Indy 11 GK Evan Newton to MLS Vancouver
Great news that Indy 11 Goal Keeper Evan Newton is getting his MLS shot with the White Caps this season. Hopefully that means former Carmel FC GK coach and my friend Jordan Farr will get a shot at the starting slot this season for our Indy 11! Indy 11 fans can tune in to the USA vs T&T game Sunday night at 7 pm on FS1 and see Indy 11 defender Neveal Hackshaw playing for his native T&T.
US Men vs T&T Sun 7 pm on FS1
Expect a fairly young and somewhat inexperienced team to take the field for the US this Sunday as they face Trinidad and Tabago Sunday eve on FS 1 at 7 pm from Orlando. Of course at home even this US 3rd team with a bunch of U23s filling the sub spots should be ok vs T&T. I expect to see a fairly experienced back line of Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman (both battling for 1 starting spot on the A team alongside Brooks) in the middle along with Sam Vines on the left in front of 25 YO MLS New England stalwart but US newcomer Matt Turner between the pipes. I suspect Altidore will start up front at the 9 along with Orlando’s Chris Mueller (Scorer of 2 goals last time out) I hope. In the midfield, I expect Jackson Yueill to continue his quest for a spot at the #6 along with Sebastian Llleget, Seattle’s Roldan and hopefully a newcomer on the wing. Will be interesting to see Orlando’s Dike up top presumably in the 2nd half as a #9 for Altidore. The average age of the roster will be 23 years, 302 days, while averaging just 10 caps.
Interesting that Liverpool might be looking at US defender Aaron Long – wow would that be cool. Interesting story on Joe Biden and his love and support of the US Soccer Teams.
USMNT DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals):
DEFENDERS (9): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; 1/0), George Bello (Atlanta United FC; 0/0), Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls; 1/0), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 18/3), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire FC; 0/0), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United FC; 2/0), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; 2/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 13/2)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 24/2), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 17/4), Benji Michel (Orlando City SC; 0/0), Andres Perea (Orlando City SC; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 19/0), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas; 0/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 8/0)
FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 115/42), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 34/6), Daryl Dike (Orlando City SC; 0/0), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 1/0), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; 6/0), Chris Mueller (Orlando City SC; 1/2)
US Ladies beat Colombia – She Believes Cup in late Feb.
My is this US ladies team deep. The US ladies put up 6 goals this time vs an improved Colombia as the US made 6 changes including an entire change on the backline, including GK. Megan Rapino lead the way with the brace – and 2 newcomers scored as 20 year old Catarina Macario, and US defender allowed to play her natural forward spot Midge Purce scored their first goals in the Red, White and Blue. It was also great to see Crystal Dunn allowed to move up to winger/forward rather than her recent right back in the 2nd half. I honestly think Dunn could play any spot along with forward/midfield and either outside back spot on this team if needed. Great to see the depth and it makes the She Believe’s Cup coming in late Feb vs Canada, Brazil and Argentina must see – just to try to figure out which 18 players will be headed to the Olympics this summer. We hope!
Updated schedule: She Believes Cup
Feb. 18 Brazil vs. Argentina 4 PM ET
Feb. 18 USA vs. Canada 7 PM ET FS1
Feb. 21 USA vs. Brazil 3 PM ET FS1
Feb. 21 Argentina vs. Canada 6 PM ET
Feb. 24 Canada vs. Brazil 4 PM ET
Feb. 24 USA vs. Argentina 7 PM ET FS1
Games to Watch this Weekend
Saturday gives us the biggest game of the weekend at 12:30 pm on NBC as Arsenal will host 2nd place Manchester United. This after Everton vs New Castle United at 7:30 am on NBCSN and Man City vs Sheffield at 10 am. A battle of US forwards in Germany Sat on ESPN+ at 9:30 am as Schalke and new wonder American Hoppe travel to Werder Bremen and Josh Stewart coming off his 2nd goal last weekend. Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig look to bounce back from a loss to relegation fodder Mainz when they face Bayer Leverkusen in a top three matchup at 12:30p on ESPN+. Magical Weston McKennie and Juventus look to continue their push up the Serie A table when they face Sampdoria at Noon on ESPN+.
West Ham (5th) hosts 4th place Liverpool Sunday on the dreaded Peacock at 11:30 am. Chelsea and US Christian Pulisic play at 7 am Sunday on Peacock. Christian Pulisic started on the bench but didn’t seem to bothered by the situation midweek in the teams draw with Wolverhampton. It was Thomas Tuchels first match in charge and the manager would come out after the match to give some pretty positive feedback for Pulisic and describe the decision as “unfair” to him. But he knew what Pulisic could do and needed to see some of the others on the pitch to see what they bring. John Brooks and Wolfsburg face Freiburg at Noon on ESPN+ Sunday. Wolfsburg have won their past two matches and worked their way into fourth place in the Bundesliga standings. Finally Barcelona will host Athletic Club at 3 pm on beIN Sport – Sergino Dest is still injured and not expected to play however.
GAMES ON TV
(American’s in parenthesis)
Sat, Jan 30
7:30 NBCSN Everton vs New Castle
10 am NBCSN Man City vs Seffield United
10 am ESPN+ Swansea City (Morris soon?) vs Nottingham Forest
9:30 am ESPN+ Bayer Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)
12:30 pm NBC Arsenal vs Man United
3 pm beIn Sport Villarreal vs Real Sociedad
Sun, Jan 31
7 am Peacock Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Burnley
9 am ESPN2 Atlanta vs Lazio
11:30am Peacock West Ham vs Liverpool
7 pm FS 1 USA Men vs T&T
1 pm NBCSN Wolverhampton vs Arsenal
2:45 pm ESPN2 or + Inter vs Juventus – Coppa Italia
3:!5 pm NBCSN Man United vs Southampton
Weds, Feb 3
1 pm NBCSN Burnley vs Man City
3:!5 pm NBCSN Liverpool vs Brighton
Thurs Feb 4
12:30 pm TigresUNAL vs Ulsan Fifa Club World Cup
3 pm NBCSN Tottenham vs Chelsea
Mon, Feb 9
4 pm FS1 Fifa Club World Cup Bayern Munich vs ?
USA Men vs T&T Sun 7 pm FS1
Bogert: Liverpool monitoring RBNY’s Aaron Long?
VIDEO: McKennie goal adds to banner week for USMNT youngsters
VIDEO: USMNT’s Josh Sargent scores screamer for Werder
VIDEO: USMNT MF Tyler Adams scores his first Bundesliga goal
Premier League status report on all 20 teams Mark Ogden
Everton denied as Pickford howler rescues Leicester
Liverpool end barren run as Tottenham lose Kane to injury
De Gea’s mistakes put dent in Man United’s title charge 21hMark Ogden
Swansea City unveils USMNT star Jordan Morris on loan with option to buy
How will Lampard being fired impact Pulisic at Chelsea?
Ministry of silly walls: Why players lie down to defend free kicks
FA Cup draw: 5th round fixtures revealed
MLS to Resume Apr 3
Chris Mueller says young Lions have chance to shine with USMNT
Neville ‘right man’ for Miami job: Beckham
Why Phil Neville? Beckham, Mas on why he’s the right choice for Miami
Can Neville help Miami quieten those underwhelmed by the MLS franchise? Jeff Carlisle
USMNT’s Berhalter praises Altidore, excited for Morris at Swansea
Jan 25, 2021c Jeff Carlisle U.S. soccer correspondent ESPNFC
The U.S. is currently training in Orlando, Fla. after first training in nearby Bradenton at the IMG Academy. The U.S. will face off against Trinidad & Tobago this Sunday, with Altidore among those included in the 25-man roster.
