8/19/16  Brazil vs Germany in Gold Medal Game Sat 4;30 NBCSN, EPL Season Shane’s Picks, Indy 11 Stay on Top,

So fun opening weekend of EPL –so do I really have to pick my top 4 now?  Ouch – maybe its time I admit my sentimental favorite Leicester City (the defending champs) don’t have the depth to make a serious run at the title.  That being said I have to go with my heart and still put them in the top 4 along with Man U, Man City, and either Arsenal or Liverpool.   Yes I do think the new coaches will help put the Manchesters into the top 4.  Looking ahead to this weekend we see if American Geoff Cameron works his way into the lineup for Stoke City hosting Man City Sat at 7:30 am on NBCSN while Leicster City will hope a return to the King Power stadium can help them against Arsene Wenger and Arsenal on CNBC at 12:30 pm.  The Italian, Spanish and French Leagues all get underway this weekend and can be seen on beIN Sport.

What has happened to Juega Bonita? 

So hoping the Brazilian ladies would win the hearts of Brazil by winning Gold this season after the US was eliminated –I watched with great interest the Semi’s as Sweden once again won in a shootout after 123 minutes of goaless soccer over the homestanding Brazilians cementing Swedish Goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl as THE BEST Goalkeeper in the World.  (sorry Solo).  The Swedes oncea again parked the bus with 5 and 6 in the box frustrating the more technical Brazalians over and over again with Lindahl making a number of fine saves.  Once again the Swedes showed their mettle in the shootout as just like vs the US  – Lindahl made the crucial save at just the right time.  So is this the future of soccer?  First Athletico got all the way to the Champ League final using the parked bus counter attack approach perfected by Jose Mourinho before losing to Real Madrid.  Then in the Euros it was Portugal using a staunch defense lead by Pepe and Renaldo on the counter.  Finally here’s Sweden in the Gold Medal final using lets just say not futbal Juega Bonita?  Too bad – would have been great to see the Beautiful game of Brazil vs Canada as the final, instead we get Sweden vs Germany  this Friday 4:30 pm on NBCSN.  Sat the men will feature a Gold Medal showdown between Brazil and Germany as the homestanding Brazil lead by Neymar will try to avenge last year’s 7-1 loss at the hands of the World Cup winning Germans that game 4:30 pm on NBCSN.

Stateside MLS has a dosey on Sat 3:30 pm on ESPN as the East leading NY City FC hosts the LA Galaxy,  My Seattle Sounder’s, on a 3 game winning streak since changing coaches, will host defending champs Portland in the Cascadia Cup showdown #2 on Sunday at 9:30 pm on Fox Sports1.  The Indy 11 remain atop the NASL as they travel to Carolina Sat for 7:30 pm game that can be seen on beIN Sport.

Must See GAMES ON TV

Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com

Fri, Aug 19                                               

12 noon MSNBC                                   Women’s Olympics 3rd place Brazil vs Canada

2:30 pm USA Net                                Man United vs Southhampton

4:30 pm NBCSN                                    Women’s Olympics Gold Medal Sweden vs Germany

Sat, Aug 20                                             (La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 starts)

7:30 a.m., NBCSN                                Stoke City vs. Man City 
10:00 a.m., NBC Live Extra           Tottenham vs Crystal Palace
12 noon NBCSN                                    men’s Olympics 3rd place game

12:15 pm  beIN sports                    Barcelona vs Real Betis

12:30 p.m., CNBC:                             Leciester City vs Arsenal

2:45 pm beIn sport                           Juventus vs Fiorentina

3 pm ESPN                                               NY City FC vs LA Galaxy

4:30 pm NBCSN                                    Men’s Olympics Gold Medal German vs Brazil

7:30 pm beIn Sport            Indy 11 @ Carolina

Sun, Aug 21

8:30 a.m., NBCSN:                              Sunderland vs Middlesborough
11:00 a.m., CNBC
                               West Ham vs Bournemouth

9:30 pm  Fox Sport 1                       Seattle Sounders host Portland – CASCADIA CUP 2!

Fri, Aug 26                                              German Bundesliga Starts

2:30 pm Fox Sport1                          Bayern Munich vs. Werder Bremen

Sat, Aug 27

7:30 AM NBCSN                                   Tottenham vs Liverpool

9:30 a.m., Fox Sports 2:                 Borussia Dortmund vs. Mai nz
9:30 a.m., Fox Soccer Plus:         Hamburg SV vs. Ingolstadt

12:30 pm  NBC                                     Hull City vs Man United
12:30 p.m., Fox                                   Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Bayer Leverkusen

Sun, Aug 28

11 am NBCSN                                        Man City vs West Ham

2 pm ???                                                   Ottawa vs Indy 11

2:30 pm ESPN                                        NY Red Bulls vs New England

5 pm  ESPN                                              Portland host Seattle Sounders – CASCADIA CUP 2!

