravitas to put a fright into fellow Angelenos, the Galaxy.

2) Galaxy Out, Sigi Schmidt in for Galaxy

Curt Onalfo wasn’t given much time to make his mark as Bruce Arena’s successor but the bigger surprise may be that Onalfo was hired in the first place by the league’s glamor franchise.

Schmidt returns to LA. (ISI Photos/Michael Janonosz)

Even with talk that the L.A. originals were turning away from the star system promised in the club’s very name, Onalfo never seemed the right fit. The narrative around his signing was that Onalfo was familiar with the next gen Galaxy players through his time at the helm of Los Dos, the Galaxy second team and that as a loyal lieutenant of Bruce Arena Onalfo represented continuity.

A bit of a contradiction, that. Then there was Onalfo’s previous head coaching experience. Fired in August 2009 by the Kansas City Wizards after compiling a mediocre 27-29-22 record, Onalfo was quickly handed the DC United job. That also ended in during the dog days of August when Onalfo was dismissed as DC floundered with a 3-12-3 mark.

This time the coach didn’t even make to August, getting the ax a couple of days shy of the calendar flip, having led the Galaxy to a 6-10-4 record.

Schmidt was let go by when he couldn’t get Seattle to the promised land of an MLS Cup win, a trick his successor Brian Schmetzer quickly accomplished on taking over the Sounders job.

A two time MLS Cup winner, 2002 with the Galaxy and 2008 with Columbus, Schmidt has all the credentials to lead L.A. back to the top, although some find his coaching style a tad conservative.

3) A Tale of Two Cities/Leagues in US Open Cup

The US Open Cup is the oldest competition by far in U.S. soccer and is, in fact, the world’s third-longest-running open soccer tournament on the planet, thanks, wiki.

Still, it has a visibility/interest problem. One that could be overcome to a degree if a lower team league made a deep run and maybe even won the thing.

Into that breach has stepped two teams from rival 2nd division leagues, Cincinnati FC, of the USL and Miami FC, representing the NASL. A quick reminder, we have two D2 leagues because the USSF stepped in to temporarily save the NASL after it came close to folding a year ago, allowing NASL to continue for now. The league has some goals to meet or the federation will pull the plug.

But to the teams. Cincinnati drew widespread attention by drawing huge crowds, including over 30,000 when they defeated fellow Ohioans, the Columbus Crew, 1-0 at their home fortress of Nippert Stadium.

Miami knocked off Orlando City, one of their in state MLS rivals 3-1 to ensure that at least one lower league side will advance to the US Open Cup semi finals where the winner will host the New York Red Bulls on August 9.

4) Joevin Jones Hitting the Road

For a league always in search of validation, which MLS certainly is, encouragement is found in various ways, one being when a player leaves the league for a traditionally powerful league.

Joevin Jones is set to leave the Seattle.(ISI Photos/Al Sermeno)

Darmstadt, Jones’ destination, plays in the 2 Bundesliga after last season’s relegation but MLS boosters will be happy that a team chasing a quick return to the German top flight rated the Seattle Sounders fullback/winger worthy of playing a part in that chase.

The Trinidad and Tobago man played a big role in Seattle’s MLS Cup winning run last season and will move to Darmstadt in January with hopes of doing his part to return the Lilies to the top.

5) All-Stars Face Galacticos!

It’s All-Star time again and MLS has brought in an opponent that surely fits the bill, no less than Real Madrid.

All the preamble has now concluded, the last being the Homegrown MLS team versus Chivas Guadalajara U20’s. Kortne Ford scored a last second equalizer to give the league a 2-2 draw.

Schweinsteiger will captain the all-star team. (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

Bastian Schweinsteiger will captain the home team in his home stadium with the Chicago Fire. The odds are long for the MLS Stars, who may be in for a whipping from The Meringues.

Players like former Madridista Kaka, Schweinsteiger and U.S. internationals Tim Howard and Michael Bradley are unlikely to be intimidated, David Villa certainly won’t. Here is what the reigning MLS MVP had to say when asked about the challenge of facing Real Madrid.

“I can’t say that. I can’t say that because obviously for me the teams I’ve played for are better,” said Villa after the All Stars’ training session on Tuesday. “As a former Atletico Madrid and Barcelona player, it’s difficult to praise Real Madrid. What they have earned is based on merit and I have a lot of friends on that team and respect for them despite them always being my rival.

“They’re enjoying a great moment right now, but I can’t say that because for me the better teams are the ones I have played for.”

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U.S. Comeback in Thriller to Top Brazil
U.S. Comeback in Thriller to Top Brazil avatar

With the U.S. trailing Brazil 3-1 and staring at losing on home soil for the fourth time in a single year for the first time the Americans reached back and found another level that has been in short supply since winning the 2015 World Cup, coming back to stun Brazil and win 4-3.