– USMNT to-do list: Find striker, build depth behind stars
“For Jozy it’s been a great camp. He’s been participating really well. He’s been pushing hard,” the U.S. manager told reporters via a Zoom call. “We had to pull back a little bit in this last week, but we’re building him back up this week. You see that he has the experience, he has the maturity.”Altidore’s playing time at club level has been limited due to a variety of injuries over the course of the past three seasons, playing in 48 of 91 possible league matches. Earlier this month, Berhalter stated that “the consistency of [Altidore’s fitness] is going to be important,” in terms of what the forward will be able to contribute to the U.S. in 2021. On Monday, Berhalter added he appreciates the veteran presence that Altidore provides as well.”I think it’s nice to have veterans around because they know they can talk to the younger players,” Berhalter said. “But they also know what the national team is about and they know the history of the national team and that’s important. So, Jozy has been good, it’s been great having him in camp.”But Berhalter also said he wanted players that are motivated, and that applies to every player, including Altidore.”We want players that are striving to be starters. We don’t want players that are comfortable playing a substitute role,” Berhalter said. “We want them pushing to be starters but the competition is good for the team.”One player that won’t be available for selection against T&T is winger Jordan Morris, who left camp to complete his loan move to English Championship side Swansea City. Berhalter indicated he was in favor of the move, saying Morris is “going to be in good hands.””This is what Jordan was striving for,” said Berhalter about the loan. “And for Jordan, this is an opportunity now to help his team potentially get promoted and that’s a great achievement in soccer. The automatic promotion is one thing, and the [promotion] playoff game is the most expensive game in the world, right? So this will be a great challenge for Jordan, [and a] great challenge for the club of Swansea, to see if they can get into the Premier League this year.”One certainty to come out of Sunday’s match will be that a goalkeeper will make his international debut. All three keepers on the U.S. roster — the New England Revolution‘s Matt Turner, San Jose Earthquakes keeper JT Marcinkowski, and the Philadelphia Union‘s Matt Freese — have yet to appear for the U.S. But based on Berhalter’s comments, Turner, who also was called up for the January camp in 2020, appears to have the inside track to start against the Soca Warriors.”Matt certainly has improved. I think it’s night and day, compared to him [in the] last January camp,” said Berhalter. “He had, I think, the reflexes last January, but now his whole game has imroved and you can see he’s gained confidence and that whole season behind him has really improved him. He’s looking sharp.”In the games, he’s made some big saves and that’s really a hallmark of what we know Matt to be able to do is the big save ability. And then he needs to continue to work with his feet, continue to improve the build up from the goalkeeper, but he’s doing a great job. We really happy with him.”
US men’s national team vs. Trinidad and Tobago: Three things to watch for | Armchair Analyst
January 28, 202110:54AM EST Matthew DoyleSenior Writer
The US men’s national team host Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday (7 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, TUDN) in both teams’ first friendly of 2021. As is the tradition with these January camp games, neither side will be at full strength because this is not a FIFA-mandated international date. Teams are not required to release players, and thus if they’re in season, they don’t.That means there’s even less to learn than in the typical friendly. It does not mean, however, that there is nothing to learn. Just as in the final three friendlies of 2020 — a scoreless draw at Wales followed by complete stompings of Panama and El Salvador — we can get a sense of how head coach Gregg Berhalter wants his team to play, who’s showing an ability to play that way, who’s moving up the pecking order in the fight for sports and so on.
1. The midfield shape in possession
Since Berhalter’s taken over he’s tinkered with the US’ midfield shape a decent bit. Some of this is based upon the opponents, in that against weaker teams he’s had the US in what I’d consider to be a pretty aggressive 4-3-3 with dual attacking midfielders getting VERY advanced and one lone regista tasked with both shuttling the ball from back-to-front and shielding the backline. At other times — notably 12 months ago vs. Costa Rica — it was more of an asymmetrical 4-2-3-1 with something of a double pivot as one of the more attacking midfielders (Sebastian Lletget on that day) dropped deeper for extra dirty work. Three months ago vs. Wales it was the familiar 4-3-3, but also kind of different in that Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah seemed to have a more egalitarian sharing of responsibilities. Four days after that against Panama, Adams was something close to an old-fashioned destroyer while Musah and McKennie pushed higher.It is good and smart to be flexible. Berhalter’s come up with looks that are both distinctive yet similar while playing out of roughly the same shape. That portends a high level of in-game (and in-tournament) tactical flexibility.
2. Yueill pushing up
I’m assuming we’ll see the “regista” version of Berhalter’s 4-3-3, and I’m also assuming Jackson Yueill will get the start as the No. 6. He’s played that role a bunch over the past two years for club and country, and mostly been very good. He is a natural distributor and his work in shielding the backline has grown considerably.He is not yet, however, a natural presser. Berhalter asked him to do a lot of that in the win over El Salvador, to mixed results:
https://www.mlssoccer.com/iframe-video?brightcove_id=6226756860001&brightcove_player_id=default&brightcove_account_id=5530036772001 That compilation’s just from the first 20 minutes. You can see him winning the ball and winning fouls, and on the final clip, his pressing creates a goal. In between those, he was twice a half-step slow, which could have turned into breakout opportunities against better opponents.This is a very Adams-y way to use the defensive midfielder — Adams is the best pressing player in the pool and one of the best in the world. He creates turnovers, and even for teams heavily invested in positional play (as the USMNT under Berhalter are), turnovers are the lifeblood of the modern game.Yueill is never going to be Adams in that phase of the game, but he’s improved a bunch since early 2019. It seems like he’ll have to improve even more if he’s going to solidify his spot in the d-mid pecking order.
3. Daryl Dike, make your case
Berhalter said it last year: Jozy Altidore is still probably the most talented No. 9 in the pool. I do not think that assessment is wrong.
He also said Altidore’s fitness issues have held him back, and that’s clearly not wrong, either. Altidore is 31 now and spent most of 2020 looking like a shell of his former self to the point where it wasn’t just, “Is he going to be fit enough to play 90 minutes?” It was, “Is he going to be fit enough to make an actual run?” Quite often the answer was no.The good news from the US perspective is there’s suddenly a glut of young, high-upside center forwards vying for the job of Jozy’s successor*:Josh Sargent was the anointed one, and to be fair to him, his goals per 90 while with the US has been good (just don’t pay too much attention to who those goals have come against), but his goals per 90 for Werder Bremen has been abysmal.Nico Gioacchini debuted in that win over Panama with a brace, though he hasn’t exactly been lighting it up in Ligue 2.Sebastian Soto also debuted with a brace in that same game. He scored for fun in the Dutch second tier, but bear in mind it’s the Dutch second tier (he’s on his way to Norwich in the Championship now, for what it’s worth).Matthew Hoppe burst onto the scene this month with five goals in three games for Schalke. He’s yet to make an appearance for the US at any level, and it’s not exactly clear his hot streak will continue.Ayo Akinola burst onto the scene last summer with a hat-trick against D.C. United, then just kept scoring — including a goal in his debut for the US last month. This month he happens to be with the Canadian men’s national team.(*) Calling any of these guys “Jozy’s successor” is a bit of Gyasi Zardes erasure, but I do think it’s reasonable to hope one or more of these guys ends up being a better USMNT No. 9 than Zardes. The sixth member of this group is young Daryl Dike, who was superb for Orlando City last year and is in his maiden voyage as a national teamer. It’s a good bet he’ll get at least 30 minutes, though I would hit the “over” if you wanted to slap the line there. The other guys have all made compelling cases in one way or another, and now it’s Dike’s chance to do the same.
