Is Hope Solo A Victim of Double Standards?
Is Hope Solo A Victim of Double Standards? avatar

In a move that seems both paternalistic and hypocritical U.S. Soccer announced on Wednesday that it has suspended Hope Solo from the U.S. WNT for six months for “conduct that is counter to the organization’s principles.”

Solo's punishment seems convenient for  (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Solo’s punishment seems convenient for the federation. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

With no major competition scheduled in women’s soccer until the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France this action by U.S. Soccer comes at a convenient time for the organization while it also appears designed to bring an end to the 35-year-old goalkeepers brilliant, if often controversial national team career.

Solo’s contract with U.S. Soccer has also been terminated, although she will be eligible for reinstatement and a new contract in February.

In its press release, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati cites Solo’s comments after the team lost to Sweden in which the combustible keeper called Sweden “cowards” for taking a conservative approach to the game. Gulati also states that because of “past incidents involving Hope, as well as the private conversations we’ve had requiring her to conduct herself in a manner befitting a U.S. National Team member, U.S. Soccer determined this is the appropriate disciplinary action.”

Sweden played a very defensive style of soccer which brought a lot of frustration to the U.S.(ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Sweden played a very defensive style of soccer which frustrated the Americans.(ISI Photos/David Bernal)

Calling Sweden cowards was certainly ill-mannered but it is difficult to imagine a player of Solo’s stature on the U.S. Men’s National Team being sent to the woodshed for six months for a similar offense. In fact, U.S. MNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s frequent calls for his players to be meaner, and to “step on their toes”, if taken at face value, would seem to violate Gulati’s following statement far more egregiously than Solo’s “coward” remarks.

“Beyond the athletic arena, and beyond the results, the Olympics celebrate and represent the ideals of fair play and respect. We expect all of our representatives to honor those principles, with no exceptions.”

We need only think back to a December 2011 incident involving Jermaine Jones to see the behavioral double standard that exists for men and women’s soccer players in the eyes of U.S. Soccer. While playing for his then club, Schalke, in a 3-1 loss versus Borussia Monchengladbach, Jermaine Jones, perhaps the most controversy-plagued member of the U.S. MNT, deliberately stomped on the foot of Gladbach star Marco Reuss, who was known to be wearing a special shoe designed to protect a broken toe.

Jermaine Jones was traded(ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Jermaine Jones act was of more severity yet his punishment was less. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Jones was suspended from German soccer for eight weeks for the assault, and assault is the word. Consider that Schalke General manager Horst Heldt used the word twice while defending Jones, saying this on the team website:

“I don’t want to downplay this, it was an assault which requires a certain penalty.”

“But there have been similar assaults which were then punished in the competition in which they took place.”

Following the incident, a prominent German commentator dubbed Jones the nastiest player in German soccer.

So how did U.S. Soccer treat the nastiest player in Germany? Did it suspend Jones? Banish him outright? No, it did no such thing. Instead, Jones was named captain the first chance Klinsmann got. The coach not only called the suspended player into January camp, Klinsmann handed Jones the captain’s armband for a pair of “friendlies” against Venezuela and Panama.

It is also hard to ignore the timing of this move by U.S. Soccer while also taking into account the slight but noticeable slip in Solo’s play during the just completed Olympic Games. The U.S. Soccer statement notes that Solo was suspended early in 2015 for 30 days, a suspension that stemmed from Solo’s fight with her sister and 17-year-old nephew.

Hope Solo making one of many saves against France. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Hope Solo making one of many saves against France in this years Olympics. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

That suspension ended in plenty of time for Solo, still clearly the best U.S. goalkeeper at the time, to get back into game shape for the Americans victorious World Cup run. Now with the World Cup and the Olympics out of the way the U.S. WNT has three years to find and groom a replacement for Solo, whose baggage has apparently become too heavy a load to bear given that she will be almost 38 years old when the World Cup kicks off in France.

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NWSL Post Olympic Roundup
NWSL Post Olympic Roundup avatar

The early exit by the U.S. WNT was a disappointment for the National Women’s Soccer League and the news was no better for the league as Germany won gold over Sweden in a match that featured no NWSL players.

But the fourth year league had to be heartened when Canada and its nine NWSL players topped Brazil and its three players league players 2-1 in the battle for the bronze.

Sinclair was once again the hero for Canada. (Getty Images)

Sinclair was once again the hero for Canada. (Getty Images)

Canadian legend Christine Sinclair scored what turned out to be the winning goal after the Northernmost North Americans opened a 2-0 lead. Canada’s youngest player, 17-year-old Deanne Rose gave Canada the lead and Sinclair made it a 2-0 lead when she scored her 165th international goal, behind only Abby Wambach’s 184 on the all-time international goals chart.

The Portland Thorns veteran celebrated her 250th cap with that goal and by winning her and her nation’s second consecutive bronze medal.

Krieger's return surely was a boost for Washington. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

Krieger’s return surely was a boost for Washington. (ISI Photos/Wilf Thorne)

NWSL resumed play on Thursday with a rescheduled match between the Houston Dash and the Washington Spirit at the BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. The visitors came away with the points in a 2-1 win, buoyed no doubt by the presence of U.S. Olympian Ali Krieger.

Krieger was the only Olympian to make an appearance for either team, with Houston’s seven and the Spirit’s remaining four Olympians choosing to take a little extra recovery time.

That group included five of the bronze medal winning Canadians and two Brazilians as well as U.S. stars Carli Lloyd and Morgan Brian of Houston and Krieger’s Spirit teammate Crystal Dunn.

Spirit defeated Orlando 2-0 in their last meeting. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Spirit defeated Orlando 2-0 in their last meeting. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

With a full slate of NWSL games coming up this weekend, beginning with Friday’s matchup between the Spirit and the Orlando Pride in Orlando, the bulk of the internationals will be expected back in action.

Schedule: Home teams listed first.

Fri, August 26, 2016
7:30 pm ET – Orlando Pride vs Washington Spirit @Camping World Stadium

Sat, August 27, 2015
5:00 pm ET – Seattle Reign FC vs Portland Thorns FC @Memorial Stadium

7:00 pm ET – Western New York Flash vs Houston Dash @Rhinos Stadium

7:00 pm ET – Sky Blue FC vs Chicago Red Stars @Yurcak Field

Sun, August 28, 2016

6:00 pm ET – FC Kansas City vs Boston Breakers @Swope Soccer Village

Wed, August 31, 2016

8:00 pm ET – Boston Breakers vs Houston Dash @Jordan Field

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

1) Chicago Cure Road Blues

The Chicago Fire hadn’t won a game away from home in two years before they finally defeated the Impact 3-0 Saturday in Montreal. Now, to be fair Chicago has been awful the past three seasons, wherever the games have been played.

The once proud Fire won just six times and finished 9th in the Eastern Conference in 2014, last in the entire MLS in 2015 when they earned eight w’s and are currently bottom of the league with 22 points from five wins, with 11 games still to play.

David Accam is (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

David Accam got on the score sheet for Chicago. (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

New pickup from Colorado Luis Solignac opened the scoring in the 15th minute against the Impact, set up by the Fire’s most exciting player David Accam, who would add a second Chicago goal at the 70-minute mark.

A late goal from U.S. U23 Matt Polster put a nice sheen on the win as Sean Johnson picked up the shutout. New coach Veljko Paunovic’s reinstatement earlier this season of the once (and future?) U.S. goalkeeper was a smart correction of the rookie boss’ initial mistaken decision to go with Matt Lampson over Johnson to start the season.

Up next the Fire host L.A. on Wednesday before the head out on the road again for a three-match trip to play at DC United, the Philadelphia Union, and Toronto FC.

2) On the Road Again

MLS is known as a tough league to pick up wins on the road and although their trouble did not reach the heights, or maybe the depths of the Fire, Columbus, and Houston each went into the weekend without a single road win on their respective resumes.

Both happily ended those droughts with Houston kicking off the MLS Road Warrior weekend with a 2-1 victory over San Jose with Colombus following suit the next day when it blanked New England 2-0 in Foxborough.

