3 MLS Clubs Advance to CONCACAF Champions League Quarters
3 MLS Clubs Advance to CONCACAF Champions League Quarters avatar

When group play had concluded Wednesday night three Major League Soccer teams had survived and advanced to the final eight of the CONCACAF Champions League, or CCL, with the Portland failing to make it four as the Timbers settled for a 1-1 home draw against Saprissa to miss out.

Oscar Pareja (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Oscar Pareja got his team selection and tactics spot on. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

With MLS Decision Day coming up on Sunday the CCL, an acronym that begins with an acronym, could hardly have come at a worse time for Major League Soccer’s representatives. FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja selected a reserve heavy side and was rewarded with a 5-2 victory over Guatemalan side Suchitepequez despite saving most of his regulars for Sunday and the Supporters Shield chase.

With qualification for the MLS playoffs hanging in the balance for both of their teams, it was no surprise that Pareja’s coaching colleagues Caleb Porter (Portland Timbers) and Peter Vermes (Sporting Kansas City) followed the FC supremo’s lead.

Sporting was already eliminated from further CCL involvement, so the choice to rest his first teamers was no choice at all for Vermes and his backups did the job with a 3-1 win in front of an announced crowd of over 11,000 at Children’s Mercy Park Wednesday night.

Knowing that only win would send Portland through to the knockout rounds Porter had more to consider but with missing the playoffs a real possibility for the 2015 MLS Cup champions the coach had no choice but to prioritize Sunday’s trip to Vancouver.

Caleb Porter  (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Caleb Porter was honest about his disappointment.(ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Speaking at his post game press conference Porter expressed genuine frustration at the result, telling the assembled media “these guys (his team) wanted to win this game and I wanted to win this game.” “Badly,” Porter underlined. “I feel bad” the coach went on, “because I know that our supporters wanted to win this game badly. This is part of this job and a part of this business and sometimes you don’t get a result. But if it doesn’t hurt then you don’t care.”

The Portland coach’s sentiments concerning the Timbers fans were borne out by an announced attendance of 16,977 at Providence Park but the coach is confident that his team will put this set back behind it Sunday’s regular-season finale.” “You have to move on,” Porter said. “We will move on. We will move on from it and we are still looking forward to being in the playoffs, but I can’t think about that right now. I can’t think about that right now because I am just very disappointed in this game.”

The three advancing MLS clubs will continue to chase regional club glory in home and away matches scheduled for February 28 and March 2, with the higher seeded club hosting the second match in each series. Three of the remaining quarterfinal sides are from Mexico’s Liga MX, Pachuca, Pumas UNAM, and Tigres UANL. Árabe Unido hails from Panama and Saprissa from Costa Rica.

Below are the matchup with the seedings.

#1 Vancouver Whitecaps vs. #8 New York Red Bulls

#2 Arabe Unido vs. #7 FC Dallas

#3 Pachuca vs. #6 Deportivo Saprissa

#4 Pumas UNAM vs. #5 Tigres UANL

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A Good Night as New Look U.S. WNT Top Switzerland
A Good Night as New Look U.S. WNT Top Switzerland avatar

It was all about the numbers when the U.S. WNT met Switzerland Wednesday night in Sandy, Utah. Numbers like 11 uncapped players on the American roster, three of whom received their first cap, 3 college players, including two who saw their first full national team minutes.

Some new faces in the starting line-up for the U.S. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Some new faces in the starting line-up for the U.S. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

And there were these numbers, 3-5-2, as Jill Ellis took into account the 3 years until the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France to try out a new formation, eschewing the tried and true 4-4-2. And with all of those digits flying around, let’s not forget that the U.S. WNT won last night 4-0.

The newcomers acquitted themselves very well indeed, led by Western New York Flash striker Lynn Williams, who scored only 51 ticks after her halftime introduction. Williams’ goal only continued a spectacular run for the 23-year-old, who scored the last-gasp equalizer to send the NWSL final on to penalty kicks.

Williams (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Williams didn’t take long to get on the scoresheet. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The Flash won that shootout and Williams added the NWSL title to her league MVP and Golden Boot awards for the 2016 season. Another standout amongst the first timers was college star Andi Sullivan and all the Stanford midfielder did was walk off with the official Woman of the Match honors for her performance.

Furthering Ellis’ experimental vibe, the coach started midfielder Allie Long at the center of the back three with veteran Becky Sauerbrunn on her left and Emily Sonnet on the right. Further up the field, Lindsey Horan played just behind strike partners Crystal Dunn and Carli Lloyd.

The new look U.S. looked exciting and clinical. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The new look U.S. looked exciting and clinical. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

A look at the scoresheet, minus Williams, shows familiar faces Tobin Heath, Christen Press, and Samantha Mewis, earning just her fourth cap, so it was not all change on the night. Still, it was difficult not to get the message from Ellis that the Olympic flameout wasn’t good enough and with France 2019 far in the distance, nothing is assumed, no position is safe.

Switzerland is a solid side and had to be happy to finish the first half tied at zeros but minus four top players, led by star attacker Ramona Bachmann, Switzerland carried little real threat on the night and keeper Alyssa Naeher was really tested just once, when she tipped a shot over the crossbar after a U.S. turnover.

After picking the pocket of a Swiss defender Williams put the U.S. on the scoreboard soon after the restart to open the floodgates. Oh, Switzerland hung on for a bit but only until the impressive Dunn set up Heath for the second U.S. tally in the 69th minute. Two more goals followed completing a good night for the U.S. and setting the stage, not just for Sunday’s rematch with the Swiss, but more importantly, for the next few years.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F

USA 0 4 4
SUI 0 0 0

USA – Lynn Williams 46th minute
USA – Tobin Heath (Crystal Dunn) 61
USA – Christen Press (Kelley O’Hara) 69
USA – Samantha Mewis (Christen Press) 76

USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 12-Emily Sonnett (23-Christen Press, 46), 20-Allie Long (14-Abby Dahlkemper, 72), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn; 17-Tobin Heath (21-Ashley Hatch, 75), 19-Andi Sullivan (3-Samantha Mewis, 75), 6-Morgan Brian, 9-Lindsey Horan (13-Lynn Williams, 46), 8-Casey Short; 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.) (5-Kelley O’Hara, 64), 16-Crystal Dunn
Subs not used: 24-Ashlyn Harris
Head Coach: Jill Ellis

SUI: 1-Gaëlle Thalmann; 6-Selina Kuster, 14-Rahel Kiwic, 15-Caroline Abbé (capt.), 5-Noelle Maritz; 20-Sandrine Mauron (3-Melanie Müller, 62), 7-Martina Moser, 8-Cinzia Zehnder, 19-Eseosa Aigbogun; 2-Patricia Willi (23-Barla Deplazes, 46), 18-Viola Calligaris
Subs not used: 12-Stenia Michel, 21-Seraina Friedli, 4-Fabienne Bangerter, 16-Fabienne Humm, 22-Vanessa Bernauer
Head Coach: Martina Voss-Tecklenburg

Stats Summary: USA / SUI
Shots: 24 / 4
Shots on Goal: 12 / 2
Saves: 2 / 8
Corner Kicks: 8 / 1
Fouls: 7 / 17
Offside: 5 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
SUI – Noelle Maritz (caution) 44th
USA – Lynn Williams (caution) 81
SUI – Viola Calligaris (caution) 85
SUI – Cinzia Zehnder (caution) 86


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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

It’s almost here! Playoff time, that is, so let’s take a look.