Jozy Altidore Is Still Here for the USMNT
Altidore hasn’t featured for the U.S. in 18 months, and the national team is trending younger, but he’ll be the first to remind you that 31 is still young and that he has plenty more to offer. Brian Straus – SI
Thirteen years—that’s a solid career. To overcome the competition, the distractions, the passage of time, injuries and so many other potential hurdles to play for that long at the very highest level requires a lot of talent, a ton of perseverance and a dose of good fortune. Few manage it. Those who do have every reason to feel content.We have an innate sense of an average athlete’s top-tier lifespan, of how long his or her biological clock should permit competing at a world-class level. It’s how coaches and GMs know when to start scouting for replacements. It’s why we marvel at the likes of Tom Brady and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who’ve each shattered that ceiling. And it’s why, in this era of emerging talent and fresh faces on the U.S. national team, it might seem to some like Jozy Altidore, who earned his first senior cap way back in 2007, should be moving on.It feels like he’s been around forever. Altidore has transcended eras, along with five head coaches. He’s the ninth-most-capped player in program history and if the USA had qualified for the 2018 World Cup, it would have been his third. As the generation that peaked in Brazil then fell three years later in Couva fades away, succeeded by a cohort that’s making unprecedented waves at the sport’s most prestigious clubs, Altidore remains the one who’s still hanging on, refusing to take his leave or cede his place to the passage of time.He’s doing it by sticking with what got him this far, while reminding us that being around forever doesn’t mean you’re old. Altidore got an early international start, earning his first cap a few days after turning 18. He’s still only 31 and believes he’s still very much in his prime. “I think this is interesting,” he said from Florida, where he’s the eldest member of the patchwork U.S. team preparing for Sunday’s friendly against Trinidad & Tobago. “In MLS and U.S. soccer, we love to call players like myself old. But if you look in Europe, some of the very best performers are older than me. And so, I just think that’s a very MLS and kind of a U.S. journalist’s mentality, this notion that I’m all of a sudden old, when [Robert] Lewandowski is 30-something.”Lewandowski, the FIFA player of the year, is 32. Ibrahimovic is 39 and Cristiano Ronaldo is 35. Indeed, it’s possible to play, and even dominate, at the highest level well into one’s 30s. But Altidore’s recent past hasn’t been dominant. He recovered well from the World Cup qualifying setback in 2017 and helped power Toronto FC to an unprecedented treble that was finished off by the club’s first MLS Cup title (he scored the game-winner). But there was hardship along the way, as he was booed and jeered by fans scapegoating him for the Couva disaster. A particularly ugly incident occurred at Red Bull Arena, the home of his first pro club and close to where he was born.“I’m a villain in my own country, and I accept it,” he told Sports Illustrated a couple of years ago.Altidore started only 12 MLS matches for TFC in 2018, and he didn’t play for the USA again until the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup. But he told Sports Illustrated this week that his commitment to the national team and his interest in representing his country never wavered, even if others’ confidence in him did.“It’s been the greatest joy of my career to put on the national team shirt,” he said. “There’s disappointment and tough moments, but it’s been the biggest pleasure for me. It remains that way, and those challenges happen. It’s how you bounce back from it, and how you respond as a soccer nation, as a federation and as individuals. It’s always been a great joy for me and that hasn’t changed today.”So after another difficult season with TFC, during which his club was forced to base itself in Connecticut for two months and he tallied only two goals in 14 total appearances, Altidore committed himself to the USA’s three-week camp. Most of the men called in were U-23 players preparing for Olympic qualifying, and on Sunday evening at Orlando City’s Exploria Stadium, Altidore will have almost as many caps as the rest of the 25-man roster combined. This exercise was not beneath him, however. He wants to play a key role in the busy international year ahead, and sees each and every chance to prove himself at this level as an opportunity that can’t be passed up.“It’s an invite into the national team,” he said of this month’s camp. “You don’t pick and choose when you play for the national team. So to have the opportunity to receive a call-up is an honor. I still get the same excitement I did when I was 18. January camps aren’t very easy, but like I said, it’s the national team and when the national team calls, if you’re able to go you want to go.”He wanted to go, and he’s clearly wanted. Injuries have been Altidore’s biggest issue. It’s never been a question of ability.
“What I would say is just looking at the striker position in general, I think you have Jozy Altidore, who is probably still the most talented that we have in that position, but he’s got fitness issues,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter told MLS’s Extratime podcast in October. “He’s still an amazingly talented player, so our goal there is to keep working with him.”Indeed, striker remains the primary spot at wch the national team’s next generation has yet to really break through. Gyasi Zardes is the only other experienced veteran, while the likes of Josh Sargent, Nicholas Gioacchini, Sebastian Soto and now Matthew Hoppe are trying to make their way abroad. Berhalter also has looked at Daryl Dike, Chris Mueller, Ayo Akinola and others over the past year, perhaps hoping one might eventually develop the skills and presence that Altidore has when he’s at his best. That version of Altidore, the one who’s the national team’s third all-time leading goal scorer, probably remains the USA’s brightest prospect at the position.Berhalter said this week that while it took a few days for Altidore to get fit, his work ethic, experience and maturity have been an asset during a camp featuring so many younger players. And as for Altidore’s hopes for the year ahead, Berhalter said, “In general we want players that are striving to be starters. We don’t want players that are comfortable playing a substitute role. We want them pushing to be starters. We think the competition is good for the team, and anyone we bring in hopefully has the potential to be a starter on this team. That’s why they’re included in the squad.”Ask Altidore to look ahead, however, and he’ll have none of it. He’s not thinking about a 2021 that’ll feature the inaugural Concacaf Nations League finals, a Gold Cup and then the start of World Cup qualifying. Playing in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where he’ll be newly 33, remains more of an amorphous aspiration. His career, from his early start with the Red Bulls to his record-breaking transfer to Villarreal, and from that memorable Confederations Cup semifinal goal against Spain to the injury that knocked him out of the 2014 World Cup, shows that absolutely nothing is predictable. There is no pattern. He’s played just 264 national team minutes since Couva, the equivalent of about three games in three years. Yet he is in position to remain a vital part of Berhalter’s plans–not because of or despite his experience or age, but because he’s capable of deserving it that day. That’s how he’s approaching this camp and this year. “I don’t expect anything. There are no gimmes,” he said. “It’s not like you’re on the national team now and that means you’re on the team next year. It’s you’re on the team today, and you try to make the most of that opportunity. You try to give as much as you can to the team and the guys around you, and that’s what it is. For me, this year and going forward, I’m just living in the present and I’m taking it one day at a time, because nobody knows what’s going to happen now, in two weeks, in three months, in the next two years. It’s an honor to be here and I’m trying to give my best every single day.”
Why Swansea City is the right move at the right time for Jordan Morris | Steve Zakuani
January 23, 20211:04PM ESTSteve ZakuaniContributor
The reports became official Friday, with Jordan Morris joining English Championship side Swansea City on loan for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. The move certainly creates a hole in Seattle’s lineup, though there’s an exciting opportunity for the US men’s national team forward to prove himself overseas after thriving for his hometown club.From a selfish standpoint, I’d have loved to see Morris stay in Seattle so I could continue to enjoy watching him as a fan and covering him as an analyst. His growth in the last 18 months has been nothing short of extraordinary. Don’t get me wrong, he’s always been good. From the first time I saw him play at age 15 when he participated in a first-team training session during my days with the Sounders, I could see that he had some special qualities. Those qualities are still among his strong points today – raw pace and power – but he has added so much more to his game. What most stood out during the 2020 season was his composure in front of goal. He found himself in the same positions he’s always gotten himself into, but there was a different demeanor when he was 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper. He looked assured, relaxed and certain that he was going to find the back of the net. And more often than not, he did. Fans will talk about his goal against San Jose in the 7-1 win because of the great run from the halfway line, but I will always remember it for the finish. It was further evidence of a player that learned how to slow the game down in the final third and apply the right finish. San Jose’s unique defensive scheme also played a significant role, too.That wasn’t always the case with Morris, especially early on when he often looked rushed and short of confidence in front of goal. He has gotten better each year and that’s why I think the next logical step is to test himself abroad. There’s simply nothing left for him to do in Seattle. He knows he can run past any MLS defender he wants, lead the team to trophies, score and assist almost at will when he’s on top form and that he’s essentially guaranteed double-digit goals if he stays fit. He can do all of that on autopilot in MLS, and so the next challenge is leaving the comforts of home and trying to elevate himself to a new level. Had Morris stayed in Seattle for all of the 2021 season, I’d have had no problem with it. I’ve come to understand that every athlete is motivated by different things. Some want nothing more than to test themselves at the highest level possible, regardless of circumstance or situation, while others want their off-field life to be a certain way before they decide to look for new challenges. Neither way is better than the other, the only important thing is for the player to be comfortable in whatever they choose. That’s why I love this move for Jordan – it was his choice. Had he gone to Werder Bremen right out of Stanford, he’d have done it more to appease the “you have to test yourself in Europe” cowd than for any personal reason. As it turns out, the decision to stay home was the right one. He’s learned what it means to be a pro; how to win and lose; how to add tweaks to his game; and he’s done all of that while being physically close to family and friends who have supported him as he’s grown into his career. He’s also won two MLS Cups and totalled 35 goals and 20 assists in 105 games. Now, after achieving all of that, he’s going to Europe while playing the best soccer of his life and carrying a wealth of experience that he simply didn’t have when he left college. I fully expect him to be a success at Swansea. Of course it’s going to depend on the tactics, his role, what he’s asked to do, how his teammates connect with him and how quickly he can get up to speed. But in terms of ability, I have no doubt that he can succeed there. His skill set can translate to any league in the world as long as his team plays to his strengths. Playing alongside Nicolas Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz, he’s learned how to combine and play quick passes when he comes in from wide areas. It’s not enough to be a winger that can only go back and forth, you have to know when to come inside and connect passes to keep your opponents guessing. He has also learned how to be dangerous without the ball and how to find the balance between being direct and being more subtle in the final third — all traits that will serve him well in the Championship. The only way this move doesn’t work out is if he gets injured or if Swansea make no attempt to play to his strengths. Anything short of that and I expect Swansea fans to enjoy what we’ve been enjoying in Seattle for the past few years – a player who’s constantly improving and, when at his best, is almost always the most dangerous man on the pitch.