7 pm  Fox Sport 1                               Orlando City vs NYCFC

USA

Grant Wahl – SI – Whats Next for US Women?

3 things the US Learned in Olympic loss to Sweden – Stars and Stripes

Why the Shocking Exit Might be What the US Needed

People, Analyst rake Hope Solo over the Coals after comment -GOOD

21-yo US Youth makes surprise start for Sunderland 

EPL + World

Marcotti Musings ESPNFC – Opening Weekend Thoughts

What’s Trending – EPL

Heros and Villians of Openning Weekend – Ian Mcintsoh -eSPNFC

Man U optimism is back 

Zlatan – I brought back Pogba

Buck stops with Arsene Wenger

Man City close to Deal with Claudio Bravo from Barca – Joe Hart out

Man City and Pep pass 1  st test – barely-MacIntosh

Pep’s Shaky start as own goal gives City the Win

EPL passing Arsenal by?  Nick Miller ESPNFC

Champions League to Give top 4 leagues 4 automatic Spots

MLS

Minn United as Next MLS Team to start with Atlanta in 2017

More GAMES ON TV

Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com

Fri, Aug 19                                               

12 noon MSNBC                                   Women’s Olympics 3rd place game

2:30 pm USA Net                                Man United vs Southhampton

4:30 pm NBCSN                                    Women’s Olympics Gold Medal Game

Sat, Aug 20                                             (La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 starts)

7:30 a.m., NBCSN                                Stoke City vs. Man City 
10:00 a.m., NBC Live Extra           Tottenham vs Crystal Palace, Burnley vs Liverpool, Chelsea vs. Watford
12 noon NBCSN                                    men’s Olympics 3rd place game

12:15 pm  beIN sports                    Barcelona vs Real Betis

12:30 p.m., CNBC:                             Leciester City vs Arsenal

2:45 pm beIn sport                           Juventus vs Fiorentina

3 pm ESPN                                               NY City FC vs LA Galaxy

4:30 pm NBCSN                                    Men’s Olympics Gold Medal Game

7:30 pm beIn Sport            Indy 11 @ Carolina

Sun, Aug 21

8:30 a.m., NBCSN:                              Sunderland vs Middlesborough
11:00 a.m., CNBC
                               West Ham vs Bournemouth

12 noon  beIN Sport                                                AC Milan vs Torino

2:15 pm beIN Sport                                                  Real Soiciedad vs Real Madrid

9:30 pm  Fox Sport 1                       Seattle Sounders host Portland – CASCADIA CUP 2!

Tues, Aug 23                                         

2:45 pm Fox Sport2??                     UCL – Roma vs Porto

2:45 pm beIN Sports                                                Burton Albion vs Liverpool – Cap 1 Cup

Wed, Aug 24                                        

2:45 pm Fox Sport2??                     UCL – Man City vs Steaua Buceresti

Fri, Aug 26                                              German Bundesliga Starts

2:30 pm Fox Sport1                          Bayern Munich vs. Werder Bremen

Sat, Aug 27

7:30 AM NBCSN                                   Tottenham vs Liverpool

9:30 a.m., Fox Sports 2:                 Borussia Dortmund vs. Mainz
9:30 a.m., Fox Soccer Plus:         Hamburg SV vs. Ingolstadt

12:30 pm  NBC                                     Hull City vs Man United
12:30 p.m., Fox                                   Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Bayer Leverkusen

Sun, Aug 28

9:30 a.m Fox Sport1                         Hertha Berlin vs. Freiburg

11 am NBCSN                                        Man City vs West Ham

2 pm ???                                                   Ottawa vs Indy 11

2:30 pm ESPN                                        NY Red Bulls vs New England

5 pm  ESPN                                              Portland host Seattle Sounders – CASCADIA CUP 2!

7 pm  Fox Sport 1                               Orlando City vs NYCFC

Wed, Aug 31                                        

7:30 pm CBS Sports Network     Ft. Lauderdale vs Minn. 