 (Getty Images)

It has been a tough year for HOustone(Getty Images)

It has been another tough year for Houston who replaced veteran EPL coach Owen Coyle earlier in the campaign with former Dynamo player Wade Barrett on an interim basis.

The Dynamo got the benefit of the doubt Saturday when Chris Wondolowski’s header was slapped away from goal by Joe Willis. The ball may have crossed the goal line but the call went the Dynamo’s way.

The loss was a bad one for the home team who need every point it can get in its playoff chase but Houston was will feel they were overdue to catch a break.

While Houston hoped for better entering 2016, this season has been a shocker for Columbus after the Crew contested the MLS Cup last December. And road woes have contributed to the Crews disappointments.

The Crew was just 6-7-4 away from home in 2015, not bad given that no MLS team had a winning record on the road during the campaign.

Saturday’s victory gives the Crew a 1-7-3 mark away from Columbus and combined with a 4-8-11 mark at MAPFRE Stadium it adds up to ninth place in the Eastern Conference.

3) Patrick Vieira’s Happy Travelers

Although NYCFC has fared better recently at home after some initial struggles on the small pitch in the Big Ballpark in the Bronx, the second-year expansion club is the only team with a winning record on the road so far this MLS season.

Vieira (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

Vieira has struggled to implement his style on his team.  (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

While New York struggled early to implement Vieira’s passing style, particularly out of the back, on the narrow Yankee Stadium field, road success kept New York afloat.

Currently 6-4-3 away from home and with the playoffs virtually assured New York should be well equipped for the rigors of MLS road playoff soccer.

4) Look Out Western Conference – Here Comes Seattle!

Less than a month ago Seattle’s season appeared to be at an end when the Sounders fired the only MLS coach it had ever had when it “mutually agreed to part ways” with Sigi Schmidt.

 Martins sealed a convincing win for Seattle. (ISI Photos/Joshua Weisberg)

Martins’ departure was huge for the U.S. (ISI Photos/Joshua Weisberg)

A year that began with the ill-timed, and devastating, departure of Obafemi Martins for the “greener” fields of China had only gotten worse for the Rave Green and the playoffs were not really a consideration at that point.

But when 12 of the league’s 20 teams qualify for the playoffs it can be difficult to miss out on the MLS postseason. And since Nicolas Lodeiro came aboard it has become nearly impossible for the Sounders.

The gifted Uruguayan midfielder has notched one goal and four assists in his four games for the Sounders, a draw followed by three wins, given Clint Dempsey a worthy partner to play off of and sparked a playoff run in Seattle.

The Sounders could pass Portland for the final playoff position with a win in Houston on Wednesday, before heading to the Rose City for a Cascadia tussle on Sunday.

5) LAFC Break Ground

Hot on the heels of Minnesota United FC’s “celebration” last Friday LAFC broke ground today on its stadium located next to the Los Angeles Coliseum, and accessible to the LA MetroLink.

Minnesota announced that it won late approval to retain its NASL name Minnesota United FC and will play temporarily at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota.

Minnesota United will be(Getty Images)

Minnesota United will be joining the MLS in 2017.(Getty Images)

The league initially said there were enough United’s in the league before changing course. So Minnesota joins D.C. and Atlanta as MLS United clubs, with the two newcomers also jumping on the FC bandwagon alongside the new Los Angeles club LAFC.

That is a lot of Football Clubs in a league named Major League Soccer.

MNUFC is planning to build a permanent home in St Paul at a former bus yard. The project does have a hurdle or two yet to clear as state legislators still need to pass a budget bill that includes the stadium.

State, city, and club officials have expressed confidence that the deal will get done but if the legislature drags its heels today’s celebrations could turn out to be hollow.

With shovels in the ground, LAFC has passed that hurdle and are scheduled to begin MLS play in 2018, one year after Minnesota and Atlanta United FC.

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What Now for the U.S. WNT?
What Now for the U.S. WNT? avatar

With a couple of days to reflect on the U.S WNT loss to Sweden and its elimination from the 2016 Olympics; here are four thoughts on where the defending world champions go from here.

1) Make Solo Fight for Her Place

And no, this is not because the combustible goalkeeper made some stupid remarks in the wake of Friday’s disappointing loss when she called Sweden “cowards” for employing a clever and clearly effective defensive strategy to frustrate and eventually defeat the favored Americans.

The comments were in epically bad taste but Solo is a competitor and not for Miss Congeniality. Simply put the 35 year needs to prove that she is still the best option for the U.S. WNT as it heads to the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France and then on to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Solo's performance was not as solid as in previous tournaments.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Solo’s performance was not as solid as in previous tournaments.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Solo’s age combined with an up and down performance at these Olympics means she cannot be an automatic selection going forward. That doesn’t mean that she should be scrapped, just that it is time for some other options to get a real look.

Before selecting Alyssa Naeher to back up Solo in Rio coach Jill Ellis expressed faith in Naeher and Ashlyn Harris, should she need to use them in Solo’s stead. A pair of September friendlies against Thailand (9/15, in Columbus, Ohio) and the Netherlands (9/18, Atlanta, Georgia) is the perfect time to put that confidence to the test.

Portland Timbers keeper Adrianna Franch received a camp invite earlier this year from Ellis and she also deserves consideration, and Ellis should be scouring NWSL keeper tapes for other candidates.

2) What Exactly is the Plan?

One thing Solo had right in her post game rant was that the U.S. is a more talented team than Sweden, but for all that depth of talent the U.S. could not break down Pia Sundhage’s well-organized defense on Friday.

And it wasn’t as if Ellis could have been surprised by the Swedish approach, after all, the teams tied 0-0 in last year’s World Cup. That makes it fair to note that Ellis was out coached by her former boss. Bringing recovering Megan Rapinoe along backfired when Sundhage had to replace the crafty winger in extra time after a short run out as a sub but sometimes gambles work and sometimes they don’t.

The bigger problem for the U.S. continues to be how to get all that talent on the field at once. The back four wasn’t perfect in Rio, Julie Johnston’s injury didn’t help, but given the amount of the ball the U.S. had versus Sweden surrendering one counter attack goal shouldn’t have been a problem, meaning the Americans should have won by a score of 3 or 4 to 1.

Ellis (Getty Images)

Ellis will have to go back to the drawing board.  (Getty Images)

So, let’s look further up the pitch. Ellis’ problem remains finding a defensive midfielder and a distributor. During the World Cup buildup striker Lindsey Horan was partnered centrally with Morgan Brian. Both are natural attackers but the pair seemed to be meshing.

For the Olympics, Ellis replaced Horan with her Portland Thorns teammate Allie Long. Long seemed a better fit defensively, if Brian could pull the strings. Brian had a couple of “second” assists but most of the U.S. creativity came from Tobin Heath, who was playing out wide.

Maybe it is time to hand the creative Heath the keys to the U.S. engine room alongside a strong defender (Julie Johnston?), instead, the Timbers creator finished Friday’s match at fullback when the Rapinoe move backfired.

3) An Embarrassment of Riches that Must be Managed

Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn, Mallory Pugh, a healthy Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Christen Press, and returning duo Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux.

The U.S. exit will shock the soccer world. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The U.S. are spoilt for choice when it comes to attacking players. . (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

That is a lot of talent and not too many members of the coaches union will be feeling sorry for Ellis but it is her unique challenge to fit all of these pieces together. Lloyd reminds me of Clint Dempsey with the U.S. MNT. Exactly where she fits is hard to say, she seems more a second striker than a midfielder at this point, but like Dempsey when her team needs a goal in a game that matters, it is usually Lloyd that produces.

But can Lloyd and Morgan work together up front? And how do you keep Dunn off the field? She was the most dangerous American player versus Sweden. Pugh is the team’s best winger at the moment and who can even guess how good she can be, and while Press, Leroux, and Rodriguez have all played other positions, they are all strikers at heart.

It may be a case of too much of a good thing but Ellis has three years to fit this puzzle together.

4) Yes, Ellis

The U.S. has never before failed to qualify for the Olympic final, winning in 1996, 2004, 2008, and 2012, while settling for silver in 2000.

