Lalas Goes on a Rant
Lalas Goes on a Rant avatar

If you care about the U.S. MNT you probably have heard it by now, Alexi Lalas’ Rant. You may well have said, “you know what he’s right, or maybe you think he went too far. So, let’s have a look at what the former U.S. defender said, and whether it was true or right, or just plain nuts.

Lalas made his feelings about the failures of the USMNT clear.  (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Lalas spoke at halftime of the 1-1 draw between the Seattle Sounders and the LA Galaxy Sunday night on Fox Sports 1. Here it is in all its naked glory:

“It’s dark days, indeed, but this is a time for leaders to step up. And so to the supposed leaders, I will say this. All right, Tim Howard. Tim, the Belgium game ended three years ago. We need you to save the ball now. Geoff Cameron, clean it up or let’s get someone who will. Clint Dempsey, you’re a national team legend; now we need you to be a national team leader. Michael Bradley, the U.S. does not need you to be Zen, the U.S. needs you to play better. Jozy Altidore, is this really as good as it gets? Because it’s still not good enough.”

“Bruce Arena. Bruce, Jurgen Klinsmann lost at home to Mexico. You lost at home to Costa Rica, This is now all on you, not Jurgen. And, oh, by the way, to all the guys that I didn’t mention, it’s because you don’t even warrant a mention. That includes you too, Wonder Boy. So, what are you guys going to do? Are you going to continue to be a bunch of soft, underperforming, tattooed millionaires? You are a soccer generation that has been given everything; you are a soccer generation who’s on the verge of squandering everything. So, now it’s time to pay it back. Make us believe again. You don’t owe it to yourselves, you owe it to us. And … get off my lawn.”

Colorful stuff, and keep in mind that Lalas has been plain in stating that part of his job is to entertain. He certainly hit the mark there, but what of the substance. The most interesting part of the diatribe, for me, was Lalas’ contention that this group has “been given everything.”

USA’s Alexi Lalas (L) in action in action again the Netherlands. (ISI Photos/J.Brett Whitesell)

Lalas played for the national team from 1991-1998, he played in played in one World Cup, 1994, and was on the roster but did not see action in 1998. It is not much of a leap to say then that Lalas, who had yet to play for a professional club before the 1994 World Cup, was not part of a generation to which everything was given. In fact, he may feel, with some justification, that he is among those who have given the current group, “everything.”

And with two games remaining in the HEX- the final round of World Cup Qualifying play- the U.S. could squander a chance to get to the World Cup. Of course, they could beat Panama in Orlando and win at Trinidad and Tobago and then it is on to Russia.

Much of the attention around Lalas’ rant came because he named names. Lalas singled out the leaders on the team, accusing Tim Howard of living off past glories, Michael Bradley of lacking passion and Bruce Arena of blaming his woes on his predecessor.

Jozy Altidore was called out as “not good enough.” Altidore’s numbers are in fact pretty good. The Toronto FC striker is third in U.S. MNT goals behind icons Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. If Lalas wanted to call Altidore out, he should have targeted the striker’s immature behavior that led to a yellow card versus Costa Rica and forced Altidore to miss the Honduras match.

Dempsey leadership qualities were question by Lalas. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Dempsey’s leadership qualities were questioned by Lalas, and it is true that Dempsey has never fit the traditional leader profile, Deuce has always seemed more of a solo artist. Klinsmann sought to bring out Dempsey’s inner leader by making him captain, a job the coach eventually took away and handed to Michael Bradley, accused of being too zen by Lalas.

One can only assume that Lalas wants to see more emotion from the captain, although Lalas said that Bradley needed to “play better.” Is playing poorly a zen thing? Bradley was quiet against Honduras but he played well in a losing effort against the Ticos and if Lalas is speaking in general terms I think he is barking up the wrong tree. Bradley is far and away the best option in the center of the field for the U.S. despite the constant clamor of those who do not appreciate Altidore’s TFC teammate.

As coach, Arena has the least cover among Lalas’ targets. Arena took over a team in a deep hole, helped the U.S. climb out of that hole but then, as Lalas said, Arena, “lost at home to Costa Rica.”

