2/26/21 USWNT Wins Cup, CBSAA adds US games to Soccer Coverage, Chelsea vs Man U Sun 11:30 AM NBCSN

Games to Watch on TV

Not a lot to watch on Sat this week – as EPLs top spot Man City hosting 4th place West Ham at 7:30 am on NBCSN and Sevilla vs Barcelona and American Sergio Dest battling for 3rd in La Liga on beIN Sport at 10:15 am, and RB Leipzig with Adams hosting Borussian Mgladbach at 12:30 pm provide the only top ranked games.  Sunday does give us some good ones though as Man United travel to Chelsea and seldom used American Pulisic (can you sense the anger in my typing with the Dang German Coach Tuchel) and 4th place Roma host Italian leaders Inter Milan at 2:45 pm on ESPN+.  Arsenal do travel to Leicester City in 3rd at 9 am on NBCSN.  

Wed gives us Cup games in Germany as RB Leipzig and Adams face Wolfsburg and John Brooks on ESPN+ at 2:45 pm and Barcelona and Dest play Sevilla and midfielder Mussala) at 3:15 pm.   Lots of rumors this week at Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic to Bayern Munich and Dortmund’s Gio Reyna to the EPL have both been making the rounds.  Good thing I didn’t buy that long sleeve Chelsea Jersey yet!

USWNT beats Brazil 2-0, Argentina 6-0 to Win She Believes Cup

Of course the US finished up the Cup with a solid 5-0 win over Argentina to wrap up as Champions of the She Believes Cup for the 4th time in 6 tries.  The Argentina game saw Rapinoe score 2 more goals, Kristie Mewis 1 and 1 by Morgan (finally) – and 1 by Lloyd who really runs her butt off at the #9 slot.  I thought Morgan or Press should be starting up top but honestly Lloyd outhustles them both –and while she doesn’t always score – her assists and disruption are both pretty solid.  That’s a tough call for Coach A – but Lloyd’s got to be on the team if healthy.  At this point I think Press has earned a starting slot along with either Rapinoe or Heath on the wings.  I just realized Williams is 31 years old and with her inability to finish and score it might leave her out in exchange for someone like 20 yo Sophie Smith or 21 yo Macario.  The midfield is wide open but Lavell and Sam Mewis and Julie Ertz are of course starters.  Tough decisions on everyone else but Horan and MaCario I would think – maybe Kristie Mewis.   In the back its Dunn on the left, Ohara on the right with Sauerbrunn and Dahlkemper in the middle – probably Sonnett as backup on the right side since she can play in the middle as well and perhaps 22 yo Tierna Davidson since she can play wing back, middle or Dmid?  Man cutting this roster to 18 is going to be tough. 

(Possible Olympic Roster assuming no injuries) 5 Mids/5 Forwards/6 Defenders – battling for spots in italics

GK: Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris/Jane Campbell
DF: Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Kelly O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Casey Krueger -30/Tierna Davidson 22/Midge Purce  25 /Ali Krieger
MF: Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario/Kristie Mewis
FW: Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd/Lynn Williams/Sophia Smith

Overall – I thought Brazil gave the US the most trouble.  They had 5 shots on goal – and just missed on 2 really good opportunities where they should have scored.  Still the US was dominant in a game that was wide open for most of the 90 minutes.  The US took the lead early when Christian Press received a good ball on the right wing and cut back on her left to score a solid goal.  After starting Press on the left, Morgan up top and Williams on the right I thought perhaps this is your starting line-up for the Olympics.  Morgan looked good up top but definitely rusty as she was just a step behind all night on scoring – but her passing was pretty spot on.  Williams was good but again just can’t score and at 31 years old she’s not better than those she’s battling for spots with.  When Rapino, and Lloyd came on – in the 70th minute – Rapinoe took advantage and had a solid goal off a cross where she just outfought the defender for the shot on goal to score in the 85th minute or so.  Again overall the US was better than Brazil – but Brazil should have scored to tie this game mid second half had a couple of shots where they could have scored if they hit the shot right.  The center of the US defense was exposed for its lack of speed as Brazil had some breaks thru the middle.  I thought Crystal Dunn at right back, who saved no fewer than 2 goals on the right side of the field from her right back spot, was perhaps the best player of the field.   Still looking at 1 or 2 more friendlies in April before the Olympics in late July.   

Full She Believes Cup squad:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 4), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 65)

DEFENDERS (8): Kasey Krueger, Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG; 63/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 27/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 107/24), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 133/2), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC; 4/1), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 179/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 48/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 105/20), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC;88/20), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG; 48/13), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnaise, FRA; 2/1), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 18/3), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG; 70/21) –out injured.

FORWARDS (6): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 296/123), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 170/107), Christen Press (Manchester United, ENG; 139/58), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 170/54), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 1/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 31/10). (Tobin Heath out 12 wks)

Soccer on TV News  

So first huge news that CBS All Access (becoming Paramount+) next week has announced they have acquired the rights for Nations League games for CONCACAF which includes Men’s and Women’s US games when they are on the road.  They are also grabbing the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying for the US Men and Womens game and they are adding Brazil and Argentina Soccer League coverage.  So now CBSAA/Paramount will carry all of the US men’s and US ladies games the Nations League and for World Cup Qualifying games on the road.  Not sure how I feel about this – more games behind the firewall – I can only hope that they will at least show the big US road games on CBS or CBS Sports Network rather than just on the very poorly delivered online streaming.  (The streaming is live only until the next day – no pausing, or rewinding or forwarding the game like you can on ESPN+).  Yes it will be nice to have all the away games in one place.  I am still worried – we just have more games behind the paywall and less games on TV. Now even US games – normally picked up by Fox Sports 1 or ESPN or beIN Sport on TV – will now possibly be streaming only.  Not good for the sport in my mind but I guess if you have to pay to get Champions League and NWSL already then what the heck – give us everything.  I will say that CBS has done a good job with pregame and post game shows with Champs League and Europa League and NSWL coverage.  So I do think they will treat the games with respect – but man I hate to see more games not on normal TV.  