The U.S. will be prepared for the more challenging French team. (Getty Images)

The U.S. were favorites to win this tournament.  (Getty Images)

Should this result cost Ellis her job? No, of course not. Winning the first World Cup for the U.S since 1999 last year in Canada buys Ellis some time.

But the strange schedule in the women’s game means that real competition will be hard to find between now and 2019, still as Ellis’ predecessor Tom Sermanni found out when he was axed after a seventh place finish in the 2014 Algarve Cup, in this job the pressure is always there.

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U.S. Crash Out of Olympics to Sweden on Penalty Kicks
U.S. Crash Out of Olympics to Sweden on Penalty Kicks avatar

The unthinkable happened today at Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia, Brazil as Sweden eliminated the United States from the Olympics on penalty kicks after the two sides played to a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.

The U.S. exit will shock the soccer world. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The U.S. exit will shock the soccer world. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The U.S. was attempting to become the first team to ever win the Olympics back to back with the World Cup, which of course the Americans claimed last summer in Canada.

Firsts were everywhere today as Rio 2016 becomes the first time that the U.S. WNT has ever been eliminated from the Olympics or the Women’s World Cup before the semifinals and the first occasion that the Americans have failed to qualify for the Olympic Final.

And on the other, happier side of the field, today’s historic victory marks the first time that Sweden has ever advanced to the semifinals of the Olympic Games.

As for the game itself, it is one that the Americans will look back on with regret and not just for the loss but for the manner of that loss in a game that saw the Americans dominate play for almost all of the 90 minutes of regulation and each of the two 15 minute extra time periods.

The Americans opened the game with a flourish, looking for all the world like a group determined to put Tuesday’s disappointing 2-2 draw with Colombia behind them.

The U.S. could not take advantage of their play. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The U.S. could not take advantage of their play. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

But the Americans were unable to make use of that quick start and were made to look vulnerable on a Swedish corner kick in one of Sweden’s initial attacks.

That would be the pattern of the first half, the Americans would dominate without finding a goal, only to go into panic mode on the rare occasion of a Sweden corner kick.

When halftime arrived and the scoreboard read 0-0 it was a surprise that former United States coach Pia Sundhage would have welcomed, even if the Americans still seemed the likely to emerge as winners.

The second half was much of the same as Sweden stuck to its task of defending deep, frustrating the favorites, and waiting to spring a counter attack.

That patience paid off just past the hour mark when Stina Blacksteinus ran onto a defense-splitting through ball from Lisa Dahlkvist and coolly picked her spot, leaving Hope Solo no chance and handing Sweden a 1-0 lead.

With about a half an hour still to play the Americans did not panic, why panic when you can insert Crystal Dunn. Dunn came on for defensive midfielder Allie Long and the player that coach Jill Ellis calls a game changer did just that.

Ellis will take some flack for her second substitution, however, given that Megan Rapinoe lasted only 27 minutes after taking over for Kelly O’Hara, replaced herself in extra time by Christen Press.

The coach gets a pass here because even if a gamble sometimes doesn’t pay off, Rapinoe is a player worth rolling the dice on.

Morgan scored to equalizer for her team. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Morgan scored to equalizer for her team. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The U.S. pulled even in the 76th minute from an Alex Morgan goal, leading to some frantic final minutes as the U.S. threw everything forward while Sweden defended for its life.

There was plenty of back and forth in extra time even as both teams clearly began to tire. Two referees decisions took center stage as the extra time wound down with each team being denied a goal, incorrectly it seemed, in both cases.

First Carli Lloyd looked to have saved the Americans Olympic dream when she finished from Dunn’s cross but the goal was called back for offside or possibly a push by Lloyd. Neither looked correct but before the dust settled Sweden was in the same boat when Lotta Schelin had her goal waved away for a blatantly incorrect offside call.

Then it was on to pks. Alex Morgan put the U.S. under pressure when her poor peno was saved by Hedvig Lindahl, who was sharp today, and needed to be.

Solo denied Sweden’s third spot kick by Linda Schelin, putting the U.S. back on equal footing. Morgan Brian briefly put the U.S. on top but Caroline Seger just about got her shot past Solo as the shootout went to round five.

The U.S. failed to convert all of their penalty kicks and were knocked out by Sweden. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The U.S. failed to convert all of their penalty kicks and were knocked out by Sweden. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Christen Press stepped up and ballooned her shot, giving Sweden the chance to win it. With Olympic elimination staring the U.S. in the face, Solo reached into her bag of tricks and came up with a need for new gloves.

Lisa Dahlkvist was made to wait while new gloves were procured but the midfielder kept her nerve and on the referee’s signal Dahlkvist put her penalty past Solo, sending the U.S. home empty handed and putting Sweden into the Olympic semifinals.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 ET1 ET2 F
USA 0 1 0 0 1
SWE 0 1 0 0 1

SWE – Stina Blackstenius (Lisa Dahlkvist) 61st minute
USA – Alex Morgan 77

Penalty Summary:
USA – Alex Morgan (save), Lindsey Horan (goal), Carli Lloyd (goal), Morgan Brian (goal), Christen Press (miss)
SWE – Lotta Schelin (goal), Kosovare Asllani (goal), Linda Sembrant (save), Caroline Seger (goal), Lisa Dahlkvist (goal)

Lineups:
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 5-Kelley O’Hara (15-Megan Rapinoe, 72 (12-Christen Press, 99)), 8-Julie Johnston, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 7-Meghan Klingenberg; 3-Allie Long (16-Crystal Dunn, 65), 14-Morgan Brian, 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.); 17-Tobin Heath, 13-Alex Morgan, 2-Mallory Pugh (9-Lindsey Horan, 114)
Subs not used: 6-Whitney Engen, 11-Ali Krieger, 18-Alyssa Naeher
Head Coach: Jill Ellis
SWE: 1-Hedvig Lindahl; 15-Jessica Samuelsson (4-Emma Berglund, 119), 5-Nilla Fischer, 3-Linda Sembrant, 16-Elin Rubensson (6-Magdalena Eriksson, 71); 9-Kosovare Asllani, 7-Lisa Dahlkvist, 17-Caroline Seger (capt.); 10-Sofia Jakobsson (12-Olivia Schough, 91), 13-Fridolina Rolfo (11-Stina Blackstenius, 18), 8-Lotta Schelin
Subs not used: 2-Jonna Andersson, 14-Emilia Appelqvist, 18-Hilda Carlen
Head Coach: Pia Sundhage

Stats Summary: USA / SWE
Shots: 27 / 6
Shots on Goal: 6 / 2
Saves: 1 / 5
Corner Kicks: 12 / 3
Fouls: 4 / 15
Offside: 5 / 5

Misconduct Summary:
SWE – Lotta Schelin (caution) 57th minute
USA – Carli Lloyd (caution) 110

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Solo and U.S. WNT Look to Move on in Olympic Quarterfinals
Solo and U.S. WNT Look to Move on in Olympic Quarterfinals avatar

The preliminaries are over, the safety net removed and the U.S. WNT begins the true defense of its three consecutive Gold Medals and the 2015 World Cup Friday at noon when it faces Sweden.

Hope Solo making one of many saves against France. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Hope Solo making one of many saves against France. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Despite topping the group in the preliminaries the Americans failed to inspire in three opening round matches, struggling against France in 1-0 win and settling for a tie against Colombia with Hope Solo playing the unfamiliar role of goat, and not in the Greatest Of All Time sense.

With former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage at the helm, Sweden played the Americans to a 0-0 tie in the 2015 World Cup in Canada before being eliminated in the Round of 16 in a 4-1 loss to Germany.

But even if the defending champions have appeared vulnerable in the early stages in Brazil, Sweden hardly has the look of a team ready to end the Americans World Cup/Olympic double hopes.

Sundhage’s side posted a 1-1-1 mark in Group play, only qualifying for the quarters as a third place team. Sweden defeated South Africa 1-0 in its first game, was hammered 5-1 by the host nation in game two, and rebounded to tie China 0-0.

