Interesting as all the talk after the Magnificent World Cup win by Messi and Argentina was about Messi being the GOAT. But Pele’s death happening yesterday reminded us who the GOAT really was the Man who Coined Soccer – the Beautiful Game- King PELE. Pele was before my time – I simply was not a soccer guy until the 1982 World Cup – so I just didn’t experience the PELE phenomenon first hand. But looking back now – there isn’t really any question. Pele scored a record 1283 goals in 1367 – that’s almost 1 goal a game average. He is also the ONLY player to EVER win 3 World Cups (1958, 1962, 1970). Much like Muhammed Ali, Pele transcended from Sport – he was perhaps THE BEST Known athlete of his day. Sad that back then Brazilian players did not play in European leagues – so Pele (who played professionally for Santos in Brazil) never got to play in the well known European Competitions – for this reason he never won the Baloon D’Or or Player of the Year honors – no doubt he would have won it 10 plus times if he had. Santos would travel the world and play Exhibition games around Europe and the World beating the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Milan, Paris, Juventus, Liverpool, Man United and many more– but since they weren’t in the league European competition didn’t lead to Champions League or Europa League trophies like it does now. Love this Pele did it first comparison . (Pele the Birth of a Legend Movie) Of course Pele did come out of retirement to thrill US crowds as part of the New York Cosmos in the NASL in the late 1970s and scored the greatest goal in NASL history. (Once in a Lifetimee- the NY Cosmos Story). He played himself in 1 of the Best Soccer movies ever – Victory, he wins it with the Bike. Messi or Pele? Pele & the USMNT video
Games to Watch
American’s in the EPL take the field Sat AM as Leeds United States of America look to stay above the relegation zone as they travel to New Castle United at 10 am on USA. Meanwhile Fulham (in 8th overall) with Jedi and team Captain Tim Ream (who just signed a 1 yr extension after scoring his first EPL goal this week) will host Southampton at 10 am on Peacock. Sunday Tottenham faces Aston Villa at 9 am on Peacock before Chelsea and Puliisic (who started and played 70 min last game) travel to Nottingham Forest at 11:30 am on Peacock. It’s a busy week of soccer as EPL, La Liga and Italy all have games on the docket. Mckinney and Juve play Cremonese on Wed at 12:30 pm on Paramount+, while Leeds United hosts West Ham at 2:45 pm on Peacock while Inter Milan and Napoli square off same time on Paramount+. Thurs we get Chelsea and Pulisic hosting Man City again on Peacock, while Friday gives us Man United hosting Everton in FA Cup play on ESPN+ at 3 pm. FA Cup Dominates the schedule next weekend along with Athletico Madrid vs Barelona and AC Milan vs Roma on Sunday.
CARMEL FC GOALKEEPERS: TRAINING NEXT WEEK – Wednesday Night Trainings Jan-Mar – Badger Indoor Fieldhouse 5:30 pm U12//6:30 pm U13-U14//6:30 pm HS U15+.
GAMES ON TV
Fri, Dec 29
2:45 pm USA West Ham vs Brentford
3 pm Peacock Liverpool vs Leicester City
3:30 pm ESPND, + Real Valladolid vs Real Madrid
Sat, Dec 31
7:30 am USA Wolverhampton vs Man United
8 am ESPN+ Barcelona vs Espanoyl.