A home win over Panama would absolve Arena of that sin, and paired with a road victory over last place T&T, the Yanks would not only have climbed back out of that ditch, they would have clambered all the way to Russia.

Whatever value there may have been in Lalas’ remarks though, was squandered by his gratuitous, pointless, and inaccurate jab at Christian Pulisic. “Wonderboy.” Really, Alexi? What has Pulisic done since arriving on the national team but put his head down and work his ass off?

Christian Pulisic recent performances for the U.S. were nothing to write home about. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Was Pulisic great for the U.S. in the recent two game set? No, he was ok. But the soon to be 19 year old worked hard for all 180 minutes, even if the Dortmund attacker occasionally showed some frustration.

Did Lalas make some sense? Sure, although I don’t know what the tats have to do with anything. In the end, these are all grown men and professional athletes. Howard needs to save that first goal against Costa Rica, Dempsey needs to score some goals. Arena needs to win games. They know this and while Lalas’ words might piss them off they won’t melt.

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U.S. WNT Back in Action Against New Zealand
U.S. WNT Back in Action Against New Zealand avatar

Jill Ellis has named a 22 player squad to face off against the Lady Ferns of New Zealand in a pair of friendlies on September 15, at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado and September 19, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The matches are the first for the U.S. since the team’s second place finish at the inaugural Tournament of Nations, where the Americans finished second.

The U.S. lost to Australia for the first time in their history.. (ISI Photos/Al Sermeno)

The U.S. began the event on a bad note, losing for the first time to Australia. When the Yanks fell behind Brazil 3-1 it looked bleak for the host nation. The U.S. stormed back to beat Brazil 4-3 and went on to dominate Japan 3-0 to end the tournament on an up note.

But coming on the heels of an embarrassing last place finish in the SheBelieves Cup in March Jill Ellis’ odd lineup choices raised some eyebrows.

The most glaring was playing Becky Sauerbrunn at defensive midfield. The co-captain looked out of sorts when played there and with Julie (Johnson) Ertz available and operating successfully at that position for the Chicago Red Stars, Ellis’ experiment seemed senseless.

Ertz eventually got her shot in front of the back four and was excellent. Good enough, one would think to get an extended run at the position. With Ashlyn Harris unavailable through injury, Ellis played Alyssa Naeher exclusively in the goal. Naeher had some shaky moments and with two other keepers on the roster, it was surprising that neither got a look.

Heath and Brian return to the squad. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Harris is back and should provide needed competition at the goalkeeper position. Also returning from injury are Tobin Heath, Morgan Brian, and Rose Lavelle. Megan Rapinoe played at the TON and was perhaps the best U.S. player but Rapinoe subsequently picked up an injury and missed time with the Seattle Reign. good news for Ellis is that Pinoe will be available for selection to face New Zealand.

Carli Lloyd will miss out with an ankle injury, always a big loss.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars;18/0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 1/0), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 13/0)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 7/0), Tierna Davidson (Stanford; 0/0), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 51/9), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC; 99/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City; 129/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 13/0), Taylor Smith (NC Courage; 3/0)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars; 67/6), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC; 131/18), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 37/3), Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers; 6/2), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC; 30/5), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 28/5), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 123/33)

FORWARDS (5): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC; 54/22), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 128/74), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars; 90/43), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit; 26/5), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 10/2)

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Ticos Top USA as World Cup Window Narrows
Ticos Top USA as World Cup Window Narrows avatar

Harrison, N.J. – “I thought they outplayed us and outcoached us,” is how U.S. MNT coach Bruce Arena put it after his team lost 2-0 to Costa Rica, and it was hard to disagree.

With that in mind here are a few thoughts on the game.

1) Start Dempsey in the Big Games

Dempsey as a super sub was the big takeaway from the summer’s Gold Cup and it makes sense. However, Arena said at the time that he would use the veteran from the start or off of the bench going forward, depending on the circumstances.

Dempsey came on in the 65th minute. (ISI Photos/Howard C Smith)

It is easy to say in hindsight but in a game of this magnitude and against Costa Rica, the best team in CONCACAF the past few years, more Dempsey, not less, was required.

