Ertz and Morgan Lead the Way as USWNT Top South Korea
Ertz and Morgan Lead the Way as USWNT Top South Korea avatar

The USWNT defeated South Korea Thursday night in New Orleans 3-1 after jumping out to a two goal lead on goals from the team’s two hottest players.

Julie Ertz celebrates scoring with there teammates. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Defensive midfielder Julie Ertz notched her fourth goal in five games when she launched herself headlong at Megan Rapinoe’s corner kick, nutmegging Korean keeper Kang Gaae with her diving header.

It was a brilliant goal from the effervescent Ertz, who took another step forward in her quest to nail down the d-mid spot. The goal came after South Korea had come close to opening the scoring only to be repelled by some good last ditch defending by Kelly O’Hara, among others.

The second U.S. goal came in the 40th minute and it extended Morgan’s consecutive scoring streak to four games.It was a fine finish from Morgan, who was well set up by O’Hara, Mal Pugh and Sam Mewis.

Morgan was once again on the scoresheet. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Pugh limped off not long after, helped off the pitch after grabbing her hamstring. The Yanks looked set to runaway with the match until debutante Han Chaerin blasted home a brilliant effort from just outside the 18 yard box five minutes into first half stoppage time.

The U.S. came out buzzing after the break with Rapinoe winning a penalty kick in the 52nd minute. Pinoe stepped up to the spot and put the ball in the back of the net to set the home team up for the win.

These same two sides meet again in Cary, North Carolina on Oct. 22 (2 p.m. ET; ESPN) at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.

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

USA – Julie Ertz (Megan Rapinoe) 24th minute
USA – Alex Morgan (Kelley O’Hara) 40
KOR – HAN Chaerin 45 +5
USA – Megan Rapinoe (penalty kick) 52

Lineups:
USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 5-Kelley O’Hara, 7-Abby Dahlkemper, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (capt.), 14-Casey Short (11-Sofia Huerta, 63); 8-Julie Ertz, 6-Andi Sullivan (9-Lindsey Horan, 46), 3-Samantha Mewis (10-Carli Lloyd, 77); 2-Mallory Pugh (12-Lynn Williams, 45 +1), 13-Alex Morgan (23-Christen Press, 63), 15-Megan Rapinoe (19-Crystal Dunn, 63)
Subs not used: 24-Ashlyn Harris
Head coach: Jill Ellis

KOR: 1- KANG Gaae; 3-SHIN Damyeong (13-JI Sunmi, 45 +3), 17-JANG Seulgi; 6-PARK Chorong (2-LEE Eunmi, 83), 7-LEE Mina (15-LEE Sodam, 46), 8-CHO Sohyun (capt.), 16-CHOE Yuri (9-JEON Gaeul, 46), 19-KIM Hyeyeong (23-JANG Chang, 52), 22-HAN Chaerin; 10-JI Soyun, 12-YOO Younga (18-SON Hwayeon, 63)
Subs not used: 21-KIM Minjung; 20-KIM Hyeri, 4-SEO Hyunsook; 14-MOON Mira, 14-MOON Mira; 11-LEE Geummin
Head coach: YOON Dukyeo

Stats Summary: USA / KOR
Shots: 21 / 5
Shots on Goal: 11 / 1
Saves: 0 / 8
Corner Kicks: 5 / 0
Fouls: 6 / 14
Offside: 1 / 3

Misconduct Summary:
KOR – HAN Chaerin (Caution) 61st minute
KOR – PARK Chorong (Caution) 74

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U.S. Women Back in Action
U.S. Women Back in Action avatar

With all of the U.S. Soccer world still reeling from the shock of the U.S Men’s National Team missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1986, the World Champion women’s side return to the field Thursday night for the first of a pair of friendlies against South Korea.

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

The women’s squad has been going through something of a rough patch of its own, although obviously not on the scale of their male counterparts, as coach Jill Ellis uses a lull in the competitive schedule to retool her team.

Ellis will want to see continued progress after an impressive two-game sweep of New Zealand last month when the Americans played the role of rude hosts in beating the Football Ferns by an 8-1 aggregate score.

It was the best the USWNT has looked in some time and Ellis may have found some of the answers she has been looking for in 2017, although as always, we must always caution, it is a long way to France 2019.

Those answers? Julie Ertz in a central midfield role. I would call it a defensive midfield role but I would hate to discourage the former Julie Johnson from her goal-scoring habit.

And if the U.S. did have a meaningful match to play in the near future Ellis would be wise to team Ertz with Sam Mewis and Lindsey Horan in the midfield.

Ellis also seems to have determined her back four, with Becky Sauerbrunn and Abby Dahlkemper in the middle flanked by Kelley O’Hara on the right and with Casey Short leading the pack on the left flank.

Morgan has looked back to her old self. (ISI Photos/Jamie Schwaberow)

Alex Morgan also appears to be finally healthy and in form at the same time, but, hey, it’s early.

Back to the men for a second. If the next USMNT manager, short term or long, is in need of advice when it comes to coaching a team that has no meaningful games on the horizon, he – I’m willing to bet – should call Ellis. Or Pia Sundhage, or maybe Tom Sermanni.

These coaches have experience that could be of value to managers who seldom find themselves with such a barren run of fixtures in the men’s game.

October 19, 2017 – 7 PM CT
WNT vs Korea Republic
Mercedes-Benz Superdome; New Orleans, La.
FS1

October 22, 2017 – 2 PM ET
WNT vs Korea Republic
Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park; Cary, N.C.
ESPN

November 9, 2017 – 7 PM PT
WNT vs Canada
BC Place; Vancouver, Canada
ESPN2, UDN

November 12, 2017 – 6 PM PT
WNT vs Canada Avaya Stadium; San Jose, Calif.
FS1

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 1/0), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 13/0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 20/0)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 9/0), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 53/11), Sofia Huerta (Chicago Red Stars; 1/0), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC; 101/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City; 131/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 15/0)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 39/4), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash; 242/97), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC; 31/5), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 30/5), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 125/33), Andi Sullivan (Stanford; 4/0)

FORWARDS (5): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC; 55/22), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 130/77), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars; 92/43), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit; 28/6), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 11/3)

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Hat Trick Hero Weah Helps Lead U.S. to U17 World Cup Quarters
Hat Trick Hero Weah Helps Lead U.S. to U17 World Cup Quarters avatar

While the immediate future is a barren wasteland for the United States Men’s National Soccer Team a group of 16 and 17-year-olds is offering hope that better times are not too far over the horizon.

Tim Weah scored a hattrick for the young American side.

Led by a hat-trick from Tim Weah and a virtuoso display by Andrew “Carleton the Creator” Carleton, the Americans crushed a highly regarded Paraguay side that had been a perfect 3-0-0 by a 5-0 score to advance to the quarterfinal of the U17 World Cup in India.

With so much discussion of developing talent in the wake of the USMNT failure to qualify for the World Cup coach John Hackworth rightly told his young charges that more eyes than usual would be focused on their efforts.

