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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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NWSL Roundup
NWSL Roundup avatar

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

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

Seattle Reign 5-1 vs Houston Dash

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

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

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

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

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

North Carolina Courage 1-0 vs Portland Thorns

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

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

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

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

Orlando Pride 1-1 vs Washington Spirit

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

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

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

Chicago Red Stars 1-0 vs FC Kansas City

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

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

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

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

Boston Breakers 1-0 vs Sky Blue FC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MLS – Big 5
MLS – Big 5 avatar

In another busy week of MLS action the Tim Howard incident goes straight to the top of this week’s MLS Big – 5.

1) Howard Banned

U.S. MNT legend Tim Howard lost his cool during and after Colorado’s 3-1 loss at Kansas City, resulting in a three-game suspension for the Rapids keeper. Howard was seen and heard on camera cursing out a couple of “fans” and also allegedly grabbed another by the arm afterward.

There is no video of the alleged grabbing and the MLS Player’s Association issued the following statement on Howard’s behalf earlier this week.

Howard has been issued a 3 match suspension.(ISI Photos/Bill Barrett)

“We are disappointed with the league’s handling of the situation involving the Kansas City fans and Tim Howard,” the statement said. “Following the incidents, which involved a verbal exchange with a fan, as well as an altercation after the game, Tim acknowledged his culpability and responsibility for his role. However, he is the only one involved to do so.

“Although the Players Union and Tim acknowledge that his conduct was inappropriate, there is further context that should not be lost.

“MLS has a detailed Fan Code of Conduct in place under which fans are expected to be respectful to each other and to players, and are prohibited from engaging in disorderly behavior, including obscene or abusive language.

“The fans involved repeatedly, routinely and openly violated that Code of Conduct, without any repercussions. It is thus not surprising that there was a reaction from the player.”

Howard sat out the first game of his suspension Saturday night, a 2-1 home loss to Rocky Mountain Cup rivals Real Salt Lake.

2) Viva Villa!

The reigning MLS MVP made a bid for Goal of the Year with an audacious goal from 50 plus yards in New York City FC’s 2-0 win over winless Philadelphia.

Jack Harrison had already shot NYC into the lead with a 52nd-minute strike and the toothless hosts’ weren’t much of a threat but, still. Brilliant stuff from Spain’s all-time leading goal scorer.

3) A Pair with a Brace

First to Vancouver where one time Seattle golden boy Freddy Montero returned to haunt his former fans and employers with a pair of headed goals in Friday night’s 2-1 victory at Montero’s new home.

The Colombian striker left Seattle for Sporting Club Portugal in 2013 before hopping on the money train to China. Montero is on loan with the Whitecaps. With three goals in the young season, Montero’s return to Cascadia seems to be going as planned.

Nemanja Nikolic celebrating one of his goals. (ISI Photos/Robin Alam)

Our second brace of the MLS week comes from Chicago striker Nemanja Nikolic who was brought to the Windy City, well its suburbs, to score goals and with four in six games the Hungarian international DP is earning his keep for a Chicago team that looks to be on the rise.

4) Real Madrid is Coming!

Bayern Munich couldn’t handle them so what chance do the MLS All-Stars have? We’ll find out on August 2, when Ronaldo and co. face the All-Stars at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

Real Madrid taking on Bayern Munich in New York in 2016. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

Recent results have not been bad for the North Americans, who surprised Bayern by a 2-1 scoreline in 2014 and Tottenham a year later by the same margin before succumbing to Arsenal last year by, you guessed it, a 2-1 score in San Jose.

Soldier Field’s 60,000 plus capacity could be tested for the star-studded Madridistas, especially if Real can go on and claim the 2017 Champions League.

5) The Future’s So Bright MLS has Gotta Wear Shades

Well, that may be a slight exaggeration but results from MLS Academies playing at the recent Dallas Cup certainly give reason for optimism.

Courtesy of FC Dallas Twitter

First, FC Dallas’ much-praised youth set up became the first MLS Academy side to claim the prestigious U18 Gordon Jago Super Group Championship knocking off Mexico’s Monterrey 2-1 to do it.