Speaking of Soccer on TV – over 600K watched the USA vs Brazil game on FS1 Sunday afternoon – somewhat disappointing in my mind – wonder what it would have done on Fox on Sunday at say 1 pm?   Oh well the 600K was the 3rd largest for a women’s game on FS1 other than World Cups.  I guess we see now why more soccer is not on Network TV – we American’s really don’t watch soccer do we?  Not even our Top Ranked US Ladies can draw 1 million fans to watch a game against a really good Brazil team on a cold Sunday afternoon at 3 pm.  Everyone was watching NASCAR I guess.  I was pleased with the FS1 Coverage with a studio show lead in for both the Brazil game and the Argentina game – and the post game for the past 2 games was solid and pre-empted the hoops games starting after them.  Nice to see respect for the US ladies on Fox Sports for change. 

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat,  Feb 27

7:30 am NBCSN               Man City vs West Ham United

9:30 am ESPN+                Beilfeld vs Dortmund (Reyna)

10:15 am beIN Sport         Sevilla vs Barcelona (Dest)

12:30 pm Peacock             Leeds vs Aston Villa  

12:30 pm ESPN+               RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Borussia Mgladbach

2:45 pm ESPN+                 Hallas Verona vs Juventus (McKinney)

3 pm beIN Sport                Getafe vs Valencia (Mussah)

Sun   Feb 28

6:30 am ESPN2                  Sampdoria vs Atalanta

7:30 ESPN+                         Hoffenheim (Richards) vs Union Berlin

7 am Peacock                     Crystal Palace vs Fulham (Robinson)

9 am NBCSN                     Leicester City vs Arsenal

11:05 am beIN Sport         Lille (Weah) vs Stasbourg

11:30 am NBCSN             Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Man United

2:15 pm Peacock               Sheffield vs Liverpool

2:45 pm ESPN+                Roma vs Milan  

3 pm beIN Sport                Villareal vs Atletico Madrid

Mon Mar 1

3 pm NBCSN                      Southampton vs Everton

3 pm beIN Sport                Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad

Tues Mar2

3 pm NBCSN                      Man City vs Wolverhampton

Weds Mar 3  

1 pm NBCSN                      Burnley vs Leicester City

2:45pm ESPN+           RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Wolfsburg (Brooks) German Cup
  

3 pm ESPN+                      Barcelona (Dest) vs Sevilla Copa Del Rey

3:15 pm Peacock               Crystal Palace vs Man United

Thurs Mar 4

3 pm NBCSN                      Fulham vs Tottenham

1 pm Peacock                     West Brom vs Everton  

2:45 pm ESPN2                 Parma vs Inter Milan

3 pm Peacock                    Liverpool vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

 Sat,  Mar 6

7:30 am NBCSN               Burnley vs Arsenal  

12:30 pm ESPN+               Bayern Munich vs Dortmund (Reyna)

Sun,  Mar 7

9 am NBCSN                      Liverpool vs Fulham (Robinson)  

10:!5 am beIN Sport       Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid – Madrid Derby!

11:30 am NBCSN             Man City vs Man United

12:30 pm ESPN+               Bayern Munich vs Dortmund (Reyna)

Mon ,Mar 8

3 pm NBCSN                     Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Everton

3 pm ESPN+                       Inter Milan vs Atalanta

Tues Mar 9

Juventus (McKinney) vs Porto, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Borussia Dortmund (Reyna) vs Sevilla, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Weds Mar 10

Liverpool vs RB Leipzig (Adams). 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

PSG vs Barcelona 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access/CBS Sports Network)

Thursday, Mar 18 –
5 pm FS 1                            USA vs Costa Rica (Olympic Qualifying)

US Ladies

USWNT starting to implement Vlatko’s ‘principles’
Alex Morgan Scores First Goal as a Mom
Stand or kneel? How Megan Rapinoe helped US Soccer change its tune
SheBelieves: USA dispatches tired Argentina 6-0
Megan Rapinoe, USWNT dominate Argentina to win SheBelieves Cup

Rapinoe brace opens floodgates as USA rout Argentina to win SheBelieves Cup

USWNT’s win less about perfection and more about passing crucial tests
   Jeff Carlisle eSPN
Megan Rapinoe gives a nod to USWNT teammates Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris with goal celebration
Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe lead U.S. past Brazil in SheBelieves Cup
Crystal Dunn had a ridiculous, goal-saving slide tackle to keep the USWNT ahead in its match against Brazil
Crystal Dunn on USWNT all standing for anthem: ‘Past the protesting phase’
Final Brazil Game Stats

US MEN

Is it time for Pulisic to leave Premier League?
WATCH: Is there any sense in a Christian Pulisic move away from Chelsea

USMNT’s Morris out for season with ACL blow

Tackle-assist from USMNT’s Adams helps Leipzig pull within two of Bayern

Will Efra pick US or Mexico for Olympics? Kreis talks qualifying roster

Herc Gomez: US-Mexico race for “special” Efra is a game-changer

Doyle: Breaking down the US depth chart for Olympic qualifying

Two Years of Berhalter: Tactical Evolution By Adnan Ilyas

Paramount’s new streaming service just became a must-buy for U.S. Soccer fans

2020 Men’s Olympic Qualifying Full Schedule (all times ET)

Group Stage

Group A: Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, and Dominican Republic
Group B: Honduras, Canada, El Salvador and Haiti   (top 2 teams from each group advance to semis – 2 teams in final advance to Olympics.)  