Having won their first two group stage matches to advance to the Round of 16, when the Young Yanks lost 3-1 to Colombia on Thursday, it was it was easy to presume that the team felt some extra pressure.

That loss cost the U.S. a chance at winning its group, with the Americans slipping to third place after beginning the day in first. It turned out not to matter a whole lot once Weah began filling the net but the final scoreline is a little deceiving, given that Paraguay had the U.S on its heels for much of the first half.

The U.S. broke the deadlock with a wonderful team goal in the 19th minute when Weah, the son of former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah, put a first time effort past Diego Huesca on a three touch sequence initiated with a defense-splitting pass from Carlton to Ayo Akinola, who teed up Weah with a one-touch pass.

Strong defensive play led by Chris Durkin and James Sands, and some good goalkeeping by Justin Garces allowed a relieved U.S. team escape the half with a 1-0 lead but the game would change on a thunderstrike from Weah in the 53rd minute.

Weah took an innocuous-looking pass from substitute Indiana Vassilev at the top of the box and unleashed a powerful shot to beat Huesca all ends up.

That goal inspired the Americans and seemed to plant some doubt in the Paraguayan players. With Carleton freed from the isolation on the wing that had limited him in the group games the Atlanta United prospect was clearly relishing pulling the strings of the U.S. attack.

Carleton added a third U.S. goal and then turned creator when he set up Josh Sargent and then Weah for the final scores of the game.

There was some bad news for the Americans as Ayo Akinola and Blaine Ferri both went off the field injured and with Durkin picking up a yellow card suspension for Saturday’s quarterfinal match.

The U.S. will play the winner of Tuesday’s match between England and Japan at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 21 in Goa (10:30 a.m. ET; FS2, Telemundo).

Match: U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team vs. Paraguay
Date: Oct. 16, 2017
Competition: FIFA U-17 World Cup – Round of 16
Venue: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium; New Dehli, India
Kickoff: 10:30 a.m. ET (8 p.m. local)
Attendance: 34,895
Weather: 83 degrees; haze

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 4 5
PAR 0 0 0

USA – Tim Weah (Ayo Akinola) 19th minute
USA – Tim Weah (Indiana Vassilev) 53
USA – Andrew Carleton (Josh Sargent) 63
USA – Josh Sargent (Andrew Carleton) 75
USA – Tim Weah (Andrew Carleton) 77

Lineups:
USA: 1-Justin Garces, 4-James Sands, 6-Chris Durkin, 7-Ayo Akinola (16-Taylor Booth, 79), 8-Blaine Ferri (18-Indiana Vassilev, 34), 9-Josh Sargent (Capt.), 10-Tim Weah, 11-Andrew Carleton, 13-Sergino Dest (3-Chris Gloster, 46), 14-Akil Watts, 20-Chris Goslin
Subs Not Used: 2-Jaylin Lindsey, 5-Tyler Shaver, 12-CJ Dos Santos, 15-George Acosta, 17-Bryan Reynolds, 19-Jacobo Reyes, 21-Alex Budnik
Head Coach: John Hackworth

PAR: 1-Diego Huesca, 2-Jesus Rolon, 3-Roberto Fernandez, 5-Alexis Duarte (Capt.), 6-Braian Ojeda, 7-Antonio Galeano (9-Fernando Romero, 30), 10-Julio Baez (20-Giovanni Bogado, 78), 11-Leonardo Sanchez, 13-Marcelo Rolon, 17-Fernando Cardozo (18-Blas Armoa, 55), 21-Alan Rodriguez
Subs Not Used: 4-Pedro Alvarez, 8-Stevens Gomez, 12-Angel Roa, 14-Victor Villasanti, 15-Luis Zarate, 16-Anibal Vega, 19-Jonathan Martinez
Head Coach: Gustavo Morinigo

Stats Summary: USA/PAR
Shots: 9/11
Shots on Goal: 6/1
Saves: 1/1
Corner Kicks: 0/4
Fouls: 12/14
Offside: 0/0

Misconduct Summary:
USA – James Sands (Caution) 14th minute
USA – Chris Goslin (Caution) 27
USA – Josh Sargent (Caution) 65

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Arena Out- Gulati Stays
Arena Out- Gulati Stays avatar

The first shoe dropped today when Bruce Arena stepped down as coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team in the wake of Tuesday’s shocking World Cup elimination.

With news of Arena’s resignation still swirling, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati addressed the U.S. Soccer media via phone press conference call and quickly made it known that he would not be following his hand-picked coach out the door, despite taking responsibility for the team’s failure.

Gulati was less forthcoming regarding his plans to run, or not, for another term as President of U.S. Soccer, although in citing the “totality” of his tenure and the three-way U.S. Mexico, and Canada bid for the 2026 World Cup, the Columbia economics professor sounded like a man with unfinished business.

Galati after the Trinidad defeat. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

“I can understand the frustration with people, sure,” Gulati answered when GotSoccer asked if, given that Gulati had hired both Jurgen Klinsmann and his replacement Bruce Arena, the two men who led U.S. Soccer to its lowest moment, why many would prefer that someone else be charged with selecting the next USMNT coach?

Gulati told the press that he and his colleagues would be evaluating all aspects of the U.S. soccer system, mentioning perennial hot topics, pay for play, and involving inner-city youth and Hispanic players, saying that “we need to go deeper” and “find the right solutions.”

Gulati said that the USMNT will play two scheduled friendlies in November and that a “short-term” coach will be appointed in seven to 10 days,” with a full-time hire tabled for the moment.

Rumors had circulated that Tab Ramos would take the role on an interim basis but Gulati said that “I don’t think there is a definite profile” for Arena’s successor.

Many believe that Gulati should take responsibility for the U.S. failure to qualify. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Finally a statement from Bruce Arena, the first – best American soccer coach.

It is the greatest privilege for any coach to manage their country’s National Team, and as I leave that role today, I am honored and grateful to have had that opportunity twice in my career.

When I took the job last November, I knew there was a great challenge ahead, probably more than most people could appreciate. Everyone involved in the program gave everything they had for the last 11 months and, in the end, we came up short. No excuses. We didn’t get the job done, and I accept responsibility.

This certainly is a major setback for the senior Men’s National Team program, and questions rightly should be asked about how we can improve. No doubt this process already has started and will continue so that U.S. Soccer can progress. Having said that, it also is important to recognize the tremendous growth and accomplishments we have achieved over the past two decades in all areas, including player development, coaching education and a stable domestic professional league. This work is ongoing and despite the result in Trinidad, the sport is on the right path. By working together, I am confident soccer in this country will continue to grow in the years and decades ahead.

Obviously the biggest disappointment is for our fans. As a person involved in the sport for more than 40 years, to see how support for soccer in the United States has grown is incredibly gratifying. I believe I speak for everyone involved in the game in thanking all of you for your passion and commitment, and I hope you maintain your steadfast support of U.S. Soccer.