Catarina Macario, Megan Rapinoe star in USWNT’s 6-0 rout of Colombia
by Julia Poe, Orlando Sentinel, Posted: January 23, 202
ORLANDO, Fla. — A mix of veteran and young U.S. women’s national team stars combined for a blowout 6-0 victory over Colombia on Friday, capping January camp with two friendly wins for the Americans.
The match opened with a bang when 22-year-old Catarina Macario netted the first goal of her international career in the third minute. That goal was the payoff of years of work on and off the field for Macario. The Brazilian native became a U.S. citizen in the fall while formally applying to change her national team affiliation.
The switch was approved last week, allowing Macario to debut on Monday night and notch her first goal on Friday. Orlando Pride captain Ali Krieger assisted the goal with a high-arcing cross from outside the box, which Macario tapped into the net with her first touch.
Macario’s goal was followed by a brace from star Megan Rapinoe, who returned this week after nearly a year away from the pitch during the pandemic. Rapinoe netted her first goal with a backside shot that ricocheted off a defender, showcasing her signature flair with an air guitar celebration.
The veteran closed the half with a penalty kick to give the Americans a 3-0 lead. The U.S. continued to pour on the pressure in the second half, making way for Lynn Williams and Lindsey Horan to add goals.
Midge Purce closed the match by netting her first international goal, leaping to flick a header into the net to stretch the lead to six goals.
The U.S. previously beat Colombia 4-0 on Monday night. The Americans’ high press continued to overpower their opponent, forcing the Colombians onto their heels for most of the match. U.S. outshot Colombia 33-2, forcing keeper Sandra Sepulveda to make five saves to prevent a wider deficit.
The matches are the first step of gearing up for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics. The Times of London cited an anonymous source stating Japanese government officials expected the games to be canceled, but numerous officials refuted the report Friday and the games are still scheduled to be staged despite the challenges presented by the difficult to contain coronavirus pandemic.
The Americans will return to Orlando to host the SheBelieves Cup at Exploria Stadium in February.
USAWNT vs. Colombia recap: double debut goals!
Catarina Macario is everything you dreamed of and more, Midge Purce gets on the scoresheet, and this team is definitely hurtling towards more excellence.
Starting XI: Jane Campbell, Emily Sonnett, Tierna Davidson, Alana Cook, Ali Krieger, Sam Mewis, Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle, Megan Rapinoe, Catarina Macario, Lynn Williams
It took Catarina Macario just under three minutes to score both the first goal of the night and her first career goal in a United State jersey. Ali Krieger made her run on the right, bounced in a nice cross, and Macario shook her defender to tap it in to make it 1-0. It wasn’t quite a forecast of things to come but it was close, as the United States continued what they started in game one, peppering the Colombia defensive third with plenty of crosses from the left and right and a handful of direct balls up the middle, with a sprinkling of Sam Mewis carrying the ball out of deep while the front line pushed ahead of her for good measure.The Macario show didn’t end there, particularly as Lavelle played and stayed high ahead of Mewis and formed an exciting and unpredictable duo at the top of the box. But there was also Macario dummying a run onto a pass, leaving it behind while she peeled defenders off the passing lane to allow Lynn Williams to run into free space, or her small unselfish touches in the box trying to set up her teammates, or her ability to hold the ball and put it onto her shooting foot with two or three players in her face.The US also continued their work on pressing out of possession, only having to drop quickly a few times off of lost one-v-one battles or intercepted passes. Colombia certainly kept their heads up, looking to close down those passing channels and try to pick out an errant ball and quick counter. But the US defended well as a group, and center backs Davidson and Cook did good jobs playing into the team’s strategy regrouping on the back line, then having a center back look for the play through the central channel, usually picking Mewis as their option to move things forward.The second goal came in the 35’ as Rapinoe picked up the ball in the box, took a shot, and had it deflect off a defender to skip inside the post, just past Sandra Sepulveda’s outstretched hands. Rapinoe would make it three in the 43’ as Colombia once again had a penalty called on them, this time for a tussle that brought down Sam Mewis in the box. Rapinoe buried it nicely low in the corner.To the very end of the half, Macario, Lavelle, and Williams were engaged in fast, fun interplay, moving off of the ball and one another to open up the Colombian defense and put each other either in crossing or shooting position.The second half started with no changes to the lineup. Colombia tried to up the pressure somewhat, but the US stuck tot heir plan, finding a nice opportunity through Cook playing a direct ball to Macario, who won her player battle and picked up Rapinoe in the wide channel. Rapinoe switched the field, where Krieger was waiting to set up yet another cross.Lynn Williams opened up the second half scoring in the 60’, heading in a nice little serve from Sam Mewis. Then came the first slew of subs in the 62’, with Rapinoe, Macario, and Lvaelle off, and Crystal Dunn, Carli Lloyd, and Lindsey Horan on. In an extremely exciting moment, Dunn went in as a forward and not a fullback and drifted between that position and center mid for the rest of the game.
Unfortunately, shortly thereafter Sam Mewis went down with what looked like a painful left ankle injury. She limped off the field by herself and was later seen icing her ankle, as well as walking after the game, but still with a limp. Kristie Mewis subbed in for her, with Midge Purce also coming on for Lynn Williams in the 76’. That made a forward line of Dunn – Lloyd – Purce, which absolutely did not help Colombia in feeling less wide pressure or having to defend fewer crosses.In the 79’ the United States used their last sub to take off Krieger and bring on Emily Fox at left back, switching Sonnett over to the right side. The game lost a little coherence mid-half, stopping and starting play with corner kicks and throw ins, but the team adjusted again, with Horan taking on box-to-box support and Dunn drifting central as needed. Kristie Mewis added to the crossing action when she wasn’t also crashing the box, adding to the pressure on Colombia’s defense. Purce in particular dug into her attacking role, taking the ball endline over and over on her end, and making nicely-timed runs as a target for crosses from the left side. Eventually, Purce made good on all those runs, scoring her first USWNT goal in the 86’ as she skipped in a header off a ball from Lloyd.The game ended at 6-0, another healthy reminder that the USWNT has an extremely versatile bench and that Vlatko Andonovski has a vision for each of his players and has them working together on a clear plan.After the game, Andonovski said that even though this was a lopsided game, they would be drawing information from both the defense and offense. “We can evaluate the defense when we’re in possession of the ball. How much are they helping in the build up, are they able to find our six, are they able to find our tens, penetrating passes, advancing forward. There’s so many things,” he said. “Working from the October camp on, we started tweaking the way that we’re defending a little bit. It seems like we’re moving in the right direction. The stats show that we’re moving in the right direction. I still feel like there are things we can get better at. But on the other side I feel like we’re able to create more opportunities.”He also complimented the performances of Dunn and Purce, saying that Dunn in particular was always a strong possibility to come in as a forward in one of these games, and that possibility got even bigger after the injuries to Mal Pugh and Sophia Smith. “The thought that Crystal may play forward started way back even when we selected the roster,” he said. “I had the idea and Crystal texted me as soon as the rosters came out with a little smiley face, that she saw that the roster is a little bit unbalanced, a little bit more defenders and less forwards.”He added, “We know that Midge is a good forward. There’s no doubt that she’s a good forward. obviously we saw something in her that may help us or help her become a good fullback and we’re going to continue working as we go forward but when we need a forward, obviously she’s good enough and showed that she can do a good job there.”Catarina Macario also spoke to media after the game. On the dynamism of her partnership with Lavelle, she said, “Rose and I were talking about this yesterday, how we really like playing with each other. I think the coaches know our characteristics and so they didn’t necessarily have to say anything out of the norm, like oh you guys play with each other. It was more a natural thing to happen. I know that she played me a few good balls – great balls, but my finishing wasn’t that well today, and so I hope that I can repay her the next time.”Macario also said that after her first cap, she was asked (Macario implied with a smile that it was a very strong ask) by her teammates to give a speech in the locker room. “I just told them how surreal it was, how unbelievable it was, the fact that I was actually playing with the people that I grew up watching,” she said.The United States is next scheduled to play in the SheBelieves Cup, starting on February 18 in Orlando, Florida.