Thursday, March 18 – Jalisco Stadium
USA vs Costa Rica (5 pm)  FS1
Mexico vs Dominican Republic (7:30 pm)
Friday, March 19 – Jalisco Stadium
Honduras vs Haiti (3:30 pm)
Canada vs El Salvador (6 pm) 
Sunday, March 21 – Akron Stadium 
Dominican Republic vs USA (7 pm)  FS1
Costa Rica vs Mexico (9:30 pm)
Wednesday, March 24 – Jalisco Stadium
Costa Rica vs Dominican Republic (7 pm)
Mexico vs USA (9:30 pm) FS1
Thursday, March 25 – Jalisco Stadium
El Salvador vs Haiti (7 pm)
Honduras vs Canada (9:30 pm)
Semifinals

Sunday, March 28 – Jalisco Stadium
1B vs 2A (6 pm)
1A vs 2B (9 pm)
 Final

Tuesday, March 30 – Akron Stadium
Winner Semifinal 1 vs Winner Semifinal 2 (9 pm)  FS1

EPL

Premier League fight for fourth: Liverpool to miss out? Breaking down the battle, key men

Liverpool ‘zombies’ walking through ‘depressing’ season, says Gary Neville

 Man City’s relentless streak and the uncomfortable questions it raises
Premier League talking points

Premier League Power Rankings

 

WORLD
Manchester United face AC Milan in Europa League last 16

Manchester United and AC Milan will face off in the last 16 of the Europa League after being 
Inter on top, Bayern, Atletico and PSG all stumble: Talking points from around Europe

 

MLS
Thierry Henry steps down as Montreal head coach

Cincy: New West End Stadium almost complete, set for May opening

Doyle’s top 5 teams in MLS right now

Doyle: One big question for each East team as preseason begins

Doyle: One big question for every Western team as preseason begins

Paramount’s/CBS All Access- new streaming service just became a must-buy for U.S. Soccer fans

The streaming wars are heating all the way up.B/y Rob Usry@RobUsry    Feb 25, 2021, 5:00am PST

We should probably preface this blog post by saying this isn’t sponsored content, just an honest assessment of the current Soccer streaming landscape that just shifted dramatically for U.S. Soccer fans.The streaming service currently known as CBS All-Access will be rebranded to “Paramount Plus” next week. With its new look comes a massive acquisition of soccer streaming rights that will make it a must-buy for any hardcore soccer fan, especially those that follow the USWNT and USMNT.In addition to having every UEFA Champions League (men’s) and Europa League match and acquiring the rights for the Argentine and Brazilian first divisions, Paramount Plus has signed a deal with Concacaf for some very important rights that will affect you.  Here’s a detailed description of the agreement between the two parties announced by Paramount on Wednesday:

Concacaf – offering more than 200 Concacaf matches, starting with the Concacaf Nations League Finals in June of this year, which will feature the U.S. Men’s National Team. Coverage will feature all 41 national teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean across different competitions, including the qualifiers for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, which will feature the defending champion U.S. Women’s National Team.The most important thing you need to know is that both the USWNT and USMNT will have World Cup qualifying matches streamed on this new platform in some fashion.  For the men’s side, the rights are split between away matches and home matches (plus Mexico away). During the last World Cup qualifying cycle the rights for away matches belonged to beIN sports, which to put as kindly as possible, did not go well. At least with this model, a modest monthly fee gets you access to every away men’s qualifier. When you consider that just ten years ago every single away qualifier (except against Mexico) was only available through closed-circuit pay-per-view, then this seems like an amazing step in the right direction.  The women’s World Cup qualifying tournament rights are included in the agreement in addition to being the home of NWSL.Paramount will also carry the men’s Nations League Finals this summer and the women’s Nations League beginning in 2023. In addition, they’ll offer plenty of other non-U.S. Soccer related events including the brand new UEFA Europa Conference League (third tier European club competition) beginning this fall.  While all the different streaming platforms that hold soccer rights in this country can be overwhelming, some are better bargains than others. Paramount Plus has jumped up near the top of the list of must-buys, for American soccer fans at least.

The network is expanding its soccer lineup with the addition of Concacaf men’s and women’s World Cup qualifying, the Argentine league and Brazilian league, according to Jonathan Tannenwald from The Philadelphia Inquirer.

CBS has English-language broadcasts rights to both the Concacaf men’s World Cup qualifying final stage games played outside of the U.S. and Mexico leading up to Qatar 2022, as well as the Concacaf women’s qualifying tournament that will send the nations to Australia 2023.CBS and Concacaf concluded their first-ever deal on Wednesday, expanding the network’s soccer portfolio that already has the National Women’s Soccer League, UEFA Champions League and Europa League.The men’s World Cup qualifying eight-team final round is scheduled to begin in September. However, only five nations – the USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Honduras – have qualified to the round, leaving 30 teams divided into six groups to fight for the last three vacant spots during March and June to complete the eight-team final round. The early-round games are not a part of the CBS deal.