Alyssa Naeher conceded 3 goals on the night. (ISI Phoso/Brad Smith)

An enthusiastic San Diego crowd had barely settled into their seats when U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher bobbled a long range shot from Brazil’s Andressa into the net, an awful mistake, to put the U.S. in a hole after barely a minute had elapsed.

It was a shocker for a U.S. team coming in off of a 1-0 loss to Australia in the first game of the Tournament of Nations. It was the first time the Matilda’s had beaten the U.S. and a loss in this game would mean another first for the Americans, a U.S. WNT has never lost four games in the U.S. in one year and that loss to Australia was the third.

Sam Mewis equalized in the 18th minute on a nice set up from Megan Rapinoe. A deflection played a part but so did Rapinoe, who is finally healthy and dangerous after a long rehab from knee surgery.

Coach Jill Ellis has been experimenting since the poor performance at the 2016 Olympics and that process continued Sunday night with a new center back pairing playing behind normal central defense stalwart Becky Sauerbrunn who Ellis deployed as a defensive midfielder.

Rapinoe earned player of the match. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Sunday’s tinkering didn’t fare as poorly as the three back that Ellis ran out at the SheBelieves Cup in March but the comeback was made possible when forgotten woman Julie Ertz entered for fullback Taylor Smith, Casey Short vacated the center back spot for Sauerbrunn and Ertz filled the d-mid role.

The U.S. would fall behind 3-1 but Ertz and another sub, Christen Press, on for a misfiring Alex Morgan, would play a big part in enlivening a U.S. side that appeared to be headed for a second consecutive loss.

Goals in the 63 minute by Bruna Benites and a second from Andressa from a gem of a free kick in the 78 minute had the Americans looking defeated but Press went top shelf off of a Rapinoe feed to breathe life back into the U.S. cause with 10 minutes remaining.

The home team still trailed 3-2 but with the crowd roaring them on Press sent a long crossfield pass that Rapinoe controlled perfectly before blasting past Brazil keeper Barbara to bring the crowd to their feet.

Ertz celebrating her winning goal with provider Rapinoe. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

That should have been that but the Americans kept coming and would get their reward in the 89 minute off the boot of Ertz who pounced on a loose ball after good set up work from Rapinoe and O’Hara.

The comeback capped a thrilling day of women’s soccer that began when Germany was shocked by Denmark 2-1 and England surprised France 1-0 in the Euro semifinals and continued with Sam Kerr’s hat trick heroics in Australia’s 4-2 victory over Japan in Sunday’s Tournament of Champions opener.

August 3, 2017 7 PM PT
WNT vs Japan – 2017 Tournament of Nations StubHub Center; Carson, Calif.
ESPN2, UDN

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 3 4
BRA 1 2 3

BRA – Andressinha (Debinha) 2nd minute
USA – Samantha Mewis (Megan Rapinoe) 18
BRA – Bruna Benites (Marta) 63
BRA – Andressinha 78
USA – Christen Press (Megan Rapinoe) 80
USA – Megan Rapinoe (Christen Press) 85
USA – Julie Ertz (Carli Lloyd) 89

Lineups:
USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 16-Taylor Smith (8-Julie Ertz, 57), 7-Abby Dahlkemper, 14-Casey Short (2-Sydney Leroux, 76), 5-Kelley O’Hara; 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 3-Samantha Mewis (20-Allie Long, 86), 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.); 19-Crystal Dunn (22-Mallory Pugh, 53), 13-Alex Morgan (23-Christen Press, 57), 15-Megan Rapinoe (12-Lynn Williams, 90+1)
Subs not used: 6-Morgan Brian, 9-Lindsey Horan,11-Ali Krieger, 17-Margaret Purce, 18-Jane Campbell, 21-Abby Smith
Head coach: Jill Ellis

BRA: 1-Barbara; 15-Leticia (8-Maria, 71), 21-Monica, 3-Bruna Benites 22-Jucinara (6-Tamires, 46); 5-Djenifer, 7-Gabi Nunes (20-Camila, 22), 17-Andressinha; 9-Debinha (13-Andreia Rosa, 82), 10-Marta, 16-Bia Zaneratto (19-Ludmila, 86)
Subs not used: 2-Maurine, 14-Chu, 18-Fran
Head coach: Emily Lima

Stats Summary: USA / BRA
Shots: 24 / 13
Shots on Goal: 11 / 5
Saves: 2 / 7
Corner Kicks: 6 / 4
Fouls: 12 / 20
Offside: 4 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
BRA – Jucinara (caution) 36th minute
USA – Becky Sauerbrunn (caution) 54
BRA – Bia Zaneratto (caution) 59
BRA – Marta (caution) 84
BRA – Barbara (caution) 89

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U.S. WNT Continue Slump with 1st Ever Loss to Australia
U.S. WNT Continue Slump with 1st Ever Loss to Australia avatar

Australia defeated the U.S. WNT 1-0 Thursday night in Santa Clara, Ca. for the Matilda’s first ever win over the U.S. in 28 attempts. The loss is the third for the home team on American soil this year and a bad start for the U.S. at the inaugural Tournament of Nations.