1) Reversal of Fortunes

The last time New York hosted the Columbus the Crew ended the Red Bulls season by wrapping up an aggregate goals victory to advance to the MLS Cup Championship match, where the Crew fell to Portland.

When the sides got together in Harrison on Sunday, almost 11 months later, things had changed dramatically, and not in a positive sense for the Ohioans. Last November 29, the Gregg Berhalter led Crew knocked off the Supporters Shield-winning Red Bulls after ending the regular season seven points back of New York in second place.

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

Jesse Marsch rallied his team to the win.(ISI Photos /Mike Lawrence)

This season both teams began poorly but while Columbus fell apart, highlighted by the Kai Kamara fiasco, Jesse Marsch rallied his troops to the point where Sunday’s 3-2 win all clinched first place in the East.

The Red Bulls won’t win the Supporters Shield this season, that will come down to FC Dallas and Colorado, but after coming back from a 1-6 to win the East and making a run at a club first MLS Cup should satisfy the MLS originals.

2) Dallas win! And Lose.

FC Dallas sits atop the MLS standings today following Sunday’s 2-1 home win over Seattle and while the win is nice and boosts the club’s Supporters Shield hopes, the long-term loss of playmaking catalyst Mauro Diaz puts a real dent in FCD’s MLS Cup hopes.

Mauro Diaz (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Mauro Diaz is out for the rest of the season (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Diaz reportedly injured his achilles tendon and will miss the rest of this season plus a significant portion of 2017. Dallas is also sweating out a Kellyn Acosta injury, the midfielder left with a hip injury on Sunday and is second on the club with five assists on the year, Diaz is first with 13.

3) We’re In!

DC United fans celebrate their victory over NYC FC. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

DC United fans celebrate their victory over NYC FC. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

That was the cry from DC United and Montreal fans Sunday evening after DC toppled NYCFC 3-1 and Montreal finished level with Canadian rivals Toronto FC. Those results assured the team’s places in the MLS title chase and also hurt their opponents. NYCFC fell from a first-place tie with NYRB and will need a result next week at Yankee Stadium versus Columbus to secure a coveted top-two finish in the East while Sunday’s results leave Toronto with no hope of winning the East and rooting for an NYCFC loss to Columbus next Sunday if they are to claim a top two position.

3A) Big Losers

With a chance to improve their playoff hopes New England Revolution instead flopped in Chicago, losing to the league-worst Chicago Fire by a 2-1 score. The Revs came into this match having won four out of its last five games but could not keep it going against the Fire.

Philadelphia are favorites to make (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

Philadelphia are favorites to advance. (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

Philadelphia also lost to a non contender, and at home no less, but a three-point cushion over the Union plus superior tie breakers mean that despite the loss to Orlando the Union is still odds-on to advance to the MLS second season.

4) Wide Open in the Wild West!

While the six playoff qualifiers are more or less set in the East, things are considerably more fluid in the Western Conference heading into next Sunday’s Decision Day with three playoff spots still up for grabs.

Zach Scott (L) in action for Seattle Sounders in 2016 (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

The Galaxy have secured their spot.ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

The top two spots are settled, although not the order, with FC Dallas and Colorado assured of KO Round byes. The Los Angeles Galaxy has secured one of the four KO Round positions with three to fight for.

Defending Champions Portland kept its hopes alive with Sunday’s 1-0 win over Colorado while Real Salt Lake and Sporting KC stayed in the game after they tied 0-0 in Utah. Seattle sits fifth after that 1-0 loss in Dallas, leaving a quartet of clubs bunched from fourth place through sixth with two points between RSL in fourth and Portland in seventh.

5) Drogba Refuses to Play- Montreal Says Cool

Below is the statement from Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo issued today in response to his star player’s refusal to play when he learned that he was not in the team’s starting 11 for Sunday’s match versus Toronto.

Drogba (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

Drogba was not happy not being in the starting line-up. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

“We met with Didier. The situation has been resolved to the club’s satisfaction. Didier has accepted to assume the role that the head coach sees fit while contributing to the success of this club moving forward. When he came to Montreal, Didier said he came here to win, and he still has the same objective.”

Following Sunday’s playoff-clinching 2-2 draw with TFC Montreal coach Mauro Biello frankly explained why Drogba was not in the 18. “I just want to put things clear,” Biello said. “Didier wasn’t selected to start the game, and I spoke with him. He didn’t accept the fact to come off the bench, and in the end, he didn’t want to be in the 18.”

Biello’s remarks cleared up earlier reports that the 38-year-old striker was left out over injury concerns. “Yes there’s a little bit of tightness in his back, but he was capable of playing, and he said he didn’t accept the fact that he was coming off the bench. The club is going to take care of the situation.”

Drogba was not suspended but he was fined. It remains to be seen if Biello will be satisfied with how “the club took care of the situation” but odds on a Drogba return to Montreal in 2017 just got a little bit longer.

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Mallory Pugh Leads U.S. U20′s Into Women’s World Cup
Mallory Pugh Leads U.S. U20′s Into Women’s World Cup avatar

With the U.S WNT program in need of a boost after some disappointing recent results 18-year-old Olympic veteran, Mallory Pugh headlines the 21 player roster announced today to represent the U.S. at the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup next month in Papua New Guinea.

Mallory Pugh (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Mallory Pugh will definitely bring a spark to the U20′s. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

U.S.A. coach Michelle French will be hoping that Pugh is fully recovered from a troublesome ankle injury suffered at the Olympics that limited the star forward during the Americans disappointing winless and goalless effort at the NTC Challenge Cup held last month at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

Pugh leads what should be a formidable U.S. attack also featuring rising U17 star Ashley Sanchez, who heads to Papua New Guinea fresh off of a discouraging early exit from the U17 World Cup.

French can also call on talented forwards Jessica Scarpa and Ally Watt, so unlike at the U17 WWC, goals shouldn’t be a problem for the Americans at the U20 tournament.

Although the Americans have never won U17 WWC, expectations will be higher for the older group given the U.S. history at this event. The Americans captured the inaugural U20 tournament in 2002, also taking the title in 2008 and 2012. Defending champions Germany are also three-time winners, having claimed the spoils in 2004 and 2014.

The Young Yanks were eliminated by North Korea after penalty kicks in the 2014 Women’s World Cup in Canada and will be hoping to improve on that performance while attempting to put the recent disappoints in the U.S. Women’s National Team including premature exits at the Olympics and U17 World Cup program behind them.