Arena departure was inevitable. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

While this is a difficult time, I maintain a fierce belief that we are heading in the right direction. I believe in the American player and the American coach, and with our combined efforts the future remains bright. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I can say this from the bottom of my heart: from the high of reaching the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup to the low of a few days ago; I have appreciated every minute of being a part of this program.

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U17’s Stumble but Still Advance
U17’s Stumble but Still Advance avatar

With the realization that the USMNT will miss out on next summers World Cup in Russia sinking in American soccer fans desperate for some hope to hang onto tuned in this morning to watch their youngsters compete in the U17 World Cup from India only to see the Young Yanks fall to a 3-1 defeat to Colombia.

Of course, it is unfair to blame the prospects for the sins of their elders and this morning’s match from India was not of the do or die variety. No, the Americans had already secured a place in the knockout rounds thanks to victories over India, 3-0, and Ghana, 1-0, in the first two matches of group play.

George Acosta scored for the U.S. (ISI Photos/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Those results combined with Ghana’s 4-0 victory over the host nation landed the Americans in a third-place qualifier position when winning the group had seemed a far likelier option when the day’s action kicked off.

Still, the American soccer world remains reeling after the colossal failure of the senior squad to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and a good performance by the 17’s today would have been a welcome tonic for the beleaguered masses that care about the fate of the beautiful game in the United States.

That hoped-for release was not to be found with ominous signs appearing early for the U.S. when a simple long throw froze U.S goalkeeper Justin Garces and most of the U.S. defense, allowing Juan Vidal to capitalize and give Colombia a quick lead just minutes in.

The Americans responded well to that shock, equalizing through George Acosta in the 24th minute. The stylish midfielder latched onto a seeing-eye pass through the Colombian defense from Andrew Carleton to level the game at 1-1, a score that would hold to the halftime whistle.

Then the second half began and the Americans promptly retreated into a shell. Playing to secure a place in the knockout rounds Colombia came out aggressively with the Young Yanks unable to match that intensity.

Colombia’s goal in the 67th minute from a tightly angled free-kick off the boot of Juan Penaloza had a whiff of inevitability to it, although it did seem to wake the Americans up.

Colombia would add goal number three in the 87th minute and despite about eight minutes of stoppage time, the U.S. could not get the goal it needed to stay out of third place.

The Americans will have to wait for other results to see where they head next in the U17 World Cup.

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

COL – Juan Vidal 3rd minute
USA – George Acosta (Andrew Carleton) 24
COL – Juan Penaloza (free kick) 67
COL – Deiber Caicedo (Juan Penaloza) 87

Lineups:
USA: 1-Justin Garces, 2-Jaylin Lindsey, 3-Chris Gloster, 4-James Sands, 6-Chris Durkin, 7-Ayo Akinola, 9-Josh Sargent (Capt.), 11-Andrew Carleton (19-Jacobo Reyes, 69), 13-Sergino Dest, 15-George Acosta (8-Blaine Ferri, 78), 20-Chris Goslin (10-Tim Weah, 87)
Subs Not Used: 5-Tyler Shaver, 12-CJ Dos Santos, 14-Akil Watts, 16-Taylor Booth, 17-Bryan Reynolds, 18-Indiana Vassilev, 21-Alex Budnik
Head Coach: John Hackworth

COL: 2-Andres Cifuentes, 3-Guillermo Tegue, 5-Thomas Gutierrez (Capt.), 6-Andres Perea, 7-Leandro Campaz (13-Robert Mejia, 46), 10-Brayan Gomez (14-Yadir Meneses, 56), 11-Juan Penaloza, 12-Kevin Mier, 17-Deiber Caicedo, 19-Juan Vidal, 20-Etilso Martinez
Subs Not Used: 1-Nicolas Gomez, 4-Christian Andrade, 8-Luis Lopez, 9-Santiago Barrero, 15-Gustavo Carvajal, 16-Fabian Angel, 18-Deyman Cortes, 21-Daniel Melo
Head Coach: Orlando Restrepo

Stats Summary: USA/COL
Shots: 8/10
Shots on Goal: 3/6
Saves: 3/2
Corner Kicks: 5/5
Fouls: 8/16
Offside: 2/1

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U.S. Miss World Cup in Stunning Loss to T&T
U.S. Miss World Cup in Stunning Loss to T&T avatar

When the soccer or, if you prefer football, world gathers for the World Cup next year in Russia the United States will not be a participant for the first time since 1986.

The U.S. went into this game knowing what the had to do. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The USMNT knew that a draw versus Trinidad and Tobago would more than likely be enough to punch a ticket to Russia, instead the Americans dropped a stunning 2-1 decision to T&T, the last place team in the six-team group fighting for its place in the Mundial.

With Panama beating Costa Rica 2-1 to finish third in the Hex and Mexico falling to Honduras by a 3-2 score the Americans landed in fifth place, missing out on even the fourth place playoff against Australia that went to Honduras.

In contrast to a fast start Friday night in Orlando versus Panama the U.S. was sluggish when the whistle blew Tuesday night at T&T’s Ato Bolden Stadium.

The Soca Warriors came into this match with one win and eight losses in nine games in the Hex, the final round of World Cup Qualifiers, with nothing to play for but also nothing to lose.

For their part, the Americans began the match as if mired in the muck of the heavy pitch, much in the news since U.S. tweeted pictures of the “moat” ringing the pitch at yesterday’s practice session.

Gonzalez scored a very costly own goal. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Disaster struck for the favorites in the 17th minute when Omar Gonzalez mishit his attempted clearance on a T&T cross, with the ball spinning off of his leg, over Tim Howard’s head, and into the U.S. goal.

It was a stunning blow for the Americans and it nearly got worse less than a minute later, although the U.S. got a break when Gonzalez got away with a trip that could well have resulted in a penalty for the home team.

With Geoff Cameron sitting on the bench, Arena’s loyalty to Gonzalez, his former player with the L.A. Galaxy, will be a major talking point in the World Cup postmortems, given the Pachuca man’s desultory performances coming into this final match of the Hex.

Trinidad and Tobago’s second goal was perhaps a bigger shock than the first, coming as it did on a blast from fullback Alvin Jones, younger brother of Seattle Sounders star Joevin.

With no pressure coming from Jorge Villafana, or Darlington Nagbe, Jones unleashed a blast from close to 40 yards and well out on the wing. His knuckling effort headed for the top corner of Tim Howard’s net and the U.S. netminder was unable to get to it.

Jones’ effort was something of a wonder strike but the Colorado keeper may endure some sleepless nights wondering how he could be beaten from such a distance.

It was a dour group of U.S players that trooped off of the field at the half but whatever Bruce Arena said at the break seemed to resonate, with the Americans coming out strong and halving the deficit less than two minutes after play resumed.

Pulisic has been a real star for the U.S. but will have to wait at least another 4 years for his World Cup debut. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Darlington Nagbe made a determined run before shuttling the ball to Christian Pulisic and the young U.S. star did the rest, hammering his shot to the net and raising hopes of a U.S. comeback.

The Americans pressed T&T for most of the second stanza with halftime substitute Clint Dempsey coming agonizing close to the equalizer when his skipping shot from distance eluded the keeper only clatter off of the upright.

