FIFA U20 World Cup Opens With a Few Surprize Results
FIFA U20 World Cup Opens With a Few Surprize Results avatar

The United States men’s U20 World Cup journey begins Monday in South Korea with a matchup against a highly rated Ecuador team missing key players to injury and unavailability.

The Young Yanks landed in South Korea as CONCACAF Champions and hoping to at least equal the 2015 American team’s quarterfinal run that saw the U.S. bow out of the tournament on penalty kicks versus eventual champions Serbia. Youth tournaments are notoriously tricky to handicap, however, consider that Serbia failed to qualify.

England celebrating their goal (Compliments of @thefa.com)

Or take a look at Saturday’s stunning opening day results. England earned its first win at a U20 World Cup since 1997, beating six-time champion Argentina 3-0. That is so long ago that 17-year-old rising star Michael Owen was England’s goalscorer in that long ago 1-0 win over Mexico.

The game also was notable for the referee’s use of video review to hand Argentina’s Lauturo Martinez a straight red for what would have otherwise been an unseen elbow to England’s Fikayo Tomori.

Argentina had controlled much of the play to that point but was unable to convert that advantage into goals while England took its chances.

Germany can’t match Argentina’s success rate at the U20 level, having claimed the prize just once back in 1981 when it was called the FIFA World Youth Championship. Still, Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Venezuela registers as an upset as does seeing the Germans at the bottom of the Group B table behind Venezuela Mexico, and Vanuatu.

Yes, Vanuatu. Playing in its first ever FIFA tournament match the South Pacific island nation came oh so close to shocking Mexico and picking up a point, falling on an El Tri goal deep into stoppage time.

Trailing Mexico 2-0 by the 25th minute the underdogs showed tremendous character to fight their way back into the match with goals from Bong Kolo and Ronaldo Wilkins in the 52nd and 62nd minutes.

Mexico kept its nerve and Edson Alvarez scored the winner four minutes into added time to claim the win for the favorites setting up a fascinating second round in Group B when Germany face Mexico and Venezuela take on the tournament darlings from Vanuatu.

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NWSL Roundup
NWSL Roundup avatar

Mallory Pugh’s decision to begin her professional career with the Washington Spirit was the big story of the weekend and then on Monday news broke that a union has been formed to represent the league’s non-allocated players.

Mallory Pugh talks to the media at Washington Spirit’s press conference. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

In a press release, the group states, “we are proud to announce the official formation of the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association. We, the Non-Allocated Players of NWSL, vow to build on the opportunity that has been afforded to us, as well as work to achieve those goals that have not yet been attained.

Membership into the NWSL Players’ Association is available to all active non-allocated players in the league, as well as all amateur players currently on NWSL rosters.”

In between, there was plenty of on-field action, so let’s have a look at this week’s NWSL Roundup.

Home teams listed first.

Orlando Pride (1-2-2) 3-1 vs North Carolina Courage (4-1)

Normally we like to honor chronology in our Roundup but when we have a match that features one team’s first loss and another’s first win we are willing to break protocol.

And that is just the scenario that played out Sunday evening in Orlando when the Pride handed the previously perfect Courage their first loss of the 2017 season while the home team picked up its first W of 2017.

The decisive action of the match occurred during frantic three-minute flurry from minutes 49 through 51 that saw three goals somehow squeezed into that tiny window of time.

Chioma Ubogagu celebrating her goal. (ISI Photos/Jeremy Reper)

The hosts opened the scoring first through Chioma Ubogagu, who finished from a defense eluding cross from Ali Krieger and then from Camila from a Jamia Fields helper.

The Courage showed the, well, courage to battle back from that one, two punch, answering with a Debinha blast on the 51-minute mark after Orlando’s goals went into the book in the 49th and 50th minutes.

We had to wait seven minutes for the next decisive moment of the game which came when North Carolina captain Abby Erceg committed a second bookable offense and was shown to the sideline, leaving the Courage chasing a one-goal deficit with just 10 players.

The result was settled in the 82nd minute when burgeoning supersub Jasmyne Spencer finished from Marta, a reverse of last week when Spencer assisted on Marta’s inaugural NWSL tally.

With that out of the way, let’s get back to Saturday’s results.

Seattle Reign (2-1-2) 6-2 vs Washington Spirit (1-3-1)

If ever a team was in need of a marketable star in the mold of Mallory Pugh it is the 2017 Washington Spirit as we saw in Saturday’s drubbing at the hands of the Seattle Reign.

In fairness to the Spirit, they ran into something of an unstoppable force on Saturday at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium in the person of Nahomi Kawasumi, who would finish the match with a personal tally of four assists, a league record, and one goal.

But the 2011 World Cup winner was hardly alone, Kawasumi combined particularly well with one of her international rivals, first scoring from a perfectly placed pass off the boot of U.S. star Megan Rapinoe in the 69th minute before returning the favor to tee up Pinoe two minutes later.

Rapinoe looks back to her best. (ISI Photos/Jane Gershovich)

It really was an overwhelming display by Seattle with Christine Nairn, Beverley Yanez, and Lindsey Elston adding goals of their own to Rapinoe’s brace and Kawasumi’s finish.

Seattle was in irresistible form versus Washington and not even Pugh would have figured to turn the tide, then again, she couldn’t have hurt.

Houston Dash (2-3-0) 1-3 vs Sky Blue FC

Lifetime sent their camera’s down to Houston for Saturday’s Game of the Week only to see the Dash fall to a 3-1 defeat to New Jersey-based Sky Blue.

Sky Blue were just too strong for Houston. (ISI Photos/Trask Smith)

The Sky Blue attack was paced by Australian star Samantha Kerr who played a part in all three of the visiting team’s goals. First with the game knotted at zero Kerr took a boot to the face to earn her side a penalty kick in the 33rd minute. With Kerr having done the hard part, Sarah Killion put the pk away and Sky Blue was on their way.

Kerr then assisted in a more conventional manner when she set up Leah Galton to give the Blues a two-goal advantage and then after Poliana halved the Dash deficit in the 76th minute, Kerr quashed any comeback hopes the home team may have harbored when she turned finisher three minutes from time.

FC Kansas City (1-2-2) 0-0 vs Portland Thorns (2-1-2)

Settling for draws can be a dangerous habit in soccer as points left on the table have a way of coming back to haunt teams when the tabulations are made at season’s end.

FC Kansas City and the Portland Thorns may be contemplating that math after the two sides played to a 0-0 tie Saturday in Kansas City, Missouri after each of the clubs had also drawn its previous match.

Adrianna Franch made and amazing save to hold on to a point for her team.(ISI Photos/Thad Bell)

Both sides had chances to break the deadlock on Saturday and Kansas City star Sydney Leroux must still be wondering exactly how Adrianna Franch was able to get a glove to her 65th-minute chance from point blank range.

The final roll of the dice fell to Portland in the 90th minute but FCKC defender Yael Averbuch came up with a big clearance from a goalmouth scramble to send both sides home with a point a piece – and a potential math problem.

Chicago Red Stars (2-2-1) 1-1 vs Boston Breakers (2-2-1)

Talk about evenly matched. In the final match of the NWSL weekend, Chicago and Boston finished all even at 1-1 to find themselves tied up in the standing with seven points.