U.S. Group Games Schedule:
Monday, November 14 vs. France.
Thursday, November 17 vs. New Zealand
Monday, November 21 vs. Ghana

U.S. U-20 Women’s World Cup Team Roster :
GOALKEEPERS (3): Rose Chandler (Penn State; Atlanta, Ga.), Brooke Heinsohn (New England FC; Norfolk, Mass.), Casey Murphy (Rutgers; Bridgewater, N.J.)

DEFENDERS (7): Madeline Elliston (Penn State; Omaha, Neb.), Emily Fox (FC Virginia; Ashburn, Va.), Sabrina Flores (Notre Dame; Livingston, N.J.), Ellie Jean (Penn State; Coventry, Conn.), Natalie Jacobs (Notre Dame; Coto de Caza, Calif.), Taylor Otto (North Carolina; Apex, N.C.), Kaleigh Riehl (Penn State; Fairfax Station, Va.)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Marley Canales (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.), Katie Cousins (Tennessee; Forest, Va.), Savannah DeMelo (Beach FC; Bellflower, Calif.), Kelcie Hedge (Washington; Post Falls, Idaho), Emily Ogle (Penn State; Strongsville, Ohio), Courtney Petersen (Virginia; Canton, Mich.), Parker Roberts (Florida; Leawood, Kansas)

FORWARDS (4): Ashley Sanchez (So Cal Blues: Monrovia, Calif.), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado; Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Jessie Scarpa (North Carolina; Lakeland, Fla.), Ally Watt (Texas A&M; Colorado Springs, Colo.)

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4 Things We Learned From The U.S. MNT’s Games
4 Things We Learned From The U.S. MNT’s Games avatar

The U.S. MNT followed up last week’s 2-0 win in Cuba with an unimpressive 1-1 draw against New Zealand Tuesday night before a minuscule crowd at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. With just a month to go until the U.S. MNT face Mexico and Costa Rica in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers, aka the Hex, the question is, what have we learned from these final pre-WCQ friendlies?

Klinsmann's team did not shine but what did he learn? (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Klinsmann’s team did not shine but what did he learn? (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

In the absence of Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, which of the second tier keepers, if any, impressed? Did anyone else make a case for a place in the Hex squad? Did anyone fall out of favor?

Here are a few thoughts.

Horvath Holds Off Competition for 3rd Keeper Role- Easily.

Jurgen Klinsmann elected to leave Howard with Colorado for the Rapids 3-2 win Saturday over Houston and Guzan with his Middlesbrough club where he continues to fight for playing time. Horvath was Klinsmann’s number three during this summer’s Copa America giving the 21-year-old Molde (Norway) keeper the edge coming into these friendlies.

Horvath maintained that advantage with a good performance versus Cuba, in a game where he was much busier than expected. Klinsmann then let William Yarbrough and David Bingham split 90 minutes versus New Zealand with Yarbrough taking the first shift.

Horvath (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Horvath put in a good performance against Cuba.  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Despite keeping half a clean sheet against the Kiwis the 27 year Club Leon keeper was frankly poor, bobbling one ball, looking weak in one aerial challenge, and punching another ball into danger. The Mexican-born and based keeper did nothing to inspire confidence and even less to press for Horvath’s place.

Bingham seemed the more confident of the pair, although the San Jose Earthquakes man did concede New Zealand’s goal on a screened shot. DC United number one and former U.S. heir apparent Bill Hamid was called in for the New Zealand game to replace Horvath but was not used.

Julian Green is Back

From World Cup goal scorer to forgotten man and back again and still just 21 years of age, Julian Green is back in the U.S. MNT picture after scoring against both Cuba and New Zealand while also picking up a helper against the Cubans.

Julian Green (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Julian Green was proved that he can be the front man for the U.S.  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Green played himself into consideration for the Mexico match next month but the Bayern Munich club man is far from a lock. Klinsmann used Green as a winger in a 4-3-3, a formation that Klinsmann tends to abandon when the big games roll around whereas Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti sees Green strictly as a center forward.

Not surprisingly, with Robert Lewandowski ahead of him on a packed Munich squad Green has yet to play a Bundesliga minute this season, making it questionable that Klinsmann will call in Green for two vitally important matches if he continues to ride the pine between now and November 11.

Kljestan Has Earned a Spot

Klinsmann handed Sacha Kljestan’s international career an unexpected lifeline when he called the New York Red Bulls midfielder in as a late injury replacement for a pair of World Cup Qualifiers in September.

Kljestan (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Kljestan in action against New Zealand. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

The U.S. won the games by a combined 10-0 score against minnows St. Vincent and the Grenadines (6-0) and a weaker than expected Trinidad and Tobago (4-0) with Kljestan picking up two goals and two assists while establishing a nice rapport with U.S. superstar to be Christian Pulisic.

Kljestan wasn’t great against Cuba but awful field conditions made that game one to forget for almost everyone. Against New Zealand, however, Kljestan showed the vision and range of passing that has him atop the MLS assist chart and back in the U.S. MNT picture.

And finally, Terrence Boyd

Sometimes referred to as the most American of the Germericans, German-born players on the U.S. MNT, striker Terrence Boyd made his national team return last night with a late cameo, a big moment in his continuing comeback.

Terrence Boyd (Getty Images)

Terrence Boyd made a return to national team. (Getty Images)

Boyd tore his ACL in December 2014 and with his comeback complicated by cysts that required three more operations to his calf, the RB Leipzig man had to wonder if he would ever line out for the U.S. MNT again.

Boyd is still playing reserve games in the German fourth division as he works his way toward first team minutes with Bundesliga newcomers Leipzig. Last night was a small step but an important one for Boyd and here is how he felt about taking that step.

Screen Shot 2016-10-13 at 10.00.17

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U17 WWC Loss Continues Slide for U.S. WNT
U17 WWC Loss Continues Slide for U.S. WNT avatar

The disappointments continued for the United States Women’s National Team program as the young Americans were eliminated from the U17 World Cup with Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Japan in Jordan.

Ashley Sanchez put her team ahead in the first half. (Getty Images)

Ashley Sanchez put her team ahead in the first half. (Getty Images)

The U.S. was unable to hold onto or build upon a first half lead supplied by a 33rd-minute strike from the team’s best player Ashley Sanchez, surrendering three consecutive second-half goals before Sanchez’ added time score from the penalty spot.

That late tally did little to hide the fact the Americans had been thoroughly outplayed for most of the Group D finale by the defending champions, who gave the Americans a badly needed lesson in possession soccer.

The Americans were similarly schooled in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to Ghana, another game that saw the U.S. cough up an early lead. Striker Frankie Tagliaferri spotted the U.S. a one-goal lead in the fifth minute of game two but with Ghana controlling possession and looking by far the more dangerous team, it was no surprise that the lead did not hold.

Game one results made the Ghana loss all the more surprising, with the U.S. having easily brushed aside Paraguay by a 6-1 scoreline while Ghana had lost to Japan 5-0 in first round action.

Japan are the defending champions in this age group. (Getty images)

Japan are the defending champions in this age group. (Getty images)

Losing to a very talented Japan side is no great surprise and it is surely worth noting that the Americans have never won the U17 Women’s event, which is being held for the fifth time since its 2008 introduction.