7:30 pm ??                                              NY Cosmos vs Indy 11

MLS TV Schedule ‘

EPL TV Schedule on NBC + NBCSN

German Bundesliga TV Schedule on Fox Soccer and Gol TV

Arsenal nearly got away with it vs. Liverpool, Pep Guardiola rings changes

We’re getting that usual sense of deja vu at the Emirates. Arsenal lose their home opener, as they’ve done in three of the past four seasons, and Arsene Wenger is back under the spotlight. It’s the usual story: Arsenal are flush with cash, he chooses not to spend it and the team as a result aren’t as good as they could (should) be.But there’s probably more to it than that after the Gunners’ 4-3 home defeat against Liverpool.For a start, the Arsenal side that went out there may not look much like the Arsenal side that will play most of the season. Wenger’s top three central defenders (Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Gabriel) were all out. So too was his most creative (and, arguably, his best) player, Mesut Ozil. As well as his top goalscorer from last season, Olivier Giroud, and the guy who, in Wenger’s mind, is his first-choice back-up at center-forward, Danny Welbeck. His big summer signing was in the squad, albeit on the bench — though, to be fair, when Granit Xhaka did come on, he was far from impressive.You can make the point that Wenger should have planned better and have more depth in his squad, and we’ll get that in a minute. But it’s tough to spot that much quality to the opposition and get away with it.The other aspect is that it was an odd game which Arsenal dominated the first half. But for breaks that didn’t go their way, namely Theo Walcott missing a penalty and Philippe Coutinho turning a soft foul into a magisterial free kick goal, they could have been leading 2-0 at half-time. And we might be having a wholly different conversation right now.Of course, Liverpool came out at halftime like a bat out of hell, scored some tremendous goals and went up 4-1 and at that point, the damage was done. Those late goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Calum Chambers did little to alleviate the Arsenal fans’ disappointment. But the fact remains that for 45 minutes, plus the stint at the end when they scored twice, Wenger’s side looked good, despite all the absences and despite that makeshift Chambers-Rob Holding centre-back partnership.That doesn’t exonerate Wenger from blame, but it does suggest that even with second stringers in the lineup, Arsenal aren’t the horrendous sinking ship some people think they are.That still leaves the question of why you go into the season the way you did. Wenger knew that Koscielny would be coming back late from the Euros and that it would affect his preparation. He knew in early August that Mertesacker would be out for a while. And he knew a week ago, when Gabriel suffered his ankle sprain, that the Brazilian would reportedly be out until late September.Should he have signed that additional centre-back the minute the extent of Gabriel’s injury became clear? Social media is full of folks calling Wenger a fool for not immediately pulling the trigger on Valencia’s German international Shkodran Mustafi, but you can also see the counterargument for not doing so.Wenger is the type of guy who tends to be loyal to his players, believing that they can come good even if they go through a rough patch. Sometimes he’s vindicated (think Nacho Monreal and Aaron Ramsey), sometimes less so (Jack Wilshere and Walcott come to mind). But that’s just the sort of manager he is. Signing Mustafi, for a reported fee north of $30 million, would have pushed Mertesacker and Gabriel down the depth chart. And it would have left Holding to play in the League Cup and lay out the cones in training.The benefit of hindsight says Wenger got this one wrong; he may panic buy and yet pick up Mustafi. But there was a logic to his thought process and in a game of slim margins, he nearly got away with it.This is how he operates. This is what he does. And he’s honest about it. If he’s still there, it’s because his employers are evidently OK with it. And if that’s the case and you’re unhappy with it, rather than hammering Wenger and expecting him, in his late sixties, to turn into somebody else, take it up with the owner instead.But remember what happened the last time fans tried to stage a public protest against Wenger. Those who held up the white “Time for Change” signs were drowned out by those who sang Wenger’s name. Until you get some consensus, you won’t stand a chance at pushing the owner’s buttons.

Guardiola rings the changes at Man City

Pep Guardiola certainly offered up a host of talking points in his first “real” game as Manchester City boss. The overall result — a 2-1 victory over Sunderland, marked by a late winner — is less important than the performance and Guardiola’s choices.Two moves stand out. The defensive organization was something we simply haven’t seen in England. Nicolas Otamendi was on the bench and Aleksandar Kolarov (usually a left-back and more of a ball-player than a speedster) partnered newcomer John Stones at centre-back. Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy were at full-back while Fernandinho shielded the back four. But that was out-of-possession: When City got the ball, Sagna and Clichy effectively advanced into central midfield while Fernandinho dropped between the centre-backs. This meant the two French full-backs were tasked with all sorts of playmaking duties, with decidedly mixed results.You wonder if it’s sustainable: It’s one thing to ask Dani Alves to do that, quite another to push Sagna (who turns 34 in February) in that role. As for Kolarov, he’s obviously much better on the ball than Otamendi, but again, there’s a reason he hasn’t played in central defence before this season.Guardiola’s other big call was dropping Joe Hart for Willy Caballero. Guardiola simply said that “Caballero had a very good preseason.” He’s not that naive; he’ll need to offer a better justification than that. The theory doing the rounds was that Guardiola’s system requires a keeper who is comfortable on the ball and can do the “sweeper-keeper” thing, which is hardly Hart’s strength. Caballero isn’t exactly the second coming of Manuel Neuer, but he’s better at it than Hart.If that’s the case, though, you wonder why this is only happening now, in mid-August. Surely it didn’t take that long for the club to figure out what Hart could and could not do? At this stage, securing another keeper won’t be easy and you’ll pay through the nose. Given his wages, finding Hart a home won’t be straightforward either; it means that if he’s dropped, he’s facing time on the bench which, politically, isn’t great for a new manager.Guardiola has achieved more than enough for City fans and the critics to trust his judgement. At the very least, he’s shown that he’s confident and unafraid when it comes to following his philosophy. To paraphrase Billy Joel, if he keeps this up, he’ll walk away a fool or a king.