The U.S. grew desperate as the clock ticked down but unlike in 1989 there would be no Paul Caligiuri “Shot Heard Round the World.” All those years ago the American defender ended a 40 year World Cup drought for the Yanks when he fired the U.S. into Italia ‘90, crushing this same opponent in the process.

Tonight the heartbreak is on the other foot and even if the Soca Warriors won’t be competing in Russia they will be enjoying a measure of revenge served cold, very cold.

Several USMNT careers likely ended tonight in Trinidad and Tobago with coach Bruce Arena surely leading the parade out the door. Players who have defined this team for years will surely follow. Stalwarts Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey will lead the exodus, although Deuce may hang around long enough to score the one goal he needs to eclipse Landon Donovan as the top U.S. goal scorer.

This disaster and disaster is the word for it, couldn’t have come at a worse time for U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, who was already facing challenges in his re-election bid.

Pulisic gave all he could but it just wasn’t enough.

But all of that is for another day. Tonight the U.S. Soccer community will be licking its wounds, asking hard questions and suffering from U.S. soccer’s biggest disappointment.

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

TRI – Own Goal (Omar Gonzalez) 17th minute
TRI – Alvin Jones (Nathan Lewis) 37
USA – Christian Pulisic 47

Lineups:
USA: 1-Tim Howard, 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 5-Matt Besler, 15-Jorge Villafaña (23-Kellyn Acosta, 72), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 21-Paul Arriola (8-Clint Dempsey, 46), 10-Christian Pulisic, 6-Darlington Nagbe (16-Benny Feilhaber, 84), 9-Bobby Wood, 17-Jozy Altidore
Subs not used: 12-Brad Guzan, 22-Nick Rimando, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 11-Alejandro Bedoya, 13-Dax McCarty, 14-Tim Ream, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 19-Graham Zusi, 20-Geoff Cameron
Head coach: Bruce Arena

TRI: 22-Adrian Foncette, 5-Daneil Cyrus, 7-Nathan Lewis, 8-Khaleem Hyland (capt.), 9-Shahdon Winchester (20-Trevin Caesar, 78), 13-Curtis Gonzales, 16-Levi Garcia (3-Joevin Jones, 72), 17-Alvin Jones, 18-Triston Hodge (4-Kevon Villaroel, 81), 19-Kevan George, 23-Leston Paul
Subs not used: 1-Glenroy Samuel, 21-Gregory Ranjitsingh, 2-Kareem Moses, 6-Josiah Trimmingham, 10-Karl Duane Muckette, 11-Neil Benjamin, 12-Kathon St. Hillaire, 14-Akeem Roach, 15-Jared London
Head coach: Dennis Lawrence

Stats Summary: USA / TRI
Shots: 15 / 11
Shots on Goal: 6 / 5
Saves: 3 / 5
Corner Kicks: 5 / 2
Fouls: 18 / 11
Offside: 3 / 3

Misconduct Summary:
TRI – Triston Hodge (caution) 68th minute
USA – Omar Gonzalez (caution) 90+1
TRI – Joevin Jones (caution) 90+3
USA – Matt Besler (caution) 90+5

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Akinola Goal Beats Ghana in U17 World Cup
Akinola Goal Beats Ghana in U17 World Cup avatar

Despite nearly being run off the pitch at times by a relentless Ghana side the U.S. maintained its grip on first place in Group A at the U17 World Cup today thanks to substitute Ayo Akinola’s 75th-minute goal.

Ayo Akinola scored the only goal of the match. (ISI Photos/Casey Brooke Lawson)

Played in blistering 94-degree heat U.S. boss John Hackworth replaced just one player from his team’s opening game 3-0 victory over India but that change necessitated a defensive reshuffle that moved Chris Durkin from center back up to midfield and Jaylin Lindsey from fullback into Durkin’s spot alongside James Sands.

All to accommodate Sergino Dest, an Ajax player, born in the Netherlands, who has recently come into the U.S. setup. Dest was very good on the day, using his speed, strength, and positioning to thwart several attacks by the Black Stars, making his removal in favor of Akil Watts in the 63 minute something of a mystery. Hopefully, Dest did not pick up an injury.

The teams took turn dominating in the first half, with Ghana threatening Justin Garces’ goal often without finding a way onto the scoreboard. Key to the U.S survival was some good work by the back four that also included Chris Gloster and most tellingly, superb two-way play from DC United prospect, Durkin.

Durkin saved a certain goal when he got a piece of a Ghana shot while sprawled on the ground with Garces beaten, just the most dramatic of his defensive interventions. Equally important was Durkin’s ability to control the ball and find teammates with intelligent passes in the face of intense pressure from a Black Stars side loaded with exciting prospects linked with the likes of Manchester City.

Ghana came flying out of the blocks on the restart and would have scored early when Ghana captain Eric Ayiah rounded Garces only to slip, allowing Sands to clear.

The Americans struggled throughout the half to maintain possession, leaving exciting front men, Josh Sargent, Andrew Carleton, and Tim Weah starved for service and defending more than attacking.

Chris Goslin set up the game winner.  (ISI Photos/Casey Brooke Lawson)

Weah would be pulled for Akinola in the 63rd minute and the young forward soon made Hackworth look like a genius. Full of energy on a field full of spent players, Akinola provided the breakthrough when he took a pass from Chris Goslin and blasted to the net. The goal had been set up by, you guessed it, Durkin, who first stole the ball and then delivered a perfectly weighted lead pass to Goslin.

The Americans hung on against 10 man Ghana, who lost Abdul Yusif in the 85th minute and could not replace him because Ghana had used up their allotment of substitutes. Yusif was stretchered off in the 85th minute following a frightening clash of heads with Sargent, who remained in the game after concussion protocols were implemented.

Next up for the Americans is a showdown with Colombia on Thursday when Hackworth might be tempted to employ some squad rotation.

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

USA – Ayo Akinola (Chris Goslin) 75th minute

Lineups:
USA: 1-Justin Garces; 2-Jaylin Lindsey, 3-Chris Gloster, 4-James Sands, 13-Sergino Dest (14-Akil Watts, 63); 8-Blaine Ferri, 6-Chris Durkin, 20-Chris Goslin; 10-Tim Weah (7-Ayo Akinola, 63), 9-Josh Sargent (Capt.), 11-Andrew Carleton (18-Indiana Vassilev, 81)
Subs not used: 5-Tyler Shaver, 12-CJ Dos Santos, 15-George Acosta, 16-Taylor Booth, 17-Bryan Reynolds, 19-Jacobo Reyes, 21-Alex Budnik
Head Coach: John Hackworth

GHA: 1-Danlad Ibrahim; 5-Najeeb Yakubu, 6-Eric Ayiah (Capt.), 8-Kudus Mohammed (9-Richard Danso, 73), 10-Emmanuel Toku (7-Ibrahim Sulley, 82); 11-Aminu Mohammed (13-Gabriel Leveh, 57), 12-Abdul Yusif (Exited in 85th, was not replaced), 15-Gideon Mensah, 17-Rashid Alhassan; 19-Sadiq Ibrahim, 20-Isaac Gyamfi
Subs not used: 2-John Out, 3-Gideon Acquah, 4-Edmund Arko-Mensah, 14-Bismark Owusu, 16-Kwame Aziz, 18-Mohammed Iddriss, 21-Michael Acquaye
Head coach: Fabian Samuel

Stats Summary: USA/GHA
Shots: 11/ 18
Shots on Goal: 2/3
Saves: 3/1
Corner Kicks: 2/5
Fouls: 10/9
Offside: 0/1

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Chris Goslin (Caution) 6th minute
GHA – Kudus Mohammed (Caution) 69
GHA – Richard Danso (Caution) 86

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Back on Track!
Back on Track! avatar

With their backs against the wall, the USMNT responded with a passionate display in a dominant 4-0 victory over Panama to jump the Canaleros and move into third place in the Hex standings with one game left to play in the final round of the World Cup Qualifiers.