As it was Deuce had the Ticos airtight defense scrambling once he entered the fray in the 65th minute. Dempsey is still the player who scores the big goals for the U.S. He might have done it Friday night if he had been allotted 65 minutes, not 35.

2) Real Madrid Goalkeeper Outplayed the Colorado Rapids Netminder

This is not to bury Tim Howard, an American soccer legend but legend or not, Howard should never have been beaten on the opening goal and although not to blame for the second, a big save there would have kept U.S. hopes alive.

Keylor Navas was solid for Costa Rica. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

As for Keylor Navas, the Madrista keeper showed why he was recently nominated for the FIFA BEST award with a pair of second half saves that were just part of his overall outstanding performance.

The first came off of a deflected Christian Pulisic shot in the 67th minute. Navas somehow got a hand and a foot to the Pulisic effort, which came from a Dempsey free kick and looked a certain goal.

Then in the 81st minute, Geoff Cameron’s lovely chipped pass found Altidore behind the Ticos largely impenetrable defense only to see the Toronto striker rebuffed by Navas.

One minute later Cameron’s careless pass out of the back was picked off and Howard was unable to provide the heroics to deny San Jose Earthquakes striker Marco Urena his, and his team’s second goal.

3) Don’t Blame the Venue

There was plenty of chatter during and after the match that the U.S. had erred in playing this game at Red Bull Arena. Too many Costa Rican fans turned this game into a virtual home game for the visitors, went the argument.

And the sights and sound in the latter stages of Friday’s match lent credence to that viewpoint. The first 29 minutes plus, however, told a different story.

U.S. fans during the match against Costa Rica. (ISI Photos/Howard C Smith)

Before Urena scored the game’s first goal in the 30th minute, Red Bull Arena was loudly, proudly pro USA! USA! USA! The American Outlaws supporters group was making a racket and with the Yanks dominating possession the New Jersey stadium was playing very much like a home game.

If the U.S. had converted one of several chances in that opening half an hour then Taylor Twellman would have had no complaints about the crowd.

4) Jozy, Jozy, Jozy?!

After the match, U.S. striker Jozy Altidore expressed his dismay at the yellow card he was presented with late in the match, a caution that will force Altidore to miss Tuesday’s crucial match in Honduras.

Altidore has only himself to blame for his suspension.  (ISI Photos/Howard C Smith)

He should have saved his breath. In the 80th minute incident, Altidore rushed at Johan Venegas after the whistle only to see the Minnesota United midfielder crumble to the ground at Altidore’s slight touch. What did Altidore expect? The veteran U.S. international should have known better and has only himself to blame.

The U.S. is fortunate that Clint Dempsey’s late elbow didn’t connect with a Costa Rica defender in added time or Arena could have been down another attacker against Honduras on Tuesday.

– U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report –

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

CRC – Marco Ureña (Bryan Ruiz) 30th minute
CRC – Marco Ureña (David Guzman) 82

Lineups:
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 19-Graham Zusi (18-Jordan Morris, 84), 20-Geoff Cameron, 14-Tim Ream, 2-Jorge Villafaña (8-Clint Dempsey, 65); 10-Christian Pulisic (21-Paul Arriola, 87), 6-Darlington Nagbe, 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 23-Fabian Johnson; 9-Bobby Wood, 17-Jozy Altidore
Subs not used: 12-Brad Guzan, 22-Nick Rimando, 3-Omar González, 5-Matt Besler, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 11-Alejandro Bedoya, 13-Dax McCarty, 15-Eric Lichaj, 16-Kellyn Acosta
Head coach: Bruce Arena

CRC: 1-Keylor Navas; 16-Cristian Gamboa (6-José Salvatierra, 71), 15-Francisco Calvo, 2-Johnny Acosta, 19-Kendall Waston, 8-Bryan Oviedo (11-Johan Venegas, 78); 7-Cristian Bolaños (4-Michael Umaña, 71), 20-David Guzman, 5-Celso Borges, 10-Bryan Ruiz (capt.); 21-Marco Ureña
Subs not used: 18-Patrick Pemberton, 23-Leonel Moreira, 3-Kenner Gutierrez, 9-José Ortiz, 12-David Ramirez, 13-Rodney Wallace, 14-Randall Azofeifa, 17-Yeltsin Tejeda, 22-Daniel Colindres
Head coach: Óscar Ramírez