Dallas was led by a trio of Homegrown professionals in Paxton Pomykal, Reggie Cannon, and Jesus Ferreira.

Third year MLS club NYCFC also got in on the action with its U16 team claiming the first piece of silverware in the club’s brief history, taking first place in the Generation adidas Cup Premier Division.

One of NYC’s most prominent performers throughout the tournament was Gio Reyna. If that name is familiar to you, it should be. Claudio Reyna is Gio’s father and the parent club’s Director of Football Operations. The senior Reyna was also one of the U.S. MNT’s best ever players and longtime captain.

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Teen Sensation Mallory Pugh Turns Pro
Teen Sensation Mallory Pugh Turns Pro avatar

Without ever having played an official game at UCLA U.S. WNT star Mallory Pugh has decided to turn pro with Sport’s Illustrated’s Grant Wahl reporting that Pugh has signed with agent Richard Motzkin and will be meeting soon with Adidas and Nike.

Pugh joins Horan by forfeiting college for the professional game. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

“This decision was certainly not easy for me to make,” Pugh said in a statement on the UCLA website. “UCLA is such a special place, and being a Bruin was an incredible thing. UCLA Soccer brought amazing things to my life, and chasing after a national championship with my friends and teammates would’ve been special, but I could not turn down this opportunity. I want to thank my teammates, coaches, UCLA Athletics, and everyone else for the support I have behind me. I may have been here for a short time, but UCLA will always have a special place in my heart, and I will always be a Bruin.”

The 18-year-old attacker, who has already represented her country at the 2016 Olympics, previously flirted with signing on with the Portland Thorns before enrolling at UCLA in January. Pugh was expected to line out with the Bruins this fall but has instead elected to join the paid ranks.

The question is, what next for this dynamic young talent?

So who will Pugh end up playing for? (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The Washington Spirit own the NWSL allocation rights to Pugh, having acquired those rights from Portland as part of the trade for Ali Krieger but Wahl has reported that Pugh has no interest in playing for the Spirit.

No big surprise there with the Spirit a club in disarray after an offseason that saw Crystal Dunn join Krieger as just two stars to depart from the 2016 NWSL runners-up in the offseason. Washington could trade Pugh’s rights Portland or another NWSL team or Pugh could join the U.S. WNT European exodus spearheaded by Dunn (Chelsea), Alex Morgan (Lyon), and Carli Lloyd (Manchester City).

SI pinpoints French clubs Lyon and PSG as possible landing spots for the gifted teenager.

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NWSL Roundup
NWSL Roundup avatar

Five years on and still standing, NWSL entered that fifth season this weekend armed with a new national game of the week on Lifetime, a streaming deal with go90 and a relocated champion as the Western New York Flash has become the North Carolina Courage.

Portland Thorns 2-0 vs. Orlando Pride
(Home teams listed first)

Lifetime and the league wisely selected Portland for the site of its inaugural GOTW and the Rose City did not disappoint, easily topping the league in attendance as 16,145 fans showed up to make the Thorns and the league look good on the big stage.

Christine Sinclair was on the scoresheet for Portland. (ISI Photos/Craig Mitchelldyer)

The Thorns also represented on the field with a 2-0 victory over the Orlando Pride with goals coming from Canadian legend Christine Sinclair and Nadia Nadim. Nadim opened the scoring from the spot in the 32nd minute before Sinclair capped the afternoon with a fine finish after spectacular work from U.S. international Allie Long. Long bullied an Orlando defender off the ball before placing an exquisite pass just beyond her U.S. WNT teammate Ali Krieger where only Sinclair could reach it and it was game over

Houston Dash 2-0 vs. Chicago Red Stars

With Carli Lloyd experiencing her European adventure, and why not, she’s earned the right, Houston took care of business, topping 2016 playoff side Chicago on goals from Kelia Ohai and Rachel Daly on a sweltering Texas afternoon.

For Ohai, it was a case of normal service resumed for a player that tied Lynn Williams (Western NY Flash) for the league goal scoring lead with 11 last season. Ohai’s 15th-minute strike gave the home team the edge and England international Rachel Daly provided the insurance with an 80th-minute beauty.