USMNT 2022 World Cup qualifying schedule:

  • September 2021: Away game at team TBD, home game vs. team TBD, away game at Honduras
  • October 2021: Away game vs. Jamaica, away game at team TBD, home game vs. Costa Rica
  • November 2021: Home game vs. Mexico, home game vs. Jamaica
  • January 2022: Home game vs. team TBD, away game at team TBD, home game vs. Honduras
  • March 2022: Away game at Mexico, home game vs. team TBD, away game at Costa Rica

All the games CBS acquired the rights to will be available on CBS’s subscription streaming platform currently called CBS All Access. The rebrand to Paramount+ will take place on March 4.On the other hand, the Concacaf 2023 World Cup qualifying will begin in November with a new format. Thirty teams will be divided into six groups of five and the U.S and Canada will go directly into the eight-team-final-round tournament in July 2022. The U.S. and Canada earned the byes by being the top two teams in the region. CBS also acquired the rights to Concacaf’s men’s and women’s Nations League tournaments, starting with the men’s Nations League semifinals and final this summer. The U.S., Honduras, Mexico and Costa Rica are the four sides that will battle for the title at a single site still not determined. The first-ever women’s Nations League will begin in September 2023, after the World Cup. The two teams that qualify for the 2024 Olympics will not take part in the Nations League until the final round, which is scheduled for June 2024.Additionally, Paramount+ will become the new home for English-language coverage of Argentina’s Primera Division and Brazil’s Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A. The service will include over 600 matches from the two leagues. Soccer fans in the U.S. will have a chance to watch the likes of South American giants Boca Juniors, River Plate, Santos, Internacional, Palmeiras and Flamengo.

USWNT lessons from SheBelieves Cup: Team can build on positive momentum

2:11 PM ET      Julie Foudy    Contributor, espnW.com

Few were surprised that the USWNT won its fourth SheBelieves Cup in six years on Wednesday, but the Stars and Stripes certainly made the march to the title more of a slog than anticipated.–  Their opponents — Canada (missing seven key players), Brazil and Argentina (a late replacement for Japan due to COVID-19 concerns) — were not the quality of teams of past SheBelieves Cups, so I thought the tournament would be fairly one sided for the U.S., only that wasn’t the case. Canada looked quite good against the U.S. under their new head coach, Bev Priestman, Brazil was more organized under former USWNT head coach, Pia Sundhage, and Argentina? Well, Argentina was what we predicted… underwhelming. With the Olympics still scheduled to begin less than five months from now, let’s reflect on what we’ve learned from this SheBelieves Cup:

A healthy reminder

For the U.S., not playing their best and still winning the title is always a good thing. Here’s why: These players will return to their clubs knowing that their world domination is not yet complete. In Orlando, they were sometimes exposed at the back, errors that better teams would punish. The U.S. were not clean in front of goal, either — that could be the difference in a tight game against a better opponent. These players know all of this, and that will gently haunt them. They will watch the games back and work on getting things right, understanding that the SheBelieves Cup was a subtle, yet important reminder for them to keep that fire burning bright.

Roster Roulette

Speaking about keeping that fire burning, when USWNT head coach, Vlatko Andonovski, is asked about how many spots on his 18-player Olympic roster remain open, he says 18. Obviously, he has many locked in, but I do think due to the limited games and access to players and training camps, this Olympic roster is understandably going to take longer to decipher.

Roster roulette is a fascinating game to play, so let’s give it a try. Based on the last six games (three in SheBelieves Cup, plus Colombia twice and the Netherlands), and assuming Andonovski and his staff are taking two goalkeepers, six defenders, five midfielders, and five forwards, here are some scenarios (and the player options for that final spot in italics):

GK: Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris/Jane Campbell
DF: Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Kelly O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Casey Krueger/Tierna Davidson/Midge Purce/Ali Krieger
MF: Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario/Kristie Mewis
FW: Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd/Lynn Williams/Sophia Smith

Questions still needing answers

Where is Carli Lloyd in her comeback after missing most of 2020 because of injury?

Lloyd had a goal and assist against Argentina and looked sharper than in her previous SheBelieves Cup game, but she missed a few excellent chances vs. Canada. Rapinoe’s comeback, after also missing most of 2020, seems clearer. She finished the SheBelieves Cup as the leading scorer and also leads the team with five goals in five games in 2021. Rapinoe has shown she can still impact games quickly and consistently. I think Lloyd will need to show that in the coming months as well.

How has Alex Morgan recovered from missing 2020 due to pregnancy, a knee injury and a COVID-19 diagnosis spilling into 2021?

I thought her performance against Brazil was a plus. Her touches were sharp, her movement good. She also scored a nice goal against Argentina.

Did Lynn Williams help or hurt her case for breaking into the final 18 Olympic roster based on her play in this SheBelieves Cup?

This is a tough question for me to answer because I love so much of what Lynn Williams does with her speed. She gets into great positions and turns defenders, which makes her a consistent threat to the opposition. She also does a ton of work on the defensive side of the ball. All great attributes, yes, but her final pass and her finishing are far too inconsistent, hurting her chances to become a regular starter.  If Williams finished some of those opportunities against Canada and Brazil, the games would have been less of a slog.