Barca win but Sevilla full of intrigue

Barcelona beat Sevilla 2-0 in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup, which suggests Luis Enrique’s eighth trophy (counting the piddling ones) is just around the corner. Without Neymar (who is busy with Olympic pursuits) and newcomers Samuel Umtiti and Andre Gomes on the bench, Barca showed a bit of ring rust in the first half, but it’s nothing to really worry about. Playing against a Jorge Sampaoli team can be a shock to the system and, indeed, by halftime possession was roughly even, which doesn’t usually happen when Barcelona are on the pitch.The problem with Sampaoli’s brand of football is that all that running and high press can sometimes rob you of lucidity in the final third. And when you lose the ball, a good passing side can cut you open with two or three passes, which is what ultimately happened as Luis Suarez and Munir struck twice in the second half.We’ll get a better sense of Barcelona and how Luis Enrique integrates the newcomers in the next few weeks. But, in the meantime, Sevilla under Sampaoli promise to be one of the most interesting and entertaining stories in Europe this season. Watch this space.

Mourinho gets off to a winning start

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United got out of the blocks with a win, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored on his Premier League debut (just as he had done on his La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1 debuts), whatever tension there might have been with Juan Mata was either overblown or forgotten, and Bournemouth were never a threat in a 3-1 away victory.Bournemouth were awful, but it’s encouraging to see United play with the sort of bravado and confidence that was often missing last year. Seeing Wayne Rooney operating closer to Ibrahimovic — it often was effectively a 4-4-2 — was a good alternative solution and you wonder if it might be something we’ll see more often when the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba start getting into the lineup. Rooney will continue to divide opinion in some quarters, but he’s more useful up the pitch than in a central position where he can clog the playmaking channels.That’s just one of many solutions available to Mourinho. At some point, he’ll need to figure out how all his pieces fit together and it may not be as simple as some expect. What’s unlikely is that we’ll see what we saw in the Louis van Gaal era: a constantly changing lineup. Once Mourinho finds what he likes, he tends to stick to it.

Don’t read much into Bayern vs. Dortmund

Bayern Munich won the German Super Cup with a 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund in what was the first look at Carlo Ancelotti’s team in a (somewhat) competitive game. You have to call it that because neither team looks up to scratch in terms of fitness at this stage. And while Ancelotti played something close to what you’d expect his first XI to be (minus Douglas Costa, Jerome Boateng and Arjen Robben), Thomas Tuchel left out everyone who was involved in the Euros this past summer. Raphael Guerreiro, Lukas Pisczek, Julian Weigl, Andre Schurrle and the injured Marco Reus all missed out.That’s why you don’t read too much into it. But what we saw was a Dortmund side that was all over Bayern in the first half and could have scored several times. Then, when Tuchel’s crew began to understandably run out of steam, Bayern put the game away with Arturo Vidal and Thomas Mueller.Still, I can’t wait to see these two line up again at full fitness and with everyone back — particularly Dortmund. Not many sides in Europe are as packed with young talent as Tuchel’s crew.Gabriele Marcotti is a columnist for ESPN FC, The Times and Corriere dello Sport. Follow him on Twitter @Marcotti.