Neither team could separate itself on Sunday, although the home team did have its chances. After falling behind on birthday girl Rose Lavelle’s second goal of the season in the 69th minute- Happy 22nd! – Chicago drew level when Christen Press headed home in the 89th minute on a fine Sofia Huerta cross.

Press should have finished her chances. (ISI Photos/Daniel Bartel)

It was the first of the season for Press but Lavelle’s U.S. international teammate could well have finished her day with a hat trick. In the 78th minute, Press had a blast at goal from a rare indirect kick inside the 18-yard box after a Boston back pass to keeper Abby Smith.

Press’ shot caromed off of someone in the crowded Breakers goal to safety. Then, after her late leveler, Press had a chance four minutes into added time but was unable to beat Smith.

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NWSL Sprits Raised as Mal Pugh Signs With Washington
NWSL Sprits Raised as Mal Pugh Signs With Washington avatar

The National Women’s Soccer League recorded one of the biggest victories in its five years when news broke this weekend that 19-year-old U.S. WNT star Mallory Pugh has elected to begin her professional career in the league as a member of the struggling Washington Spirit.

So Pugh has committed to playing in the NWSL (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Fans of the top flight American women’s league have been holding their collective breath for almost a month since the dynamic forward announced that she would leave UCLA for the paid ranks without having played an official game at the collegiate level.

After a winter of wheeling and dealing Pugh’s rights were held by Washington, a team Pugh was widely believed to have no interest in playing for.

Speculation suggested that Pugh would attempt to force a trade of her rights, perhaps to Portland, a rumor that appeared to have legs given that Pugh had come close to joining the Thorns last year before she broke off talks and committed to UCLA. Europe was also an option with high rollers PSG frequently mooted as a potential landing spot for the dynamic young talent.

Pugh’s ultimate decision to remain in the U.S. and to allow her professional home to be determined by the league’s Distribution Ranking Order (DRO) comes after an offseason that saw several U.S. WNT team stars begin the campaign playing in Europe and while the move abroad is temporary for Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan, Washington lost Crystal Dunn when she left the Spirit on a permanent deal to sign with Chelsea in January.

Pugh’s flair and clinical finishing is much needed by the Spirit. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

Having also traded U.S. WNT team defender Ali Krieger during the offseason a snub from Pugh would have been a bitter pill to swallow for a Spirit club that sits in last place in the league following Saturday’s 6-2 defeat in Seattle.

Washington’s 1-3-1 record and -5 goal differential suggests that even Mal Pugh won’t be enough to turn the Spirit around but where there is hope there is life and Pugh certainly brings a ray or two of hope not just to Washington but to the entire league.

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NWSL Roundup and U.S. Soccer Announce Summer Tournament
NWSL Roundup and U.S. Soccer Announce Summer Tournament avatar

Before we get to all of the on-field action from week four of this NWSL season let’s take a look at the new international women’s tournament coming to the U.S. this summer.

Marta (R) and co will put on a fine display for the West Coast fans. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The Tournament of Nations featuring the United States, Japan, Australia, and Brazil is coming to the west coast this summer. Like the SheBelieves Cup, the tournament will be played out in three doubleheaders across three cities. The event will be run on the same system as the SheBelieves with each team playing the other three and the champion decided by total points.

Unlike the SheBelieves Tournament which was held in early March, before the NWSL season, this event comes smack dab in the middle of the 2017 season, even if the schedules don’t exactly overlap.

The league has a full schedule on July 22, five days before the tourney kicks off and resumes on August 4th, the day after the conclusion of the Tournament.

It seems very likely then that clubs will be without their international stars for the games on the August 4 and 5, and possibly for the July 27th matches, depending on the national team’s training schedules.

Another international story with bearing on the league involves Allie Long and tampering and twitter.

U.S. Soccer has filed tampering charges after Lyon owner Jean-Michel Aulas sent this message to the Portland Thorns midfield star:

Thorns owner Merritt Paulson took umbrage and fired back with this tweet of his own:

This was not the first time the French club has used this gambit, recall that Lyon successfully wooed Alex Morgan away (temporarily) from Orlando and apparently U.S. Soccer felt it was time to nip this practice in the bud, hence the tampering charges.

But let’s turn back to the action on the field. Home teams listed first.

Chicago Red Stars (2-2) 2-0 vs. Houston Dash (2-2)

Sweet revenge for the Red Stars as they reversed the result from the team’s opening day encounter in Houston. Julie Ertz, formerly Johnston, followed an own goal with her second tally of the season to secure the win as the U.S. WNT defender continues to impress in a midfield role.

Julie Ertz continued to be on the score sheet. (ISI Photos/Daniel Bartel)

Houston won’t be happy with the result but will be glad that Ertz’ fellow national teamer Morgan Brian clocked 18 minutes off of the bench after missing time with a right MCL sprain.

Washington Spirit (1-2-1) 4-3 vs. Sky Blue FC (1-2-1)

After a difficult offseason begat a difficult start to the 2017 campaign the Washington Spirit finally picked up its first win of the season in a 4-3 thriller that went right down to the wire.

Francisca Ordega was women of the hour. (ISI Photos/Jose Argueta)

Washington’s Nigerian forward Francisca Ordega was the woman of the hour, well the 90 minutes, scoring two goals, assisting on another, and forcing the remaining goal when her shot resulted in an own goal.

It was quite a game for the Spirit who had scored just one goal coming into the match and Ordega wasn’t the only Spirit star to shine.

Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe came up with a huge stop in the fourth minute of added time to stop Kelley O’Hara’s free kick, denying the U.S. international a chance to add to her goal and assist and more importantly saving Washington’s first win of 2017.

Portland Thorns ( 2-1-1)2-2 vs. Seattle Reign (1-1-2)

Seattle star Jessica Fishlock got this Cascadia derby off to a thrilling start when she beat Adrianna Franch from 25 yards to spring the Reign out to a first-minute lead.

Fishlock scored the opener for Seattle. (ISI Photos/Sam Ortega)

Fishlock seemed to catch Franch off guard with that early strike but unfortunately for Seattle Franch would not be the last keeper fooled by the midfielder on this day. 36 minutes after her opener Fishlock put one past Reign netminder Haley Kopmeyer when she slid in to attempt a defensive clearance only to see her shot beat her own keeper for a game-tying own goal.

Seattle would regain the lead just two minutes later through Merritt Mathias but Lyon target Allie Long scored an 82nd-minute equalizer to send the local rivals home with a point apiece.

Boston Breakers (2-2) 0-1 vs. North Carolina Courage (4-0)

Seeking to match its 2016 win total in just the fourth week of the 2017 season Boston welcomed undefeated North Carolina to town only to fall to a 1-0 defeat thanks to a league record 33rd goal scored by Jessica McDonald.

McDonald’s 32nd minute strike put the Courage striker on top of the all-time goals list for the fifth year league and Sabrina D’Angelo and her league-best defense did the rest, racking up its third shutout.

FC Kansas City (1-2-1) 1-1 vs Orlando Pride (0-2-2)

In a battle of struggling teams, neither side could separate itself as KC and Orlando finished level on Sunday at Children’s Mercy Field in Kansas City, Missouri.

Marta scored her first goal in the NWSL. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Orlando looked to be headed for its first win of the season when the immortal Marta scored the first goal of her NWSL career in the 73rd minute. Orlando’s goal came from some nicely worked combination play involving Kristen Edmonds and Jasmyne Spencer.