The U.S. lost the championship match to North Korea that first year and have not finished in the top four since, results that have hardly held back the success of the full national team.

What puts this tournament in a more discouraging light, however, is the regressive style of play demonstrated by the U.S. against Japan and Ghana and recent results at the U20 level and of course at the recent Olympic Games.

The defending World Cup Champions suffered a shock defeat in the quarterfinals at the Rio Olympics and that loss was followed by a very poor effort by the U20 side at September’s NTC International, a World Cup prep tournament.

The U20’s were hampered by a mostly unavailable Mallory Pugh, who was in and out of the lineup as she recovered from an ankle injury suffered during the Olympics but that hardly excuses a goalless, last place finish at a tournament played at the U.S. home base of Carson, California.

(Getty Images)

The young side struggled to hold the ball up and could not string many passes together. \(Getty Images)

Against Ghana and Japan sustained build up play seemed a foreign concept to the American U17′s, who struggled to fend off the aggressive press of the opposition and whose only threat was quick counters and long balls over the top of the defense.

The U20 side will have a chance to soothe the frazzled nerves of U.S. WNT supporters at the U20 Women’s World Cup in Papua, New Guinea running from November 13 through December 3rd.

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Western New York Flash Crowned NWSL Champions
Western New York Flash Crowned NWSL Champions avatar

After both NWSL semifinals ended in extra time last weekend the championship match went one better with Western New York Flash defeating the Washington Spirit on penalty kicks behind the heroics of goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo Sunday afternoon in Houston.

After the teams had battled to a 2-2 stalemate over 90 minutes of regulation and 30 more in extra time WNY’s Canadian national team goalkeeper D’Angelo saved three Spirit spot kicks sparking ecstatic celebrations at BBVA Compass Stadium by the Flash that included coach Paul Riley, who was suspended for the final after being red carded during his team’s semifinal victory over the Portland Thorns.

Crystal Dunn was outstanding and did not deserve to be on the losing team. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Crystal Dunn was outstanding and did not deserve to be on the losing team. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Washington looked like the team that would be celebrating as the clock ticked down on Sunday afternoon, with Crystal Dunn’s two-goal performance looking like the headline. But some added time heroics from Western New York strike duo Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald flipped the script sending the match to extra time and paving the way for the Flash to claim the fourth ever NWSL Championship.

With so many of BBVA’s orange seats conspicuously unoccupied the early talking point in this final was the league’s decision to play the game at a neutral site, especially following the packed house last week in Portland.

The announced crowd of 8,255 seemed lost at the 22,000 plus capacity home of the Houston Dynamo and the atmosphere understandably suffered.

Washington and U.S. WNT star Crystal Dunn livened the place up with an eight-minute goal, assisted in equal parts by Megan Oyster’s accurate long range pass and a poor decision to come off of her line by from eventual match winner D’Angelo.

Samantha Mewis (R) scored the equalizer for the Flash)

Samantha Mewis (R) was on the scoresheet for the Flashn(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Trailing 1-0 early didn’t phase WNY and like she did against Portland in the semifinals Samantha Mewis soon got on the board for the Flash. The Spirit lead had lasted just five minutes and it looked like we were about to be treated to another NWSL playoff thriller.

Instead, a succession of ever more frustrating foul calls from referee Matthew Franz drained the life from the game as it limped through a tedious second half and into extra time.

The extra period had barely started when Dunn did it again, taking a feed from her U.S. WNT teammate Ali Krieger and firing Washington back into the lead in the first minute of extra time.

Western New York has earned something of a Comeback Kids reputation this season but as Sunday’s Championship match progressed the Flash seemed to be struggling to the final whistle and this began to look like one comeback too many.

But WNY’s dangerous strike force wasn’t quite ready to let go and Jessica McDonald launched a dangerous cross into the Washington goalmouth intended for Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams. All Williams had to do was beat two Spirit defenders and Washington goalkeeper Kelsey Wys, which Williams did to head home the leveler with virtually the final action of the match.

The Flash won the PK shootout. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The Flash won the PK shootout. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Then it was on to penalty kicks. After Flash center back Abby Dahlkemper did her part D’Angelo saved Krieger’s try. The Canadian number two went on to stop Tori Huster and then Diana Matheson to seal the win for Western New York making the Flash the third team to raise the NWSL Championship Trophy after the Portland Thorns (2013) and FC Kansas City (2014 and 2015).


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Ghana Stun U.S. in U17 Women’s World Cup
Ghana Stun U.S. in U17 Women’s World Cup avatar

Before a shocking 2-1 loss to Ghana in the U17 World Cup in Amman, Jordan today’s match seemed set to follow a script written years ago, a script that ends with an easy win for the American youngsters.

After all, the Young Yanks were coming off of a 6-1 thrashing of Paraguay in the Group D opener while Ghana’s girls had suffered a 5-0 shutout at the hands of Japan in their first game.

Frankie Tagliaferri put the U.S. ahead in the 5th minute. (Getty Images)

Frankie Tagliaferri put the U.S. ahead in the 5th minute. (Getty Images)

The big names on the U.S. side had all scored against Paraguay, led by a hat trick for Civana Kuhlmann and supplemented by single strikes from her gifted running mates Frankie Tagliaferri, Kiara Pickett, and rising star Ashley Sanchez, who has already been called into the full U.S. camp for a closer look by Jill Ellis.

An early goal today from Tagliaferri seemed to indicate that the script was set to be followed but Ghana soon showed that they planned a re-write.

Instead of folding Ghana showed remarkable resolve, particularly after the halftime break as Ghana’s pressing tactics began to choke off the U.S. attack. In fact, the Ghanaian pressure was so effective that the American favorites could barely get the ball out of its own end.

There was one telling sequence in the second stanza where U.S. goalkeeper Laura Ivory and a U.S. defender exchanged several passes, hell-bent on living up to current craze to play it out of the back sure, but also unable to break the smothering Ghana press.

Ghana’s pressure was such that there was an air of the inevitable about it when Ghana’s Gifty Acheampong out jumped Ivory to head home the equalizer in the 63rd minute. The goal was a body blow and the U.S. struggled to respond, but eventually the Americans clawed their way back into the match.

Possession remained difficult for the Americans, although they began to have success on the counter and were nearly rewarded when a Sanchez blast off of the crossbar came agonizingly near crossing the goal line before trickling out of play for a U.S. corner kick.

Ghan celebrate their victory. (Getty Images)

Ghana celebrate their victory. (Getty Images)

A draw was beginning to look likely until an unfortunate, but legitimate handball call went against Pickett and was clinically converted by Ghana captain Sandra Owusu-Ansa in the 84th minute.

Ghana held on for the win and celebrated the result wildly on the field while the Americans were distraught. Neither side will have long to recover from those emotions, both are back in action on Friday.

The Americans lead Ghana in Group D standings thanks to a superior goal difference (plus 4 to minus 4) but face the bigger challenge versus Japan while Ghana should be too good for Paraguay.

The top two teams in each of the four groups advance to the quarterfinals, so we will need to wait on the result of today’s Japan vs Paraguay game to know exactly what the U.S. will need from Friday’s games.