10 am USA New Castle United vs Leeds United (Adams, Aaronson)
10 am Peacock Fulham (Ream, Jedi) vs Southampton
10 am Peacock Man City vs Everton
10:15 am ESPN+ Villarreal vs Valencia
12:30 pm NBC Brighton vs Arsenal (Turner)
Sun, Jan 1
9 am Peacock Tottenham vs Aston Villa
11:30 am Peacock Notingham Forest vs Chelsea (Pulisic)
2:45 pm beIN Sport Lens vs PSG
Mon, Jan 2
12:30 pm USA Brentford vs Liverpool
11 am bein sport Lille (Weah) vs Reims
Tues, Jan 3
2:45 pm USA Arsenal vs New Castle United
2:45 pm Peacock Leicester City vs Fulham (Ream, Jedi)
3 pm Peacock Man United vs Bournmouth
Weds, Jan 4
12:30 pm Paramount+ Cremonese vs Juventus (McKinney)
2:45 pm Peacock Leeds United (Adams, Aaronson) vs West Ham
2:45 pm Para+ Inter Milan vs Napoli
3 pm USA Crystal Palace vs Tottenham
3 pm ESPN+ Intercity vs Barcelona
Thu, Jan 5
3 pm Peacock Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Man City
Fri, Jan 6
3 pm ESPN+ Man United vs Everton FA Cup
Sat, Jan 7
7:30 am ESPN+ Tottenham vs Portsmouth FA CUP
10 am ESPN+ Hull City vs Fulham (Ream, Jedi) FA CUP
10:15 am ESPN+ Villareal vs Real Madrid
10 am ESPN+ Coventry vs Wrexham FA Cup
12 noon Para+ Juventus vs Udinese
12:30 pm Luton Town (Horvath) vs Wigan FA Cup
3 pm ESPN+ Liverpool vs Wolverhampton
Sun, Jan 8
10 am ESPN+ Cardiff vs Leeds United (Adams, Aaronson) FA CUP
10:15 am ESPN+ Villareal vs Real Madrid
11:30 am ESPN+ Man City vs Chelsea (Pulisic) FA Cup
11:30 am ESPN+ Aston Villa vs Stevenage FA Cup
2:45 pm Para+ Milan vs Roma
3 pm ESPN+ Athletico Madrid vs Barcelona
Mon, Jan 9
3 pm ESPN+ Oxford United vs Arsenal (Turner) FA CUP
Tues, Jan 10
3 pm ESPN+ Man United vs Charlton Athletic League Cup
3 pm Para+ Inter Milan vs Parma Copa Italia
Weds, Jan 11
3 pm ESPN+ Man Coty vs SouthamptonLeague Cup
3 pm Para+ Milan vs Torino Copa Italia
3 pm ESPN+ Real Madrid vs Valencia Supercopa
Thu, Jan 12
3 pm USA? Fulham (Ream, Jedi) vs Chelsea (Pulisic)
Fri, Jan 13
3 pm USA? Aston Villa cs Leeds United (Adams, Aaronson)
3 pm Para + Napoli vs Juventus (McKinney)
Sat, Jan 14
7:30 am USA Man United vs Man City
Thu, Feb 16 She Believes Cup
7 pm Fox Sports 1? USWNT vs Canada
Sun, Feb 19
3:30 pm Fox USWNT vs Japan
Wed, Feb 22
7 pm FS1 USWNT vs Brazil
CARMEL FC PLAYERS : Winter Players League (WPL) – Badger Indoor Fieldhouse
As the fall season comes to a close over the next month, we wanted to let you know that we will be launching an indoor soccer league over two six week sessions within our new Badger Fieldhouse. Games will be played on either Friday night ( 6pm to 10pm) or Sunday afternoon (1pm-5pm) depending on age groups: U8s, U9&U10, U11&U12, U13-U15 and U16+ (Coed Teams allowed). Referees for each game, 50 minute games, 5v5, 7v7 and 9v9 matches.
Session One (6 weeks): Jan 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th / Feb: 3rd, 10th
Session Two (6 weeks): Feb 17th, 24th / Mar 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th
Gather teammates and be ready to play!
US Women – She Believes & World Cup Coming
Pele dies aged 82: Lionel Messi, Sir Bobby Charlton and Joe Biden lead tributes to Brazil footballing great
Examining the incredible legacy of Brazilian soccer legend Pelé
‘Football in four letters’: Global media bows to ‘King’ Pele
Mbappé, Neymar, President Biden, Obama among those who pay tribute to Pelé
Pelé, who rose from a Brazilian slum to become the world’s greatest soccer player, dies at 82
Pelé was a hero to many but especially to young American Black soccer players … like me | Opinion USA Today
Appreciation: Pelé was the greatest soccer player. Was that good or bad for Brazil and for soccer?