What’s Soccer Pro Crystal Dunn’s Next Chapter? Fighting For The Recognition She Deserves
Crystal Dunn is a recognized member of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team, but she is not the face of women’s soccer. After 105 caps and seven years as a professional athlete, Dunn is setting out to change that.“With my versatility and being one of the few Black women on the U.S. Women’s National Team, what I would have loved to see happen earlier, which I still hope will happen, is to be recognized as a face of women’s soccer,” said Dunn during a video interview from Portland where she signed a multi-year contract with the National Women’s Soccer League’s (NWLS) Thorns last October.“I am recognized as a player on the national team, which is great. But what I would like to see shift is the whole idea that this sport is predominantly White or that it is a White person’s face that is the face of women’s soccer. I have earned the right to be posterized and be a part of huge campaigns and lead the way for women’s soccer and not feel like I am just a player.”After narrowly missing the 2015 World Cup, a determined Dunn would not leave making a future roster up to chance. She responded to the snub by letting her performance on the pitch do the talking. That season, she was the NWSL’s top scorer and earned the league MVP honor.By 2019, Dunn secured a spot on the squad and solidified a starting role – a defensive one, that is.What largely gets overlooked is that her identity as an outside back – where she has mastered the art of defending and attacking – is not her natural position. Instead, Dunn’s instinct is to play as a midfielder where she has the freedom to be creative, technical and savvy.Playing and training for two different positions is physically and mentally draining, yet somehow Dunn manages to handle both roles with ease and grace. And for American football enthusiasts, her balancing act is the equivalent of asking someone to suit up as a defensive back and running back – that just does not happen! Still, Dunn has firmly accepted both challenges.“I never wanted to be a versatile player,” said Dunn. “Most people want to be great at something. If you are a striker, you want to be known for scoring goals, assisting and creating goals. For me, I did not get the luxury of working on one quality. I have to be good at scoring and creating goals and good at defending.”In the quarterfinal World Cup match against the French women’s national team, Dunn took on the career-defining assignment of defending Les Bleues most dangerous attacker, forward/winger Kadidiatou Diani.Before a sellout crowd in Paris’ Parc des Princes stadium, Diani, who is considered the “Neymar” of Paris Saint-Germain’s women’s club team, targeted Dunn. And France, believing that they could expose Dunn’s inexperience, soon discovered that her well-timed tackles, deflected crosses and swift recoveries would leave the Parisian striker scoreless.“I was nervous about playing a position that I did not deem my favorite or best position. I believed in myself, but of course, outside noise creeps,” Dunn explained while reflecting on the thrilling 2-1 victory.“I look back, and it is probably one of the best performances I have ever had as an outside back because Diani was killing the World Cup. She was scoring many goals. She was the perfect combination of what makes a dangerous striker, which is powerful, technical, savvy on the ball and ruthless.”Coming out of the tournament, Dunn’s stellar performance should have lifted her to stardom. She should have fielded lucrative endorsement deals or posed for magazine covers. Easily, the type of treatment one would expect after winning on the world’s biggest stage – right? Instead, her accomplishments on the pitch barely made a blip on the radar.“I did not feel the buzz that I thought I’d feel after coming off of winning a world championship. And that’s when I started to feel like I’m not branded the way I need to be branded. I’m not marketed the way I needed to be marketed,” Dunn said.“Then with everything that happened with George Floyd’s death due to police brutality is when I realized as a Black woman in this sport, I need to take back some control.”Dunn firmly grabbed the reins of her career late last year by requesting the Thorn’s trade and signing with the sports agency, Disrupt the Game. And so, in an hourlong conversation, Dunn explained that in her next chapter, she is betting on herself, unapologetically speaking her truth and setting out to crush the stereotype that Black women in soccer are just fast and strong athletes.This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Looking back at the 2019 World Cup victory, do you believe that you received ample recognition for your role on the team?
Absolutely not is the short answer. What was great, my teammate, Megan Rapinoe, speaking out [about me] in her interviews and being asked probably about her performance. She took the time to acknowledge my performance and said that we might not have won that game without me playing the way I played. It meant a lot to me, and more of that needs to happen. I know people get caught up talking about themselves, but soccer is a team sport. Not enough is spoken about the qualities of defenders.
You have mentioned wanting notoriety. What would more notoriety look like for you? What would it mean to be given more of the spotlight?
I would love for brands to feel like it is time to move forward towards more diversity in soccer. I hope that this sport, one day, does become everyone’s sport. There are more of us in this sport. There is a bit of diversity, but ultimately, it does not feel like it is everyone’s sport. It does feel predominantly White suburbia’s. People from the middle and upper-middle class can play this sport, but there is not much room and opportunity for those who do not fit that ticket.
When I look at my career, I have made strives. Every year I’m proving more and more that I am a top player every season. My stats are aligned with elite players every year, and then when I get to the end of the year, it does not translate into more endorsements, or it does not translate into how I am viewed on the National team. I am waiting for that shift. I am waiting to have a solid season, and then by the end of the year, all my hard work translates into more opportunities, more involvement with brands, more fans or more followers.
I can only imagine what your existence has been like – going from being the only Black girl on your team to now among a handful of women. All you’ve ever wanted to do is be a top performer. But you’ve endured challenges that others don’t have to go through. And for the rest of the world, soccer is everybody’s sport.
The French Women’s National Team is so diverse. Even the men’s national team is a mixed bag. There are so many Black men – and in midfielder positions – known for being creative and technical. They have the cognitive ability to solve problems, and it is a similar position to the quarterback in the NFL. For a long time, Black quarterbacks were an anomaly.That is why I’m so passionate about wanting to be seen as a ten because it is a position that not a lot of black women play it. Black women, I would say, are mostly center backs, outside backs, and wide forwards. Playing at a ten means that I am now combating the stereotypes of being fast, physical, and strong. I am passionate about wanting the world to see more Black women, especially in the roles that don’t fit the stereotypes that have been placed on us; that goes against everything that people have seen and use to describe Black athletes.
Let’s touch on the evolution of U.S. Soccer and the Black Lives Matter movement. Where does the relationship stand, and what is your role?
I fully believe that the world will not go back to what it was like before George Floyd. Unfortunately, this man had to lose his life in front of the world in a horrific way. People had to see that to believe and understand that this is the reality of Black people in America. We are stepping into another season, and I would love for people to wake up and say Black Lives still Matter. It is a new year, but it is the same until racism is completely taken out of society. We made progress, but how do we move forward?We started the Black Women’s Player Collective that started as a support group for the Black women in the league who feel like they do not have the support and representation on their teams. They can go to this group and share experiences and talk about things they might not feel comfortable
Catarina Macario is on her way to becoming the USWNT’s next big star (from October)
by Jonathan Tannenwald, Posted: October 9, 2020
At 1:14 a.m. Friday morning, an earthquake struck American soccer.Just a few hours after Catarina Macario was called into her first senior U.S. women’s national team training camp, the Brazil-born Stanford playmaker made even bigger news. She had acquired U.S. citizenship, starting her on the path to officially join the team she has long dreamed about.The national team has been waiting to welcome her, too. Insiders and outsiders alike have rated her for years as one of the program’s elite prospects. But everyone had to wait for her to become a citizen.“We’re very happy and excited for her — for her to start a new chapter in her life, first and foremost, and then in her career,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said Friday afternoon.