Third place is the final automatic berth and if the Americans can do the business on Tuesday against Trinidad and Tobago, the last place team in the Hex, then Bruce Arena’s men will avoid a two-leg playoff versus Australia or Syria.

Pulisic once again put in a star studded performance for the U.S.  (ISI Photos/Mark Torstenson)

On a night of virtually all positives, in front of a crowd that cheered their every move, Christian Pulisic stood out. Arena put the 19-year-old front and center of the U.S. attack and the dividends soon paid off with an eighth-minute goal.

Pulisic ran onto a flicked pass from Jozy Altidore, rounded Jaime Penedo and the rout was on. The roles were reversed 11 minutes later when “Wonderboy” put the ball a platter for Altidore to tap in and when Altidore converted an audacious Panenka penalty the U.S. retired to the halftime locker room luxuriating in a deserved three-goal lead.

Pulisic’s runs had the Panama defense in ruins from the opening whistle and his teammates should have finished a few more of chances the Dortmund star provided.

Altidore bagged himself two goals and an assist against Panama. (ISI Photos/Mark Thorstenson)

Still, Arena’s front three of Pulisic, Altidore, and Bobby Wood impressed with Wood earning the pk as the normally stingy Panama defense was ripped to shreds. Arena gambled with a lineup that left captain Michael Bradley somewhat isolated as a lone central defender and the Americans did appear vulnerable at the back on several occasions.

Bradley and Pulisic were joined in midfield by Darlington Nagbe and Paul Arriola, increasing the speed of the U.S. side that had been rather plodding at times in recent matches.

That defense featured Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler flanked by DeAndre Yedlin and Jorge Villafaña in front of Tim Howard, who capably handled what little action came his way. That Gonzalez was selected over Geoff Cameron was the one big surprise in the team and the towering center back did not impress on the night. Besler was the better of the pair while Villafana put in a solid shift.

Yedlin was a different story, the Newcastle United fullback has clearly benefitted from the rigors of the playing for Sunderland, and now Newcastle in the Premier League and the Championship and has added strong defensive positioning skills to his blinding speed to become the complete package at the fullback position.

It was the best offensive performance that we have seen from an U.S. team in a long time. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

That Arena’s gamble was a success was aided by Panama’s tactics, with coach Hernán Darío Gómez choosing an odd time to abandon the defense-first philosophy that had served the Canaleros so well in the past.

The plan backfired with the Americans exploiting space left by the surprisingly aggressive Panamanians and so irked the Panama contingent in Orlando that Gomez found himself in a postgame shouting match with a Panamanian “journalist.”

A win over Trinidad and Tobago would secure that third CONCACAF berth in Russia 2018 for the Americans, leaving Panama and Honduras to fight it out for the fourth-place playoff spot.

A look at the CONCACAF standings shows that the Yanks could advance in a number of ways. Panama travels to Costa Rica, who are all but booked for Russia while Honduras host mighty Mexico, already qualified.

Fifth & Final Round (Hexagonal)

PTS W L D GF GA GD
Mexico – x 21 6 0 3 14 4 +10
Costa Rica 15 4 1 3 12 5 +7
United States 12 3 3 3 16 11 +5
Panama 10 2 3 4 7 9 -2
Honduras 9 2 3 3 9 16 -7
Trinidad & T 3 1 8 0 5 18 -13

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 3 1 4
PAN 0 0 0

USA – Christian Pulisic (Jozy Altidore) 8th minute
USA – Jozy Altidore (Christian Pulisic) 19
USA – Jozy Altidore (penalty) 43
USA – Bobby Wood (Paul Arriola) 63

Lineups:
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 5-Matt Besler, 15-Jorge Villafaña; 4-Michael Bradley (capt.); 21-Paul Arriola, 10-Christian Pulisic (13-Dax McCarty, 57), 6-Darlington Nagbe (11-Alejandro Bedoya, 79); 9-Bobby Wood, 17-Jozy Altidore (8-Clint Dempsey, 71)
Subs not used: 12-Brad Guzan, 22-Nick Rimando, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 14-Tim Ream, 16-Benny Feilhaber, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 19-Graham Zusi, 20-Geoff Cameron, 23-Kellyn Acosta
Head coach: Bruce Arena

PAN: 1-Jaime Penedo; 2-Michael Murillo, 23-Felipe Baloy (4-Fidel Escobar, 46), 5-Román Torres, 6-Gabriel Gòmez; 19-Alberto Quintero, 8-Édgar Bárcenas (11-Armando Cooper, 26), 20-Aníbal Godoy, 17-Luis Ovalle; 9-Gabriel Torres, 7-Blas Pérez (22-Abdiel Arroyo, 60)
Subs not used: 12-José Calderón, 15-Érick Davis, 13-Adolfo Machado, 3-Juan Carlos Vargas, 10-Ricardo Buitrago, 16-José González, 21-Roberto Nurse, 18-Luis Tejada
Head coach: Hernán Darío Gómez

Stats Summary: USA / PAN
Shots: 15 / 9
Shots on Goal: 8 / 2
Saves: 2 / 4
Corner Kicks: 4 / 4
Fouls: 16 / 11
Offside: 1 / 3

Misconduct Summary:
PAN – Felipe Baloy (caution) 34th minute
PAN – Armando Cooper (caution) 42
PAN – Michael Murillo (caution) 48

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U17’s Top India in U17 World Cup Opener
U17’s Top India in U17 World Cup Opener avatar

The U.S. kicked off play in the U17 World Cup today with a 3-0 victory over India at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi.

The Americans were on top from the beginning, although the Young Yanks struggled to find a way through the tightly packed Indian defense until Josh Sargent drew a penalty in the 32nd minute.

The U17 during a training session. (ISI Photos/Casey Brooke Lawson)

Sargent, who recently committed to signing with Bundesliga side Werder Bremen when he turns 18 in February, shimmed past an Indian defender who reached out and grabbed him to give the U.S. a pk. Sargent coolly placed his shot in the bottom corner to break the deadlock.