Pelé remembered for transcending soccer around world
Pele: The greatest footballer of them all
Pele: Key dates in life of a football legend
Nobody disputes Pelé’s greatness but goal count fuels debate
Loyal to Santos, Pelé toured and scored in Europe
Mbappe, Ronaldo and other soccer stars mourn Pelé I The Rush
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USMNT’s Tim Ream signs new one-year deal with Fulham
By Peter Rutzler Dec 26, 2022
U.S. men’s national team and Fulham centre-back Tim Ream has signed a new one-year deal with the west London club.Ream, 35, impressed at the 2022 World Cup and scored the first Premier League goal of his career during Fulham’s 3-0 win against Crystal Palace on Boxing Day.The veteran defender has started all 16 of Fulham’s league matches this season, helping Marco Silva’s side to eighth place in the table. And after the victory over Palace, Silva hailed Ream’s, saying, “(He has had) a brilliant year. Collectively for us but as an individual, he has been fantastic.
“No one believed (he would play) the way he’s been performing right now. No one believed before that probably he would be involved in World Cup, playing all the games 90 minutes, in the way he played.
“I think coming back in very good shape like he showed this afternoon, it shows how is a great professional, a very good player.
“He is a really important player for me, that is leading by example.”
Speaking on the deal, which will see him remain at Fulham until the summer of 2024, Ream told Fulham’s club website: “I’m still not retiring! I’m going to be here for year number nine, and I’m excited.
“I feel the best I’ve ever felt, as confident as I’ve ever been. To extend it another 12 months into 2024 is a proud moment for myself and my family.”
It caps a memorable year for Ream, who was recalled to the USMNT for the World Cup, having previously not played since October 2021. He went on to play 90 minutes in all four of his country’s World Cup matches as they reached the last-16, ultimately losing 3-1 to the Netherlands.
On club level, a new deal culminates an impressive ascent, as the USMNT international started all 46 matches in Fulham’s title-winning Championship season, which earned them promotion back to the Premier League.
It also extends the west London club’s deep links with the USA. For example, Fulham have seen 91 goals scored by American players in the Premier League (excluding own-goals) — the same number as scored by every other team in the competition combined.
Pele: Brazil football legend dies aged 82
By The Athletic Staff 5h ago
Pele, one of the greatest footballers of all time, has died at the age of 82.The former Brazil, Santos and New York Cosmos striker died after being hospitalised at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo since November 29 due to his battle with colon cancer.Pele is Brazil’s joint all-time leading goalscorer, with 77 goals in 92 internationals. He is the only player to win three FIFA World Cups, in 1958, 1962 and 1970.A tribute to Pele on his official Instagram page read: “Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pele, who peacefully passed away today.“In his journey, Edson charmed everyone with his brilliance in sport, stopped a war, performed social work around the world, and spread what he most believed to be the cure to all our problems: love.
“Your message in life will become a legacy for generations to come. Love love and love forever. Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pele, who peacefully passed away today.“On his journey, Edson enchanted the world with his genius in sport, stopped a war, carried out social works all over the world and spread what he most believed to be the cure for all our problems: love. His message today becomes a legacy for future generations. Love, love and love, forever.”Pele’s daughter — Kely Nascimento — shared a picture of several hands touching the Brazil legend along with the caption: “Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peaceTributes have poured in since Pele’s death was confirmed.Neymar, who is Brazil’s joint top scorer alongside Pele, said: “Before Pele, 10 was just a number. I’ve read this phrase somewhere, at some point in my life. But this sentence, beautiful, is incomplete. I would say before Pele, football was just a sport. Pele has changed it all.“He turned football into art, into entertainment He gave voice to the poor, to the blacks and especially: He gave visibility to Brazil. Soccer and Brazil have raised their status thanks to the King! He’s gone but his magic remains. Pele is FOREVER!!”
Kylian Mbappe tweeted: “The king of football has left us but his legacy will never be forgotten. RIP KING.”
Santos, the Brazilian club he represented from 1956 to 1974, paid tribute to Pele by changing their Twitter display picture to a crown.In 1999, he was named Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee and one year later he was voted World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics.