Ellis will be looking for a convincing performance for his team.(ISI Photos/Brad Smoth)

Ellis will be looking for a convincing performance for his team.(ISI Photos/Brad Smoth)

This is a team that the U.S. should beat but Jill Ellis’ team enters knockout play with concerns in two areas, Solo’s ability to bounce back and the team’s ability to defend set pieces.

It is easy to predict that Solo, with all of her experience and talent, will come back strong after that brutal game on Tuesday against Colombia when she was beaten twice on free kicks that simply should have been saved.

And so, I predict that the world’s top netminder will come back in top form, but what if she doesn’t?

The other area of concern for U.S. coaches, players, and fans ahead of Friday’s quarterfinals will be defending those set pieces. The U.S. looked extremely shaky on restarts in group play, especially but not only against France and towering center back Wendie Renard.

The return to action of Julie Johnston will be welcome (assuming her good health) and should help in this area. JJ has formed a solid bond with Becky Sauerbrunn and the duo’s communication could go a long way toward tightening things up on set pieces.

klingenberg should regain her starting position. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

klingenberg should regain her starting position. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Beyond that, Ellis has some lineup decisions to make. Ali Krieger got the nod at right fullback versus Colombia with Kelly O’Hara taking Meghan Klingenberg’s place on the left but expect the see Klingenberg versus Sweden, reuniting the regular U.S. back four.

Ellis has moved the team into a 4-2-3-1 from its 4-3-3 which allows Carli Lloyd to operate as a de facto withdrawn forward behind Alex Morgan. The U.S. has struggled to create in this Olympic Games, with only Tobin Heath consistently providing quality service.

Mallory Pugh and Crystal Dunn scored the U.S. goals versus Colombia and both should be in the lineup, but is there room? And in the middle of the park Morgan Brian will start but who plays alongside her?

Allie Long in action against France. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Allie Long in action against France. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Allie Long played the first two games there, Lindsey Horan went versus Colombia. Long will likely be returned to that spot but I wouldn’t mind seeing Horan reclaim the starting position that Ellis handed to Long as the Olympics began.

Morgan will be expected to start and she has been good at times, but Dunn looks like the more dangerous player right now. Might Ellis opt for Dunn over Morgan?

I can’t see it happening, not against Sweden.

Megan Rapinoe got the start against Colombia and she showed some good signs but the gifted playmaker didn’t show that she can be counted on to go 90 minutes in the cauldron of the Olympics. That still leaves Rapinoe available off the bench where she can be a dangerous option.

It should all add up to a victory for the U.S. and even with Sweden liable to bunker in, expect the Americans to eventually break through and come away with a hard fought 2-0 victory.

In the other quarterfinals matches, Brazil should be too much for Australia (9pm e.t.), I expect Germany to get by China (3pm e.t.), and in what should be a good one, look for France to upend Canada, the lone team to complete group play unbeaten and untied.

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

With Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, and the U.S. WNT dominating the sporting headlines it may be a little bit difficult to remember that Major League Soccer is kicking around during these hot August days and nights, but MLS stops for no one, so here is our Big – 5.

1) $200 million!
After Bloomberg reported that MLS expansion fees could soar as high as $200 million MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott released this statement on Monday.

Mark Abbott (Getty Images)

Mark Abbott  (Getty Images)

“There has been incredible interest from cities across the country in acquiring a Major League Soccer expansion club and we continue to have productive discussions with a number of prospective ownership groups.” Don Garber’s right hand man continued, “following the Board of Governors meeting, the league is continuing to work on the timetable and the details, including pricing, for future expansion and no decisions have been made. Based on the increasing value of MLS clubs, expansion fees could be as high as $200 million.”

2) Nashville Want In

No word so far that the mammoth price tag is scaring off cities and ownership groups, in fact, a Nashville group has thrown its hat into the ring. A group of prominent Music City advocates is planning to compete with the likes of St. Louis, Sacramento, Detroit, San Antonio, and Cincinnati among others as MLS heads toward 28 teams in the not too distant future.

Beckham's Miami should (Getty Images)

Beckham’s Miami’s deal will take place once a stadium deal gets doe.(Getty Images)

Atlanta United is set to be team 21 next season with Minnesota also possible 2017 debutantes. LAFC are expected to come on board in 2018 and David Beckham’s Miami project would be next, if a stadium deal gets done.

3) Record Setting Rimando

With Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire, Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando claimed the record for most wins by a keeper in league history with 181.

The mark will look nice in the record book alongside Rimando’s citations for the most shutouts, 126, the most starts, 414, and the most minutes, 37, 413.

Due to the sub Rimando would have been unavailable had the game gone to pk's. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Rimando set a new record  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Listed variously at 5’9” or 5’10”, his height is the only mark against the 37-year-old and it may be one reason that Rimando never secured a European move and has had to settle for the third goalie role on the U.S. MNT.

As the ultimate MLS player, it is appropriate that Rimando takes up plenty of space in the league’s ledger.

Consider his history since being drafted out of UCLA in 2000. Rimando was selected by the Miami Fusion, a team that no longer exists. At Miami, Rimando beat out Jeff Cassar to earn the starting job. Cassar is now Rimando’s coach at RSL. Rimando was even traded with Freddy Adu. How MLS is that?

Undoubtedly one of the best to ever don the gloves in MLS Rimando was the winning keeper in the 2004 MLS Cup with DC United and again in 2009 with RSL, winning the MLS Cup MVP in ‘09.

He’s done it all and won it all in MLS except oddly the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Award. At 37 time may be running down for Rimando but don’t bet against the RSL man adding one more trophy to his overcrowded mantlepiece before he is through.

4) U.S. Open Cup Ready for Its Closeup

In a seemingly endless battle to get noticed this was a big week for the U.S. Open Cup, the oldest soccer competition in the nation, as both of its semifinal matches were televised live on ESPN2.

Tuesday night’s matchup featured the Chicago Fire and the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium with the Revolution winning 3-1 on their home turf.

If the playoffs began today New England would just about qualify in sixth place in the East while Chicago is entrenched as the worst team in the league and having scored a league-low 20 goals in 21 games, the Fire are not a whole lot of fun to watch.

Kamara (L) looked dangerous for the Revolution all game. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Kamara (L) scored a pk for the Revolution. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Chicago fell behind on Kei Kamara penalty kick after just 16 minutes on Tuesday but bounced back on David Accam’s 40th-minute tally. The deadlock was, however, brief, with JeVaughn Watson heading home two minutes later to put the Revs back on top.

Teal Bunbury made it 3-1 New England and then Accam ended the visitor’s night on a sour note when he was shown a straight red card for unsporting behavior in the 89th minute.

After 90 goalless minutes on Wednesday night outside of Tinseltown, FC Dallas provided the drama in a game that saw three goals in extra time, with Dallas’ winner coming in stoppage time of the extra time!

Dallas looked set to exit at the hands of the home team when Mike Magee converted a penalty kick in the 101st minute of play. The Galaxy earned the pk when substitute Giovani dos Santos was chopped down by FCD keeper Chris Seitz, eliciting howls of protest from New York Red Bulls fans who were still enraged that their club was twice denied penalty appeals in the closing minutes of Sunday’s match in Carson, California versus L.A.

But Dallas refused to panic drawing level on a powerful header by Matt Hedges from a Mauro Diaz corner kick in the 116th minute and then, remarkably winning the match in the 121st minute when Victor Ulloa got his head to another perfectly placed corner kick from Diaz moments before the referee’s final whistle.

The final will be in Frisco, Texas, at a still to be determined date. The drama of the semi-finals bodes well for this 2007 U.S. Open Cup Final rematch, won by a 3-2 score by New England.

5) Some Transfer News

A couple of loan and transfer notes to close out our top five, two of which have yet to be confirmed.

This time last year Matt Miazga was making a name for himself with the New York Red Bulls, eventually earning a January transfer to English powerhouse Chelsea.

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

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

It was no big surprise that Miazga saw very limited playing time in London, now the New Jersey product looks set to move away from Stamford Bridge on loan to gain experience.