How many younger players can Andonovski afford to break in? Will they be ready for the Olympics?

Catarina Macario struggled in midfield vs. Canada, but excelled as a forward in both games against Colombia. Unfortunately, Macario did not get to see a lot of time in this SheBelieves Cup as she went back early to her club in Lyon.

Sophia Smith came into the game in the 65th minute against Brazil and while she didn’t make much of an impact, she played a beautiful ball for the assist on Alex Morgan’s goal vs. Argentina. I think this young player may be on the outside peeking in, but she is going to be fun to watch. She runs at players better than most.Then there’s Kristie Mewis. Not a young player — she’s 30 — but she is new to the mix (or, more aptly, newly back in the mix) and has looked consistently sharp, with a goal and assist against Argentina.

Also to ponder:

– Would Andonovski consider taking five defenders, instead of six, since Julie Ertz can also play center-back?

If he did that and he took Dunn, Sauerbrunn, Dahlkemper, O’Hara and Sonnett, the U.S. would have 3 natural outside-back options in Dunn, O’Hara and Sonnett. That seems thin for that position given the tight Olympic game schedule and how often O’Hara has been injured. That is why I think he takes six defenders and Ertz in midfield.  Since he does have the Ertz option at center-back, I think that sixth defender will have to be a player who can play outside back.

– How about the midfield mix?

If Vlatko felt strongly about both Macario and Kristie Mewis, Macario could go as a forward, but that means other forwards (like Lloyd, Williams and Smith) might not make the roster. I cannot see that happening. I think Lloyd is going. Her work on on both sides of the ball is still one of the best on the team. Add in her strong mentality and finishing ability in big moments, and even at 39 years old at the Olympics, she can help the team.

Their Superpower

With the Olympic rhythm being tighter than the World Cup schedule (two days rest at the Olympics, compared to three at a World Cup) and the Olympic roster being five players lighter than a World Cup roster, you can’t afford to bring players who may help the team or are not 100 percent fit. With only 16 field players and limited rest, EVERY SINGLE PLAYER must contribute, which is why the U.S. are the clear favorites to win the Gold Medal: their squad is much deeper than any team out there.That is their superpower. The U.S. can field two line-ups that are quite different, yet both strong, and we’ve seen Andonovski do this throughout his tenure with the national team. Who else in this Olympics pool could do that without losing much at all in that second group? Maybe Great Britain. For the U.S., it will be less about who is starting and more about managing the rhythm of minutes played per game so that whichever combination is on the field, they are aggressively dictating the tempo.Overall, I think the U.S. will take a big positive from this SheBelieves Cup because they remain undefeated under Andonovski, and let’s not forget: they did not concede a goal in this tournament, the first team to ever do that in the tournament’s history. (It just goes to show you the standard by which we judge this team’s performance, which I still think was far from their best.)Andonovski’s last chance to evaluate players against other international opponents comes in the April FIFA window (by the June window, the team will be set). It’s just the environment needed to make those final judgements and then start rallying the Olympic team of 18 together.Here’s to hoping an Olympics will indeed be played in July. Sending out my best YES-the-Olympics-will-be-played karma into the world right now. Do the same, please!

USWNT worked as a unit to unlock Argentina – Vlatko Andonovski

play Megan Rapinoe’s double vs. Argentina seals a fourth SheBelieves Cup title for the USWNT. (1:47)Feb 24, 2021Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Going up against an outmatched and tired opponent, the U.S. put the game away in the first half with a four-goal barrage in a 25-minute span. Megan Rapinoe scored twice during the spell with Carli Lloyd and Kristie Mewis padding the U.S. lead. Christen Press and Alex Morgan tallied in the second half. Morgan’s goal was her first for the U.S. since the 2019 World Cup semifinal against England.

While the result was expected, Andonovski was still assessing his team’s performance with a microscope as he attempts to identify the 18 players he will take to Tokyo for this summer’s Olympics.”It’s always hard to play against a team that sits low, it’s hard to break them down” he said after the match. “And it’s hard to do it quick. So for us, it takes a little bit of time to figure out the angles, to figure out the area, to figure out the positions and how we can do it. So that was one thing that we’re looking at. How quick can we do it? Who can who can figure that out and how we can unlock a team?”So, the understanding of our principles, the implementation of our principles and the execution individually, as a group, as a unit, and also as a team is what we’re looking for. So, overall very happy with how we are performed and how we were able to unlock Argentina early in the game, and how we finished the game as well.”Rose Lavelle was voted the tournament MVP, and while her goal in the 1-0 win over Canada was critical to the U.S. winning the title, she felt that the award should have gone to someone else.”Honestly I don’t know how I won that. I don’t know who picks that,” she said. “I think there were a lot better options … but I guess it’s always it’s always nice to be recognized!”For Morgan, there was relief at scoring for the first time since 2019. Morgan had missed considerable time with the U.S. team after giving birth to her daughter Charlie in May of 2020 and then enduring a bout of COVID-19 earlier this year.”To say it’s been a long time would be an understatement. It’s been over 500 days,” said Morgan via a zoom call afterward. “You guys don’t have to sugarcoat it. But I’m very excited to get my first goal back with the national team.”Morgan added that she feels she’s almost back to full fitness, and expects that to come in time with club side the Orlando Pride.”I feel like I’m getting my legs underneath me,” she said. “Getting 70 or so minutes the other night, it was a transition game, and I felt like at times I was trying to catch my breath. But looking at the numbers, I had a lot of running in that game, and I was happy with kind of the way that I’ve progressed.”I still don’t feel like I’m 100 percent. I feel like I’m 99 or so. I’m getting there, my timing needs to get better, my instincts need to get better, but I think that will come with like a month straight of team training.”