Liverpool and Hull earn contrasting wins; Arsenal and Leicester slump

HEROES

Even though you’d imagine that at least 10 percent of Liverpool‘s supporters are still hiding behind the sofa, for this was not a particularly relaxing way to start to the season, what an opening day win it was to triumph 4-3 at Arsenal. There is plenty for Jurgen Klopp to work on, particularly at left-back (see below), but four goals at the Emirates Stadium indicates that, whatever the new campaign brings, it certainly won’t be boring. This was also further proof that, as long as Philippe Coutinho is in the team, there’s always a way out of any crisis.Where on earth did that come from? Relegation favourites Hull City couldn’t have had a worse preparation for the season had they accidentally sold half their squad on eBay. They’ve only got 13 fit senior players and there they were beating the champions on the first day of the season. Exceptional performances from the likes of Sam Clucas and Curtis Davies were enough to secure a genuinely astonishing 2-1 result. A few more afternoons like that and they might even survive. In fact, given that Leicester were relegation favourites at this time last year, perhaps…Pep Guardiola praised all of his Manchester City players after their victory over Sunderland, but he kept singling out Fernandinho and it was easy to see why. The Brazilian midfielder had a duel role, working in the middle of the pitch on the odd occasion that City were out of possession, dropping back between — and sometimes behind — the centre-backs when possession was regained. He was calm, composed and tireless. Or in other words, exactly what his new manager required of him.Okay, it’s only Bournemouth, no-one expects much of them and they conceded a whopping 67 goals last season, but you can’t turn your nose up at a thumping opening day win. It has been a good start for Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. In a short space of time, he has made the team quicker, harder and, oddly given his reputation, considerably more attractive to watch. Goals for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata, secured a very encouraging result and settled a few nerves at the same time.So much has changed over the summer and so many new faces have arrived in the Premier League. And yet some things will always remain the same:Tony Pulis continues to grind out results against the run of play. The West Bromwich Albion manager might face an uncertain future with new owners in place, but there’s no-one quite like him in the country, no-one who can seemingly guarantee safety, whatever the odds. Crystal Palace dominated possession. The Baggies dominated the scoreline. Meet the new Premier League. Same as the old Premier League.

VILLAINS

It was all going so well! After 44 minutes, Arsenal had a deserved lead over a Liverpool side that looked horribly out of sorts. Three points were in the bag, the bag was tied up tightly and a private security firm was carrying it to the safe. And then everything fell apart like, well, Arsenal. Granted, the Gunners have had a series of unfortunate injuries and absences that left them with two inexperienced centre-backs, but this was a horrible capitulation. Day two of the new season and already the pressure is on Arsene Wenger.You might have thought that the Europa League Final would have been the last game of Alberto Moreno‘s Liverpool career, such was the cataclysmic display he offered up, but no. The new season began and there he was, still leaving Liverpool’s left flank completely exposed. Theo Walcott must have felt like a small boy on Christmas morning as he was presented with one chance after another. The Arsenal winger missed the penalty that Moreno conceded but didn’t mess around when the hapless left-back left him clear on goal 69 seconds later. Note to Klopp: The transfer window is still open for another couple of weeks yet.Jamie Vardy‘s only achievement of note on the opening day of the Premier League came when he punched himself in the face, thus cutting out the middle man. Last season’s top goalscorer air-kicked one chance and walloped another over the bar before vanishing without trace at some point in the second half. Everyone expected Leicester to regress a little this season, but no-one really expected them to lose to newly-promoted Hull. Claudio Ranieri’s decision to alter the balance of the team, particularly up front where Shinji Okazaki was missed, may have been an error.Vardy, it must be said, was only one culprit among many on Saturday. The season is long and much may change, but this was a profoundly disappointing result for Leicester. Captain Wes Morgan was honest enough to admit afterwards that his team were “second best” and deserved to lose. The only question is how long it will take his team to recover from such a shock to the system. Leicester celebrated last season’s triumph long and hard, as they should have done, but it means nothing now. They cannot put in another performance like Saturday’s or the doom-monger predictions will turn out to be true.Crystal Palace have won just two league games in 2016 and you wonder when the pressure is going to build on Alan Pardew. In his defence, this has been a very difficult summer. With players like Yannick Bolasie locked in drawn-out negotiations to leave, he finds himself simultaneously without star players and a transfer fee with which to replace them. But he has to hope that issues resolve themselves soon. Palace have a run of winnable games coming up after next week’s trip to Tottenham. He can’t afford to lose them.Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.                          