German source Bild says Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt is the destination, ESPN said hang on, there are other suitors. Either way, it will be a big move for the center back, who will hopefully get the opportunity to show he can make the step up from MLS to a top European league.

In 2011 L.A. signed 16-year-old Jack McBean to a Homegrown contract. Since then the striker has amassed 19 appearances, seven starts and just one goal for the Galaxy spending the majority of his time with the LA Galaxy 2 or Los Dos of the USL.

McBean has made short work of the U.S. Third division in 2016, scoring 15 goals in 17 games and with that in mind, the Galaxy is looking for bigger challenges for the 21-year-old.

To that end, McBean is reportedly set to move to Coventry on a six-month loan. Coventry City plays in League One, England’s third division but the Galaxy evidently think the change might do McBean some good.

And finally, former Columbus Crew and Chivas USA forward Ryan Finley, who we profiled here in June (http://blogs.gotsoccer.com/?p=17514) has moved from Angelholm FF in Sweden to Denmark where he has signed for 1st division side Naestved BK.

Finley told GotSoccer back in June that he was hopeful of working his way back to MLS, we’ll see if this move is a step in that direction.

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U.S Set for Quarterfinals Despite Shocker from Solo
U.S Set for Quarterfinals Despite Shocker from Solo avatar

The U.S. WNT was just moments from claiming a come from behind win over Colombia Tuesday night in Manaus, Brazil and completing group play with a perfect record when goalkeeper Hope Solo was beaten for the second time in the game by a Catalina Usme free kick forcing the defending Olympic and World Cup Champions to settle for a 2-2 tie.

Solo's performance almost cost the U.S. . (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Solo’s performance almost cost the U.S. . (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Neither goal should have beaten the longtime U.S. number one, with the Usme’s first free kick squirting through Solo’s legs to give Colombia a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute while the equalizer snuck under the crossbar after Solo had failed to punch clear.

Nonetheless, the result was enough for the U.S. to clinch the top spot in Group G, setting up a quarterfinal encounter on Friday against Sweden, who finished third in Group E.

It was only three days ago that Solo’s heroics spurred the U.S. WNT to a 1-0 win over France, reminding us all just how good the often controversial custodian can be.

With a quarterfinal berth assured and the games coming fast and furious U.S. coach Jill Ellis made several changes to her lineup, most notably starting Megan Rapinoe after her long injury absence.

Rapinoe (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Rapinoe (R) has struggled to be fully fit in time for Rio. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Rapinoe was pulled in the 33rd minute by design, with 18-year-old sensation Mallory Pugh taking over. Rapinoe showed some of the skills that prompted Ellis to bring Rapinoe and her “it factor” to Brazil despite her uncertain fitness.

The coach’s gamble didn’t look prudent when Rapinoe committed the foul that led to Esme’s first goal, that free kick that slipped between Solo’s legs in the 26th minute.

The Americans eventually settled into the game, taking control late in the first stanza and equalizing when Crystal Dunn pounced on Carli Lloyd’s rebounded shot in the 41st minute.

Headed into the locker room on level terms after 45 minutes the Americans seemed likely to take control in the second half and it was easy to see the three-time defending Olympic Champions running out easy winners.

As the second half unfolded the teams were on script, with only Colombia keeper Sandra Sepulveda standing in the way of a tidy resolution with a number of fine saves.

Pugh (L) once again shone for the U.S.  (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Pugh (L) once again shone for the U.S. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Order was restored on the hour mark, or so it seemed, when Pugh scored to become the youngest American woman to score an Olympic goal. Pugh took her chance cooly, dribbling across the face of Sepulveda’s goal before firing the U.S. into the lead.

It was a lead that figured to last but Colombia mounted a late charge earning a stoppage-time free kick near the corner flag to Solo’s left. From that tight angle, Esme shot directly for goal, beating Solo when the keeper could not connect as she attempted a punch save.

It was a bad night for the keeper often considered to be the world’s best but if it was just one game the Americans could rest easy. Coupled however with the troubles the U.S defense experienced in defending set pieces near its own goal against France and it is clear that Jill Ellis has a problem to solve.

The rest of Tuesday’s scores saw South Africa hold high-flying host nation Brazil to a 0-0 draw, the same score as the China vs. Sweden match. Canada closed out an impressive Group stage by defeating Germany to finish as the lone 3-0-0 team in the first round.

Australia crushed Zimbabwe 6-1 to advance to the knockout round as one of two third place teams, the other being Sweden. And disappointing or not that 2-2 tie with Colombia was enough to send the Americans into a quarterfinal showdown with Sweden and former coach Pia Sundhage, despite France’s 3-0 win over New Zealand.

The Quarterfinals: August 12

U.S.A. vs Sweden
Brazil vs Australia
Canada vs. France
China vs. Germany

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F

USA 0 2 2
COL 1 1 2

COL – Catalina Usme 26th minute
USA – Crystal Dunn (Carli Lloyd) 41
USA – Mallory Pugh (Crystal Dunn) 59
COL – Cataline Usme 90

Lineups:
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 11-Ali Krieger, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 6-Whitney Engen, 5-Kelley O’Hara; 14-Morgan Brian (3-Allie Long, 65), 9-Lindsey Horan,10-Carli Lloyd (capt.) (13-Alex Morgan, 46); 15-Megan Rapinoe (2-Mallory Pugh, 33), 12-Christen Press, 16-Crystal Dunn
Subs not used: 7-Meghan Klingenberg, 8-Julie Johnston, 17-Tobin Heath, 18-Alyssa Naeher
Head Coach: Jill Ellis

COL : 18-Sandra Sepulveda; 6-Liana Salazar, 9-Orianica Velasquez (5-Isabella Echeverri, 46), 13-Angela Clavijo, 14-Nataly Arias, 17-Carolina Arias; 3-Natalia Gaitan (capt.), 15-Tatiana Ariza (7-Ingrid Vidal, 80), 10-Leicy Santos, 11-Catalina Usme; 16-Lady Andrade (4-Diana Ospina, 62)
Subs not used: 1-Catalina Perez, 2-Carolina Arbelaez, 8-Mildrey Pineda, 12-Nicole Regnier
Head Coach: Fabian Taborda

Stats Summary: USA / COL
Shots: 16 / 3
Shots on Goal: 8 / 3
Saves: 1 / 6
Corner Kicks: 10 / 0
Fouls: 15 / 11
Offside: 3 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
COL – Liana Salazar (caution) 72nd minute
USA – Ali Krieger (caution) 86
COL – Natalia Gaitán (caution) 88

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Solo and Lloyd Sneak U.S. Past France
Solo and Lloyd Sneak U.S. Past France avatar

On a day when they were outplayed for long stretches the U.S. WNT relied on a pair of veteran leaders to provide the heroics in a hard earned 1-0 Olympic win over France today at Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Lloyd once again scored the game winner for the U.S. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Lloyd once again scored the game winner for the U.S. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Carli Lloyd’s goal in the 63rd minute was the decider while every one of Hope Solo’s six saves was required for the U.S. to get past France today in Brazil.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis elected to sit center back Julie Johnston and winger Mallory Pugh with injuries, although the duo was healthy enough to make the bench. Whitney Engen took over for Johnston and Crystal Dunn got the nod in favor of Pugh.

Whether it was the changes or simply a matter of France playing well the U.S. found itself in the unusual position of playing second fiddle to its opposition for most of the day even if the possession arrow pointed in the Americans favor 55% to 45%.

Hope Solo making one of many saves. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Hope Solo making one of many saves. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Not to get bogged down in numbers but the more accurate indicators today were France’s eight corner kicks compared to just three from the three-time Olympic and World Cup Champions and Hope Solo’s six saves made while her counterpart Sarah Bouhaddi had just one.

Much has been made of this U.S. team’s tactical shift away from the high ball into the box, with Abby Wambach’s retirement a catalyst for that change. Today we saw an unexpected result coming from that change in style as the U.S. WNT was dominated in the air by an opponent for the first time in memory.

Much of that domination came from one player, France’s towering center back Wendie Renard. Listed at 5’11” Renard plays even taller and was a particular menace to the Americans on all of those French corners.