Australia celebrate their goal and first ever win against the U.S. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

This defeat is part of a disturbing pattern for the team as what was once extremely rare, a home defeat for the U.S. WNT, becomes commonplace as the Americans rack up their third home loss of 2017.

The U.S. started brightly enough versus the Australians, ranked 7th in the world according to FIFA. But the number 1, for now, U.S. failed to generate much threat and when the Americans did get a look at goal Houston Dash netminder Lydia Dash barred the door.

Much has been made of Jill Ellis’ commitment to introducing new players and tinkering with how the U.S. approach the game but the team’s record since Ellis led the U.S. to victory at the 2015 World Cup in Canada has to be cause for alarm among U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati and company at the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Lloyd was unstoppable at the FIFA 2015 WWC.. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Since Carli Lloyd rained a hat trick of goals down on Japan to lead the U.S. to 5-2 World Cup final clinching victory just over two years ago Ellis’ team has struggled mightily.

Remember the 2016 Olympics? If you are having trouble it is understandable. No U.S. WNT has ever departed from an Olympic games so quickly or went home without at least a silver medal dangling from its collective neck.

Then came the debacle at the SheBelieves Cup in March, when the host nation finished dead last, winning just once while losing 1-0 to England and 3-0 to France in humiliating fashion.

Last night in Seattle Ellis continued to mix established stars with more recent additions and the result was a team that, for all of its possession, rarely threatened Williams’ net.

When the Americans did produce a couple of late attacks star strikers Alex Morgan and Crystal Dunn were unable to win one v one battles against Williams, missing gilt edged chances.

Morgan seems to have lost a step. (ISI Photos/Al Sermeno)

For Morgan, in particular, this is becoming a pattern, with a series of injuries affecting the output of the now 28-year-old.

But it is not just one player. The U.S. WNT has now played eight matches in 2017, winning five and losing three. A pair of friendlies versus Russia in April yielded feel good wins, 5-1 and 4-0.

But against tougher foes, particularly in more competitive tournament settings of the SheBelieves Cup and now the Tournament of Champions, the Americans have been unable to score.

Against better teams, the Americans managed to squeak out 1-0 wins over Sweden and Norway on the road, defeated Germany, also 1-0 while losing to France, England, and now Australia.

The question? Where are the goals? Why can’t a team that brought Carli Lloyd, Morgan, and Dunn off of the bench last night, a team that boasts offensive talents like Christen Press, Mallory Pugh, Megan Rapinoe and more manage more than one goal per 90 minutes?

Dunn missed probably the best opportunity of the game. (ISI Photos/ Brad Smith)

Maybe we will find some answers, and some more goals when the Tournament of Champions moves to San Diego where the beleaguered Yanks face a Brazil team that drew with Japan 1-1 in Seattle prior to the U.S. match.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
AUS 0 1 1

AUS – Tameka Butt (Elise Kellond-Knight) 67th minute

Lineups:
USA : 1-Alyssa Naeher; 16-Taylor Smith (5-Kelley O’Hara, 76), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (capt.), 7-Abby Dahlkemper, 14-Casey Short; 22-Mallory Pugh (19-Crystal Dunn, 58), 20-Allie Long (6-Morgan Brian, 77), 3-Samantha Mewis, 15-Megan Rapinoe; 9-Lindsey Horan (10-Carli Lloyd, 64), 23-Christen Press (13-Alex Morgan, 64)
Subs not used : 2-Sydney Leroux, 8-Julie Ertz, 11-Ali Krieger, 12-Lynn Williams, 17-Margaret Purce, 18-Jane Campbell, 21-Abby Smith
Head coach: Jill Ellis

AUS : 1-Lydia Williams (capt.); 7-Steph Catley, 14-Alanna Kennedy, 21-Ellie Carpenter; 8-Elise Kellond-Knight, 9-Caitlin Foord (15-Emily Gielnik, 81), 10-Emily Van Egmond, 13-Tameka Butt (6-Chole Logarzo, 73) 19-Katrina Gorry; 11-Lisa De Vanna (16-Hayley Raso, 53) 20-Sam Kerr (17-Princess Ibini, 90+2)
Subs not used: 18-Mackenzie Arnold; 2-Gema Simon, 3-Caitlin Cooper, 4-Clare Polkinghorn, 5-Laura Alleway
Head coach: Alen Stajcic

Stats Summary: USA / AUS
Shots: 12 / 11
Shots on Goal: 3 / 4
Saves: 3 / 3
Corner Kicks: 6 / 5
Fouls: 11 / 14
Offside: 4 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
AUS – Katrina Gorry (caution) 89th minute
AUS – Lydia Williams (caution) 90+1

Budweiser Women of the Match: Megan Rapinoe

USA v Australia
CenturyLink Field – Seattle, Wash. ESPN

Sunday 30 July 2017 – 2:15pm PT
Japan v Australia
Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego, Calif.