But the home team had other ideas, equalizing 11 minutes later from a wild goalmouth scramble following a Yael Averbuch free kick. The goal might have been scored by half a dozen players who were hacking at it but the credit went to Erika Tymrak, the first goal FCKC has scored since week one.

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Ramos Names Roster for U20 World Cup
Ramos Names Roster for U20 World Cup avatar

Coach Tab Ramos named 21 players to the U.S. roster for next week’s U20 World Cup in South Korea and as expected Christian Pulisic is not among them.

Tab Ramos did not include Pulisic in his squad. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

No, despite being listed as part of the preliminary U.S. roster released in April, the 18 year old Hershey, Pennsylvania product was always expected to be too busy with obligations to his club team Borussia Dortmund, and Bruce Arena will not want to overtax his rising star with June’s World Cup Qualifiers just around the corner.

Still, Ramos has shuffled the deck somewhat on his CONCACAF Championship winning side, adding Tottenham defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, Arsenal midfielder Gedion Zelalem, and Josh Sargent who steps up an age group fresh off of leading the U.S. to World Cup Qualification with his five-goal effort at the just completed U17 CONCACAF Championships.

That still leaves the bulk of the team that claimed a first ever U20 CONCACAF title for the U.S. in Costa Rica in March returning for a chance at bigger game. Ramos bypassed some big names to maintain faith with this group, although the U.S. coach may have run into trouble with clubs declining to release certain players.

Clubs are not required to release players for the U20 World Cup and it seems unlikely that none of Schalke’s three young Americans, Weston McKinnie, Haji Wright, or Nick Taitague, would have been called in by U.S. Soccer.

Justin Glad (R) put a fine perforce in for the U20’s in Costa Rica. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Ramos still has plenty of talent at his disposal, particularly at center back where Justen Glad and Tommy Redding are back after the pair’s star turn in Costa Rica and will be augmented by Erik Palmer-Brown, who captained the CONCACAF winning side from central midfield and the highly rated Carter-Vickers.

Carter-Vickers and Glad are both, however, struggling with injuries.

The roster includes nine MLS players, with Real Salt Lake dominating with a quartet of callups in Brooks Lennon, Danny Acosta, Sebastian Saucedo, and Glad.

The U.S. open’s Group F play on May 22 versus Ecuador, followed by games against Senegal three days later before closing the first round against Saudi Arabia on May 28. The top two finishers in each of the six groups advance to the knockout rounds along with the top four third place teams.

GK: Jonathan Klinsmann (University of California; Newport Beach, Calif.), J.T. Marcinkowski (Georgetown; Alamo, Calif.), Brady Scott (De Anza Force; Petaluma, Calif.)

DEF: Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake; Salt Lake City, Utah), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur FC; Westcliff-on-Sea, England), Marlon Fossey (Fulham FC; Surbiton, England), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (University of New Mexico; Las Cruces, N.M.), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City; Lee’s Summit, Mo.), Tommy Redding (Orlando City SC; Oviedo, Fla.)

MID: Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; Wappingers Falls, N.Y.), Luca De La Torre (Fulham FC; San Diego, Calif.), Derrick Jones (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.), Eryk Williamson (University of Maryland; Alexandria, Va.), Gedion Zelalem (Arsenal FC; Bethesda, Md.)

FOR: Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; Bethesda, Md.), Lagos Kunga (Atlanta United FC Academy; Tucker, Ga.) Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Emmanuel Sabbi (Unattached; Columbus, Ohio), Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; O’Fallen, Mo.), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake; Park City, Utah)

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With U17 World Cup Spot Already Set, Mexico Top U.S.
With U17 World Cup Spot Already Set, Mexico Top U.S. avatar

Having already secured a trip to India for October’s U17 World Cup the U.S. won’t be too upset by dropping Sunday’s CONCACAF U17 title match to Mexico on penalty kicks after the rivals played to a 1-1 tie in regulation time.

The Young Yanks may look back with some regret on conceding Mexico’s equalizer two minutes into added time but the object for John Hackworth’s group was to qualify for the age group World Cup and the Americans accomplished just that, and they did it in style.

The U17’s had an overall very successful tournament.(ISI Photos/Casey Brooke Lawson)

Prior to Sunday’s result the U.S. had enjoyed a perfect CONCAF Tournament, defeating Jamaica, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Cuba without having dropped a point, receiving an inspired performance from Josh Sargent throughout while players like Andrew Carleton, Ayo Akinola, Tim Weah, and Gold Glove winning keeper Justin Garces to name but a few stepped up when needed.

Defeating Mexico for the first time at this level was a highlight for the Young Yanks, who came so close to repeating the achievement on Sunday.

Despite falling just short of matching the U.S. U20’s recent CONCACAF title Hackworth’s group will head to the age group World Cup in October full of confidence that this can be the group to take aim at the famous Class of ‘99 that featured Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onyewu, and Kyle Beckerman.

That group finished fourth and was comprised of players from the first U.S. Soccer Residency class at Bradenton, Florida while the current group is the final one with U.S. Soccer having decided to end the Residency program.

The U17 MNT will now prepare for the 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup, set for Oct. 6-28 in India. John Hackworth’s side will learn its group opponents when the draw takes place July 7 in Mumbai.

The United States, Mexico, Honduras, and Costa Rica are the four CONCACAF nations to qualify.

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

USA – Andrew Carleton (Tim Weah) 62nd minute
MEX – Carlos Robles (Daniel Lopez) 90+2

Penalty Summary:
USA: Josh Sargent (goal), Tim Weah (goal), Chris Goslin (goal), Akil Watts (missed), James Sands (goal)
MEX: Daniel Lopez (goal), Carlos Robles (goal), Jairo Torres (goal), Alexis Gutierrez (goal), Roberto De La Rosa (goal)
U.S. loses 4-5 in PKs

Lineups:
USA: 1-Justin Garces; 2-Jaylin Lindsey, 4-James Sands, 5-Arturo Vasquez, 3-Chris Gloster; 8-Blaine Ferri (17-Bryan Reynolds, 80), 6-Chris Durkin, 14-Chris Goslin, 7-Ayo Akinola (19-Tim Weah, 56), 9-Josh Sargent (capt.), 11-Andrew Carleton (13-Akil Watts, 86)
Subs not used: 10-George Acosta, 12-Carlos Dos Santos, 15-Zyen Jones, 16-Taylor Booth, 18-Indiana Vassilev, 20-Adrian Villegas
Head coach: John Hackworth

MEX: 12-Cesar Lopez; 2-Adrian Vazquez, 3-Carlos Robles, 4-Luis Olivas (capt.), 5-Raul Sandoval (15-Andres Catalan, 7); 7-Jairo Torres, 16-Marco Ruiz (19-Cesar Huerta, 23), 8-Alexis Gutierrez, 11-Andres Perez (20-Alfonso Alvarado, 53); 10-Roberto De La Rosa, 9-Daniel Lopez
Subs not used: 1-Andre Alcaraz, 6-Luis Gamiz, 13-Haret Ortega, 14-Alan Maeda, 17-Carlos Guerrero, 18-Victor Reyes,
Head coach: Mario Alberto Arteaga

Stats Summary: USA / MEX
Shots: 12 / 19
Shots on Goal: 4 / 4
Saves: 3 / 3
Corner Kicks: 1 / 8
Fouls: 19 / 16
Offside: 0 / 4

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Tim Weah (caution) 83rd minute

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

1) El Guaje Stays in the Picture

New York City FC has announced that 2016 MLS MVP David Villa, nickname-The Kid, or El Guaje- has extended his contract with the team for one more year, tying the team’s first ever signing to the Bronx-based club through 2018.