France also was bossing the Americans for much of the match from the run of play with midfielders Camille Abily, Amandine Henry, and especially Louisa Cadamuro dragging the U.S. defense out of position and forcing Solo to fend for herself far too often.

Ellis (Getty Images)

Ellis could not have been happy with her team’s first half performance. (Getty Images)

When the teams went to the locker rooms for the halftime break Jill Ellis’ crew had to be feeling relieved that the match was still knotted at zeroes with the final 45 minutes still to play.

Ellis clearly got in her sides ears at the break because on the resumption we saw a different, if familiar U.S. team. The Americans pinned the French in their own final third in the opening moments of the second half and created a series of chances that finally yielded results when who else but Carli Lloyd tapped in a rebound from a Tobin Heath shot.

As in the team’s opening 2-0 win over New Zealand virtually all U.S. chances had Heath’s fingerprints on them. Morgan Brian continued to make the pass before the pass but at the moment the defending champions are playing with no fluidity and are creating far too few dangerous opportunities.

Solo made her 200th appearance for the U.S. with an outstanding performance. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Solo made her 200th appearance for the U.S. with an outstanding performance. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

That lack of chances is disturbing for U.S. fans, what should be even more unnerving are today’s defense lapses. Teams grow into tournaments so it is not panic stations for the Americans and losing Johnston could account for some destabilization in the backline. Still, if not for Solo’s heroics in her 200th senior international match, more than any goalkeeper ever, male or female, the U.S. could have been blown out by France.

The U.S. lead the group and will be expected to beat Colombia in the final group match on Tuesday and head on to the knockout rounds unbeaten.

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

USA – Carli Lloyd (Tobin Heath) 63rd minute

Lineups:
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 5-Kelley O’Hara, 6-Whitney Engen, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 7-Meghan Klingenberg (12-Christen Press, 90); 3-Allie Long, 14-Morgan Brian, 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.) (9-Lindsey Horan, 82); 16-Crystal Dunn (11-Ali Krieger, 70), 13-Alex Morgan, 17-Tobin Heath
Subs not used: 2-Mallory Pugh, 8-Julie Johnston, 15-Megan Rapinoe, 18-Alyssa Naeher
Head Coach: Jill Ellis

FRA: 16-Sarah Bouhaddi; 8-Jessica Houara, 3-Wendie Renard (capt.), 2-Griedge Mbock Bathy, 7-Amel Majri; 10-Camille Abily (17-Kheira Hamraoui, 83), 6-Amandine Henry, 15-Elise Bussaglia; 13-Kadidiatou Diani, 18-Marie-Laure Delie (11-Claire Lavogez, 86), 14-Louisa Cadamuro (12-Elodie Thomis, 70)
Subs not used: 1-Meline Gerard, 4-Sakina Karchaoui, 5-Sabrina Delannoy, 9-Eugenie Le Sommer
Head Coach: Philippe Bergeroo

Stats Summary: USA / FRA
Shots: 7 / 14
Shots on Goal: 3 / 5
Saves: 5 / 2
Corner Kicks: 3 / 8
Fouls: 8 / 18
Offside: 4 / 4

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Crystal Dunn (caution) 68th minute
FRA – Griedge Mbock Bathy (caution) 82

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GotSoccer Chats to Tim Parker on the U.S. Missing out on Olympics
GotSoccer Chats to Tim Parker on the U.S. Missing out on Olympics avatar

On Wednesday the U.S. WNT began its quest to win yet another Olympic Championship defeating New Zealand 2-0 as they set out to make history as the first team to win Olympic Gold on the back of winning the Women’s World Cup.

Then on Thursday the men’s Olympic competition kicked off. Absent from this Gold Rush once again is the U.S. Men’s National Team who failed for the second consecutive time to qualify for the Olympiad.

When the team fell short in 2011 Jurgen Klinsmann labeled the group that missed out on the London Games as a “lost generation.” Players like Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson, Mix Diskerud, and Terrence Boyd were some of the those labeled as “lost” by the man who ultimately controls the international fates of those very players.

Tima Parker in action against Colombia. (ISI Photos/David Bernall)

Tima Parker in action against Colombia. (ISI Photos/David Bernall)

Last Sunday outside of Dallas two of the crop of Americans who fell short of qualifying for Rio 2016, FC Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta and Vancouver Whitecaps defender Tim Parker, faced off at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas with the home team prevailing by a 2-0 score.

Afterward, GotSoccer had the opportunity to speak one on one to the Whitecaps man in a quiet visitors locker room about that Olympic disappointment and about his development in his second year as a professional.

The Olympic soccer tournament was just a few days off when we spoke and with Parker back at the same Toyota Stadium where the U.S. was eliminated by Colombia in March, GotSoccer wondered if the big event was on Parker’s mind?

Parker (ISI Photos/Rick Yeatts)

Parker in action for the U23′s in March. (ISI Photos/Rick Yeatts)

“Yeah, for sure,” 6’2″ center back admitted. “Obviously back in Dallas is kind of where it came to an end for us,” Parker remembered, pausing to gather his thoughts before continuing. “It is a big disappointment,” he said after a moment, “just because that would have been a great tournament for us.”

Asked at Sunday’s postgame press conference by GotSoccer to describe Parker’s progress Carl Robinson, Parker’s club coach with Vancouver, had plenty of praise for the flame-haired 23-year-old but there was caution too from the Welshman.

“Rookie players in their first year, there’s no expectation on them,” Robinson began. “So, they tend to play really well and everyone talks really well about them.” In Robinson’s telling it is in the second year is when a player must prove his mettle.

And how does the coach think Parker’s sophomore season has gone? “Timmy has been a regular in my team this year,” Robinson said, “and he’s done a lot of really, really good things.”

“He’s also made a lot of mistakes, mistakes,” Robinson said, “that he is going to learn from, that will do him a world of good going forward.”

Parker and his U23 teammates won’t be making those mistakes with the world watching in Brazil. “It would have been a great experience for all of us young guys,” Parker said on Sunday, “but you know I think it’s one of those things that it wasn’t meant to be and obviously we have to learn from that and it is something we have to overcome as a group and hope and wait for our turn to come with the first team.”

“It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to compete at the international level, “ Parker admits, even if he laughed off the idea of being part of a “lost generation.”

“Like he (Klinsmann) said, it is kind of a loss for us but I think, looking at who we have in our generation, I think you’re talking about a lot of guys that are playing a lot of professional games.”

“I think,” Parker reasoned, “that for us, that generation of guys that didn’t get to go to the Olympics, that we’re still pushing to get first team games in a professional environment.”

Tim Parker (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Tim Parker has been able to earn himself a starting place at the back for Vancouver. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Parker has done that since coming out of St John’s University in New York as the 13th overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, playing 15 games for Vancouver as a rookie before cementing a full-time gig alongside Kendall Waston in the center of the Whitecaps defense as a second-year man.

No longer a rookie Parker agrees with Robinson that expectations are higher on him this season. “Yeah, I think so. Last year was kind of like my welcome year,” the Long Island, New York native said.

“I wasn’t held to as high a standard last year but I think it’s good for me to develop a standard and I want things to be demanded of me.” “Knowing that when I mess up there are consequences,” is how Parker put it to GotSoccer.

As a part of the prospective U.S. Olympic team Parker and his teammates learned some harsh lessons, for Parker to avoid the “lost” tag he will need to continue with his education in Major League Soccer.

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

Major League Soccer’s Transfer Window closed last night, so let’s see who is in and who is out.

Philadelphia Lands Bedoya

Clearly, the biggest capture in the window came when the Union bolstered its midfield by enticing the U.S. international home from Nantes in France.

Bedoya(ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Bedoya will be plying his trade in the MLS for the first time. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The 29-year old has spent his entire pro career in Europe since signing with Swedish club Orebro out of Boston College in 2009.

Bedoya isn’t the flashiest player and doesn’t score a lot of goals but the tireless and versatile midfielder is a quality player and should be a positive addition to the fourth place Union.

2) Where is Castillo?

Turkey, for now, according to a Sports Illustrated report.