SheBelieves: USA dispatches tired Argentina 6-0

 strong ending to a tournament that has had its rough spots for the USWNT.By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Feb 24, 2021, 7:15pm PST

Starting XI: Jane Campbell, Kelley O’Hara, Tierna Davidson, Becky Sauerbrunn, Casey Krueger, Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle, Kristie Mewis, Christen Press, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe

It was indeed a game of roster rotation as Vlatko Andonovski rolled out his starting lineup against Argentina. Jane Campbell, Kelley O’Hara, and Tierna Davidson all got their first minutes, while Casey Krueger and Kristie Mewis got their first starts. There was also some tinkering with the forward line as Lynn Williams finally got some rest and Andonovski shifted Press to the right side.Right away the team looked much more fluid and mobile, although it can’t be discounted that they were facing a more tired, slower Argentina team at the end of the tournament. The US looked often for the direct ball over the back line or the wide play, staying away from Argentina’s attempts to compact the middle. Early on, there was an attempt by Argentina at defending in an orderly 4-2-4, facing up in compact lines particularly when Julie Ertz had the ball at feet and was looking to distribute. That fell off a bit as the US began to systematically, repeatedly tear the Argentina backline to shreds.Without Lynn Williams in the mix, it was mostly Rose Lavelle who was pulling the game wide on the right, with some crossing from Kelley O’Hara. O’Hara had a planned 30 minutes in the game before getting subbed out in the 32’ for Emily Sonnett.On the left, Casey Krueger had a very good first half, maintaining the high press while picking out Megan Rapinoe and Kristie Mewis in pockets. Rapinoe had the first goal in the 16’. Lavelle own the ball back in midfield and popped it over the back line. It was a nice enough service that Rapinoe didn’t even need to touch it, just got behind it and finished it nicely.The second goal was in the 26’, once again Rapinoe. Christen Press drifted out of her lane to check back and pick up a ball, then turned and cleverly threaded it for Carli Lloyd. Lloyd did the smart thing and dropped it off for Rapinoe to finish. Then Lloyd got her own goal in the 35’, this time finishing off her own quick little pass from Mewis, who did a good job in the first half with her dynamic runs and late timing into the box.The fourth goal was in the 41’, this one for Mewis herself. The Krueger – Mewis connection paid off again as poor Argentina’s back line got cooked by yet another player making the turn and facing up to goal.

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1364739558072532993&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.starsandstripesfc.com%2F2021%2F2%2F24%2F22300052%2Fshebelieves-usa-dispatches-tired-argentina-6-0&siteScreenName=StarsStripesFC&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px The half ended at 4-0.The second half started with a triple sub, as Lavelle, Lloyd, and Krueger came off for Lindsey Horan, Alex Morgan, and Midge Purce. Horan’s presence shifted Mewis to the right side of midfield, while Morgan went in as the 9 and Purce filled in at RB. The chance creation slowed down a little bit with the change. The US still alternated between trying to drop the ball right over the back line, this time for Morgan to peel off her defender(s) with speed, and pulling wide to create chances with crosses. Purce was effective here again, winning a lot of 1-v-1s and sometimes managing to cook two players in a row.

Argentina pushed back a little bit in the middle of the half, surging with some lovely possession ball while switching the point of attack and trying to lure in the US, but the defense was on it and snuffed out attempts to play in their forwards. Davidson looked solid here, working well with Sauerbrunn, tracking players as well as distributing out of the back.The US made another two subs in the 62’ with Ertz and Rapinoe coming out, and Jaelin Howell and Sophia Smith coming in. Press was able to come left and Howell went in at DM, immediately bringing strong physical energy. Press continued to work well tucking into the halfspace to play quick one- and two-touch passing up the left and rotate into crossing and scoring positions.In the 77’ Mewis delivered a lovely cross that suckered the goalkeeper out; she whiffed it, but Morgan couldn’t quite finish it at the back post. Morgan got her goal eventually, though. Sophia Smith picked up the ball deep in midfield, ate up the space, drew in several players, and was able to feed an open Morgan sitting on the back line. Morgan turned and was gone, finishing the ball to make it 5-0.The last goal was in the 88’ Mewis served in a corner. Horan’s header got sent back across goal face, where Press was in good position to finish the second ball and make it 6-0, which was the score at full time.After the game, Andonovski said he was happy with the performance.“Even though they’re tired or we’re a better team, it’s always hard to play against the team that sits low,” he said. “It’s hard to break them down. And it’s hard to do it quick. So for us, it takes a little bit of time to figure out the angles, to figure out the area, to figure out the positions in how we can do it. So that was the one thing that we’re looking at, like, how quick can we do it? Who can figure that out and how we can unlock a team. So the the understanding of our principles, the implementation of our principles, and the execution individually as a group as a unit, and also as a team is what we’re looking for.”He also had praise for two of the defenders he gave starts for the first time this tournament in Casey Krueger and Tierna Davidson. “Early on [Krueger] had a couple of decisions that she made that I felt like she could have done a better job. But again, it was very early in the game. And once she started feeling the game and understanding the movement of the players ahead of her, I thought that she was very good. And on the other side defensively, there was nothing we can say. I mean, she was spot on in every action that she performed. On the other side, or next to her, Tierna, very calm, dictating the pace together with Becky and spraying balls left and right, I thought she did good.” Andonovski said that Krueger was a planned sub after 45 minutes, based on where she’s currently at in her fitness and recovery.When asked about his players rotating well through space, Andonovski said, “We work lots of different rotations, interchanging of positions. We work on players making different runs in different movements. And what we always say is, we give them tools, and they need to use them in different times in different ways.”That’s certainly what we got out of the team tonight. Once again, it’s important to remember this was against a tired team just getting their legs back under them after over a year out of the international game. But let’s not completely discount that this was a positive ending after two games where they struggled to execute, particularly given the player rotation, namely resting Crystal Dunn and Lynn Williams. It was a glimpse of what he clearly wants this team to be, with versatile players able to move quickly and creatively in and out of passing channels. There’s a couple of FIFA windows upcoming that are probably going to be further opportunities to winnow this roster to 18 and get everyone back from the NWSL clubs fitter and sharper. With everyone back in game shape, that should be a really fun, really watchable, really dangerous Olympic team. Now the Olympics just have to actually happen.