India was happy to make it to the halftime break just down by one but the Americans came out strong to start the second half with Andrew Carleton particularly lively for the favorites.

The U.S. badly needed a second goal and it came off the left boot of Chris Durkin in the 51st minute off of a corner kick, helped by a deflection. Durkin, a midfielder for DC United, had a couple of rough moments playing in an unfamiliar center back role but the goal had to feel good.

The home team began coming into the match after Durkin’s goal and very nearly got on the board following a careless turnover by I.S. midfielder Blaine Ferri that eventually led to an India corner kick.

Andrew Carleton finished the game off with a fine finish for the young yanks. (ISI Photos/Casey Brooke Lawson)

The corner was blasted off of the crossbar, a break the U.S. quickly turned into a blistering counter-attack. Sub George Acosta delivered a fine ball over the top for Carleton to run onto and the Atlanta United youngster finished in style to punish the hosts.

Ghana defeated Colombia 1-0 in the day’s other Group A match. The U.S. plays Ghana on Monday, with Colombia facing India. With goal difference an important tiebreaker, the expected top three teams in the group will be looking to beat up on the home team. Will the U.S. 3-0 win be enough?

GOALKEEPERS (3): Alex Budnik (Sockers FC; Arlington Heights, Ill.), Carlos Joaquim Dos Santos (S.L. Benfica; Philadelphia, Penn.), Justin Garces (Atlanta United FC; Miami, Fla.)

DEFENDERS (6): Sergiño Dest (Ajax; Almere-stad, Netherlands), 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.), Tyler Shaver (New York City FC; Greenwich, Conn.), Akil Watts (Portland Timbers, Fort Wayne, Ind.)

MIDFIELDERS (6): George Acosta (North Carolina FC; Hollywood, Fla.), Taylor Booth (Real Salt Lake; Eden, Utah), Christopher Durkin (D.C. United; Glen Allen, Va.), Blaine Ferri (Solar Soccer Club; Southlake, Texas), Chris Goslin (Atlanta United FC; Locust Grove, Ga.), Indiana Vassilev (Unattached; Savannah, Ga.)

FORWARDS (6): Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC; Brampton Ont.), Andrew Carleton (Atlanta United FC; Powder Springs, Ga.), Jacobo Reyes (C.F. Monterrey; Houston, Texas), Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas; Little Elm, Texas), Joshua Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; O’Fallon, Mo.), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain F.C., Rosedale, N.Y.)

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Odd Selections Dot Arena’s World Cup Roster
Odd Selections Dot Arena’s World Cup Roster avatar

With World Cup qualification in the balance in a pair of matches versus Panama and Trinidad and Tobago U.S. MNT coach Bruce Arena has called in a 26 player roster that recalls Jurgen Klinsmann at his most inscrutable.

Friday’s test against Panama in Orlando is a must win game and the U.S. will likely need at least a point from its trip to Trinidad and Tobago four days later. Where exactly Bruce Arena sees Juan Agudelo and Gyasi Zardes fitting into that scenario is difficult to fathom.

Agudelo was a surprise selection. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Agudelo has not scored any of his eight goals for New England since August, while Zardes has regressed so much as a forward that L.A. boss Sigi Schmidt is attempting to convert Zardes to fullback.

A hamstring may eliminate Zardes from contention.

Arena has selected both as midfielders. Many expected to see Orlando’s Dom Dwyer take over for injured Jordan Morris, instead, Arena chose to carry just four forwards, although Agudelo and Zardes are potential strikers.

Arena is counting on Geoff Cameron after the center back put in a full shift for Stoke over the weekend and has brought back Tim Ream after the Fulham central defender was objectively awful alongside Cameron- not any better- in the 2-0 home loss to Costa Rica last month.

The U.S. managed a last-gasp draw at Honduras after the Costa Rica game in what seemed to many a sad international farewell to U.S. legend DaMarcus Beasley, who simply was not at the races against Honduras’ speedy wingers.

Graham Zusi was no better and yet both are back while Tim Chandler remains on Arena’s Missing Persons List, despite impressing week in a week out for Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga. Also left out is the versatile Fabian Johnson, who has not been at his best, though it is worth asking why Johnson has been penalized for poor form while Beasley and Zusi among others have not.

Arena has kept faith in Omar Gonzalez. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Arena has kept faith with Omar Gonzalez despite his very poor outing in the Honduras match while Matt Miazga, who has been impressing in the Eredivisie for Vitesse Arnhem has been overlooked.

Aside from the dubious midfield duo of Agudelo and Zardes, Arena has left himself open to questions marks in the center of the park with a couple of selections and omissions.

The U.S. MNT welcome back Benny Feilhaber, his creative spark is badly needed- but what about Lee Nguyen, who has racked up an impressive 11 goals and 15 assists this season and is one of the hottest players in MLS at the moment?

Christian Roldan’s absence is something of a surprise and what of Jermaine Jones? Healthy again after some time off the Galaxy hardman is a big game player and matches do not get much bigger than this upcoming two-game set.

October 6, 2017 7 PM ET
MNT vs Panama,
Orlando City Stadium; Orlando, Fla.
ESPN2, Univision, UDN

October 10, 2017 8 PM ET
MNT vs Trinidad & Tobago
Ato Boldon Stadium; Trinidad & Tobago
beIN SPORTS, Universo (WCQ TV rights)

ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; WCQ Caps/Goals):
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 15/0), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids; 37/0), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo; 35/6), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City; 12/1), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG; 24/2), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX; 16/0), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana/MEX; 6/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 6/0), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 4/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; (8/0), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City; 20/3)

MIDFIELDERS (10): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 5/0), Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution; 0/0), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 5/1), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 9/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 38/7), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City; 6/0), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers; 9/0), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 11/5), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy; 4/1)

FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 39/16), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC; 41/18), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER; 12/4)

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Sargent Heads U.S. Squad Headed to U17 World Cup
Sargent Heads U.S. Squad Headed to U17 World Cup avatar

Josh Sargent, newly committed to Bundesliga club Werder Bremen, leads coach John Hackworth’s 21 player squad set to contest the U17 World Cup beginning next month in India.

Sargent (ISI Photos/Casey Brook Lawson)

Sargent and Hackworth led an exciting U.S. team to a second place finish behind Mexico in the CONCACAF Championships this spring with the Young Yanks falling on penalty kicks in the final and while the flame-haired Sargent earned most of the plaudits, several Americans stood out with goalkeeper Justin Garces taking home the Golden Glove as one of five Americans to earn a place on the tournament’s Best 11. Garces was joined by Sargent, fullback Jaylin Lindsey, central defender James Sands, and midfielder Chris Durkin.

Forwards Andrew Carleton and Tim Weah also caught the eye at the regional championship and scouts will no doubt be watching that pair among others this October when the world’s top youth prospects get together in India.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Alex Budnik (Sockers FC; Arlington Heights, Ill.), Carlos Joaquim Dos Santos (S.L. Benfica; Philadelphia, Penn.), Justin Garces (Atlanta United FC; Miami, Fla.)