Stats Summary: USA / CRC
Shots: 14 / 9
Shots on Goal: 2 / 2
Saves: 0 / 2
Corner Kicks: 3 / 2
Fouls: 10 / 18
Offside: 3 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
CRC – David Guzman (caution) 13th minute
CRC – Francisco Calvo (caution) 67
USA – Jozy Altidore (caution) 80
USA – Clint Dempsey (caution) 90+1

Fifth & Final Round (Hexagonal)

PTS W L D GF GA GD
Mexico – x 17 5 0 2 10 2 +8
Costa Rica 14 4 1 2 11 4 +7
United States 8 2 3 2 11 10 +1
Honduras 8 2 3 2 8 15 -7
Panama 7 1 2 4 4 5 -1
Trinidad & Tobago 3 1 6 0 4 12 -8
x – Qualified for 2018 FIFA World Cup

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U.S. MNT Face Costa Rica in 1st of a Pair of Crucial WCQ
U.S. MNT Face Costa Rica in 1st of a Pair of Crucial WCQ avatar

Bruce Arena was advertised as the pair of safe hands needed to dig the U.S. MNT out of the 0-2 hole dug for it by his predecessor Jurgen Klinsmann and while Arena surprised with a successful three back formation in a crucial 1-1 draw with Mexico, the coach has been much as promised.

Arena has selected a strong team.  (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Compiling a 2-0-2 in World Cup Qualifying play Arena has followed the script of winning at home and looking to tie on the road. The 26 player roster selected by Arena for a pair of WCQ, Friday in New Jersey and next Tuesday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras hews to that same conservative template.

The plan has been effective and if the Americans can defeat Costa Rica, no easy task, at Red Bull Arena, Friday evening at 6:30, then the U.S. MNT will head to Trinidad with visions of Russia 2018 dancing in their heads.

Arena was unable to call in his best fullback DeAndre Yedlin, the Newcastle speedster picked up a poorly timed hamstring injury. Arena then declined to issue an invitation to Tim Chandler the 27-year-old Eintracht Frankfurt defender who has mysteriously never been able to duplicate his Bundesliga form for the U.S.A.

Zuni during training in prep for Friday’s match. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Instead, Arena has called in Graham Zusi, a recent convert to the position from midfield and Eric Lichaj, who has been unable to claim a starting position for Nottingham Forest this season after winning the club Player of the Year honors in 2016-17.

Bruce 2.0 also kept faith with one of his originals, DaMarcus Beasley, selecting the 35-year-old Houston Dynamo defender, who now seems to have a real chance of playing in a fifth World Cup. You have to wonder if Landon Donovan is somewhere looking for his boots!

   It will be interesting to see who starts against Costa Rica. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

With 26 players to choose from Arena is likely planning to rotate his lineup for the two matches, so look for Clint Dempsey to start versus Costa Rica and if things go well, expect Deuce to be held in reserve in Honduras.

U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; WCQ Caps/Goals)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 14/0), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids; 36/0), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo; 34/6), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City; 11/1), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG; 22/2), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX; 15/0), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas; 0/0), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 0/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 5/0), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 3/0), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City; 18/3)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 4/0), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 3/1), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 9/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 35/7), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 16/1), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers; 7/0), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 9/5), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 0/0)

FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 38/16), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC; 39/18), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 3/0), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER; 10/4)

NATION GP W L D GF GA GD POINTS
*1. Mexico 6 4 0 2 9 2 +7 14
*2. Costa Rica 6 3 1 2 9 4 +5 11
*3. USA 6 2 2 2 11 8 +3 8
-4. Panama 6 1 1 4 4 4 0 7
5. Honduras 6 1 3 2 6 14 -8 5
6. Trinidad & T 6 1 5 0 3 10 -7 3

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

MLS Rivalry Week kicked off Wednesday night, with one of the promoted rivalries tucked in amongst six regular matchups.

So, let’s start with the first of the six., making this week’s MLS Big – 5 the Big – 6. Home teams listed first.