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

USA – Frankie Tagliaferri (Civana Kuhlmann) 5th minute
GHA – Gifty Acheampong (Adizatu Mustapha) 63
GHA – Sandra Owusu-Ansah (penalty kick) 84

USA : 1-Laurel Ivory; 9-Kiara Pickett (13-Isabel Rodriguez, 85), 5-Karina Rodriguez, 4-Naomi Girma, 11-Kate Wiesner (15-Kennedy Wesley, 57); 7-Alex Spaanstra, 18-Jaelin Howell, 20-Frankie Tagliaferri (3-Sophia Smith, 56), 8-Briana Pinto, 10-Ashley Sanchez (capt.); 14-Civana Kuhlmann
Subs Not Used: 2-Jordan Canniff, 6-Emily Smith, 12-Meagan McClelland, 16-Sydney Zandi,
17-Lia Godfrey, 19-Adrienne Richardson, 21-Hillary Beall
Head Coach: B.J. Snow

GHA : 1-Kayza Massey; 4-Uwaisa Mawia, 12-Cecilia Hagan, 14-Philicity Asuako, 18-Blessing Agbomadzi; 6-Grace Asantewaa, 9-Gifty Acheampong, 17-Fuseina Mumuni; 7-Rafia Kulchirie, 10-Sandra Owusu-Ansah (capt.), 15-Adizatu Mustapha (20-Konadu Adjei, 86)
Subs Not Used: 2-Joyce Asamoah, 3-Nina Norshie, 5-Linda Amoako, 8-Grace Acheampong, 11-Mary Entoah, 13-Olivia Anokye, 16-Barikisu Issahaku, 19-Sylvian Amankwah, 21-Selina Amusilie
Head Coach: Evans Adotey

Stats Summary: USA / GHA
Shots: 11 / 24
Shots on Goal: 5 / 10
Saves: 8 / 4
Corner Kicks: 5 / 6
Fouls: 13 / 14
Offside: 1 / 3

Misconduct Summary:
GHA – Cecilia Hagan (caution) 18th minute
GHA – Grace Asantewaa (caution) 42
GHA – Kayza Massey (caution) 80
GHA – Uwaisa Mawia (caution) 81
USA – Sophia Smith (caution) 90+4

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NWSL Finals Set After a Pair of Extra Time Thrillers
NWSL Finals Set After a Pair of Extra Time Thrillers avatar

The NWSL opened and closed the weekend with a pair of thrilling extra time encounters that saw the Washington Spirit and the Western New York Flash emerge as finalists for the 2016 NWSL Championship match to be decided Sunday afternoon at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium.

Christen Press' goal was not enough to take her team to the final. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Christen Press’ goal was not enough to take her team to the final. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Washington hosted the Chicago Red Stars Friday at the Maryland SoccerPlex responding to the vocal home crowds promptings with an impressive first half that might well have yielded more that the 1-0 halftime lead that the Spirit took to the dressing room at the 45-minute mark.

U.S. WNT defender Ali Krieger headed home from a Shelina Zadorsky cross to stake the Spirit to that well-deserved advantage in the 36th minute but the home side was unable to pad that lead before the break.

Red Stars coach Rory Dames must have delivered some inspiring words to his troops during the interval because Chicago was a different team on the resumption.

U.S. WNT attacker Christen Press led the way finally finding the equalizer in the 81st minute when she volleyed home a Casey Short setup from close range. The late Chicago score set up just the second extra time in NWSL playoff history, who knew that two days later we would see the second 90 plus minute match of the weekend.

Press had a golden chance to win the match in the 92nd minute when Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys slipped but with the goal at her mercy Press surprisingly found the woodwork and not the net.

Francisca Ordega scored the game winning goal to lead Washington to the final. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Francisca Ordega scored the game winning goal to lead Washington to the final. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

That left the hero’s role to Washington forward Francisca Ordega who sent the 4,249 fans at the SoccerPlex home happy and Spirit on to the finals with her 111th-minute winner.

The weekend concluded with another NWSL Playoff extra time thriller Sunday night when the visiting Western New York Flash disappointed a huge and vocal Providence Park crowd, defeating the Portland Thorns 4-3 thanks to a pair of extra time goals from 2016 Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams.

The two teams treated the crowd of 20,086 to the highest scoring game in NWSL playoff history, with the seven goals topping by one the number of yellow cards handed out by referee Marco Vega.

Vega got an earful from Mark Parson at the half, with the Portland coach telling the official to watch out for “gamesmanship” from the Flash players.

By gamesmanship, it was assumed Parson was complaining about physical and not psychological abuse from the Flash. Vega seems to have taken note, the ref doled out five of a total of six cautions after the half, handing three to WNY players.

The Flash led 2-1 at the juncture with the impressive Sam Mewis opening the scoring on WNY’s behalf in the 16th minute. The visitors extended that lead to 2-0 on a 38th minute Mackenzie Doniak tally and it was beginning to look bleak for the home side.

Sinclair (R) was once again on the scoresheet for Portland. (ISI Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Sinclair (R) was once again on the scoresheet for Portland. (ISI Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

But that gloom was lifted almost instantly by Canadian star Christine Sinclair who outmuscled her defender and blasted a first-time shot past Sabrina D’Angelo from a fine long ball from Katherine Reynolds.

Portland would equalize in the 76th minute when Emily Sonnett finished from a goalmouth scramble. Neither side could find a late winner and so it was back to extra time for the NWSL playoffs.

Lynn Williams (ISI Photos/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Lynn Williams was on the scoresheet twice and got the game winner for the Flash.  (ISI Photos/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Those two goals from Williams seemed to have ended the season for Portland but the Thorns were not prepared to give up just yet. Lindsey Horan made it a one-goal game in the 106th minute as the Thorns fought to the final whistle.

Horan thought she had beaten that final whistle with a late, late looping header only for Abby Dahlkemper to spoil the U.S. internationals’ moment with a last-ditch clearance. Dahlkemper’s save came in the 123rd minute and it would be the play that sent Western New York back to the NWSL final for the first time since losing to Portland in the 2013 Championship match.