FIFA, world football’s governing body, refers to him as ‘the Greatest’.
Pele was born in 1940 in the municipality of Tres Coracoes, the son of Fluminense footballer Dondinho and Celeste Arantes.
He made his debut for Santos aged just 15 and was handed his first full Brazil cap at 16. He scored on his debut for his nation, and remains the youngest-ever scorer for Brazil 65 years later.
Pele is Santos’ all-time top goalscorer with 643 goals from 659 games and helped the Brazilian side to win multiple trophies, including six league titles, the 1962 and 1963 Copa Libertadores and also 1962 and 1963 Intercontinental Cup.
Later in his career, he moved to the New York Cosmos. Pele became one of the stars of the North American Soccer League. He scored 37 goals in 64 games for the club, and in 2010 he was named their honorary president.
His total of 1,279 goals in 1,363 games — which somewhat controversially includes friendlies — is recognised as a Guinness World Record.
But it is for his feats in the famous yellow shirt of Brazil that Pele will be best remembered.
He became one of the world’s first truly global black sports stars at the 1958 World Cup and is the only player in history to win that tournament three times.
Pele was admired by his peers. Three-time Ballon d’Or winner Michel Platini compared him to “a God” while in 2015 Cristiano Ronaldo said: “Pele is the greatest player in football history, and there will only be one Pele.”
Ronaldo’s future, Haaland’s record goals chase, Women’s World Cup: What to watch for in 2023
1:09 PM ET Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC
Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland all made the headlines in 2022, while Argentina and Real Madrid claimed football’s biggest trophies by winning the World Cup and Champions League, respectively, but there are already big storylines brewing for 2023. Some of the game’s biggest players will move to new teams, and there’s likely to be a change of ownership at two of football’s most high-profile clubs.
And although 2023 will be a quiet year on the international front in the men’s game — with the Asian Cup, to be staged in Qatar, the only major tournament on the calendar — the FIFA Women’s World Cup will see its champion crowned in Australia and New Zealand in July and August.
There are some big issues to be resolved in the months ahead, so how will they all play out?
Where now for Cristiano Ronaldo?
Ronaldo has been a free agent since Manchester United cancelled his contract during the World Cup, so there has been nothing to stop the 37-year-old from already finding a new club. But although the Portugal forward has been training with former team Real Madrid to stay in shape, Ronaldo has yet to announce his next destination.
The most likely outcome for Ronaldo is a move to Saudi Arabia, with Riyadh-based team Al Nassr having made a hugely lucrative offer for the player. Sources have told ESPN that Al Nassr are prepared to pay Ronaldo £175 million a year to join the club.
Ronaldo cited a desire to play in the Champions League when he attempted to force a move from United during the summer, but a move to Saudi Arabia would end his prospects of a Champions League swansong. Yet as it stands, any hope of a major European team making a move for him now seems unlikely to come to fruition.
A move to MLS is another possibility, but not even the glamour teams in Los Angeles or Miami could come close to competing with the money on offer in the Middle East.
Haaland on course for Premier League history
Predictions are always a risky business in football, but if you want a safe bet for 2023, there’s probably nothing safer than tipping Haaland to smash the Premier League record for goals in a single season.
Andy Cole (Newcastle 1993-94) and Alan Shearer (Blackburn 1994-95) jointly hold the record of scoring 34 goals in a Premier League season, but those two recorded their goal tally when there were 22 teams in the top division and 42 games a season, rather than today’s 20-team / 38-game Premier League season. Meanwhile, Manchester City forward Haaland took his Premier League goal haul to 20 during the 3-1 win at Leeds on Wednesday. He also became the quickest player ever to reach that figure, doing so in just 14 appearances.
It seems inevitable that Cole and Shearer will be erased from the record books in the weeks ahead, with the only real question surrounding how many goals Haaland will score. The last player to break the 40-goal barrier in England‘s top division was Chelsea‘s Jimmy Greaves, who scored 41 in the 1960-61 season. The Norway international is almost certain to be the next.
Can Erling Haaland score 50 goals this season?