FC Dallas 3-3 vs Houston Dynamo

Houston has been one of the surprise teams in the league this season, sitting as they do in fourth place in the West, one spot above the supposed shining example of all that is right on MLS, FC Dallas.

Houston have been the surprise team this season. (ISI Photos/Jeremy Olson)

Dallas is often praised for its academy system, and rightly so, but for all their regular season and U.S. Cup success under coach Oscar Pareja and architect Fernando Calvillo Dallas has yet to raise the one cup that truly matters in this league the MLS Cup.

But back to last night. Houston jumped out to a 1-0 lead after less than a minute on a Vicente Sanchez opener. Erick Torres picked up the assist, and the Mexican international was just getting started.

Playing in front of just 13,339 at Dallas’ home park in Frisco, Texas Dallas roared back with three goals in a six-minute span on either side of halftime.

Tesho Akindele leveled in the 45th minute, followed by Maynor Figueroa’s go ahead goal in first half stoppage time.

The Dynamo looked to be reeling when Maxi Uritti added a third Dallas score in the 51st minute but this Houston team is made of sterner stuff and led by Torres the Dynamo refused to roll over.

Torres struck in the 71st and 86th minutes to complete his brace and a remarkable comeback for Houston.

2) NY! NY!

The announcement from New York City FC that the club’s September 23rd match versus the Houston Dynamo would not be played at Yankee Stadium and would instead be moved to Rentschler Field in East Hartford has largely eclipsed Friday’s showdown with the New York Red Bulls.

NYC FC game has to be moved to East Hartford. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

The move has come about because Yankee Stadium’s prime tenant the, em, New York Yankees have to make up a rain delayed match on that date. This was a conflict that was bound to happen at some point but the franchises complete lack of progress on finding a permanent home within the five boroughs of New York City, as long promised, has pushed the stadium issue front and center for frustrated NYCFC fans and jubilant Red Bulls fans alike.

The effect has been that instead of talking about the chance of a first ever NYCFC sweep of the season series, we are left wondering whether New York City FC will ever find a home of its own in the city that bears its name.

3) Rocky Mountain Time

Saturday’s only Rivalry match is the Rocky Mountain Cup Showdown between Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids with Salt Lake playing host.

The home side will want to keep up the momentum from Wednesday night’s home win over San Jose, a 4-0 shellacking sparked by Albert Rusnak’s one goal and two assist night.

Pablo Mastroeni was the casualty of his team’s poor performance. (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

Colorado is still adjusting to the firing of coach Pablo Mastroeni and the implementation on the fly of a new, more offensive minded style under interim coach Steve Cooke.

There is also a new general manager on board in Padraig Smith so it is a new broom for the Rapids. The playoffs are out of reach for the Raps but RSL remains in the hunt, two places and three points below the playoff line, so look for a motivated Salt Lake to come away with the win.

4) Cascadia Time

There will be much to play for when the 2015 MLS Champion Portland Timbers travel to Seattle to face the 2016 title winning Sounders on Sunday in front of what is expected to be a huge and raucous crowd.

First place in the West for one. The home side holds the top spot in the West with 41 points, just one better than the Timbers, but both teams are feeling good about themselves ahead of his showdown.

Dempsey is peaking at the right time. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Seattle is riding a 10 game unbeaten streak and with the playoffs approaching Clint Dempsey is heating up at just the right time.

Portland is coming off of back to back home wins over New York Red Bulls (2-0) and lowly Colorado (2-1) and are playing well with Diego Valeri leading the way. Valeri’s goal versus the Rapids was his 52nd for the TImbers, a Portland record. It was also the fifth consecutive game in which the talented Argentine hit the target, another Portland record.

Valeri’s heroics come with a bit of a downside- transfer rumors. It is still at the rumor stage but Valerie will be expected to be a professional while the rumors swirl.

The same cannot be said of Seattle fullback Joevin Jones, who earlier signed a pre-contract offer to join Bundesliga 2 side Darmstadt after the MLS season. No problem there, but the Sounders do have a problem with Jones’ decision to go AWOL following the club’s win over Minnesota last week.

Jones left to join up with the Trinidad and Tobago national team but he left early and without permission, missing Wednesday’s match versus Vancouver.