5pm PT
USA v Brazil
Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego, Calif. ESPN2

Thursday 3 August 2017 – 4:15pm PT
Australia v Brazil
StubHub Center – Carson, Calif.

7pm PT
USA v Japan
StubHub Center – Carson, Calif. ESPN2

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Tournament of Nations Cup Kicks Off Tonight in Seattle
Tournament of Nations Cup Kicks Off Tonight in Seattle avatar

With the World Cup in France still two years off the U.S. WNT will once again play host to a strong trio of teams in a four team tournament, with coach Jill Ellis looking to build for the future while trying to avoid an embarrassment similar to her sides flop at the SheBelieves Cup last March.

England shocked many with their victory over the U.S. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The home team finished last in March, falling to England 1-0 in Chester, Pennsylvania, and France 3-0 at RFK Stadium in the nation’s capital, after starting the tournament with a 1-0 win over Germany.

Ellis experimented with midfielder Allie Long at the center of a three back set during the event, and the coach would die on that hill when Les Bleues shredded her defense in the final match with Long looking completely befuddled before her day was done.

The three U.S. opponents came into the SheBelieves Cup ranked numbers 2, Germany, 3 France, and 5, England behind their number 1 rated hosts. Somehow the U.S. has hung on to the top spot, with the other three countries also staying put on the FIFA chart.

The U.S. will be hoping to shine in this tournament. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The level of competition should drop only slightly for Ellis’ crew as the action shifts to the west coast for the Tournament of Champions, which kicks off tonight when the U.S. face Australia this evening at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

The TOC will be played in the same three doubleheader format that was used in the SBC with the Yanks taking on the numbers 6, Japan, 7, Australia, and 8, Brazil, FIFA rated sides in the world.

Ellis has called in a mix of veterans like captains Carli Lloyd, and Becky Sauerbrunn while recalling Alex Morgan, Lynn Williams, and Ali Krieger, with Meghan Klingenberg being left out.

Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle, and keeper Ashlyn Harris are all unavailable through injury.

Uncapped newcomers include goalkeeper Abby Smith of the Boston Breakers, North Carolina Courage defender Taylor Smith, and Breakers midfielder Margaret Purce.

Horan will like to play more of a midfield role. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Ellis has also opted to select Lindsey Horan as one of seven(!) forwards. Horan made her name as a high scoring forward with U.S. Youth teams and French club PSG before signing on with the Portland Thorns where Horan has featured in the midfield, as she has with the full national team during that same period.

The Tournament of Nations will be an NWSL Showcase with the U.S. leading the way with all but Crystal Dunn (Chelsea) earning her keep in the league. But the home team is not the only one with a heavy NWSL presence. Australia will be led by attacker Sam Kerr, who is playing out of her skin for SkyBlue FC this season. Kerr is one of five Aussie National teamers playing in the U.S. league.

As always Matra, of the Orlando Pride, leads the way for Brazil, one of six NWSL players on the Brazil roster. Japan has just one NWSL star on its TON squad, Rumi Utsugi, U.S. star Megan Rapinoe’s teammate with the Seattle Reign.

TOURNAMENT OF NATIONS 2017 SCHEDULE

Thursday 27 July 2017 – 4:15pm PT
Brazil v Japan
CenturyLink Field – Seattle, Wash.
7pm PT

USA v Australia
CenturyLink Field – Seattle, Wash. ESPN

Sunday 30 July 2017 – 2:15pm PT
Japan v Australia
Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego, Calif.

5pm PT
USA v Brazil
Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego, Calif. ESPN2

Thursday 3 August 2017 – 4:15pm PT
Australia v Brazil
StubHub Center – Carson, Calif.

7pm PT
USA v Japan
StubHub Center – Carson, Calif. ESPN2

GOALKEEPERS (3): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Abby Smith (Boston Breakers)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Taylor Smith (NC Courage)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage, Margaret Purce (Boston Breakers), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)

FORWARDS (7): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Sydney Leroux (FC Kansas City), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit), Lynn Williams (NC Courage)

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