Love them or loathe them NYCFC got one thing right from the start and that was making Villa not only the club’s first Designated Player but the first player to sign with the team.

Villa extend his stay in the MLS. (ISI Photos/Michael Lawrence)

Last season’s MVP Award stands out when contemplating Villa’s two-plus seasons with NYC but that bauble, however much it meant to the World Cup winner, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Villa’s on field performance has been noteworthy but anyone that has been able to spend any time around NYCFC has to be just as impressed with the captain’s many less obvious contributions.

For example, as the team’s best and most visible player Villa took it upon himself to learn English before his second season, choosing to conduct interviews in the unfamiliar tongue.

Villa also regularly talks up the quality of the league, as he did in his remarks upon being voted MVP: “I’m very proud to represent NYC FC and to receive this award,” Villa said then. “It’s a big day for me because this is one of the things I said I wanted to do when I came here two years ago. This is an important day in my career – this is an important moment for me. This award is for the best player in this amazing league which has many quality players so this is a very happy and proud day for me.”

Villa has led from the front since signing with the club, choosing to move to New York months before the club’s inaugural season, unlike fellow DP Frank Lampard, since retired, whose decision to extend his stay with Manchester City called his commitment to his new team into question and may well have cost NYCFC a shot at the playoffs in year one.

All of which is to say, smart move NYCFC.

2) Stadium News

Like the old saying goes, “I’ve got good news and bad news, which do you want to hear first?” The bad news? Ok.

New England Revolution proposed deal to build a new stadium has collapsed.(ISI Photos/Tim Bouwer)

The New England Revolution’s proposed deal to build a stadium on University of Massachusetts land in the city of Boston has collapsed, sending the Kraft family back to square one while the Revs continue to play in cavernous Gillette Stadium 25 miles from downtown Boston and the urban experience that has become the model that virtually all MLS teams clubs are aiming for.

With the recent groundbreaking on a stadium for DC United, the Revolution are now the last surviving MLS original with an appropriately sized home to call its own.

For the good news, we head to St Petersburg, Florida where the good citizens of that city have voted to approve a referendum that would allow for the renovation of Al Lang Stadium, home of the NASL Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Rowdies owner Bill Edwards would foot the bill for the reno while also picking up the expansion fee of at least $150 million. The lack of public money (we’ll see) is likely the main reason the measure passed, unlike in St. Louis where Joe Public said no thanks to a referendum that would have cost taxpayers $80 million.

With 12 cities still in the running for three expansion slots, assuming Miami remains viable, Tampa/St. Pete has no guarantee of acceptance from MLS but this move is certainly a step forward for the city’s bid.

3) Midweek action

Two matches graced the MLS schedule on Wednesday evening with the home teams prevailing in both matches. Sporting KC pitched a 2-0 shutout against the New York Red Bulls with Dom Dwyer accounting for both SKC goals a feat that Sebastian Giovinco equaled up in Toronto as the Atomic Ant led TFC to a 2-1 victory over first-place Orlando SC.

Toronto will be thrilled to see Seba hitting peak form after a slowish start to the season by the 2015 MLS MVP. Giovinco now has five goals on the season for a share of the TFC scoring lead with Jozy Altidore who picked up an accidental assist on Gio’s first goal.

Dom Dwyer has made a positive start to his season. (ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

In Kansas City, newly minted American citizen Dwyer also brought his 2017 goals tally to five but special mention should be made of the performances of Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles and SKC playmaker Benny Feilhaber.

Sporting could well have added three or more goals to its total if not for the heroics of Robles in the net with Feilhaber among the NYRB keeper’s robbery victims at Children’s Mercy Park.

Feilhaber also put on the best passing display Kansas City fans have seen since Lenny Dawson was tossing pigskins across the river in Missouri on the way to leading the Chiefs to glory in Super Bowl IV.

4) A Quartet of U.S. Strikers Filling it Up

With an eye on the busy upcoming international schedule it might be instructive to take a look at the MLS goal scoring chart and why not start in Kansas City where, as we see in our previous item, there is a new U.S. striker candidate for Bruce Arena to consider. In three full seasons with Sporting KC, English-born Dom Dwyer has scored 22, 12, and 16 goals and is off to a solid start in 2017 with five.

Juan Agudelo tops the U.S. capped players in goals.  (ISI Photos/Al Sermeno)

New England’s Juan Agudelo currently tops all U.S. MNT eligible players with six goals, just one behind Houston’s Mexican attacker Cubo Torres for first place in MLS and just one less than the career-high seven he scored in 2016. Rivers of ink have been sacrificed writing “Next Big Thing” articles about Agudelo since he burst onto the scene as the youngest U.S. goal scorer in an international match (since displaced by Christian Pulisic) when he scored as a 17-year-old versus South Africa in 2010.

Agudelo’s career hasn’t panned out as hoped but we live in hope that this could be this long-awaited breakout season. Gifted both physically and technically the Colombia-born attacker is just two years older than Jordan Morris but the clock is always ticking.

The least discussed member of this fearsome foursome is shaking the twines with expansion side Minnesota United FC, five times so far in 2017, the same number as David Villa, Jozy Altidore, Diego Valeri, and Dwyer.

Ramirez has made little of the jump from the NASL, where he earned the nickname Superman for his goalscoring exploits, appropriately scoring the club’s first MLS goal in a brutal 5-1 loss at Portland in the team’s league debut.

Ramirez has since added goals in the Loons first draw, a 2-2 tie at Colorado, two more in the club’s first MLS win, 4-2 home to Real Salt Lake, and one more in a 2-2 draw in Houston.

And while Ramirez continues to do all this under the radar, goals get noticed and if the big striker keeps filling the net, attention will be paid.

The last of this quartet Jozy Altidore is in a different position to the rest, with the TFC striker having long since established his bonafides with the national team. What Altidore needs is to put a complete season together to justify the big money that Toronto paid out to entice him back to MLS.

Already third on the U.S. MNT all-time goal chart with 37 goals Altidore has put up solid if not spectacular numbers in two seasons in Toronto. 12 goals in 2015 and 10 last year are nothing to sneeze at but might not be quite the bang for the considerable buck that TFC was hoping for.

So far so good for the powerful striker in 2017, now if his hamstrings can hold up maybe the third season will be the charm for both Altidore and Toronto.

5) Rumors

Finally, who doesn’t like a juicy rumor, or two?

Both rumors involve big money, high profile L.A.F.C. so rev up the hype machine. Set to take to the field of play in 2018, L.A. still has no coach. Bob Bradley has been mentioned. Sigi Schmidt’s name has also been bandied about and both make sense but a new name emerged this week with SI’s Grant Wahl throwing Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the former Columbus Crew star into the mix.