5) Canada Derby

Two hot teams get together in Montreal on Sunday with the Impact on a four match win streak while Toronto has won three straight and are clearly the best team in the league.

Ignacio Piatti has helped lead his team to a playoff position. (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

Montreal has put itself in playoff position with their hot streak behind Ignacio Piatti’s big season and with the addition of Swiss midfielder Blerim Dzemali on loan from Italian side Bologna.

TFC is of course led by Sebastian Giovinco and U.S. stars Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore and the team is chasing the MLS points record. To get that record Toronto will have to deal with Montreal. Three of TFC’s remaining eight matches are against its nearest rivals.

6) Clasico?

When is a Clasico not a Clasico?

Maybe this Sunday when the dreadful 9th place(!) Galaxy host the playoff chasing San Jose Earthquakes.

Both teams are coming off of demoralizing losses, the Galaxy 2-0 at Columbus while the Quakes were hammered 4-0 in Salt Lake City.

To be fair to San Jose they are in the playoff hunt under new boss Chris Leitch, just two points out of the final post-season spot and only three out of fifth.

Chris Wondolowski (ISI Photos/Celso Bayo)

The Quakes still rely heavily on Chris Wondolowski who leads the club in both goals with 10 and assists with five.

The problem with this low wattage Clasico is the Galaxy. New coach Sigi Schmid figures to get this turned around but it won’t be this year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the nominees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proposed stadiums and metropolitan markets for further consideration

Metropolitan Market – Stadium – Capacity

United States (34 cities, 37 stadiums)

Atlanta, GA
Mercedes-Benz Stadium – 75,000

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

Birmingham, AL
Legion Field – 71,594

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

Charlotte, NC
Bank of America Stadium – 75,400

Chicago, IL
Soldier Field – 61,500

Cincinnati, OH
Paul Brown Stadium – 65,515

Cleveland, OH
FirstEnergy Stadium – 68,710

Dallas, TX
Cotton Bowl – 92,100

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

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

Detroit, MI
Ford Field – 65,000

Green Bay, WI
Lambeau Field – 81,441

Houston, TX
NRG Stadium – 71,500

Indianapolis, IN
Lucas Oil Stadium – 65,700

Jacksonville, FL
EverBank Field – 64,000

Kansas City, MO
Arrowhead Stadium – 76,416

Las Vegas, NV
Raiders Stadium – 72,000

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

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

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

Miami, FL
Hard Rock Stadium – 65,767

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

Nashville, TN
Nissan Stadium – 69,143

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

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

Orlando, FL
Camping World Stadium – 65,000

Philadelphia, PA
Lincoln Financial Field -69,328

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

Pittsburgh, PA
Heinz Field – 68,400

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

San Antonio, TX
Alamodome – 72,000

San Diego, CA
Qualcomm Stadium – 71,500

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

Seattle, WA
CenturyLink Field – 69,000

Tampa, FL
Raymond James Stadium – 73,309

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

Canada (7 cities, 9 stadiums)

Calgary, Alberta
McMahon Stadium – 35,650

Edmonton, Alberta
Commonwealth Stadium – 56,335

Montréal, Québec
Stade Olympique – 61,004

Montréal, Québec
Stade Saputo – 20,801

Ottawa, Ontario
TD Place Stadium – 24,341

Regina, Saskatchewan
Mosaic Stadium – 30,048

Toronto, Ontario
Rogers Centre – 53,506

Toronto, Ontario
BMO Field – 28,026

Vancouver, British Columbia
BC Place – 55,165

Mexico (3 cities, 3 stadiums)

Guadalajara, Jalisco
Estadio Chivas – 45,364

Mexico City
Estadio Azteca – 87,000

Monterrey, Nuevo León
Estadio Rayados – 52,237

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NWSL – Roundup
NWSL – Roundup avatar

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

To the Roundup, home teams listed first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back in April the deal we wrote the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good advice.

Oh, and Ben? You’re welcome.

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No Regrets for Carli Lloyd
No Regrets for Carli Lloyd avatar

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

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

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

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

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

Lloyd training with Man City. (Courtesy of AP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any regrets then?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations to Australia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riccardo Silva (C) Courtesy of Miami FC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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