Fabian Castillo, the Colombian speedster has been an MLS star in Dallas for the past couple of seasons and has been repeatedly linked with a big money move away from Texas.

Castillo (ISI Photos/Maciek Gudrymowicz)

Castillo (ISI Photos/Maciek Gudrymowicz)

It was no surprise then when Castillo was seen posing with a Trabzonspor jersey last week in Turkey. There was one problem, though, no deal had been agreed between the clubs.

When GotSoccer attended Sunday’s FCD match versus Vancouver in Frisco, Texas, Dallas coach Oscar Pareja was still hoping that Castillo would be returning to practice on Tuesday.

Pareja seemed to genuinely not know how the then evolving Castillo saga would play out, sure only that, “there has not been an agreement between the clubs.”

Now it seems a deal is in place with SI’s Brian Strauss reporting today that Castillo will join Trabzonspor for the rest of the 2016 season for a transfer fee of around $3 million. SI adds that the Turkish club will owe Dallas additional fees in January, otherwise, Castillo could again be an FCD man.

3) Seattle Sign Playmaker

In the midst of an awful season that has already cost longtime coach Sigi Schmidt his job, the Seattle Sounders finally got some good news with the signing of Uruguayan playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro.

Nicolas Lodeiro. in action for Uruguay. (ISI Photos/John Tood)

Nicolas Lodeiro. in action for Uruguay. (ISI Photos/John Tood)

The hope in Seattle is that Lodeiro’s presence will spark a goal scoring revival from Clint Dempsey, who has only three goals for the Sounders in 2016.

The addition of a new Designated Player came too late for Schmid and it may also have been completed too late to save Seattle’s playoff hopes but if Lodeiro is as good as Settle believe him to be then better days may be ahead for the Sounders.

4) Red Bulls New DP

The new Red Bulls model has been to eschew big names and big money in favor of shrewd signings of players that fit into the Ali Curtis/Jesse Marsch team-first ethos, so it is no surprise then that Omer Damari, the club’s new DP signing, comes in on loan for the rest of the season.

Omer Damari (R ) (Getty Images)

Omer Damari (R ) in action for Israel.  (Getty Images)

Damari is an Israeli international striker who has been on loan to Austrian Bundesliga side Salzburg from Germany’s RB Leipzig, a partner club of the New York Red Bulls in the Austrian energy drinks stable.

Damari is a former teammate of the Red Bulls other new signing midfielder Daniel Royer, the two lined out together for Austria Wien. Royer comes to the Red Bulls on a transfer from Danish side FC Midtjylland.

5) Charlie Davies Beats Cancer- Then Traded to Philadelphia

Other than the timing here is no relationship between the two events. Davies announced on July 30 that he had been diagnosed with a rare cancer called liposarcoma, treated for the disease and declared cancer free, all in recent months.

New England traded Charlie Davis. (ISI PhotosJose L. Argueta)

New England traded Charlie Davis to Philadelphia after his return.. (ISI PhotosJose L. Argueta)

Davies has of course undergone some extremely trying times in his 30 years beginning with a car crash in 2009 that cost the driver of the car Davies was in her life and left Davies with numerous injuries that derailed a highly promising career.

Davies eventually returned from his injuries but he has never recaptured the form that had U.S. MNT fans so excited in the run up to the 2010 World Cup.

In March Charlie’s wife Nina gave birth to twin boys three months early and Davies shared the babies struggle to get healthy on social media. Then with the children on the mend Davies received yet another shock. The cancer diagnosis.

Davies reported himself all clear and Philadelphia are happy to add the still speedy striker to its roster. Also going to Philadelphia in the deal is the Revolutions 3rd round pick in the 2018 SuperDraft with New England receiving General and Targeted Allocation Money and the Unions first round pick on the 2018 SuperDraft.

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U.S. Ease Past New Zealand
U.S. Ease Past New Zealand avatar

The U.S. WNT opened its defense of the Olympic Gold Medal and its pursuit of the first ever World Cup/Olympic double with a convincing if uninspiring 2-0 win over New Zealand Wednesday night in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Lloyd once again opened the scoring of the U.S. (iISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Lloyd once again opened the scoring of the U.S. (iISI Photos/Brad Smith)

U.S. coach Jill Ellis elected to go with hamstrung duo Morgan Brian and Tobin Heath from the start against the White Ferns while selecting Allie Long over Lindsey Horan and leaving Crystal Dunn on the line in favor of 18-year-old sensation Mallory Pugh.

In truth it hardly mattered, any permutation of the U.S. roster that coach Jill Ellis selected would have been too much for New Zealand who were far less competitive with the World Cup Champions than the scoreline might indicate.

Goals early in each half, first from FIFA World Player of the Year Carli Lloyd and then from Alex Morgan would be all the offense that the Yanks would need on a night that there was only ever going to be one winner.

Heath caused  the Kiwis trouble all evening. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Heath caused the Kiwis trouble all evening. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Heath was instrumental in both U.S. goals, serving up a perfect ball for Lloyd to head home for the first American goal in the ninth minute, and then feeding Morgan Brian who assisted on Morgan’s insurance tally in the 46th minute.

With Lloyd’s opener on the board the three-time defending Gold Medal champions looked set for a rout, instead, the U.S. struggled to create dangerous chances and New Zealand had to be pleased as they headed to the locker room down by just that single goal.

If that ability to keep the Yanks off the board for the final 36 minutes of the first half had imbued New Zealand with hope, that hope was squashed moments into the second half by Morgan’s near post blast past White Ferns keeper Erin Nayler.

American keeper Hope Solo set herself up for the villain role when she expressed concerns over the Zika Virus prior to the Olympics but the U.S. number 1 was as unfazed by the hostile reception from the Brazilian fans as she was by the New Zealand attack.

The U.S. will be prepared for the more challenging French team. (Getty Images)

The U.S. will be prepared for the more challenging French team. (Getty Images)

The 2-0 final score hardly reflected the dominance of the Yanks but Ellis will know that Wednesday’s effort will not be good enough when her team faces France on Saturday afternoon.

Certainly not if Les Bleus can recreate the form that led to its 4-0 opening round win over Colombia in the night’s other opening round match in Group G.

In Group E home team Brazil gave its fans something to cheer about with its 3-0 victory over China while former United States coach Pia Sundhage led Sweden past South Africa by the barest of margins in a 1-0 win.

Group F action featured goals early and often with Canada’s Janine Beckie taking care of the early and Germany taking responsibility for often. A steal by Canadian legend Christine Sinclair set Beckie in for the fastest goal in Olympic history just 20 seconds into the match while Germany supplied the often in a 6-1 rout of Zimbabwe.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F

USA 1 1 2
NZL 0 0 0

USA – Carli Lloyd (Tobin Heath) 9th minute
USA – Alex Morgan (Morgan Brian) 46

Lineups:
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 5-Kelley O’Hara, 8-Julie Johnston, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 7-Meghan Klingenberg; 3-Allie Long, 14-Morgan Brian (9-Lindsey Horan, 64), 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.); 2-Mallory Pugh (16-Crystal Dunn, 51), 13-Alex Morgan (12-Christen Press, 81), 17-Tobin Heath
Subs not used: 6-Whitney Engen , 11-Ali Krieger, 15-Megan Rapinoe, 18-Alyssa Naeher
Head Coach: Jill Ellis

NZL : 1-Erin Nayler; 2-Ria Percival, 6-Rebekah Stott, 5-Abby Erceg (capt.), 7-Ali Riley; 14-Katie Bowen (10-Sarah Gregorius, 60), 16-Annalie Longo, 4-Katie Duncan (11-Kristy Yallop, 72), 12-Betsy Hassett; 9-Amber Hearn, 17-Hannah Wilkinson (8-Jasmine Pereira, 83)
Subs not used: 3-Anna Green, 13-Rosie White, 15-Meikayla Moore, 18-Rebecca Rolls
Head Coach: Tony Readings

Stats Summary: USA / NZL
Shots: 12 / 4
Shots on Goal: 6 / 1
Saves: 1 / 4
Corner Kicks: 4 / 4
Fouls: 10 / 16
Offside: 4 / 4

Misconduct Summary:
NZL -Betsy Hassett (caution) 18th minute
NZL – Ali Riley (caution) 30
NZL – Ria Percival (caution) 64

 

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U.S. Begin Gold Medal Chase
U.S. Begin Gold Medal Chase avatar

When the United States Women’s National Soccer Team begin Olympic play Wednesday in Belo Horizonte versus New Zealand they will do so as the three-time defending Olympic Gold Medalists and reigning World Cup Champions.