Washington Spirit 0-1 North Carolina Courage

The league’s 2016 NWSL Finalists and biggest offseason newsmakers faced off at the Maryland Soccerplex in Boyds, Maryland when the relocated 2016 Champions defeated a Washington team that had been stripped bare after pushing Western New York/NC Courage to extra time in that 2016 NWSL Championship game.

It is difficult to imagine a team benefitting from shipping away the likes of Ali Krieger, Diana Matheson, Christine Nairn, and Megan Oyster but coach Jim Gabarra will work with what he has and on Saturday his goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe did all she could to keep the Spirit in its season five opener.

McCall Zerboni (L) scored the only goal on the match. (ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

The Canadian international frustrated North Carolina’s vaunted strike duo of Lynn Williams, the 2016 league MVP, and Jessica McDonald but was unable to keep a McCall Zebroni shot out of her net in the 18th minute.

Seattle Reign 1-1 vs. Sky Blue FC

A pair of second-half penalty kicks seven minutes apart accounted for all of the scoring at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium in Saturday’s season opener between the Reign and Sky Blue.

Rapinoe celebrate’s her goal against Sky Blue. (ISI Photos/Jane Gershovich)

A pair of U.S. internationals were involved in the goals with Seattle’s Megan Rapinoe converting from the spot in the 56th minute after earning the penalty herself, only to see Sarah Killion equalize in the 62nd minute after Rapinoe’s national team running mate Kelley O’Hara drew the foul.

The versatile O’Hara, normally a fullback or a wide midfielder with the U.S. WNT, reverted to her Stanford days and lined out up top Saturday for New Jersey-based Sky Blue.

Easter Sunday featured just one NWSL match with FC Kansas City hosting the Boston Breakers at Children’s Mercy Victory Field.

FC Kansas City 2-0 vs. Boston Breakers.

FCKC welcomed back a lethal forward duo Sunday as Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux both returned after taking 2016 out to have babies and the pair wasted no time proving that they had been missed.

Leroux celebrates with her team. (ISI Photos/Amy Kontras)

It took just seven minutes for Leroux to open the scoring when she ran onto a perfectly placed long pass from U.S. WNT co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn and finished with a superb first-time effort.

It made for a very nice weekend for the Leroux/Dwyer family, what with Leroux’ husband Dom Dwyer scoring the lone goal in Sporting KC’s 1-0 win at Portland.

ARod added a second FCKC tally finishing off of a superb 1-2 with KC’s third forward Shea Groom in the 48th minute, unfortunately the good feelings did not last as Rodriguez soon departed with what looked like a knee injury.

“She left the game, we don’t know what it is we’re just hoping it’s not as bad as the first impression was,” said FC Kansas City head coach Vlatko Andonovski after the match in a team press release.

And finally, that new streaming service, Go90 had a few hiccups, which the league was quick to acknowledge and apologize for.

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Drogba Breaking New Ground as Player Owner of Phoenix USL Club
Drogba Breaking New Ground as Player Owner of Phoenix USL Club avatar

Former Chelsea and Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba has broken new ground with his new position as a player and part owner Phoenix Rising FC of the second division U.S.L.

Drogba hasn’t played since the end of the 2016 season. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Drogba hasn’t played since the end of the 2016 MLS season with the Montreal Impact. Although he scored 23 goals in 41 matches for Montreal, Drogba’s tenure with the Impact ended on down note with the powerful striker finishing his MLS playing days as a reserve after losing a power struggle with coach Mauro Biello.

The Arizona club is one of 12 clubs/cities vying for a place in Major League Soccer and is no doubt hoping that the addition of Drogba to its eclectic ownership group will raise its profile and boost the group’s chances of landing one of four remaining franchises in Don Garber’s Expansion extravaganza, five if Miami’s oft-delayed bid falls through.

Drogba joins celebs Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy fame, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy, and DJ Diplo as minority partners in the ambitious ownership group. Drogba will link up on the playing field with Shaun Wright-Phillips, another former Premier League vet who played most recently for the New York Red Bulls and longtime Mexican international Omar Bravo.

“I have taken my time in deciding what I wanted to do next and am really excited about the opportunity at Phoenix Rising FC,” Drogba said in a statement released by the club.