Scoring Summary:

1 2 1ET 2ET F
Washington Spirit 1 0 0 1 2
Chicago Red Stars 0 1 0 0 1

WAS – Ali Krieger (Shelina Zadorsky) 36’
CHI – Christen Press (Casey Short) 81’
WAS – Francisca Ordega (Christine Nairn) 111’

Washington Spirit: Kelsey Wys, Caprice Dydasco, Shelina Zadorsky, Whitney Church, Ali Krieger, Christine Nairn, Tori Huster, Joanna Lohman (Diana Matheson 70’), Estefania Banini (Katie Stengel 88’), Francisca Ordega (Megan Oyster 114’), Crystal Dunn
Substitutes Not Used: Stephanie Labbe, Estelle Johnson, Alyssa Kleiner, Line Sigvardsen Jensen

Chicago Red Stars: Alyssa Naeher, Arin Gilliland, Julie Johnston, Samantha Johnson, Casey Short, Danielle Colaprico, Vanessa DiBernardo, Sofia Huerta, Taylor Comeau (Amanda Da Costa 70’; Katie Naughton 114’), Christen Press, Cara Walls (Stephanie McCaffrey 65’)
Substitutes Not Used: Michele Dalton, Jen Hoy, Alyssa Mautz, Sarah Gorden, Courtney Raetzman

Stats Summary: WAS / CHI
Shots: 14 / 11
Shots on Goal: 5 / 4
Saves: 3 / 3
Corner Kicks: 8 / 3
Fouls: 9 / 14
Offside: 5 / 5

Scoring Summary:

1 2 ET1 ET2 F
Portland Thorns FC 1 1 1 0 3
Western New York Flash 2 0 2 0 4

WNY – Samantha Mewis 16’
WNY – Makenzy Doniak (Jessica McDonald) ‘38
POR – Christine Sinclair (Katherine Reynolds) 39’
POR – Emily Sonnett 78’
WNY – Lynn Williams 98’
WNY – Lynn Williams (Samantha Mewis) 104’
POR – Lindsey Horan (Dagny Brynjarsdottir) 106+’

Portland Thorns FC: Michelle Betos, Katherine Reynolds (Hayley Raso 104’), Emily Sonnett, Emily Menges, Meghan Klingenberg, Allie Long, Tobin Heath, Amandine Henry, Nadia Nadim (Dagny Brynjarsdottir 70’), Lindsey Horan, Christine Sinclair
Substitutes Not Used: Adrianna Franch, Kat Williamson, Mallory Weber, Meleana Shim, Kendall Johnson

Western New York Flash: Sabrina D’Angelo, Jaelene Hinkle, Alanna Kennedy, Abby Dahlkemper, Elizabeth Eddy, McCall Zerboni (Kristen Hamilton 95’), Abby Erceg, Samantha Mewis, Makenzy Doniak (Taylor Smith 68’), Lynn Williams, Jessica McDonald (Michaela Hahn 115’)
Substitutes Not Used: Katelyn Rowland, Courtney Niemiec, Janice Cayman, Meredith Speck

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Klinsmann Names Friendly Roster with WCQ Looming
Klinsmann Names Friendly Roster with WCQ Looming avatar

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has named a 23 man roster to take on Cuba Friday night in Havana and New Zealand four days later in Washington, D.C. in his team’s final friendlies before a key pair of World Qualifying games versus Mexico and Costa Rica next month.

Health issues eliminated Clint Dempsey from consideration but the veteran striker is not the only stalwart missing from this squad. Dueling number one goalkeepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan have been left out leaving David Bingham, Ethan Horvath, and William Yarbrough to battle for the chance to impress while DC United number one Bill Hamid has again been given the cold shoulder by Klinsmann.

The US MNT train in preparation for the Copa America Semis. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Klinsmann will be looking for players to fight for their spot in the squad.  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe has not been included and Klinsmann has elected to go with old reliable Chris Wondolowski and unused Bayern Munich substitute Julian Green over revitalized New England striker Juan Agudelo.

Young U.S. stars Christian Pulisic and Jordan Morris are included as is New York Red Bulls playmaker Sacha Kljestan, who will hope to build on a pair of impressive performances last month against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

Klinsmann has recalled fullback Tim Chandler, midfielders Perry Kitchen, and Danny Williams while handing another chance to Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola and extending Sunderland’s Lynden Gooch his first senior invite.

Upcoming schedule.

Friendy: October 7, 2016 4 PM ET MNT vs Cuba Estadio Pedro Marrero; Havana, Cuba ESPN and Univision Networks

Friendly: October 11, 2016 8 PM ET MNT vs New Zealand RFK Stadium; Washington, D.C. ESPN, UniMas

World Cup Qualifier: November 11, 2016 TBD MNT vs Mexico
MAPFRE Stadium; Columbus, Ohio FS1, Univision

World Cup Qualifier: World Cup Qualifier: November 15, 2016 TBD MNT vs Costa Rica Away

GOALKEEPERS (3): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Ethan Horvath (Molde FK), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)

DEFENDERS (7): Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin),Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Perry Kitchen (Hearts), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Danny Williams (Reading)

FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburg SV)

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Bob Bradley to Coach Swansea
Bob Bradley to Coach Swansea avatar

Premier League club Swansea City FC has made former U.S. Men’s National Team coach Bob Bradley the first ever American to coach in a top four European league, today naming the 58-year-old to replace Francesco Guidolin at Liberty Stadium.

Ryan Giggs (L) recently left his assistant role at Manchester United. (Getty Images)

Ryan Giggs (L) recently left his assistant role at Manchester United. (Getty Images)

And while the hiring is being hailed in American soccer circles reaction in Wales and England has been less enthusiastic with many disappointed that Wales and Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs was passed over for the American.

There is anger as well at the Welsh club’s American owners, Jason Levin and Steve Kaplan for their treatment of former manager Francesco Guidolin, who was fired on his birthday after only 25 games in charge.

Objections are also being raised in the English media and online to Bradley’s coaching resume and while it is true that New Jersey native has never managed a club at the Premier League level, Bradley did lead the United States to the Round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup, winning a group that included England before going out in extra time versus Ghana.

Bob Bradley during his time when he managed the U.S, MNT. (Getty Images)

Bob Bradley during his time when he managed the U.S, MNT. (Getty Images)

One year earlier Bradley led the U.S. to the finals of the Confederations Cup, beating eventual World Cup winners Spain in the semifinals before falling 3-2 to Brazil in the finals.

After being axed in favor of Jurgen Klinsmann in 2011 Bradley’s next move was to Egypt where he coached the Pharaohs through some very difficult times, earning plaudits for his steadfast manner throughout the Port Said riots, eventually missing out on the World Cup as Egypt fell to Ghana in a playoff.

On the club scene Bradley previously became the first American to helm a club at any top flight in Europe when he took over Stabaek in Norway, leading the tiny club to a Europa League berth before moving on to France, where Bradley brought Ligue 2 Le Havre within one goal of promotion last season.

Bradley’s first head coaching job was at Princeton before moving on to MLS, first as an assistant with DC United before taking over the Chicago Fire. Bradley led the Fire to the 1998 MLS Cup title and also coached the MetroStars and Chivas USA.

Huw Jenkins (ISI Photos/Kieran McManus)

Huw Jenkins  seemed very happy with his choice of Manager. (ISI Photos/Kieran McManus)

Swansea Chairman Huw Jenkins said in a statement “we are delighted Bob has agreed to join us. He is highly regarded as a coach and has a wealth of experience on the international and domestic front. He is well aware of the club’s footballing philosophy and will provide us with strong leadership qualities and a renewed belief to compete at this level.”

“It is never easy changing managers, but we are looking at a long-term appointment and we are confident Bob can settle us down and stabilize matters on and off the pitch.”

Swansea may be Bradley’s biggest challenge yet as he takes over a Swansea side mired in 17th place in the Premier League, one place above relegation.

Maintaining the Swans Premier League status is obviously job one for Bradley, the minimum goal that must be met if Bradley is to make the most of this historic opportunity.