Macario, 21, has lived in the United States since her family moved to San Diego in 2011. She was born in São Luís, Maranhão, a city on Brazil’s northern coast, and grew up in the nation’s capital Brasilia. She played the country’s national sport with as much flair as her male counterparts, but at age 12 was told she could no longer play on boys teams.
Knowing her potential, the family took a gamble. Catarina, her father and her brother went to California while her mother, a surgeon, stayed home to provide financial support. The language barrier and other issues made their new life difficult, but Catarina’s soccer skills shone through and caught the attention of college powerhouse Stanford. The school that produced Christen Press, Kelley O’Hara and Andi Sullivan wanted to make Macario its next star.
To say Macario took off is an understatement. With a skill set combining a playmaker’s touch and a striker’s finish, she racked up 63 goals and 47 assists in 68 games over three years. She won national championships in 2017 and 2019, and has won the last two MAC Hermann trophies — college soccer’s Heisman.
“Anyone who has seen Catarina play in college can tell that she’s a special talent,” Andonovski said. “She’s incredibly skillful, can score in many different ways, and is just fun to watch. She’s got a flair, she’s very creative, and she’s got the ability to create chances and score goals that anyone would welcome on a team.”
Macario has had plenty of big-time teammates. The 2017 squad featured Tierna Davidson, who won a World Cup two years later, plus Sullivan, Paris Saint-Germain’s Alana Cook, and the Washington Spirit’s Jordan DiBiasi and Tegan McGrady. Last year’s team had Sophia Smith, whom the Portland Thorns made this year’s No. 1 NWSL draft pick.
Davidson and Smith left college early, and Macario could have too. But she chose to stay to further her education. The NWSL would have to wait, and fans gave thanks that the league was stable enough to be able to.
While Macario was pursuing a degree, she was also pursuing U.S. citizenship. She got a green card six years ago, and was on track to become a citizen late this year or early next. The moment came this week, and fans erupted on Twitter as if they’d seen her score a goal.“I’m very excited about her personally, and I know that this means a lot because she has put a lot of effort individually” into getting citizenship, said Andonovski, who’s also a naturalized immigrant. He was born in North Macedonia in 1976 and came to this country in 2000 to play indoor soccer for a pro team in Wichita, Kanasas.“I know it is stressful at times, but it is very fulfilling,” Andonovski said. “The moment you apply for citizenship is the moment when you decide to say, ‘I want this to be my home, I want this to be my country, and I want to be American.’ The moment you get the papers is when you feel like you’ve been accepted, and you’re wanted to be part of this country.”A key piece of the process is a change in FIFA’s rules for players who move countries. The governing body used to require five years of residence beyond a player’s 18th birthday, which would have kept Macario waiting until October of 2022. to be precise. Now the rule simply requires five years of residence, period, for players 18 or older.Andonovski said Macario is in the process of getting a U.S. passport, and U.S. Soccer will soon ask FIFA to approve Macario’s eligibility. When that happens, she’ll immediately be in the race for a spot on next year’s Olympic team. And the notoriously small 18-player roster will become that much harder for everyone else to make.“Hopefully, what she has demonstrated in the college game, she can demonstrate on the national team level, because we know it takes a little bit more to be a special player at that level,” he said.A few minutes later, Andonovski said the words that U.S. fans have waited so long to hear: “I think that she will be ready for Tokyo.”As with any marquee prospect, it’s sometimes necessary to slow down the hype train. But everyone who has watched Macario up close believes she’s the real deal. And you can be sure that the earthquake felt by American soccer fans had aftershocks in the Netherlands, France, England and Australia — the nations that have the best shots at dethroning the U.S. in the coming years.
Biden and the Beautiful Game
Joe Biden has helped inaugurate an MLS club, been to three World Cups, had a say on equal pay and, as the new POTUS, will play a part in 2026 World Cup preparations. Here are the tales from his time around the highest levels of soccer.
BRIAN STRAUS JAN 20, 2021For four years—through a World Cup in South Africa, a season in Germany, three years in Mexico and around two dozen national team matches across the U.S., Europe and Latin America—DaMarcus Beasley kept the coin in his toiletry kit.He placed it there after receiving it as a gift at the conclusion of a White House visit—it seemed as good a place as any to store it for a while—but then never had a reason to take it out. It remained mixed in with his grooming supplies, transported between hotel rooms and locker rooms and back, out of some mix of habit, superstition and inertia.“Every once in a while you clean out your bag, your toothpaste is done or whatever, but I always kept the coin in my bag,” Beasley said.In May 2010, Beasley was part of a U.S. national team delegation that was welcomed by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C., where they’d share a few words and take a few pictures before heading to South Africa for the World Cup. It was supposed to be a quick visit but the U.S. Soccer Federation went all out anyway, embroidering team jackets for the players and staff to wear and fitting everyone with brand new dress pants and shoes. “I told the team prior to that, ‘Guys, this doesn’t happen. You don’t usually go to the White House for a visit until you win something, and we’ve got two presidents and a VP,’ ” then U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said. “That doesn’t normally happen.”Photos were shot, pleasantries were exchanged and Obama and Clinton took their leave. The rest of the group was milling about, waiting for their bus when Biden, who was still hanging around, was approached by U.S. team trainer Jim Hashimoto and press officer Michael Kammarman. Like Biden, Hashimoto and Kammarman were University of Delaware alumni. Biden was happy to reminisce for a few minutes, and he then asked what the team was up to. The plan was to board the bus and head straight back to Philadelphia, where there was training that afternoon and then an exhibition game against Turkey two days later.No, Biden meant, what are they up to right now?Waiting for the bus.
There was Biden’s opening. Within moments, the national team was off on an impromptu tour of the West Wing that included the Oval Office, the Roosevelt Room and a once-in-a-lifetime group chat in Biden’s own office. As they left, Biden gave each member of the U.S. delegation a gold-and-blue vice presidential challenge coin as a memento of their unplanned time together.“He told the story about what the coin means. Just in layman’s terms, basically if you go into any bar—it started at military bars—and you put it in front of a higher rank, they have to buy you a drink,” said Beasley, the quick and skillful midfielder who was on his way to a third World Cup. “We thought that was so cool. That would probably never happen, because we don’t know if we’d ever be in position to even experience that, just putting the coin on the bar table in front of a general and have them buy you a drink. But just Biden telling the story about what it meant was pretty cool.”Biden had made the secret and exalted—these rooms that were the seat of such power and these traditions of people who represented the country in such serious and symbolic ways—seem accessible and familiar. That struck a chord with Beasley.“So that’s why I kept the coin. I just kept it because maybe it gave me luck,” he said. “I had it in my bag because of the story he told. You get a gift from the White House, from the vice president, you just keep it in your bag.”Beasley never intended to keep the coin among his toiletries for four years. He wasn’t planning on playing in a fourth World Cup—no American man ever had. And he certainly didn’t imagine that Biden would become such a familiar presence, someone whose path kept intersecting with U.S. soccer’s throughout his eight years as vice president and then again as he pursued the top job in 2019–20. It turned out that Beasley and Biden running into each other in a bar, so to speak, wasn’t that far-fetched.
Family was the catalyst for Biden’s first significant soccer moment as vice president. Beau, who died in 2015, was good friends with a local developer named Rob Buccini. Buccini’s company was involved in the construction of the Philadelphia Union’s stadium in Chester, Pa., and he became a minority investor in the new MLS club. While the arena was being finished, the Union’s first few home games in the spring of 2010 were scheduled to take place at the Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field.“Beau actually was a fan of the game, God rest his soul, and he came to Philadelphia Union games. Beau and Rob were Delaware guys and grew up together and had a relationship,” recalls Union founder and former CEO Nick Sakiewicz. “Buccini’s suite was two doors down from mine, and whenever Beau was in Rob’s suite I’d go over and say hello to them. We’d have soccer conversations, and [Beau] was pretty knowledgeable.”Sakiewicz and his staff were busily preparing for their inaugural home game against D.C. United, for which they’d sold nearly 35,000 tickets, when he got a call from Buccini.“‘He said, ‘I think Beau can pull this off.’ And then we just kind of went into overdrive,” Sakiewicz says.The vice president was coming.The security logistics were significant, and that included the closure of exits off I-95. When Joe Biden took the field alongside Natalie, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter and MLS commissioner Don Garber, there still were thousands of fans waiting to get inside.