Drogba believes he can help the organiszation off an on the pitch.  (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

“After seeing first-hand the potential for expansion of the sport in North America and getting to know the ownership group in Phoenix, I am convinced that I can help them develop their organization on and off the pitch,” Drogba said in that same release. “I look forward to their continued success in the USL, and no city is better positioned than Phoenix for expansion into the MLS.”

If Drogba can help deliver Major League Soccer to the desert he just might beat fellow ex-Premier League and Major League Soccer star, David Beckham to the punch.

 

 

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U.S. Soccer Joins With Mexico and Canada in 2026 World Cup Bid
U.S. Soccer Joins With Mexico and Canada in 2026 World Cup Bid avatar

New York, New York – “We have the full support of the United States government in this project, the President of the United States is fully supportive and encouraged us to have this joint bid. He is especially pleased that Mexico is part of this bid.”

United States, Canada and Mexico announce their intentions to bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

With that sentence, delivered just over two minutes into his opening remarks to the world soccer media gathered high above New York City on a sunny Monday afternoon, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati addressed the elephant in the room in an attempt to diffuse what may be the one issue that could prevent the World Cup from coming to the United States, Canada, and Mexico in 2026.

Gulati, CONCACAF and Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani, and Federación Mexicana de Fútbol president Decio de Maria came together Monday afternoon at One World Observatory, a hugely symbolic space high above New York City, on the 102nd and top floor of the One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

With the Statue of Liberty raising her torch to the south and sweeping vistas west along the Hudson River and north to the Empire State Building, as the 9/11 Memorial sat approximately 1,300 feet below, it was impossible to miss the symbolic importance of this venue.

Gulati’s Mexican counterpart de Maria was less bold, preferring to keep it to soccer, or football, saying, “saying through a translator that “this is not the forum,” to discuss politics, border walls, etc.

Gulati had previously made his dissatisfaction known when U.S. Soccer was surprisingly left at the altar in favor of Qatar when the 2022 World Cup was awarded and this joint bid can certainly be seen as a strategy to avoid a similar disappointment in this latest round of bidding.

It was less than two years ago that Canada hosted an all synthetic turf Women’s World Cup over the objections of many of the top female players, so GotSoccer asked Montagliani if we could expect to see a first in 2026, a men’s World Cup match played on something other than real grass.

The CONCACAF and Canadian supremo laid the 2015 decision at the FIFA’s door, saying, “after we actually got the bid FIFA made the decision.” Montagliani added, “we changed a couple of fields to meet that, we invested in training facilities and so the decision was made by FIFA.”

Montagliani noted that FIFA would again determine the playing surface but also observed, “that every World Cup, men’s World Cup has been played on grass, I assume this would be the same.”

Montagliani, Gulati and de Maria made it official. (ISI Photos/Mike Lawrence)

On Monday Gulati was seated centrally on the dais with Montagliani, nominally the most powerful man in CONCACAF on his right, and de Maria on his left but when the details of the three-nation World Cup were revealed it was clear that Gulati and U.S. Soccer was the axis on which this bid turned.

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.”

So, who might challenge the North American alliance for the right to host the 2016 World Cup? Here is Gulati: “by the rules, Africa can bid, South American can bid,” although Gulati expects his southern neighbors to hold off until the 2030 Mundial.

The U.S. supremo mentioned Morocco as another potential rival but sounded supremely confident in the power of the Yankee dollar.

“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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U.S. Top Russia as Crystal Dunn Scores Twice
U.S. Top Russia as Crystal Dunn Scores Twice avatar

It will be some time yet before the stench of the last place finish by the U.S. WNT at the SheBelieves Cup is erased, still the team’s Get Well Tour continued through Texas today as the Americans easily dispatched a game but overmatched Russia team by a 5-1 score in Houston, Texas.

Dunn was on the scoresheet again for the U.S. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Crystal Dunn had another brace, youngsters Rose Lavelle, with her first international goal, and Mallory Pugh, with two assists, impressed again as the U.S. continues to rebuild its confidence following last month’s nightmare performance in the SheBelieves Cup.