 Lynden Gooch makes first Premier League appearance for Sunderland

By Brendan Joseph  @brendan_joe on Aug 13, 2016, 11:28a 3 

United States youth international Lynden Gooch made his Premier League debut in Sunderland’s 2-1 loss to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.Gooch put in a solid, blue collar 65-minute performance on the left side of the 4-2-3-1. He was involved in the attack and didn’t look out place, playing several dangerous crosses and displaying a willingness to dribble at defenders. His only true blemish was a first half yellow card, which he earned after pulling down Raheem Sterling. A “glass half full” observer would claim that the caution demonstrates his willingness to track back on defense and get stuck in.It’s difficult to judge whether the 20-year old midfielder was a tactical fit, as one cannot be sure what David Moyes’ game plan was against the clearly superior opponent. Gooch tended to hang back unless it was one of the few times that Sunderland established possession, not pressing the back line or rushing into the attack.It was a solid first appearance that was somewhat unexpected. Gooch impressed at the youth levels and during brief loan appearances with Doncaster Rovers and Gateshead, but his true status with the Black Cats was never clear. He always seemed to be bubbling under the radar, stuck in the reserve team and loan limbo from which many players never escape.Perhaps his debut shouldn’t be considered such a surprise. Despite a lack of playing time with the senior team, the 2015-2016 season was a productive one for the debutante. Gooch was named the Barclays U-21 Premier League Player of the Month in September and signed a three-year contract extension in April.Starting the first match of the season and not making any catastrophic mistakes under a newly appointed manager certainly bodes well for his future. He may be relegated to the bench once reinforcements arrive, but it appears that he’s solidly in the club’s plans for this season.Naturally, now that he’s made a single appearance in the Premier League, the national team conversation begins. Gooch made four appearances with the U-20s in the 2015 CONCACAF Championship, but didn’t make the squad for the U-20 World Cup. It remains to be seen if he’s already forced himself into Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad for September’s World Cup Qualifiers or if he’ll be waiting a little longer.

After stunning Olympic loss to Sweden, what comes next for USWNT?

GRANT WAHLSaturday August 13th, 2016

BRASÍLIA, Brazil — There will be 34 long months until the start of the next Women’s World Cup in France in 2019. If you’re a women’s soccer fan, that gives you plenty of time to focus on the NWSL—and, one hopes, a proposed FIFA Women’s Club World Cup, which is starting to gain global momentum as an idea.But what comes next for the U.S. women’s national team after Friday’s stunning Olympic quarterfinal exit against Sweden? After winning last year’s World Cup, coach Jill Ellis has a long-term contract and figures to still be in place once 2019 rolls around. Ellis has already said that the transition on the team this year has taken place with one eye on 2019.As we’ve seen with the U.S.’s numerous changes since last year’s World Cup, chances are there will be more turnover over the next three years than you’re expecting right now. That’s good in some ways. If you’re Ellis, you hope one or two teenagers emerge in the next couple years to make an impact the way 18-year-old Mallory Pugh has done in 2016.Stylistically, Ellis tried to turn the U.S. over the past year into a team that plays better soccer, keeping the ball on the ground, and with fullbacks who push forward, speedy wingers and a lone centerforward in Alex Morgan. But in the Olympics the U.S. struggled to create much in the central midfield, no matter whether the opponent played the U.S. straight up (like France) or parked the bus (like Sweden).Some of the U.S.’s best attacking moments in the second half against Sweden came when Pugh and Crystal Dunn cut inside from their wide positions and took players on one-on-one with the ball. Pugh’s composure on the ball in the center was enough to make you wonder: If she’s 21 at the next World Cup, might she be able to handle the pressure of being the U.S.’s central attacking midfielder?I think the answer is yes.Morgan, for her part, scored two goals in three-and-a-half games here, a solid strike-rate for her position. But she said she doesn’t always feel comfortable as a lone centerforward, which makes me wonder if a 4–1–3–2 formation might be a better U.S. option than the 4–3–3 we saw here. If you were to take the players from this 18-player Olympic roster, my lineup for the start of World Cup 2019 would be:Hope Solo; Kelley O’Hara, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg; Morgan Brian; Crystal Dunn, Mallory Pugh, Tobin Heath; Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan.I’d continue asking the fullbacks to get forward and the wide players (Dunn and Heath) to cut inside and take players on with the ball. I’d also go ahead and make Lloyd an out-and-out striker. She has a terrific nose for the goal and sense of the game, and I think Morgan would be more comfortable working off a partner up top. As a Plan B, you could always go 4–1–4–1 and drop Lloyd into the midfield but not ask her to be the sole focus there.Would Brian be enough defensive midfield protection against counter-attacks from teams like France and Germany? That’s a good question, but it would be one worth trying to answer over the next three years. As for the ages of the regular U.S. Olympic players at the start of the next World Cup, here they are:

Hope Solo: 37

Kelley O’Hara: 30

Julie Johnston: 27

Becky Sauerbrunn: 33

Meghan Klingenberg: 30

Allie Long: 31

Morgan Brian: 26

Carli Lloyd: 36

Tobin Heath: 31

Alex Morgan: 29

Mallory Pugh: 21

Crystal Dunn: 26

Megan Rapinoe: 33

Christen Press: 30

Lindsey Horan: 25

(Sydney Leroux*: 29)