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

This week’s Big 5 begins on a sad note with news, so let’s get to it.

1) Clint Dempsey Out for Season

The Seattle Sounders have announced that Clint Dempsey will sit out the remainder of the MLS season as he continues to deal with an irregular heartbeat, an issue that has kept the U.S. international out since it was discovered late last month.

Dempsey (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Dempsey looks likely to miss matches for the U.S. also.(ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Seattle GM and President Garth Lagerwey indicated that the club is hopeful that Deuce will be back in 2017. The Seattle boss did not mention Dempsey’s involvement for the U.S. MNT in the November World Cup Qualifiers against top CONCACAF rivals Mexico and Costa Rica or the October friendlies versus Cuba and New Zealand but it seems likely that Jurgen Klinsmann will have to make due without the second leading goal scorer in team history for the time being.

Dempsey has not discussed his condition at all since it was announced and with so little information available it would be fruitless to speculate on the attackers future in the game, leaving us with no choice but to respect Dempsey’s privacy while wishing him a complete recovery.

2) 4 Teams Book Playoff Passage

Over the weekend Toronto FC, the New York Red Bulls, and New York City FC joined FC Dallas as early playoff qualifiers. The only problem with this is that eight more clubs will join them in a postseason that simply has too many teams.

FC Dallas celebrating their cup victory. (ISI Photos/David Bernal)

FC Dallas celebrating their cup victory. (ISI Photos/David Bernal)

That quibble aside, congratulations to the quartet, in particular, second year club New York City FC who surprised many onlookers with this achievement under first-year coach Patrick Vieira.

3) Vieira and Villa Talk Playoffs

NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira and star player David Villa spoke to a quartet of media types after training at SUNY Purchase in suburban New York Tuesday afternoon and GotSoccer was there.

Vieira (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

Vieira  and Villa expressed their delight in making the playoffs. (ISI Photos/Jose L. Argueta)

Vieira admitted of making the playoffs “yes, it felt good.” The former Arsenal legend, who had never coached a senior team before this season said, “I’m really pleased for the players, really pleased for the club, really pleased for the fans.” But as pleased as the coach is, he wants more. “We are satisfied, of course, but that’s not enough for us,” Vieira said.

Star striker David Villa admitted after training that making the postseason relieves some pressure going into the final weeks. “It’s good,” the Spanish striker said of qualifying early. “It’s good for the team. I told (the team) after the game it’s not easy, it’s so difficult.” “But,” like his coach, the 2010 World Cup winner wants more. “It’s not the the stop, it’s not done.” “The best thing we can do,” the NYCFC captain said, “is we have three games, win three games.”

4) CCL News: Red Bulls Advance – Timbers Slay Dragon

Sorry, couldn’t resist that second one. The Portland Timbers are struggling to hold off Seattle in the MLS playoff chase but the defending MLS Cup champs lived to fight another day in CONCACAF Champions League thanks to a Darlington Nagbe free kick in the 90th minute Tuesday night in El Salvador.

The Red Bulls (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

The Red Bulls have already qualified for the CCL quarterfinals. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

Fanendo Adi had equalized for the Timbers in the 70th minute after the home team took the lead in the 54th minute. Next up Portland face a win or go home showdown with Deportivo Saprissa on October 14 at Providence Park.

A Timbers win would see Portland join the New York Red Bulls in the CCL Quarterfinals, which the Bulls qualified for with a 0-0 draw versus Antigua GFC on a rain-soaked pitch in Guatemala City on Tuesday night.

The win is a big one for the New York Originals, sending the club to the CCL Quarters for the first time in team history. The achievement caps a very nice few days for NYRB following Saturday’s 1-0 playoff-clinching win over Montreal.

5) Atlanta Make a Splash – Land Tata Martinez to Coach

On Wednesday morning expansion side Atlanta United FC introduced its first ever coach former FC Barcelona and Argentina head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino. United president Darren Eales and technical director Carlos Bocanegra were both thrilled to introduce the undoubtedly accomplished Martinez to the Atlanta media.

Tata Martinez whilst coaching Barcelona in 2014. (Getty Images)

Tata Martinez whilst coaching Barcelona in 2014. (Getty Images)

So will Tata’s vast experience translate to MLS? Why not ask someone who might know, Patrick Vieira.

Speaking at training on Tuesday Vieira was asked if he had any advice for the new Atlanta supremo. “I don’t have any advice,” the NYCFC coach said modestly, “he has so much experience I should be the one that asks him for advice.” Vieira didn’t credit his year in the league as reason enough to advise Martino. “I’m sure he knows the MLS better than I do,” Vieira said.

In fact, even as an opponent Vieira is hoping to learn from the 53-year-old. The rookie coach has never met Martino but says, “I am really looking forward to meeting him because I believe he is one of the most different and talented managers around.”

Friends who have met with Martino have told Vieira that the new Atlanta boss is “somebody that young coaches like myself can learn from.” Vieira believes that “him coming to MLS is a massive boost for the MLS.”

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NWSL Playoffs are Set
NWSL Playoffs are Set avatar

It went down to the wire but the NWSL playoff picture finally emerged over the last weekend of the 2016 season with the Western New York Flash defeating the Boston Breakers 4-0 on the road Saturday evening to claim the league’s final playoff position while the Portland Thorns annexed the NWSL Shield the following night with a 3-1 away win over Sky Blue FC.

Boston Breakers 0-4 Western New York Flash

The NWSL schedule makers smiled kindly upon the playoff hopes of the Western New York Flash, who found themselves paired with the Boston Breakers for its final match, needing only a draw to advance to the postseason.

Playing on the road was hardly an impediment for WNY against the league-worst Breakers and the Flash wasted little time in taking care of business at Jordan Field with Jessica McDonald shaking the twines less than two minutes from the opening kick.

Lynn Williams (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsmapes)

Lynn Williams has had another stellar season for WNYF. (ISI Photos/Andrew Katsmapes)

With a playoff berth in sight, the Flash kept the pressure on a Boston side playing out the string and were rewarded with a second goal as Lynn Williams scored to clinch the Golden Boot with her 11th goal of the season. Williams finished in a tie with Houston’s Kealia Ohai but was awarded the “Boot” for finishing with one assist more than the Dash striker, five to four.

The Flash troubled the scorekeeper twice more before the night was out and will face the NWSL Shield winning Portland Thorns at Providence Park on Sunday, October 2.

Sky Blue FC 1-3 Portland Thorns

The Thorns bounced back from missing out on the 2015 second season by posting the league’s best regular season mark to claim the NWSL Shield. Portland secured the Shield when it came from behind on Sunday after spotting Sky Blue a one goal lead after just six minutes.

Allie Long has had a great season for club and country.  (ISI Phtos/Brad Smith)

Allie Long has had a great season for club and country. (ISI Phtos/Brad Smith)

But with the league’s best record and home field advantage through the semifinals at stake the Thorns rallied on goals from U.S. WNT players Allie Long (2) and Lindsey Horan (1). Portland had already locked up its first ever home playoff game and with a star-studded lineup full of internationals the Thorn will be expected to go far in the NWSL second season and will be favored to be on hand Sunday, October 9, at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston as Portland look to add a second NWSL Championship to its 2013 title.