DEFENDERS (6): Sergiño Dest (Ajax; Almere-stad, Netherlands), 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.), Tyler Shaver (New York City FC; Greenwich, Conn.), Akil Watts (Portland Timbers, Fort Wayne, Ind.)

MIDFIELDERS (6): George Acosta (North Carolina FC; Hollywood, Fla.), Taylor Booth (Real Salt Lake; Eden, Utah), Christopher Durkin (D.C. United; Glen Allen, Va.), Blaine Ferri (Solar Soccer Club; Southlake, Texas), Chris Goslin (Atlanta United FC; Locust Grove, Ga.), Indiana Vassilev (Unattached; Savannah, Ga.)

FORWARDS (6): Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC; Brampton Ont.), Andrew Carleton (Atlanta United FC; Powder Springs, Ga.), Jacobo Reyes (C.F. Monterrey; Houston, Texas), Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas; Little Elm, Texas), Joshua Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; O’Fallon, Mo.), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain F.C., Rosedale, N.Y.)

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Carli, Carli – Carli? Lloyd a Finalist for 3rd Consecutive World Player of the Year Honor
Carli, Carli – Carli? Lloyd a Finalist for 3rd Consecutive World Player of the Year Honor avatar

FIFA has released the finalists for the organization’s new “Best” list, the soccer governing bodies awards for the top players, coaches, goal, etc.

Last year FIFA separated its honors from the Ballon d’Or and below is the complete list.

Any list of this nature is bound to raise hackles with everyone having their favorites but this year, as is often the case, the finalists in the women’s category lead the way in terms of head-scratchers.

Lieke Martens (R ) in action for Netherlands. (Getty Images)

With no World Cup or Olympics to contest the one major tournament for voters to weigh in the voting time frame was the Women’s Euro, so it makes sense then that Lieke Martens who earned the Golden Ball as player of the tournament while leading the Netherlands to the title would be one of the final three.

Sarina Wiegman, who coached the Orange to victory was also nominated, again, understandably. It is the other two nominees for Women’s Best, however, that lead to the head-scratching.

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

Carli Lloyd has been acknowledged as the world’s greatest female player two years running but frankly her spot on the 10 player shortlist that preceded this final three was a bit of a surprise.

Despite maintaining its place at the top of the FIFA rankings Lloyd’s U.S. team has endured a poor year, with Lloyd’s form somewhat inconsistent. Lloyd did raise the profile of the women’s sport significantly with her short-term move to Manchester City, but Lloyd played just six games for the team while on hiatus from the Houston Dash, her NWSL club.

Deyna Castellans has pushed her way past many series contenders. (Courtesy of Twitter)

The third nominee is 18-year-old Deyna Castellanos, the Venezuelan star who apparently parlayed her Golden Boot performance at the 2016 U17 Women’s World Cup into this nomination. Castellanos plays for Florida State and lower league United Women’s Soccer league club Santa Clarita Blue Heat, where she was named Player of the Year.

Castellanos is also up for the Puskas Award for goal of the year, men or women’s, and has somehow pushed past the likes of Australia’s Sam Kerr who has wowed for Sky Blue FC and Euro stars such as Lucy Bronze (England/Manchester) City, Pernille Harder (Denmark/VfL Wolfsburg), Dzsenifer Marozsan (Germany/ Olympique Lyonnais), Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands/ FC Bayern Munich), Wendie Renard (France/Olympique Lyonnais), Jodie Taylor (England/Arsenal Women).

The Best announcement in full.

Men’s Player
* Cristiano Ronaldo (POR / Real Madrid)
* Lionel Messi (ARG – FC Barcelona)
* Neymar (BRA – FC Barcelona/Paris Saint-Germain)

Women’s Player
* Deyna Castellanos (VEN – Santa Clarita Blue Heat/Florida State Seminoles)
* Carli Lloyd (USA – Houston Dash/Manchester City Women)
* Lieke Martens (NED – FC Barcelona Femeni)

Men’s Coach
* Massimiliano Allegri (ITA – Juventus)
* Antonio Conte (ITA – Chelsea)
* Zinedine Zidane (FRA – Real Madrid)

Women’s Coach
* Nils Nielsen (DEN – Danish national team)
* Gerard Precheur (FRA – Olympique Lyonnais Feminin)
* Sarina Wiegman (NED – Netherlands national team)

Goalkeeper
* Gianluigi Buffon (ITA – Juventus)
* Keylor Navas (CRC – Real Madrid)
* Manuel Neuer (GER – FC Bayern Munich)

Puskas Award
* Kevin-Prince Boateng (Las Palmas)
* Alejandro Camargo (Universidad de Concepcion)
* Deyna Castellanos (Venezuela U-17)
* Moussa Dembele (Celtic)
* Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)
* Aviles Hurtado (Tijuana Xolos)
* Mario Mandzukic (Juventus)
* Oscarine Masuluke (Baroka FC)
* Nemanja Matic (Chelsea)
* Jordi Mboula (FC Barcelona U-19)

Fan Award
* Borussia Dortmund supporters
* Celtic supporters
* FC Copenhagen supporters

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U.S. WNT Crush New Zealand to Complete Sweep
U.S. WNT Crush New Zealand to Complete Sweep avatar

The U.S. WNT cruised to a 5-0 win over New Zealand, closing out a feel good two game set against the Football Ferns following Friday’s 3-1 win in Colorado.

Pugh and Morgan put in fine performances(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

In front of a crowd of 30,000 plus the Americans dominated from the opening whistle, with the game’s biggest surprise being that New Zealand managed to keep the home team off the scoreboard for 36 minutes.

Lindsey Horan broke the deadlock just three minutes after replacing local girl Rose Lavelle, who was on a minutes limit after recovering from a hamstring injury. That goal kick started an excellent night for Horan in an attacking midfield role.

A brief flurry from New Zealand around the half hour mark threatened to disturb the U.S. hegemony but with Mewis and Ertz dominating the center of the park and O’Hara and Rapinoe flying on the wings it was inevitable when Horan’s header beat a poorly positioned Erin Nayler in the New Zealand goal.

Goals on either side of the half by Mallory Pugh, 44th minute from Horan and halftime sub Alex Morgan, 30 seconds after the restart, ended any hopes New Zealand may have harbored for an upset.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis used every player available with the exception of reserve goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. The changes did nothing to slow the U.S. down with Morgan standing out as she maintained her recent top form for club and country.

Heath returned to the squad after a long absence. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Tobin Heath returned to action, ending a long injury absence when she replaced Mallory Pugh in the 72nd minute, a positive for anyone who enjoys the game of soccer while Lynn Williams and a second Morgan goal closed out the scoring for the dominant Americans sending the Cincinnati crowd home home happy.

Ellis will be happy too, in particular one would think with several performances. Ertz was a powerful presence in the middle of the field and paired with the equally impressive Mewis, Ellis may have found her central midfield going forward – keeping in mind that France 2019 is still a long way off.