USWNT’s win less about perfection and more about passing crucial tests

Feb 21, 2021Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Watching the United States women’s national team is an exercise akin to finding flaws in the Sistine Chapel. On most days, there is nary an imperfection to be found. But on the rare occasions when a defect is located in the Americans’ play, there’s a discussion to be had about whether it’s simple nitpicking or whether alarm bells should actually be going off.So what to make then of Sunday’s 2-0 win over Brazil, one that all but clinches the SheBelieves Cup?In many respects, the U.S. did what it normally does. It carried most of the play, and eventually broke through with goals by Christen Press and substitute Megan Rapinoe. The defense bent, but held firm. The result was less about perfection and more about efficiency, especially in both penalty areasThe triumph was the 15th consecutive victory under manager Vlatko Andonovski, who took over from Jill Ellis following the U.S. team’s second consecutive World Cup triumph in 2019. And it can’t be overlooked that the U.S. prevailed against a Brazil side that is currently ranked eighth in FIFA’s latest round of rankingsLooking beyond that metric, Brazil certainly has enough talent to threaten the U.S. There is longtime attacking lynchpin Marta, even as she plays in a wider role for manager Pia Sundhage. Forwards Debinha and Ludmila are skillful enough and mobile enough to threaten any team in the world, and did so on this day. Add in the fact that many of the U.S. players are still in preseason mode, and there’s every reason to think that the Americans’ are in solid shape as this summer’s Olympic Games come more into focus.

– Dunn explains why USWNT stood for national anthem
– Foudy: What the USWNT needs to do to stay on top

“It’s funny because I think every time I’m on this team, wearing this jersey, I feel like everyone expects us to never have a shot on goal against us, or no team to ever create a chance,” said defender Crystal Dunn. “And I can sit here and say I think we played a great game. I think Brazil is a talented group of players.”But part of the reason why the U.S. women have been dominant for so long is precisely because the team is held to high standards, even if at times the expectations border on the ridiculous. And there were enough flaws in Sunday’s match to think that there are some issues to keep an eye on as the departure for Tokyo gets closer.The U.S. delivered a more fluid performance against Brazil than it did in the tournament opener against Canada. That was due in part because Brazil was more adventurous in attack, leading to a more wide-open affair. But in both matches, the U.S. conceded some wide open chances in transition that weren’t converted. In some situations, the U.S. helped itself with some astute covering tackles, like when Dunn slid over in the 13th minute to block Ludmila’s shot, or when Julie Ertz’s recovery run just before halftime spoiled a Brazil counter. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher contributed as well with a first half save from Ludmila.But on other occasions, it was poor finishing by opponents that kept the U.S. net from being breached. Debinha will still be thinking about the opportunity she squandered in the 82nd minute. That is something the U.S. can’t continue to rely on going forward.The play of right back Emily Sonnet was a concern as well, as she came out second best in a number of duels, though Andonovski defended the player given she was up against Marta for much of the day.”A couple of times that I thought she could have done a better job,” he said. “But overall she’s playing against one of the best players in the world right now, and she was able to step in front, deny some of those passes going to her. She was able to get the ball a few times so overall good performance.”To Andonovski’s credit, the transition opportunities that were apparent in the first half were largely kept in check after halftime thanks to a few tactical tweaks. This included dropping Ertz a bit deeper to limit space for Debinha and Ludmila, as well as provide additional cover for center backs Abby Dahlkemper and Becky Sauerbrunn. The U.S. also did a better job of getting pressure on the ball in midfield and slowing down Brazil’s attempts to play in transition.”We know that if we give them a lot of space as a unit that they’re going to expose it, and I thought in the first half, we didn’t do a good enough job in closing the space” said Andonovski. “After we adjusted the structure a little bit, I thought we did an incredible job in the defending their transition.”It’s worth mentioning however that in the prior game against Canada some transition opportunities were also conceded. It’s certainly no time to panic in terms of the U.S. defense, but there is reason to be wary of how teams look to exploit weaknesses.There seems to be a bit more patience attached to the team’s attack, with Lindsay Horan’s two assists the highlight, along with Rapinoe’s “Rock the Baby” celebration, an ode to teammates Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris adopting a baby last week. Horan’s performance was a reminder that the Andonovski has options behind the injured Sam Mewis. Press showed her quality as well with a well taken goal.The return of Alex Morgan was alsoplus, given that it was her first national team start since giving birth last year. She put in an active shift over 71 minutes.All of that said, the U.S. team needed to be tested in this tournament, and it has been, which for Andonovski was the point of these matches all along.”We want to play the best competition possible,” he said. “We want to play against different types of opponents, opponents that will present different challenges, for a reason. So we can go back in a room now, back in the office, and study, why is it that they were able to get 10 shots on goal? What is it that we could have done different? And we hopefully we can get better from it.”As for perfection, the U.S. is hoping that happens later this summer.