In an interesting side note, the Thorns open the playoffs Sunday home at Providence Park versus the Western New York Flash, coached by Paul Riley, fired by Portland after he failed to lead the Thorns to the 2015 postseason.

Chicago Red Stars 3-1 vs Washington Spirit

In what turned out to be a preview of Friday night’s semifinal matchup, albeit, at a different venue, the Chicago Red Stars topped the Washington Spirit Saturday in Chicago by a 3-1 scoreline. The Spirit’s loss ended its chance of topping the league table and sends Washington to the postseason on a two-game slide.

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

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

The Red Stars were quick out of the gate on Saturday, despite being without star goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and forward Stephanie McCaffrey. It took just six minutes for Chicago to get the fans off of their feet, with captain Christen Press firing her team into the lead. Cara Walls added a second for the Stars and backup netminder Michele Dalton did her part in keeping a very determined Crystal Dunn off of the board and allowing Chicago to escape to the dressing room with a 2-0 halfway lead.

Sofia Huerta provided the assist on the Walls goal and she quickly added to the Stars lead with a goal just seconds after the restart. The irrepressible Dunn responded for Washington just a minute later but there was no comeback on the cards for the Spirit on this night.

The remaining games had no playoff implications and here are the results. Home teams first. Orlando Pride 1-2 FC Kansas City.

The two-time defending NWSL Champion FCKC will not threepeat and expansion side Orlando Pride also miss out on the postseason fun in year one.

Houston Dash 2 vs Seattle Reign 3

Seattle struggled to show the dominance of past seasons.  (ISI Photos/Jane Gershovich)

Seattle struggled to show the dominance of past seasons. (ISI Photos/Jane Gershovich)

Seattle finished the season on a positive note Sunday night after seeing its playoff hopes dashed when Western New York did as expected and defeated Boston a day earlier. For the Dash, any hopes of playing the NWSL Championship match at its home stadium had faded weeks ago and so it is wait til next year time for Houston and all six clubs that fell short of the NWSL playoffs.

  National Women’s Soccer League 2016
Portland Thorns FC   41 20 12 3 5 35 19 16
Washington Spirit   39 20 12 5 3 30 21 9
Chicago Red Stars   33 20 9 5 6 24 20 4
Western New York Flash   32 20 9 6 5 40 26 14
Seattle Reign FC  30 20 8 6 6 29 21 8
FC Kansas City  26 20 7 8 5 18 20 -2
Sky Blue FC  26 20 7 8 5 24 30 -6
Houston Dash  22 20 6 10 4 29 29 0
Orlando Pride  19 20 6 13 1 20 30 -10
Boston Breakers  11 20 3 15 2 14 47 -33
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Abby Wambach – Forward: A Memoir.
Abby Wambach – Forward: A Memoir. avatar

Retired American soccer star Abby Wambach has penned a very readable memoir that simultaneously manages to be both frank in revealing her personal struggles and triumphs while skimming somewhat lightly over the deep subjects that the author raises.

 (Getty Images)

Soccer fans may be disappointed with the lack of locker room gossip. (Getty Images)

Fans looking for behind the scenes sports revelations or locker room gossip concerning their favorite U.S. WNT stars will have to look elsewhere, in “Forward” Wambach is more concerned with examining her own fears and motivations, looking inward as she takes the reader from her first days playing soccer up to and beyond her retirement as the all-time leading goal scorer in international soccer, male or female.

In 23 chapters spread over a brisk 228 pages, with headings such as “Fraud,” “Tomboy,” “Lesbian,” “Hero,” “Failure,” and finally “Human,” Wambach tells her story, warts and all.

Wambach describes growing up in Pittsford, New York, “a conservative, suburban community just outside of Rochester.” One of seven children in a household helmed by a Catholic mother, her father is not a major player here, Wambach describes battling for attention and love and of knowing she’d found the vehicle for all of that in soccer.

Wambach and Morgan had a great partnership at Germany 2011. (Getty Images)

Wambach and Morgan had a great partnership at Germany 2011. (Getty Images)

She takes us through her High School years, her first boyfriend, her first girlfriend, all of it movingly told in a way that conveys the awkwardness and excitement of that time in one’s life, with the additional fear young Abby felt of being found out.

High School for Wambach was also a time of heavy drinking, drinking that only increased when she moved on to the University of Florida on a full soccer scholarship.

Wambach tells us early on that she needs more that soccer to sustain her, explaining that she never played for the love of the game, rather for her mother’s praise, writing of her mother, “if you weren’t there to witness it I wouldn’t care about scoring at all.”

Wambach( style of play lacked creativity and grace that comes with true love of the game. (ISI Photos/Abby Wambach)

Wambach’s style of play lacked creativity and grace that generally comes with true love of the game. (ISI Photos/Abby Wambach)

She describes a love/hate relationship with the game that gives her “praise, affection, and above all, attention.” Conversely, Wambach writes, “I loathe it for the same reason, terrified that soccer is the only worthwhile thing about me.” Wambach doesn’t love the game itself she tells us, only “the validation that comes from mastering it, from bending it to my will.”

Wambach tells her story chronologically, and we hurtle forward led by our irrepressible narrator. She has little time for details about teammates and coaches, for example, former U.S. coach Tom Sermanni doesn’t warrant a mention, and she spares us too shot by shot recaps of most of her big games and biggest moments.

Where Wambach does linger, is on her personal demons, describing a cycle of partying and purging, eventually adding prescription pills to her diet of beer and vodka drinks as age and injury inevitably erase the once invincible sheen of youth. We hear too about her marriage to Sarah Huffman, and how that marriage was jeopardized by those same vices.

The 2015 World Cup win is recounted, with Wambach watching much of the tournament from the bench, age having reduced her role to that of head cheerleader and only occasional participant.

It all came to a head for Wambach with a highly publicized DUI arrest this past April. The incident served as an embarrassment for Wambach, and we are told, as a catalyst for change. The book concludes with Wambach living clean and sober and trying to find her way post soccer.

Wambach has recently admitted that she and Huffman are getting divorced. (Getty Images)

Wambach has recently admitted that she and Huffman are getting divorced. (Getty Images)

Typical of the book as a whole, Wambach is both unsparing in relaying the embarrassing details of her arrest and brief incarceration while giving the nitty gritty of her recovery short shrift. We are told that as of the time of the book’s writing Wambach had kept the promise she made to Sarah to stay off of the pills. This is followed by an anecdote from a Paris bar where Wambach had traveled to work as a commentator at the Euros.

Wambach tells her colleagues that she is not drinking, followed by a self-deprecating joke about her DUI. One of those new workmates later tells her she needn’t justify her behavior, advice Wambach embraces.

Has Wambach been through a rehab program for either drugs or alcohol? Perhaps both? We don’t know and ultimately it is her business, her book, her life and her readers and her fans can only wish her the best as she moves forward.

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