Coach Jill Ellis didn’t make too many changes to the starting lineup after Thursday night’s 4-0 win over this same opponent in Dallas. The battle to replace Hope Solo in the net continued with Ashlyn Harris between the pipes after Alyssa Naeher had taken her turn in game one. Ellis widened the goalkeeper search with the second half introduction of Jane Campbell for Harris, even if none of the three had much to do.

Ellis continued today with the 4-4-2 formation after staying loyal to the three back set during the SheBelieves Cup and once again the Americans seemed much more at ease. The opposition was different, of course, but Ellis will have to decide what role, if any, the three back set has with this team going forward.

GOALKEEPERS (3): 18- Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), 1- Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), 24- Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride)

DEFENDERS (6): 7- Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), 11- Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), 5- Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), 22- Megan Oyster (Boston Breakers), 4- Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), 7- Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars)

MIDFIELDERS (6): 25- Jaelin Howell (Real Colorado), 16- Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers), 10- Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash/Manchester City), 20- Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), 3- Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), 15- Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign)

FORWARDS (8): 19- Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC), 13- Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride/Olympique Lyonnais), 21-Kealia Ohai (Houston Dash), 23- Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), 2- Mallory Pugh (UCLA), 8- Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), 26- Sophia Smith (Real Colorado), 12- Lynn Williams (NC Courage

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Marta Signs With Orlando!
Marta Signs With Orlando! avatar

Hot on the heels of what is being hailed as an NWSL friendly Collective Bargaining Agreement between U.S. Soccer and the USWNT Players Association the league got another bit of good news today when Brazilian legend Marta signed a two-year contract with the Orlando Pride.

Marta returns to the U.S. to play club soccer. (Brad Smith)

With a Brazilian owner in Flavio Augusto de Silva Orlando is a natural landing spot for the five-time World Player of the Year, who joins the Pride after her Swedish club Rosengard were eliminated from the Women’s Champions League last week by Barcelona.

Marta will be paid the league maximum for foreign players, which is just $41,700 but with the bulk of her earnings coming from endorsement deals the move to the U.S. should be a lucrative one for the superstar.

With U.S. star and fan favorite Alex Morgan due to return from a six-month stint in France with Lyon, Orlando immediately becomes one of the hottest tickets in the NWSL both at the stadium and over the Lifetime airwaves.

The 31-year-old, whose real name is Marta Vieira de Silva, has previously played in the United States in the defunct WPS for the L.A. Sol, FC Gold Pride, and the WNY Flash.

Sermanni was delighted by the prospect of coaching Marta. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Pride coach Tom Sermanni was understandably thrilled with the move, calling the acquisition “a statement of intent,” in an interview on the club’s website.

The former U.S. WNT boss said of Marta, “ she’s not the kind of player you really have to coach,” describing the pickup as “very, very exciting, fantastic for me as a coach, fantastic for the players, and fantastic for the club.”

Sermanni might have added that bring Marta to the league is fantastic for the National Women’s Soccer League too, but the genial Scot likely assumed we knew that.

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Lavelle Sparks U.S. WNT to Victory Over Russia
Lavelle Sparks U.S. WNT to Victory Over Russia avatar

It was the Rose Lavelle Show Thursday night as the U.S. WNT romped past Russia 4-0 in front of a sellout crowd of 15,191 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Lavelle put on a star performance.  (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The 21-year-old Boston Breakers rookie shows up on the scoresheet just once with an assist from a corner kick on the first of Allie Long’s two goals but Lavelle’s exuberant play was the talking point on a feel-good night for a U.S Women’s National Team in need of a pick me up following last month’s deflating last-place performance at the SheBelieves Cup.

With a new contract in place with U.S. Soccer and unburdened from the mysteries of the three back system, and the number one position in the FIFA rankings, the Americans outclassed the overmatched Russians from the start Thursday night with Crystal Dunn and Allie Long sharing the goal scoring duties evenly.

Long looked delighted to be sprung from the central defense role that she had been playing, operating far more effectively in her more familiar midfield role.

The U.S. can take many positives from the game. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Mallory Pugh and Kelley O’Hara were others to shine on the night, their pace and creativity bedeviling the Russians all night long. Goals from Dunn in the 10th minute and Long eight minutes later, effectively ended this match as a contest and if not for Dunn’s penchant for wandering offside the U.S. output might well have been doubled.