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 2 3 5
NZL 0 0 0

USA – Lindsey Horan (Samantha Mewis) 36th minute
USA – Mallory Pugh (Lindsey Horan) 44
USA – Alex Morgan 46
USA – Lynn Williams (Kelley O’Hara) 55
USA – Alex Morgan (Mallory Pugh) 69

Lineups:
USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 14-Casey Short, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (capt.) (22-Taylor Smith, 46), 7-Abby Dahlkemper, 5-Kelley O’Hara; 3-Samantha Mewis (6-Morgan Brian, 57), 8-Julie Ertz, 16-Rose Lavelle (9-Lindsey Horan, 33); 15-Megan Rapinoe (13-Alex Morgan, 46), 23-Christen Press (12-Lynn Williams, 46), 2-Mallory Pugh (17-Tobin Heath, 72)
Substitutes not used: 24-Ashlyn Harris
Head coach: Jill Ellis

NZL: 1-Erin Nayler; 7-Ali Riley (capt.), 5-Meikayla Moore, 6-Rebekah Stott, 2-Ria Percival (4-CJ Bott, 86); 11-Kirsty Yallop (16-Olivia Chance, 58), 14-Katie Bowen, 12-Betsy Hassett (22-Katie Rood, 90+3), 10-Annalie Longo (8-Daisy Cleverley, 80); 13-Rosie White (18-Aimee Phillips, 76), 17-Hannah Wilkinson (15-Martine Puketapu, 89)
Substitutes not used: 3-Anna Green, 20-Malia Steinmetz, 21-Anna Leat, 23-Victoria Esson, 25-Liz Anton, 26-Jane Barnett
Head coach: Tony Readings

Stats Summary: USA / NZL
Shots: 19 / 5
Shots on Goal: 9 / 0
Saves: 0 / 4
Corner Kicks: 9 / 4
Fouls: 2 / 10
Offside: 1 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
NZL – Hannah Wilkinson (caution) 35th minute

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Ertz Stars as U.S. WNT top New Zealand
Ertz Stars as U.S. WNT top New Zealand avatar

The U.S. handed New Zealand a 3-1 loss Friday night in Colorado behind a pair of goals from versatile Julie Ertz and one from rejuvenated striker Alex Morgan. With no World Cup or Olympics to prepare for this year coach Jill Ellis has experimented frequently in 2017, often with poor results.

Ellis seems confident and has shrugged off the disappointing results. . (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Ellis has shrugged off disappointing results but with France 2019 still some way off the coach is carefully cataloging the ups and down, so here a few notes from Friday night.

Sometimes the Answer is Right Under Your Nose

Ever since defensive midfielder Shannon Boxx slowed down and eventually retired the U.S. WNT, under three coaches, has struggled to find a replacement, shoehorning attack-minded players from Lauren Holiday to Morgan Brian, to Allie Long, and Lindsey Horan into an ill-suited role.

That awkward fit was often overcome by the sheer talent of the individuals and the team, particularly in Holiday’s case at the 2015 World Cup. The results have been less impressive of late causing Ellis to make the curious move of disrupting her defense to install Becky Sauerbrunn at d-mid when a much better option was right there under her nose.

Julie Ertz has been excellent as a holding midfielder. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

As Julie Johnson, Julie Ertz starred alongside Sauerbrunn at the 2015 Cup in central defense but by any name, the Chicago Red Star player was starring at the defensive mid spot for her club and it was no surprise when Ertz shone when finally entrusted with the job during the Tournament of Nations.

We were hoping to see Ertz in that position from the start versus New Zealand and since GotSoccer would never to say we told you so…

2) Is Morgan Back?

Now 28 years old the one-time “Wondergirl” of U.S. Soccer had most of us wondering if she would ever recapture the unstoppable aura that had once surrounded her.

Injury after injury plus the rise of younger options made Morgan’s hold on her position at the top of the U.S attack appear increasingly tenuous but Morgan has responded.

Morgan seems to be benefiting from her club play.  (ISI Photos/Jamie Schwaberow)

Good health and a productive working relationship with Brazilian legend Marta with the Orlando Pride sent Morgan into the New Zealand doubleheader on a high and “Baby Horse” kept her momentum with a goal on Friday against the Football Ferns.

So, is Morgan back? It may be slightly premature to say that, but if she is, that is another problem solved for Ellis.

3) 1 and 100

On a night when Kelley O’Hara captained the side on the occasion of her 100th U.S. WNT camp, Sophia Huerta made her first appearance with the Yanks after her change of national association was approved by FIFA.

An attacker who operates up front or out wide for the Chicago Red Stars, Huerta subbed in for fullback when Taylor Smith picked up a knock on Friday night and contributed an assist on Morgan’s goal.

O’Hara celebrated her 100th cap with skippering her team to a well deserved victory. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

O’Hara has shown similar versatility over the years, starring at Stanford as a striker before going on to play anywhere from fullback to forward at the club level. After playing a lot of wide midfield with the national team, O’Hara has established herself as the starting right fullback under Ellis, although she still gets the occasional run further up the pitch.

It has been a great career for O’Hara, one that has plenty of life still while Huerta’s time with the U.S. WNT is just beginning after a youthful fling with Mexico.

Congratulations to them both.

Up next:
September 19, 2017 (7:30 PM ET) WNT vs New Zealand
Nippert Stadium (Univ. of Cincinnati); Cincinnati, Ohio
FS1

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

USA – Julie Ertz (Lindsey Horan) 16th minute
USA – Julie Ertz 24
NZL – Hannah Wilkinson (Ali Riley) 75
USA – Alex Morgan (Sofia Huerta) 79

Lineups:
USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 22-Taylor Smith (11-Sofia Huerta, 51), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 7-Abby Dahlkemper, 5-Kelley O’Hara (capt.) (14-Casey Short, 77); 8-Julie Ertz, 3-Samantha Mewis (20-Allie Long, 60), 9-Lindsey Horan (6-Morgan Brian, 74); 2-Mallory Pugh (19-Crystal Dunn, 60), 13-Alex Morgan, 15-Megan Rapinoe (23-Christen Press, 60)
Substitutes: 18-Jane Campbell
Head coach: Jill Ellis

NZL: 1-Erin Nayler; 2-Ria Percival, 5-Meikayla Moore, 6-Rebekah Stott, 7-Ali Riley (capt.); 13-Rosie White (18-Aimee Phillips, 87), 10-Annalie Longo, 11-Kirsty Yallop (16-Olivia Chance, 84), 12-Betsy Hassett, 14-Katie Bowen; 17-Hannah Wilkinson
Substitutes: 21-Anna Leat 23-Victoria Esson, 3-Anna Green, 4-Cj Bott, 8-Daisy Cleverley, 20-Malia Steinmetz, 22-Katie Rood, 25-Liz Anton, 26-Jane Barnett
Head coach: Tony Readings

Stats Summary: USA / NZL
Shots: 14 / 5
Shots on Goal: 4 / 3
Saves: 2 / 1
Corner Kicks: 7 / 3
Fouls: 8 / 11
Offside: 0 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
NZL – Annalie Longo (caution) 46th minute

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