I’m probably being conservative by picking a lineup in which six of the 11 players will be in their 30s. The biggest question marks age-wise will be around Solo (37), Lloyd (36), Rapinoe (33), Klingenberg (30) and O’Hara (30), the last two because their fullback positions require so much running. I don’t include Sauerbrunn at 33 because her game is built more on positioning than speed.Still, not a single player should assume she has a secure spot for 2019. Lloyd spoke several times about the 2019 World Cup and 2020 Olympics as her targets to end her career. Lloyd’s work habits are legendary, and she’ll need those to continue being fit enough to excel at the next Olympics at age 38.s for Solo, the main question will be: is she good enough? Her Olympic performances were mixed, ranging from game-saving plays against France to a howler against Colombia that cost the U.S. two points. Current backup Alyssa Naeher has been as good or better than Solo in the NWSL this season, and club performance should be part of Ellis’s consideration moving forward.lenty of goalkeepers have played at a high level through their late 30s, and Solo could surely be one of them. It also remains to be seen whether Ellis takes into consideration the off-the-field attention that Solo brings more than any other player with some of her comments and actions.Other significant developments are also on the horizon. The U.S. players’ collective bargaining agreement concludes at the end of this calendar year. And while larger-than-expected Olympic TV audiences no doubt helped the players in CBA negotiations, the earliest-ever USWNT exit from a major tournament did not. A gold medal in Rio would have focused even more attention on the players’ push for equal pay to the U.S. men’s team. Now that’s an opportunity missed.17-year-old Mallory Pugh scores on her debut, helping cap a 5-0 win for the USA to open the year. Carli Lloyd led the way with a hat trick, and Alex Morgan scored as well in San Diego.As for the NWSL, it has already achieved one milestone by surviving into its fourth season, which neither of its two predecessor leagues, the WUSA and WPS, had done. But the league needs to raise its professionalism and find ways to increase sponsorships and improve TV deals. Some U.S. players are also considering moving to European clubs, which could add even more complications to the CBA negotiations with U.S. Soccer (which pays the national team players for their NWSL work).When I asked a few U.S. players here what they think are the most important things for the NWSL to do moving forward, there was a common response. The two U.S. co-captains, Lloyd and Sauerbrunn,  said they would like to see more MLS teams start or take over NWSL teams in the way that we’ve already seen in Houston, Orlando and Portland.It makes sense. If you have training and stadium facilities already, why not support the women’s game as well? This U.S. team has shown that if you invest in it, you can also make money off it. And with MLS looking for $200 million up front from new expansion teams, adding a requirement that they start an NWSL team would be a good way to go.

Hope Solo ‘Unlikely’ to Face Censure for Calling Sweden ‘Cowards’: IOC Spokesman

Eliana Dockterman,Time Sat, Aug 13 1:36 PM PDT

The International Olympic Committee is none too happy with U.S. soccer goalie Hope Solo. Solo called Sweden’s soccer team “a bunch of cowards” after Sweden upset the U.S. team during the Friday quarterfinals of the Rio Olympics.IOC spokesman Mark Adams described Solo’s outburst as “disappointing” during a Saturday briefing in Rio de Janeiro. However, Adams said Solo is “unlikely” to be censured by the committee. “People are free to say those things. We wouldn’t stop their right to express themselves, within boundaries, obviously,” Adams said.Solo said she was upset by Sweden’s strategy during the game, holding back and letting the U.S. set the pace. A tied score of 1-1 at the end of overtime led to a shoot-out, andSweden stole the game from the heavily-favored Americans. “The best team did not win today,’’ Solo said after the game. “I strongly and firmly believe that.’’The loss is a devastating one for a team whose World Cup win last year earned them a ticker tape parade in New York City. The U.S. Women’s team also won three gold medals in the last three Olympic Games and was expected to take gold, or at least medal, this year.Sweden Coach Pia Sundhage, who coached the American team to gold in both 2008 and 2012, had stronger words for her former player. “I don’t give a crap,” she said, according to Sports Illustrated. “I’m going to Rio. She’s going home.”Some on social media have also criticized Solo for making such statements.This isn’t the first time Hope Solo has fired off insults to her detriment. Throughout the Olympics, crowds in Brazil booed her because of several posts she made to social media about Zika.She’s even gotten into hot water for criticizing her own teammates. During the 2007 World Cup, Solo was benched in favor of veteran Brianna Scurry even though Solo had goaltended three consecutive shutouts. Brazil beat the U.S. 4-0 in that game. Afterwards, Solo told the press: “There’s no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves … It doesn’t matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold-medal game in the Olympics three years ago.”olo later told reporters that those comments came at a time when she was coping with the recent death of her father. Still, she was banned from the U.S. third-place game against Norway and had to fly home on a separate plane.When her Friday comments went viral, Hope Solo took to Twitter to offer context. She also admitted that she’s “bad at” losing.