These same two sides travel south to Houston for a Sunday afternoon rematch at BBVA Compass Stadium as the U.S. recovery tour continues.

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

USA – Crystal Dunn (Carli Lloyd) 10th minute
USA – Allie Long (Rose Lavelle) 18
USA – Crystal Dunn 41
USA – Allie Long (Mallory Pugh) 70

Lineups:
USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher, 2-Mallory Pugh (8-Amy Rodriguez, 80), 3-Samantha Mewis, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 5-Kelley O’Hara (22-Megan Oyster, 68), 7-Meghan Klingenberg (11-Ali Krieger, 46), 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.)(13-Alex Morgan, 46), 14-Casey Short, 16-Rose Lavelle (15-Megan Rapinoe, 80), 19-Crystal Dunn (23-Christen Press, 64), 20-Allie Long
Subs not used: 24-Ashlyn Harris
Head coach: Jill Ellis

RUS: 12-Alena Belyaeva; 4-Tatiana Sheikina (22-Ksenia Kovalenko, 72), 6-Nadeshda Karpova, 8-Daria Makarenko, 9-Anna Cholovyaga, 10-Elena Terekhova (capt.)(17-Ekaterina Pantiukhina, 46), 11-Ekaterina Sochneva, 13-Anna Belomyttseva, 18-Elvira Ziiastinova, 20-Margarita Chernomyrdina, 23-Elena Morozova (15-Elena Danilova, 16)
Subs: 1-Tatiana Shcerbak, 2-Nelli Korovkina, 5-Ekaterina Lazareva, 16-Anastasiia Pozdeeva, 19-Ekaterina Morozova
Head coach: Elena Fomina

Stats Summary: USA / RUS
Shots: 33 / 5
Shots on Goal: 7 / 1
Saves: 2 / 3
Corner Kicks: 16 / 2
Fouls: 10 / 19
Offside: 9 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
RUS – Elena Danilova (caution) 55th minute
RUS – Tatiana Sheikina (caution) 66
RUS – Anna Cholovyaga (caution) 74
USA – Christen Press (caution) 90

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Bitter Battle Ends as U.S.Soccer and U.S. WNT Players Make a Deal
Bitter Battle Ends as U.S.Soccer and U.S. WNT Players Make a Deal avatar

The long and often bitter battle between U.S. Soccer and the U.S. WNT Players Association has finally been settled with the two sides announcing a new five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement in a statement released today.

The acrimony between the parties had led to U.S. Soccer to sue its own players to continue to honor a memorandum of agreement in lieu of the expired CBA, fearing that the players would strike.

Ellis will be happy that the deal has been settled and they can now focus on upcoming competition.  (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

The players had made no such threat but did respond by filing a wage discrimination suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Both sides appeared happy to put the discord behind them, releasing this joint statement:

“We are pleased to announce that U.S. Soccer and the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement which will continue to build the women’s program in the U.S, grow the game of soccer worldwide, and improve the professional lives of players on and off the field. We are proud of the hard work and commitment to thoughtful dialogue reflected through this process, and look forward to strengthening our partnership moving forward.”

The statement is short on specifics although the New York Times is reporting that the players will receive significant increases in salaries and bonuses, as well as improvements in working conditions, an important issue for the U.S. WNT team players who have long felt undervalued in comparison to their far less accomplished male counterparts.

Again, via the Times, the women’s national team players will receive a per diem raise to bring them level with the men and will also have more financial control over the use of their images.

U.S. Soccer have committed to give better support the NWSL (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

U.S. Soccer has reportedly also pledged to better support the National Women’s Soccer League, the U.S. professional league, vowing to improve playing conditions for the non-national team players as well as the internationals.

This new CBA comes after the players dismissed negotiator Rich Nichols who had pressed the Federation for equal pay and who was seen as a hardliner. Nichols had an ally in dismissed U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo but with Solo out of the picture, Nichols was terminated by the USWNTPA.

The players were no doubt happy to put this long-running drama behind them with FIFA World Player of the year and U.S. WNT captain Carli Lloyd tweeting:

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