Schelotto in action for Columbus Crew in 2010. (ISI Photos/Rick Osentoski)

Schelotto knows the league well enough, having been named the MVP and the MLS Cup MVP in 2008 and he has been coaching successfully in his native Argentina since his retirement, currently at Boca Juniors, so pressure shouldn’t be an issue.

On the playing side, Jeff Carlisle at ESPN has linked Real Sociedad’s Mexican star Carlos Vela with LA2. The ex-Arsenal man would likely be a big hit with the Mexican supporters in Los Angeles, so this one bears watching.

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U.S. Men Take Big Step Toward India and U17 World Cup
U.S. Men Take Big Step Toward India and U17 World Cup avatar

Another brace from Josh Sargent led the dominant Americans to a 3-0 win over Honduras today bring the U.S. one big step closer to qualifying for the U17 World Cup this October in India.

Up next for the unbeaten and untied Americans (4-0-0) is Cuba, beaten 7-1 by Honduras on Monday. Needing just a win, tie or a loss by four or fewer goals versus Cuba on Friday the Young Yanks have all but punched their ticket to the 2017 U17 World Cup this October in India.

Josh Sargent continues to shine for the U17’s. (Courtesy of @ussoccer)

Honduras elected to sit back and try and frustrate John Hackworth’s U.S. side Wednesday evening and it worked to an extent, limiting the Americans to a 1-0 halftime lead. The lead should have been more but the U.S. struggled to find a way through the thicket of Honduran defenders packed into the 18-yard box, finally capitalizing when the Los Catrachos defense somehow lost sight of Sargent five yards from goal on a free kick leading to the lone score of the opening stanza.

Trailing by a goal Honduras opened things up just a bit in an attempt to equalize but paid the price when first Ayo Akinola and then Sargent found space behind its defense to wrap up the game.

The two second half goals were strikingly similar with Blaine Ferri’s lob finding Sargent while George Acosta’s delicate chip was tracked down by Akinola. The goal scores did the rest and for those keeping track at home Sargent now leads Akinola 5 goals to four for the team lead.

Locked in a battle for midfield playing time with the more robust Chris Goslin, Acosta began the match on the sideline as Hackworth elected to go with Goslin versus the physical Hondurans and Acosta was only on the pitch a short time before connecting with Akinola.

Given that the top two teams in each of the two Classification groups advance to the World Cup things appear to be all but settled in favor of the U.S. and Honduras in Classification Group D but remain a bit tighter in Group E where Costa Rica topped hosts Panama 2-1 in Monday’s opener.

Panama needed a win over Mexico in Wednesday’s late game to have any chance of seeing India this autumn with the group wrapping up play Friday when Mexico and Costa Rica square off.

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

USA – Josh Sargent (Andrew Carleton) 26th minute
USA – Ayo Akinola (Blaine Ferri) 69
USA – Josh Sargent (George Acosta) 82

Lineups:
USA: 1-Justin Garces; 2-Jaylin Lindsey, 4-James Sands, 5-A.J. Vasquez, 3-Chris Gloster; 6-Chris Durkin (16-Taylor Booth, 87), 14-Chris Goslin (10-George Acosta, 69), 8-Blaine Ferri; 7-Ayo Akinola, 9-Josh Sargent (Capt.), 11-Andrew Carleton (19-Tim Weah, 83)
Subs not used: 12-C.J. Dos Santos, 13-Akil Watts, 15-Zyen Jones, 17-Bryan Reynolds, 18-Indiana Vassilev, 20-Adrian Villegas
Head coach: John Hackworth

HON: 1-Carlos Banegas; 3-Axel Gomez, 4-Cristian Moreira (Capt.), 5-Alexander Bahr, 15-Emilio Campos; 6-David Cardona, 7-Gerson Chavez, 11-Luis Palma, 20-Cristian Madrid; 9-Patrick Palacios (19-Kenneth Martinez, 90), 14-Carlos Mejia
Subs not used: 12-Jordy Castro, 2-Osbed Perez, 8-Everson Lopez, 10-Joshua Canales, 13-Gustavo Vallecillo, 16-Bayron Varela, 17-Cristian Contreras, 18-Santiago Cabrera
Head coach: Jose Francisco Valladares

Stats Summary: USA / HON
Shots: 18 / 6
Shots on Goal: 7 / 4
Saves: 4 / 3
Corner Kicks: 3 / 0
Fouls: 13 / 10
Offside: 6 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Chris Goslin (caution) 6th minute
HON – Carlos Banegas (caution) 24
HON – Patrick Palacios (caution) 84

 

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Jonathan Spector – Orlando’s Quiet Leader
Jonathan Spector – Orlando’s Quiet Leader avatar

Jonathan Spector signed with Orlando SC this past January the way he
has done most things in his career, unobtrusively. There was little fanfare surrounding the acquisition but Spector is, after all, a player who has made a career in England and now in the United States out of fitting in.

That quality has served Spector and the first place Orlando SC well this season as the veteran has seamlessly stepped in to lead a defense badly in need of his calming presence.

Spector during Orlando’s match against New York City FC. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

GotSoccer had a chance to speak with Spector after Orlando’s win a week ago at Yankee Stadium. Cyle Larin, Orlando’s powerful young Canadian striker had led the way for the Lions with two goals while Spector marshaled a much-improved defense as Orlando picked up its first away win of the season.

Standing in the middle of a happy, winning locker room later that afternoon, I asked the 31-year-old MLS rookie for his impressions of the league.

“Yeah, obviously I’ve really enjoyed it,” Spector began. “In terms of quality of play, I’ve followed the league and knew a lot about it before coming in.” Differentiating his experience from that of a non-American coming into Major League Soccer Spector noted, “I think it’s very different (his transition) from a lot of players who have been playing in Europe are accustomed to. It’s a completely new transition for them whereas for me I’m from the States, I’ve got friends who are regularly playing in the league, former teammates, so I’ve always kept up with it and am very familiar with it so I think that’s what has made the transition for me so much easier.”

Indeed, Spector has fit in form day one, earning an MLS Team of the Week nod on his debut when Orlando opened the season with a 1-0 win over New York City SC. Two months later first place Orlando is sporting a 6-1-1 record while confirming the old axiom that says defense wins championships. It is a too soon to be printing up playoff tickets just yet but remember that the Lions finished in eighth place in 2016, just one point behind sixth-place Philadelphia, largely because of a poor defensive record.

Orlando outscored four of the six Eastern Conference playoff sides last season but a -5 goal difference proved to be the team’s undoing as Orlando sat out the postseason for the second year running.

The MLS season is only just unfurling but it is clear that this season’s +5 goal difference provides Orlando with a sturdy platform for the club’s playoff ambitions, particularly with the veteran Kaka back amongst the goals after missing time with an injury.

Central to Orlando’s improved defense in 2017 has been the burgeoning relationship between Spector and American U20 center back Tommy Redding. With that in mind, I asked Spector if he sees himself a mentor for the youngster.

Spector in action for the U.S. against Brazil in 2015. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

“I have to say I do a bit. I was fortunate to have great players to learn from when I was growing up and coming through and learning and hopefully I can impart some of that on Tommy as well but he’s done exceptionally well, he’s a great player and I think he’s got a bright future.”

The pairing has flourished since Redding returned from helping the U.S win its first ever U20 CONCACAF championship, beating Mexico along the way. Redding took over from Uruguayan defender Jose Aja after Orlando suffered its lone loss of the season, 2-0 in Columbus on April 1.