By then, Sakiewicz had enjoyed the chance to chat a bit with the VP.“He was very talkative, like in the staging area before we went out to midfield,” Sakiewicz says. “He was very conversational about soccer. He knew the sport was exploding in the U.S. He said he watches the U.S. men and women, and we talked about the women’s national team, because they’re so successful. He said how great it was to have an MLS team playing in Chester. He knew all about the stadium, about the redevelopment that we were trying to spark on the riverfront. I was really surprised how knowledgeable he was about the project. He called it the stadium in his backyard.”Biden wasn’t as comfortable, however, with actually kicking a soccer ball. The idea was to have him join Philadelphia soccer legend Walter Bahr, a member of the famous 1950 U.S. World Cup team, at midfield, and then pass the ball to Union captain Danny Califf. “He was like, ‘I don’t know. I’m not used to kicking things. I’m usually throwing things,’ ” Sakiewicz says. “So we were showing him. ‘Use the side of your foot. Don’t use your toe’—kind of giving him some advice about how not to make a fool of himself.”In the end, as comfortable as he is in the spotlight, Biden deferred to Natalie. His five-year-old granddaughter did the honors. Sakiewicz, now the commissioner of the National Lacrosse League, has the ball she kicked on a shelf in his office.Biden didn’t stay for the game, and even though the fans waiting outside missed the Union’s first home goal, which Sébastien Le Toux scored in the fourth minute, the Frenchman obliged by scoring two more in a 3–2 win.“[Biden] was awesome. When he came into the stadium, he shook hands and gave everyone big congratulatory hugs. He was awesome, and his family was awesome,” Sakiewicz says. “We were honored to have him there. It was absolutely the cherry on top of the cake. It was a long slog, bringing that team to Philadelphia.”Just six weeks later, Biden was chatting with Hashimoto and Kammarman and inviting the U.S. World Cup squad to take its improvised West Wing tour. There, he was much more in his element. If you want to put Biden at ease, don’t ask him to kick a ball—ask him to hold court. He’s clearly someone who’s energized by being around others. He’s comfortable talking to just about anybody, and it should come as no surprise that he’s interested in athletes. Football and baseball helped shape and embolden Biden as a young man growing up with a stutter.“As much as I lacked confidence in my ability to communicate verbally, I always had confidence in my athletic ability,” he wrote in his 2007 memoir, Promises to Keep. “Sports were as natural to me as speaking was unnatural. And sports turned out to be my ticket to acceptance—and more. I wasn’t easily intimidated in a game, so even when I stuttered, I was always the kid who said, ‘Give me the ball.’ ”
So on that day in May 2010, Biden had a couple dozen world-class athletes at his disposal, and he was going to make the most of it. He invited the team into his office, asked them all to take a seat and proceeded to engage them for what Gulati estimated was about 30 minutes. Photos show the players bunched together in the room, standing along the edges or crammed onto one of the two sofas in the center. Assistant coach Mike Sorber somehow wound up in Biden’s desk chair.“We just chitchatted. We just talked. We talked about the World Cup,” Beasley says. “I think a couple guys asked him a couple questions. He was very personable, very warm, very open, and very cool. You could tell why him and Obama are very good friends. They kind of have that same personality with people—with people they don’t even know.”Biden asked a couple of his guests where they went to college before realizing that by then, gifted young players were turning pro before heading off to school. He told the team all about how the West Wing functions and what the vice president does. He referenced the U.S.’s rough go at the 2006 World Cup and expressed hope that 2010 would be better. Then he sent them on their way with the coins, telling them he’d be seeing them again soon.“When you go to the White House, everybody’s excited. You don’t want to make a mistake. You don’t know how to act. You’re in a historic place, not just in America but in the world,” Beasley says. “So to be there and for him to take his time and really be a normal—not the vice president of the United States but just be a normal human being and sit down and talk to us—that was memorable.”Soon they all were off to Africa—the World Cup team to its base camp in Irene, just south of Pretoria, where it would prepare for its tournament debut against England, and Biden to meetings in Egypt and Kenya before heading to Johannesburg. There, Biden visited the U.S. Consulate and met with South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, with whom he joked about the prospect of a South Africa–U.S. World Cup final. Biden attended the opening match between the hosts and Mexico. And then the next morning—the day of U.S.-England—he joined Gulati for a meeting with FIFA president Sepp Blatter.“A big part of the reason he came over was to help us pitch for the  World Cup,” Gulati says.Obama had been planning to go himself, but he stayed behind to deal with the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that April. So Biden went to South Africa instead and found himself face to face with Blatter, who in some ways was as powerful as a head of state. FIFA’s Executive Committee would vote for the 2018 and 2022 hosts six months later.“We talked at length about what the United States had to offer the World Cup and what the World Cup had to offer the United States,” Biden said in a video produced by the White House. “I’m hopeful that we have a real clear shot that by the end of this year, getting picked as the site of one of the next two World Cups.”Blatter, Gulati and Biden convened in Blatter’s room at the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton, a ritzy suburb of Johannesburg.“None of Blatter’s people came. So it was just the three of us up in his suite,” Gulati says. “And Biden was pitching the World Cup for us. He was fantastic at doing it. All the little things when you’re trying to be friends with someone—you touch them on the knee. Blatter said, ‘Well, I have only one vote.’ [Biden] basically said, ‘Yeah, but the referee is very important in all of this.’ ”Biden was just as quick on his feet once the meeting was over.“We’re leaving, and we’re running into a few people along the way. [Franz] Beckenbauer, we run into on the elevator,” Gulati recollects. “And then we get to the lobby, and there’s people in the lobby, and [Biden is] just phenomenal. He stops. He starts talking to people. Everything you hear about him and the way he is, he starts talking to people he doesn’t know. He goes over and talks to the woman at the registration desk. ‘So where are you from?’ Just engaging in a way that politicians can if they’re warm and personable.”That evening in Rustenburg, a small city about 75 miles northwest of Johannesburg, Biden asked if he could meet with the national team ahead of its match against England. That typically isn’t done. Locker room visits are for postgame. But Biden was a friend, so coach Bob Bradley made an exception. Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, made their way down to the depths of the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, and the vice president delivered a few words to the team. The Bidens then returned to their seats and watched the Americans tie the favored English, 1–1, before going on to win their first-round group for the first time in 80 years.Biden would miss out on the next two significant American soccer events. He intended to go to Zurich in December 2010 to help Clinton make the U.S.’s final case to host the 2022 World Cup, but he was unable to make the trip. Biden’s ability to work a room probably wouldn’t have mattered, as Qatar won a vote that remains shrouded in suspicion. FIFA has since overhauled its system for awarding World Cup hosting rights, the Executive Committee was disbanded and, in 2015, Blatter himself was suspended from all FIFA activities for six years for offenses unrelated to the 2022 bid.The U.S. suffered another wrenching defeat in Biden’s absence in the summer of 2011, when the women’s national team blew two leads to Japan and then fell on penalty kicks in the Women’s World Cup final in Frankfurt, Germany. Jill Biden and Chelsea Clinton were there, however, and the future first lady said a few words to the devastated American players back at the team hotel that evening. “Vice President Joe Biden,” Gulati yelled over the din of the celebrating locker room inside the Arenas das Dunas.Thanks to a resolute defensive performance and a stunning, 86th-minute header from 21-year-old defender John Brooks, the U.S. defeated Ghana, 2–1, in its 2014 World Cup opener. That victory in Natal, Brazil, not only put the Americans on course to reach the second round, it cleansed the palate of devastating losses to the Black Stars at the 2006 and 2010 tournaments. The nemesis was defeated. Spirits were soaring.“We’d beaten Ghana. The team’s excited, and you’ve got the vice president of the United States there, so it’s pretty cool,” Gulati says.Biden and his entourage—including granddaughter Maisy—entered the locker room and congratulated the team. Biden saw coach Jürgen Klinsmann standing nearby and immediately joked that when Clint Dempsey scored the U.S.’s first goal shortly after kickoff, Klinsmann seemed happier than Biden was after the 2008 election.Biden began to make his way around the room. Beasley, who’d just played 90 minutes at left back, had to think fast. The players hadn’t known Biden was coming. Beasley rifled through his toiletry kit.“Mr. Vice President,” he said.Biden turned.“I want to show you—I still have the coin from last time.”It was Beasley’s second moment of triumph that day.“I had the coin in my hand, and I was kind of nervous. I was trying to get his attention,” he recalls. “It was so surreal. He was right in front of me, and I didn’t know how to interrupt him from talking. I didn’t know how to approach the vice president of the U.S. How do you do that? It made it easier because it wasn’t a formal setting. He was talking, going around, shaking hands and this and that, and then he finally got to my area.”Biden seemed overjoyed.“Well, I owe the drink,” Biden exclaimed, before putting his arm around Beasley for a photo.“He wasn’t thrown off by it. He has a quick wit. It was great. It was really great,” Beasley says. “You couldn’t have written a better script for that moment for me, how I had the coin and how it happened and winning the game and how it all ended—a really cool moment.”As Biden left, he turned toward Beasley.“Hey man, any time you want to collect,” he said. “I owe you!” https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/G8pBqsYPZjE ***