Herculez Gomez: US-Mexico race for “special” Efrain Alvarez is a game-changer

February 25, 20212:55PM ESTCharles BoehmNational Writer

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets/follow_button.6e189c4f2b6d88c453045806323cdcf3.en.html#dnt=false&id=twitter-widget-0&lang=en&screen_name=cboehm&show_count=false&show_screen_name=true&size=m&time=1614353294045 To borrow a concept from 1980s cinema, the US men’s national team technical staff had a “Say Anything” moment this week.Maybe including Efrain Alvarez on their 48-player preliminary roster for next month’s Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament wasn’t quite as bold or moving as John Cusack hoisting that boombox over his head outside his high-school sweetheart’s house. But it’s not all that often that a national team underlines their appreciation for a young player by including them in such a list all while they’re already on the list of the rival country next door.That’s music to the ears of Herculez Gomez.“With Jonathan Gonzalez and past players this had happened to, it was like, ‘Well, yeah, but what happened? They weren’t very good.’ That always seems to be the mindset, or the excuse,” the ESPN pundit and retired USMNT striker told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday.“For the first time in its history, you’ve had something like this happen, you have two national teams who are openly fighting for [Alvarez]. You have Gregg Berhalter, who has mentioned him more than once, who invited him to camp for the December camp [and] El Salvador game. You have a Mexican national team that is openly recruiting players in your own country, who are very keen on retaining said player and future players like him. So this is a game-changer.”A Mexican-American who played club soccer on both sides of the border but proudly represented the country of his birth at the international level, Gomez is one of the most vocal critics of U.S. Soccer’s approach to Latinos in recent years.But he sees reasons for optimism as Berhalter and US Olympic coach Jason Kreis work to make their program attractive to players like Alvarez and Gonzalez, the California native and CF Monterrey midfielder who sparked recriminations when he switched allegiances to El Tri in 2018. It’s all occurring even if “Efra” remains somewhat unproven at the first-team level, with one goal and five assists in 1,236 MLS minutes over the past two seasons.“Whatever he does, he’s going to let somebody down,” Gomez said of Alvarez. “That’s the reality of things, I’m sure within his own household there are contrasting views. So it’s a difficult choice. That was my immediate reaction.“Now, where can he most likely play? That gets a little murkier,” he added. “You look at the amount of players in the US men’s national team or youth national team pools that are that are emigrating abroad, it’s going to be a little bit tougher for him to maybe get in some of those camps, maybe get noticed more over players who are playing in Europe. And maybe that’s not the same on the Mexico side. Why? Because Mexico quite frankly isn’t exporting as many U-23 players as the States is at this moment.”Alvarez also faces questions about his best positional fit at the international level and his ability to match the physical and defensive demands of the systems preferred by Berhalter and Mexico coach Tata Martino. Former Galaxy coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto was quite measured with Alvarez’s playing time for similar reasons. But the Los Angeles native possesses rare levels of final-third creativity and Gomez finds the effusive praise of Efra’s former teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic still ringing in his ears.“[Schelotto] was open about it, he needs to be a harder worker, he needs to take more responsibility. Tactically he needs to be more of a team player, all these different things,” said Gomez. “But I go back to Zlatan Ibrahimovic … they asked him about Efra and he blatantly says he’s the only one with the soccer brain. He’s the only one who understands how to play.“He’s talking about a kid who’s 16 years old [at the time]. So it’s got to blow your mind – if Zlatan, one of the greatest footballing talents of certainly my generation, and maybe in the world’s history of the game, has this kind of thought about a player who’s 16 years old, you’ve got to be asking yourself: What can you do to explode this talent? What can you do to make sure he’s on the right track to progress?”

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=cboehm&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1102062961084882944&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F25%2Fherculez-gomez-us-mexico-race-special-efrain-alvarez-game-changer&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px Herc warns that “there are going to be thousands more like Efra,” as both sides scramble to unearth and polish other dual-national gems among the Mexican-American diaspora. It’s the latest installment in a long-running competition, albeit one that may be charged with extra meaning as US-reared prospects become dramatically more attractive, and valuable, to big clubs across Europe.In 2019, the FMF (Mexican federation) hired USMNT icon and former US youth national team coach Hugo Perez to scout for El Tri-eligible talent in the United States. Gomez said they’ve reached out to him, too.“I have received phone calls from FMF asking me what they can do to openly recruit and help their cause within the States. I’ve been contacted by the Mexican federation before the US federation, which blows my mind,” he said.“I think finally both [national teams] are recognizing the importance of a certain type of player.”

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