Four wins and two shutouts later the Spector/Redding partnership would seem a success but with the U20 World Cup opening on May 20 in South Korea, Spector will be again be asked to adjust.

It shouldn’t be a problem for the striker cum central defender/fullback/ midfielder/central defender. I asked Spector about his versatility and if he would have preferred to have played the center back position more throughout his time in England.

“Yeah, I would have,” Spector confided. “I initially went over there as a central defender. When I first went to Manchester there were a number of injuries there and Ferguson asked me to play as a left back and when he asks you to do something,” Spector said with a slight chuckle, “you do it and it gave me my big chance there.”

“And then after that, I kind of got pigeonholed but got kind of stuck playing in that position and my preferred position has always been a central defender but I’ve always said I’m willing to do what’s best for the team, what the manager wants and asks of me.”

Although Spector was unable to break through at United, playing just three Premier League matches for the Red Devils, that philosophy would serve the American well as he continued his career away from the bright lights of Manchester, first with Charlton Athletic, still in the Premier League, on a one-season loan and then on to West Ham United.

Spector made 101 Premier League appearances, most with the Hammers where he spent quite a bit of time operating in the midfield. In time for the 2011-12 campaign, Spector dropped down a level to the English Championship to sign with Birmingham, splitting time between both fullback positions and his preferred central role before arriving in Orlando in January.

Perhaps it was that drop to the second tier, or maybe he was cursed by his versatility, whatever the reason Spector faded from the national team picture.

Given his stellar play for Orlando I asked Spector at Yankees Stadium if he has a national team recall in his sights? “Yeah,” Spector began thoughtfully. “That wasn’t my – I’ve been asked numerous times whether that was a reason for coming back and I have to say it wasn’t.” “Obviously,” Spector emphasized, “I’d love to be with the national team again and represent my country, it’s always a huge honor but at the same time my focus is with my club team and if that national team call-up happens, which I hope it does, then great.”

So until that call comes, if it does come, expect to find Jonathan Spector operating at the heart of the Orlando defense, mentoring younger teammates and steadying the Lions defense, always available to fill in wherever coach Jason Kreis needs him.

Fitting in, unobtrusively.

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Future Looks Brighter With U.S. Wins at U15, U17, and U20
Future Looks Brighter With U.S. Wins at U15, U17, and U20 avatar

First time wins by the U.S. MNT over Mexico at the U20 and U17 age groups alongside a heartening tournament sweep in Italy by the U15 U.S. BNT indicates that things may finally be looking up for U.S. Youth Soccer men’s division after a recent fallow period.

The U17’s in April 2017.(ISI Photos/)Casey Brooke Lawson

The failure of the U23 group to qualify for the past two Olympic Games began the rot in the U.S. MNT youth ranks and with the U17’s missing out on the 2013 World Cup there was a sense that the program was somewhat adrift.

The 2015 U20 side that featured Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Emerson Hyndman, Kellyn Acosta, and Paul Arriola gave reason for hope with a strong effort before falling on penalty kicks to eventual champions Serbia in the quarterfinals.

But even with superstar in the making Christian Pulisic on hand the good vibes did not extend to that year’s U17 team as that group finished last at its World Cup in Chile, picking up just a single point in a 2-2 draw with the hosts.

But, as the saying goes, that was then, this is now.

Once again it was the U20 group that led the way as Tab Ramos’ side defeated Mexico on the road to a late February, early March run to a first-ever Confederation title for the Stars and Stripes at the U20 age group.

That win comes with a place at the U20 World Cup in South Korea, May 20-June 24.

There is still work to be done before the U17’s are assured of a spot in the World Cup this October in India but with last Wednesday’s 4-3 win over El Tri, the younger group has already matched their elders in chalking up a win over the team’s main rival, regardless of age group.

Of course, the CONCACAF U17 title is secondary to earning a place in India and with four berths at stake among the remaining six teams, the Americans have to like their chances.

That process starts on Wednesday, May 3rd when the U.S. begins the Classification Round against Honduras before playing Cuba two days later to close out the round. Mexico has landed in the tougher of the two groups and must contend with the home team, Panama, on Wednesday and then the Ticos on Friday.

The final will be played on Sunday, May 7th and while youth tournaments can be rife with surprises, another U.S.A. vs Mexico showdown would hardly qualify as a shocker.

Finally, the kids. Led by former MLS and Ajax player Dave Van Den Bergh the U.S. BNT claimed the championship of the Torneo Delle Nazioni defeating England 2-1 today (Monday, May 1) to complete an impressive performance at the Italian showcase.

On the road to the title, the youngest Yanks were too good for Slovenia (4-0), Russia (2-1), and Portugal (4-2). The championship winning goal versus England came from New York City FC Academy product Gio Reyna, son of NYCFC Director of Football Operations and longtime U.S. MNT captain Claudio Reyna.

It is always a balancing act between results and development when it comes to youth teams but if you believe that winning is a good habit to learn then these recent results have to be encouraging.

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U.S. Top Mexico for 1st Time at U17 World Cup Qualifing Tournament
U.S. Top Mexico for 1st Time at U17 World Cup Qualifing Tournament avatar

The U.S. took a big step on the road to the 2017 U17 Men’s World Cup with a historic 4-3 victory over rival Mexico in Panama City on a rain-soaked Wednesday night to secure a place in the Classification round.

The win was the first at this age level for the Americans over El Tri, bringing the U.S. record versus Mexico to 1-4-1, as well as being the first loss for Mexico’s U17’s in 25 matches.

Coach John Hackworth named Josh Sargent as team captain prior to the CONCACAF tournament and the 17-year-old from the famed St. Louis Scott Gallagher club proved up to the task tonight with an impressive brace.

The U.S. found itself in an early hole in the sixth minute when Roberto de la Rosa took a defense-splitting pass from Andres Perez and outran and outmuscled A.J. Vasquez before beating Justin Garces to put Mexico ahead just six minutes in.

Sargent earned himself Man of the Match. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The Young Yanks responded well to that setback and when Sargent equalized in the 26th minute it was no less than the U.S. deserved. Sargent ran onto Blaine Ferri’s long ball and showed plenty of poise, strength, and skill to fight off a defender and put his shot past Cesar Lopez in the Mexico goal.

Sargent was the picture of persistence when he put his team in front in the 40th minute after his first and second attempts at goal were rebuffed before the captain finally converted a nice little chip to beat Lopez.

Mexico struck back quickly with de la Rosa slipping James Sands and nodding home a perfect cross from Daniel Lopez to set up a thrilling final 45 minutes.

Blaine Ferri started the second half fireworks giving the U.S. the lead six minutes after the break with a 25-yard rocket that had the small Panama City crowd breaking into the USA! Chant.

The Americans scored an insurance goal in the 78th minute when substitute George Acosta fed Josh Sargent to spring a deadly counterattack. Sargent connected with a streaking Ayo Akinola who did well to finish a bouncing pass on the slick surface at Estadio Maracaná de Panamá.

The Yanks looked to be home free but that insurance goal proved a necessary one when Mexican pressure yielded an added time own goal off defender Jaylin Lindsey.

Mexico kept the pressure on but the Americans managed to run out the clock to advance to the Classification Round. Two three-team groups move on to the Qualification stage with the first two in each qualifying for the U17 World Cup this October in India.