There were more celebrations the following summer as the U.S. women exorcised their World Cup final demons and thrashed the Japanese, 5–2, in Vancouver.Biden was there at BC Place with his wife, several grandchildren, Sasha Obama and National Soccer Hall of Fame members Mia Hamm and Cobi Jones, among others. Although the Bidens were brought down to the field following the game, interaction with the team was postponed until October, when the USWNT and U.S. Soccer officials visited the White House. Obama was the primary MC that day, but Biden was in attendance. He greeted the players privately and was presented with a national team jersey.Biden’s tenure as VP was coming to a close, but his relationship with the world champion women would strengthen during his subsequent run for president. Meanwhile, Jill Biden had one more unplanned run-in with the American men in the fall of 2016, when her trip to Cuba coincided with a historic friendly staged in Havana. Hurricane Matthew had devastated parts of the Caribbean in early October, and, although the players and coaches could travel, Gulati’s flight was canceled. He was able to improvise, however, thanks to U.S. Soccer’s connections at the White House. A few phone calls were made, and Gulati was on his way to Andrews Air Force Base for a flight to Cuba aboard Air Force Two.Jill Biden visited the team at its Havana hotel, said a few words and then attended the USA’s 2–0 win over Cuba.***
Between Biden’s visit to Vancouver and the start of the 2020 presidential primaries, Megan Rapinoe had evolved from women’s national team star to FIFA Player of the Year and social justice icon. She was the 2019 Women’s World Cup Golden Ball winner, and, as an outspoken advocate for racial and gender equity, she became the most recognizable face of the WNT’s equal pay crusade.In April 2020, Rapinoe hosted Joe and Jill Biden in a lengthy Instagram Live conversation, during which Jill Biden showed off her partially-dyed purple hair “in solidarity with pay equity,” and Joe Biden said, “You made me a hero,” with a signed WNT jersey he could present to his granddaughter.The men’s national team is the vehicle through which a president or VP can relate to more of the world. But the women’s national team possesses the star power at home.Rapinoe offered to be considered as Biden’s eventual VP nominee, to which Biden responded, “You would have to take a pay cut to become vice president.”Rapinoe answered, “You know I’m not into that!”Biden said, “You should get the same pay your colleagues, that men get. Not a joke. We’ve been hollering about that for a long time.”A few days later, a U.S. federal judge dealt a massive blow to the WNT’s year-long pursuit of relief, declaring via summary judgment that the U.S. women didn’t face discrimination from U.S. Soccer and by some measures had been paid more than the men. In addition, in dismissing a significant part of the lawsuit, the judge found that the WNT had rejected a contract similar to the one signed by the MNT.Left with only a dispute over select working conditions to litigate, the WNT began the process to be able to appeal and vowed to keep fighting.Then Joe Biden emerged with a stunning show of support.U.S. Soccer didn’t respond at the time. Gulati’s successor as president, Carlos Cordeiro, had resigned in March because of sexist language used by attorneys working for the Federation. The new president, former WNT star Cindy Parlow Cone, along with new CEO Will Wilson, pledged to overhaul the governing body’s relationship with its most successful team and work harder to find common ground.There wasn’t much teeth to Biden’s threat. U.S. Soccer doesn’t receive federal funding for its national teams or other programs, and any public money that might support the staging of the 2026 World Cup would be related to the sort of spending that any big event would require, like local security. FIFA and U.S. Soccer executives met several times with members of President Donald Trump’s administration during the bidding process to secure the required visa and tax guarantees.But the power of Biden’s message contributed to a public relations battle that U.S. Soccer knew it was losing, regardless of what happened in court. Parlow Cone and her colleagues are well aware that making things right isn’t just about the letter of the law.“We want President Biden and all Americans to know that we are committed to equal pay and working together with our women’s national team players,” Parlow Cone said in a statement. “We’ve offered them the same compensation as the men’s national team for the games that we control, but haven’t been able to come to an agreement due to their requirement for us to pay the difference in FIFA World Cup prize money, which we don’t control.“We’re doing everything we can to find a new way forward with our women’s national team players,” she added. “We truly want to work together, and our hope is we can meet soon to find a final resolution on this litigation. If we can come together and collaborate, we can have a much bigger impact in growing women’s soccer not only here in the United States, but across the world.”Having a friend in the White House also means having someone who’s going to call you out and keep you honest.”It feels good to know we have a supporter of soccer and our team in the White House,” Rapinoe said in a statement. “From the interactions I’ve had with him, I can tell he’s a man of great empathy and has an innate drive to help people and do his best to try to heal this country. From the World Cups in 2015 to 2019 and his continued support of our fight for equality, we feel his support for our game and I’m hoping we can win something big so we can visit the White House.”Preparation for the 2026 World Cup, which will take place in 16 cities across North America (including 10 in the U.S.), has been delayed by the pandemic. FIFA visits to potential host markets were postponed last year. Most of the help required from the federal government will be logistical, and Gulati, who still sits on the FIFA Council (the larger Executive Committee replacement), says most of it likely will be handled via an interagency coordinator—someone who can get the right person from Treasury or Homeland Security on the phone. Someone from Biden’s administration will fill that role.“It’s not Biden sitting and negotiating what the tax rules are going to be,” Gulati explains. “That means him saying to the right people, ‘Hey, let’s get this done but don’t go overboard,’ or ‘Let’s get this done no matter what.’ ”A number of people involved with the incoming administration have some connection to soccer, starting with chief of staff Ron Klain, who’s a friend of Gulati’s, a fan and the father of a former Harvard player. There’s confidence that World Cup organizers will have a sympathetic ear at the highest level.“Ever since the bidding process for the FIFA World Cup 2026 began, the governments and member associations of Canada, Mexico and the USA have been extremely supportive in their eagerness to host what will be an amazing event for the whole world,” FIFA said in a written statement.“The FIFA President would like to express his sincere congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden and would be honored to meet him at the earliest possible opportunity. As Mr. Biden is a soccer fan himself and someone who believes in the unique power of sport to bring people together, FIFA is greatly looking forward to a fruitful cooperation with Mr. Biden’s administration and to continue the excellent working relationship with the governments, member associations and local organizers of all three host countries.”
Beasley won’t be on the field in 2026. He finally retired at the end of the Houston Dynamo’s 2019 MLS campaign and now, at 38, he’s working on bringing a USL League One (third tier) pro team to his hometown of Fort Wayne, Ind.The coin is on a shelf at his home in Houston.“After that, I put it in my house so I wouldn’t lose it. I stopped carrying it, now that I met Joe,” he says. “It had served its purpose. I don’t need to wait until I meet another official or military person. It served its purpose. Now it’s with my other memorabilia, safe and sound.”He’s right. He doesn’t need the coin. Biden’s promise is right there on video. The only potential problem is that Biden is going to be pretty busy for at least the next four years, and Beasley isn’t yet sure how he’s going to collect the drink he’s owed.“I’ve got to win something so I can get to the White House,” he says. “I like tequila, so hopefully there’s some tequila in the Oval Office.”
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