Ellis (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Ellis’ teamwil once more be looking to set new records. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Jill Ellis’ team will also be attempting to become the first to follow a Women’s World Cup victory with a Gold Medal performance the next year and given the Americans 13-0-1 record in 2016, chances are good that the U.S. complete the double.

With just 12 teams competing in the Olympics some good teams missed out, with Japan and England topping the list. That still leaves Germany, France, and the Marta led home team at the head of the chasing pack.

Group D won’t be a cakewalk for the Americans, who beginning Wednesday will face New Zealand, France, and Colombia between August 3 and August 9th.

Les Blues are clearly the best of the three and Colombia has been known to give the Americans trouble, but how far this team goes is mostly up to themselves. Meaning, if the U.S. WNT play to its potential it should come home with yet another Olympic title.

Solo will once again be the #1 starter for the U.S.. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Solo will once again be the #1 starter for the U.S.. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

So, let’s have a look at the likely U.S. team. Barring injury, Hope Solo will play every minute in goal where she will be protected by the top center back pairing in the women’s game Becky Sauerbrunn and Julie Johnstone. Meghan Klingenberg has a lock on the left fullback role and Ellis has made it clear that Kelley O’Hara has won the right fullback position with Allie Krieger available off of the bench.

Morgan Brian has not been 100 percent recently but if healthy she will be expected to start with Lindsey Horan and the World Player of the Year Carli Lloyd in the midfield. Portland Thorns midfielder Allie Long has emerged as a favorite for Ellis, so if Brian needs more time look for long in the defensive midfield slot.

Alex Morgan limped into the 2015 World Cup last year and never really hit her stride, scoring just one goal in Canada. Prolonged struggles with injuries dimmed Morgan’s star in recent years, leaving many to wonder if the striker would ever fully recover her goalscoring form.

Alex Morgan looks back to her best.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Alex Morgan looks back to her best.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

But 2016 has been a good year for Morgan who leads the national team with 11 goals in 13 games, 12 starts, silencing the doubters and cementing her starting spot in Brazil.

Three players have staked a claim for two remaining spots alongside Morgan; Tobin Heath, Crystal Dunn, and teen sensation Mallory Pugh. Ellis initially preferred to play Dunn centrally although the coach has relented in recent friendlies, playing Dunn wide to get the dynamic attacker on the field.

In recent months Ellis has spoken of Tobin Heath’s new leadership status on this team and before a slight hamstring problem the skillful winger had emerged as an automatic selection, so expect Heath to be a big contributor in Rio.

Pugh has linked up well with Morgan and made it very clear that she is ready. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Pugh has linked up well with Morgan and made it very clear that she is ready. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

And then there is Pugh. Nothing we have seen from the 18-year-old indicates that the Olympic spotlight will phase her, and Ellis has shown no inclination to baby the gifted youngster.

Megan Rapinoe is a wildcard in the group, with Ellis gambling a precious roster spot that Pinoe would be ready to contribute after a long injury layoff. The gifted winger has already been ruled out versus the Ferns but that was expected.

When Ellis addressed the media after releasing the Olympic roster she talked of “building” Rapinoe into the tournament, a process the coach was willing to undergo because, as Ellis noted, “Megan does have an “it” factor.”

The U.S. should get past New Zealand without that “it” factor and the U.S. have to be pleased to begin the tournament against the Ferns and not the exciting, if enigmatic France. The Ferns are not a bad side but Ellis would surely to prefer to rest one or two first choice starters against the Ferns rather than Les Bleus.

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National Champions Crowned
National Champions Crowned avatar

Frisco, Tx. – A quartet of champions was crowned Saturday night at the Toyota Soccer Center as players from the youngest (U13) and oldest (U19) age groups celebrated their success.

North Carolina club CASL Academy Juniors avenged a 2-0 Group stage loss with a composed performance in a 2-1 win over Strikers FC in the Boys group.

CASL sandwiched goals from Jason Smith and Adam Armour around a Regan Wortman tally for Strikers and received some top notch goalkeeping from Robert Alpin to see off the Strikers.

On the Girls side of the draw, hometown Solar Chelsea scored twice in overtime to rally for a 3-1 win over Southern California side So Cal Blues Baker, setting off especially boisterous celebrations from the large home crowd.

The U19 games were the least competitive finals of the tournament with the So Cal Blues vets giving the club something to cheer about with a 5-0 victory over McLean Green from Virginia.

FC Golden State made it a Southern California sweep of the senior division when they beat FC Florida 3-1 to claim the McGuire Cup.

Golden State won the U18 title last year and had already topped Florida FC by this same score in group play, so it was no big surprise when FCGS built a three goal in the opening 35 minutes.

A late Florida goal gave the Sunshine Staters hope but the result was never in doubt.

The bulk of the silverware was handed out on Sunday with titles contested in 10 divisions.

In the scandal-plagued Girls U18 Division Tennessee SC saved the tournament some blushes, if that was possible, by beating both participants in Thursday’s contentious 0-0 draw between Ambassadors FC (OH-N) and Carlsbad Elite (CA-S).

Tennessee walked away worth winners.

Tennessee walked away worth winners.

Tennessee handled Ambassadors by a 2-0 score in Saturday’s semifinals before claiming the championship with a 3-0 victory over Carlsbad, who played much of the match with just 10 players.

Carlsbad’s U16 girls put the sins of their elders aside to annex the championship in its age bracket with a 1-0 win over the Pride of Utah LaRocca Premier.

PSG MI Gators (MI) won the 2015 Girls U13 title and came back this year to add the U14 title to its burgeoning trophy case. Virginia club BRYC Elite stood in the way but the Gators scored the lone goal of the game to claim the spoils.

YMS Premier Xplosion (PA-E) won a thriller in the U17 Girls Division, coming back from a 2-0 deficit to knock off Beach FC Academy (CA-S) on a Murphy Agnew goal in extra time.

In the final girl’s match of the US Youth Soccer National Championships Midwest United FC Royal (MI) made one goal stand up to earn a hard fought victory and claim the Kristine Lilly Cup by beating Cup Gold (OH-S).

There was plenty of drama on the male side of the bracket as well with two of Sunday’s finals decided by one goal, two more going to penalty kicks and just one decided by anything more comfortable.

Valparaiso United Futbol (AZ) won U14 honors in a relative canter outscoring Baltimore Darby (MD) 2-0. The Marylanders came in as defending champions, having won the U13 title in 2015 but Valparaiso was too much for the defenders to handle today.

Virginia side Loudoun was on both sides of one goal results today with the club’s U16 team edging the Dix Hills Hurricanes (NY-E) 1-0 while Loudoun fell 2-1 to Pipeline Black (MD) one age group up.

The victory capped a memorable week for Pipeline, the fifth-year club eliminated local rivals Celtic in the semifinals.

The first of the two pk battles on the male side of the ledger was another California showdown, featuring a pair of past champions in this age group.

Santa Barbara FC White emerged as champions in the U18 division today beating fellow Southern California club FC Golden State Platinum.

Today’s winners claimed this prize in 2014 while FC Golden State White walked away with the U18 crown one year ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

It took a shootout to separate the sides in the U15 Boys division too, and Virginia club McLean Green that came out on top in that battle over CFA Raiders (IL).

There was some fine soccer played this week in Frisco, Texas but unfortunately, the 2016 US Youth Soccer National Championships will be remembered for a game that US Youth Soccer condemned in language such as this- “the strategy of the coaches in this game failed their players, the competition and the principles of sportsmanship and fair play.”

The statement by the organization indicate that US Youth Soccer is taking this incident very seriously. We certainly hope that turns out to be the case.

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