Before that, the U.S. have one more Group C game to play versus El Salvador on Saturday night at 6:00 pm ET. Hackworth could opt to give some playing time to some of his backups against El Salvador who have lost both of their Group C matches, 6-0 to Mexico and 3-1 to Jamaica.

Summary: 1 2 F
USA 2 2 4
MEX 2 1 3

MEX – Roberto de la Rosa (Andres Perez) 6th minute
USA – Josh Sargent (Blaine Ferri) 26
USA – Josh Sargent 40
MEX – Roberto de la Rosa (Daniel Lopez) 44
USA – Blaine Ferri (Andrew Carleton) 51
USA – Ayo Akinola (Josh Sargent) 78
MEX – Jaylin Lindsey (own goal) 90+2

Lineups:
USA: 1-Justin Garces; 3-Chris Gloster (13-Akil Watts, 46), 5-A.J. Vasquez, 4-James Sands, 2-Jaylin Lindsey; 8-Blaine Ferri, 6-Chris Durkin, 14-Chris Goslin (10-George Acosta, 80); 11-Andrew Carleton (19-Tim Weah, 75), 9-Josh Sargent (Capt.), 7-Ayo Akinola
Subs not used: 12-C.J. Dos Santos, 15-Zyen Jones, 16-Taylor Booth, 17-Bryan Reynolds, 18-Indiana Vassilev, 20-Adrian Villegas
Head coach: John Hackworth

MEX: 12-Cesar Lopez; 2-Adrian Vazquez, 3-Carlos Robles, 4-Luis Olivas (Capt.), 5-Raul Sandoval; 6-Luis Gamiz, 8-Alexis Gutierrez (17-Carlos Guerrero, 78), 11-Andres Perez (19-Cesar Huerta, 60); 7-Jairo Torres, 9-Daniel Lopez (20-Alfonso Alvarado, 71), 10-Roberto De La Rosa
Subs not used: 1-Andre Alcaraz, 13-Haret Ortega, 14-Alan Maeda, 15-Andres Catalan, 16-Marco Ruiz, 18-Victor Reyes
Head coach: Mario Arteaga

Stats Summary: USA / MEX
Shots: 10 / 8
Shots on Goal: 6 / 3
Saves: 1 / 2
Corner Kicks: 2 / 5
Fouls: 15 / 10
Offside: 3 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
MEX – Alexis Gutierrez (caution) 60th minute

 

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NWSL Roundup
NWSL Roundup avatar

Week two has come and gone in the NWSL, so let’s go around the league.

Four of the five league contests took place Saturday with just Sky Blue at Boston saved for Sunday, so let’s begin with Saturday’s goal fest in Seattle. As always, home teams listed first.

Seattle Reign 5-1 vs Houston Dash

Playing at home for the second week in a row the Reign gave the home fans at Memorial Stadium plenty to cheer about in Saturday’s 5-1 win over the Houston Dash.

Megan Rapinoe’s stunning volley gave further indication that the U.S. WNT star is approaching her world class form but Pinoe was far from the only bright spot in the Reign’s demolition of the Dash.

Fishlock earned the honors of Player of the Week. (ISI Photos/Jane Gershovich)

Five different Reign players rang the bell against Houston with Jess Fishlock getting the rout rolling in the 18th minute with an assist from Christine Nairn. Nine minutes later Fishlock turned provider with a perfectly floated pass that Rapinoe met with a skillful volley. It was Goal of the Week stuff from the controversial attacker as well as part of a very productive day for Fishlock who took home NWSL Player of the Week honors for her performance.

Kristen McNabb, Beverly Yanez, and Katlyn Johnson all added goals before Houston defender Poliana’s 84th-minute consolation tally for the Dash.

North Carolina Courage 1-0 vs Portland Thorns

What is in a name, or indeed a geographical location? Not much if we are to go by the early season performance of the North Carolina Courage, who won the NWSL championship last year as the Western New York Flash.

Debinha scored the winner for North Carolina. (ISI Photos/Andy Mead)

After opening the 2017 campaign with a road win at Washington the Courage made its home opener at the newly christened Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park a memorable one for the 6,298 fans on hand, topping a very good Portland side 1-0.

Debinha, one of the few newcomers to the relocated champions, broke the deadlock in the 81st minute on a setup from Jessica McDonald and with Sabrina D’Angelo and the Courage defense pitching a second consecutive shutout the former Flash continued its perfect start to life as the Courage.

Orlando Pride 1-1 vs Washington Spirit

It was a day of firsts in Orlando on Saturday when the Pride played the Washington Spirit to a 1-1 draw in the club’s debut at the sparkling new Orlando City Stadium. An enthusiastic crowd of 14,452 were on hand to witness the home team’s first game at the home the Pride now share with the Orlando Lions SC and that crowd was also treated to the team’s first goal, the first of rookie Danica Evans’ career, Marta’s first appearance for the Pride, and the team’s first point at Orlando City Stadium.

Evans secured a point for her team on their debut at Orland City Stadium. (ISI Photos/Jeremy Reper)

Evans’ 84th-minute goal matched the Spirit’s 60th-minute tally from Lina Sigvardsen Jensen and gave Marta a late chance to play the familiar hero role, alas the Brazilian legend fired her added time effort just wide of Stephanie Labbe’s net.

Chicago Red Stars 1-0 vs FC Kansas City

With a new name on her back midfielder, yes midfielder, Julie Ertz, formerly Johnston, finished a well-placed cross from Sofia Huerta to the back of the FCKC net for the first and only goal of the match to give the Red Stars its first win of the 2017 season.

Julie Ertz scored the only goal of the game. (ISI Photos/Daniel Bartel)

Ertz, who you may be more familiar with as a U.S. WNT defender, was clearly enjoying the freedom of her advanced role and just eight minutes after scoring, it was Ertz who earned the Stars a penalty kick.

U.S. WNT striker Christen Press failed to convert the spot-kick but with Chicago’s third U.S. national teamer Alyssa Naeher solid in between the posts Chicago closed out the win.

Boston Breakers 1-0 vs Sky Blue FC

The prize for a dismal 2016 in which the Boston Breakers won just three games and tied only two to go along with 15 defeats was the first selection in January’s NWSL Draft and Boston was more than happy to snap up Rose Lavelle with that pick.

The Breakers had four first round picks in L.A. also selecting Morgan Andrews, Ifenoma Onumonu, and Margaret Purce. All four have seen action already this season with Purce starting the Breakers opening week 2-0 loss at FCKC but Lavelle is the obvious centerpiece.

Lavelle showed some of her flair against Sky Blue and got rewarded with an assist. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsampes)

Since hearing her name called before any other back on January 12 in Los Angeles Lavelle has been busy establishing herself as an important piece of the U.S. WNT as a quick and intelligent attacker, whether out wide or in her preferred central role.

On Sunday, Lavelle showed a glimpse of her many skills when she sent Natasha Dowie in alone on Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan and the Breakers were on their way to a W.

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U.S. Hammer Jamaica to Start CONCACAF Play
U.S. Hammer Jamaica to Start CONCACAF Play avatar

After a slow start, the U.S. MNT overran Jamaica 5-0 Sunday afternoon in Panama City behind a pair of goals and an assist from Ayo Akinola.