Why its shocking exit in Rio might be what the USWNT needed

By Megan Armstrong  |  Last updated 8/15/16

The U.S. Women’s National Team were shocked on Friday afternoon in a dramatic 4-3 penalty kick shootout loss against Sweden, which resulted in the U.S. missing out on (at least) the semifinals of the Olympic Games for the first time in history. Before diving into what went wrong or what is potentially wrong with the team in the bigger picture, it’s important to contextualize and avoid overreaction. For one, according to U.S. Soccer, the USWNT have scored 58 goals in 2016, while allowing only seven goals against them, which is to say that just because the team won’t defend its three-time Olympic gold streak, its dominance overall is still unquestionable. And more importantly, the Swedish national team is coached by Pia Sundhage, who coached the USWNT from 2008-12. Since becoming the boss in her native country, Sundhage has played the U.S. four times—the U.S. have not won any of these match-ups, tying three and losing one. So while a premature loss on the international stage is rare and unexpected, what happened on Friday can be rationally explained. Sundhage is the one woman in the world who has been consistently building toward finally taking down the USWNT, and the one woman in the world who knows the U.S. Women as well as they know themselves. That being said, instead of dwelling on this quarterfinals loss we should be looking at it as a piece in a much larger puzzle. Since their 2015 World Cup victory, the U.S. Women have been running themselves into the ground, and to an extent, that is their job. But in all reality, it is naive to think that constantly fighting for equal pay or adequate field conditions on top of jetting around the country on a World Cup victory tour during which key players (Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe) suffered injuries wouldn’t eventually take some kind of toll. Lloyd was asked to play 120 minutes on Friday afternoon, after just coming back full-time from a knee injury. Rapinoe was brought in as the U.S.’s final substitute after a very recent return from a complete ACL tear. Questions flurried: Why not bring on Crystal Dunn instead of Rapinoe? Why didn’t head coach Jill Ellis start Dunn? Dunn, who had been a fireplug at these Olympics–scoring a goal against Colombia on August 9 and creating opportunities in an attack that lacked creativity on Friday.And speaking of puzzles, there were a notable amount of fresh pieces in the U.S.’s. Mallory Pugh is 18 years old, and this was her first time playing on a big stage with the team. Dunn, too. Defender Allie Long was a fresh face in the lineup who was not present during the 2015 World Cup. Same goes for Whitney Engen or Lindsay Horan. Not to mention the faces missing in Rio: recently retired Abby Wambach and currently pregnant Sydney Leroux.But take yourself back to a similar situation we find ourselves in now. Go to July 2011 in Germany, where Japan conquered the U.S. in the World Cup final. The USWNT returned home and were welcomed as if they were the world champions instead of runners-up. They were on talk shows. They were bombarded lovingly by fans on the streets everywhere they went. It didn’t matter that they came in second. What mattered to fans was the fashion in which they finished second—the dramatic Abby Wambach-headed goal in the 122nd minute against Brazil was the lasting image, not the silver medal.
The lasting image until the 2019 World Cup or the 2020 Olympics will be Christen Press and Alex Morgan botching their penalty kicks, and the shocked emotional faces on the field afterward. The lasting sound will echo as U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo’s bitter words after the loss: calling Sweden a bunch of cowards instead of gracefully acknowledging their smart strategy. Sundhage responded to Solo’s comments in the best way possible, stating, “I don’t give a crap. I’m going to Rio, she’s going home.” This type of drama, this display of parity and backs-to-the-wall competition, sets the stage for what happened in Canada at the 2015 World Cup. Remember July 5, 2015, in Vancouver, Canada? Beating Japan 5-2 in the World Cup final? Scoring four of those goals in the first 16 minutes of the match? That type of dominating defeat the U.S. dealt to Japan is not what was dealt to the U.S. by Sweden on Friday afternoon. It took 120 minutes of play and five penalty kicks for Sweden to beat the U.S. But the loss meant an early exit from the Olympics. The loss highlighted the pitfalls of being so great for so long and being expected to maintain that greatness forever at all costs.The bottom line is simple, though. The USWNT have earned the benefit of the doubt that they will be back, and they will be golden.

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