The Americans were dominant from the start but inefficiency in front of goal by the Yanks combined with Jamaica’s keeper Tajay Griffiths playing his captain’s role to the hilt in the junior Reggae Boyz net kept the game goalless throughout the first half.

Ayo Akinola was the star of the evening. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

John Hackworth’s U.S. side was in complete control with Akinola always looking the most likely to finally break the deadlock. Finally on one of 10 U.S. corner kicks-Jamaica had just one on the day- DC United midfielder Chris Durkin rose highest to power his header past Griffiths.

Hackworth removed an ineffective Atlanta United FC starlet Andrew Carleton in favor of Timothy Weah and with minutes the PSG product had extended the U.S. lead.

Akinola made it happen in the 77th minute when he shook free from his marker and slid a perfect pass across the Jamaica goalmouth for Weah to tap home.

U.S. captain Josh Sargent made it 3-0 10 minutes later before Akinola’s brace put a capper on a fine first outing by the Americans.

Up next the Yanks will face a tougher test versus archrival Mexico on Wednesday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m. ET. El Tri overwhelmed El Salvador 6-0 in their first Group C match. The game can be seen live on UDN and CONCACAF YouTube.

The Americans close out group play April 29, 2017, against El Salvador at 11:30 AM ET with Mexico going up against Jamaica.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 5 5
JAM 0 0 0

USA – Chris Durkin (George Acosta) 53rd minute
USA – Timothy Weah (Ayo Akinola) 77
USA – Josh Sargent (Jaylin Lindsey) 87
USA – Ayo Akinola (Josh Sargent) 88
USA – Ayo Akinola 90+2

Lineups:
USA: 1-Justin Garces; 2-Jaylin Lindsey, 3-Chris Gloster, 4-James Sands, 5-A.J. Vasquez; 6-Chris Durkin, 8-Blaine Ferri (18-Indiana Vassilev, 88), 10-George Acosta (14-Chris Goslin, 76); 7-Ayo Akinola, 9-Josh Sargent (Capt.), 11-Andrew Carleton (19-Timothy Weah, 65)
Subs not used: 12-C.J. Dos Santos, 13-Akil Watts, 15-Zyen Jones, 16-Taylor Booth, 17-Bryan Reynolds, 20-Adrian Villegas
Head coach: John Hackworth

JAM: 13-Tajay Griffiths (Capt.); 3-Damani Osei, 5-Jamoi Topey (2-Kendall Edwards, 63), 6-Akeem Mullings (15-Richard Thompson, 61), 12-Kimani Gibbons, 20-Shane Ricketts; 4-Jeremy Verley, 8-Coby Atkinson, 11-Jermaine Lyons; 7-Kaheem Parris, 9-Raewin Senior (18-Ricardo McIntosh, 46)
Subs not used: 1-Daniel Russell, 10-Renato Campbell, 14-Nicque Daley, 16-Blake White, 17-Caseeam Priestly, 19-Calwayne Allen
Head coach: Andrew Edwards

Stats Summary: USA / JAM
Shots: 22 / 7
Shots on Goal: 10 / 4
Saves: 4 / 5
Corner Kicks: 10 / 1
Fouls: 6 / 11
Offside: 3 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
USA – A.J. Vasquez (caution) 45+2nd minute
JAM – Kimani Gibbons (caution) 83

 

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U.S. MNT Face Jamaica as U17 World Cup Journey Begins
U.S. MNT Face Jamaica as U17 World Cup Journey Begins avatar

The CONCACAF U17 Championship got underway Friday in Panama with Group A taking the spotlight. Host nation Panama topped Honduras 4-2 following the tournament curtain raiser that saw Curacao defeat Haiti by a 1-0 scoreline.

It was Group B’s turn on Saturday with Costa Rica edging Canada 2-1 in the Main Event while Cuba and Suriname battled to a 1-1 tie on the undercard.

The U1’s will take on Jamaica. (ISI Photos/Casey Brooke Lawson)

Sunday sees Group C take to the field with the U.S.A. going up against Jamaica at 1:30 while El Salvador challenge Mexico in the late match at 3:00.

12 nations make up the CONCACAF event with four earning a trip to U17 World Cup in India in October. The top two finishers from each of the three four-team groups will advance to the Classification stage with the first and second finishers in each of the two Classification groups making the trip to India this fall.

Mexico has been the dominant team in this age group, winning six CONCACAF titles. The U.S. has claimed the spoils three times and more importantly has failed to qualify for the U17 World Cup (or its equivalent) just once since 1985, although that failure was a recent one, back in 2013.

Coach John Hackworth brings a highly regarded U.S. team to Panama featuring four players who have signed Homegrown player contracts with Major League Soccer in 2016: midfielders Chris Durkin (D.C. United) and Chris Goslin (Atlanta United FC), and forwards Andrew Carleton (Atlanta United F.C.) and Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas).

Two players on Hackworth’s roster are based in Europe. Timothy Weah, son of Liberian and African soccer legend George Weah, is part of French club Paris Saint-Germain and Carlos Joaquim Dos Santos, who is with Portuguese side Benfica.

Center back James Sands impressed Patrick Vieira during New York City FC pre-season while playing as a defensive midfielder and will bear watching while the U.S. squad packs plenty of punch up front where Ayomide Akinola and Joshua Sargent will supplement Carleton, Reynolds, and Weah.

23 April 2017
1:30 ET
Jamaica v United States
Estadio Maracaná, Panama City
The U.S. match can be seen via livestream on the official CONCACAF Facebook page at 1:30 p.m. ET. Fans can also follow all the matches of the U.S. U-17 MNT on Twitter @ussoccer_ynt.

23 April 2017
15:00 ET
Mexico v El Salvador
Estadio Maracaná, Panama City

GOALKEEPERS (2): Carlos Joaquim Dos Santos (Benfica; Philadelphia, Pa.), Justin Garces (Kendall SC; Miami, Fla.)

DEFENDERS (5): Christopher Gloster (New York Red Bulls; Montclair, N.J.), Jaylin Lindsey (Sporting Kansas City; Charlotte, N.C.), James Sands (New York City FC; Rye, N.Y.), Arturo Vasquez (FC Golden State; Mira Loma, Calif.), Akil Watts (IMG Academy; Fort Wayne, Ind.)

MIDFIELDERS (7): George Acosta (Weston FC; Hollywood, Fla.), Taylor Booth (Real Salt Lake AZ; Eden, Utah), Christopher Durkin (D.C. United; Glen Allen, Va.), Blaine Ferri (Solar Chelsea SC; Southlake, Texas), Christopher Goslin (Atlanta United FC; Locust Grove, Ga.), Indiana Vassilev (IMG Academy; Savannah, Ga.), Adrian Villegas (Portland Timbers; Hood River, Ore.)

FORWARDS (6): Ayomide Akinola (Toronto FC; Brampton, Ont.), Andrew Carleton (Atlanta United FC; Powder Springs, Ga.), Zyen Jones (Atlanta United FC; Clarkston, Ga.), Bryan Reynolds, Jr. (FC Dallas; Little Elm, Texas), Joshua Sargent (Scott Gallagher Missouri; O’Fallen, Mo.) Timothy Weah (Paris Saint-Germain; Rosedale, N.Y.)

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