Shaka Hislop and Julien Laurens discuss Erling Haaland’s performance vs. Leeds and whether it’s possible for him to reach 50 goals on the season.
New owners at Manchester United and Liverpool
Manchester United and Liverpool are the Premier League’s two biggest and most historic clubs, and both are on the market to be sold.
With Chelsea sold by former owner Roman Abramovich to an American consortium led by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly for £2.5 billion in May — with another £1.75 billion committed to future investment — it is expected that United and Liverpool will be sold for figures much higher than the Chelsea sale price. Sources have told ESPN that United’s owners, the Glazer family, believe they can raise over £6 billion for the club, while Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool’s owners, are expected to command a figure in excess of £4 billion for the six-time Champions League winners.
The rarity value of two such historic and globally renowned clubs being on the market is likely to inflate the sale price of both United and Liverpool, but sources have said that the Glazers’ asking price is optimistically high. With champions Manchester City (United Arab Emirates) and an emerging Newcastle (Saudi Arabia) owned by oil-rich states, United and Liverpool risk falling behind in the race for honours unless they can find new owners capable of matching the incredible financial power of two of their Premier League competitors.
Laurens impressed by Mbappe’s response to Argentina celebrations
Julien Laurens praises Kylian Mbappe for his mature response to France’s defeat in the World Cup final.
Will Kylian Mbappe stay at PSG or go?
Every transfer window brings a Kylian Mbappe saga about whether he will stay at Paris Saint-Germain or move to Real Madrid.
During the past two summer windows, PSG fended off strong interest from Real to keep Mbappe at Parc des Princes, and the Qatari-owned French champions were able to persuade the 24-year-old to sign a three-year contract when his existing deal expired this summer. But Mbappe has cut a frustrated figure at PSG at times this season, with constant reports of his unhappiness at the club and ongoing desire to move to Madrid.
Mbappe’s PSG contract is reportedly worth more than £540 million over three years, so the financial cost of doing a deal to take him from Paris would be huge for Real. But having missed out on Mbappe and Haaland last summer when they wanted both, Real will push hard again for Mbappe this time around. In short, expect another big transfer showdown this summer.
A three-peat for USWNT or England’s first time?
The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup promises to be the most competitive ever, with reigning champions the United States facing a real challenge from European champions England in Australia and New Zealand.
A 2-1 England win against the USWNT in a friendly at Wembley Stadium in October has given the Lionesses an early psychological advantage over their big rivals, but the Americans remain the team to beat in July and August. After all, Vlatko Andonovski’s team will be attempting to win their fifth World Cup and third in a row — something that has never been achieved in the women’s or men’s World Cup — while England head Down Under in pursuit of their first world title.
Although Sweden, Germany, France and Spain will also expect to challenge for the title, England and the USA are the outstanding teams in the tournament, and with those two on alternate routes to the final, it is already set up for them to meet in the World Cup final in Sydney on Aug 20.
Marcotti: No need for Messi to rush PSG contract extension
Gab Marcotti believes it makes sense for Lionel Messi to extend his PSG contract, but feels there is no need to rush a new deal.
What will Lionel Messi do next?
Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain contract runs out on June 30, so the 35-year-old can start to negotiate in January with clubs over a free transfer move at the end of the season.
Both Messi and PSG have the option to extend his contract in Paris for a further 12 months, and sources have said that is the most likely outcome, with PSG determined to hold on to the player who inspired Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar. But Barcelona president Joan Laporta has spoken publicly in recent days about his desire for Messi to return to Camp Nou and see out his playing days at the club where he enjoyed such incredible success.
Sources have told ESPN that Inter Miami have spoken to the Messi camp about a move to MLS, in 2023 or 2024. Right now, a move to MLS seems unlikely in the coming year with Messi still having unfinished business in the European club game, although that could change if he helps PSG win their first Champions League this season.
Ultimately, nobody can compete with PSG’s financial might, which means a return to Barcelona or a move to MLS seem to be at least 18 months away.
Who’ll win the race to sign Jude Bellingham?
Every major club in Europe tried to sign Haaland from Dortmund last year before Manchester City won the race for the striker by triggering his £51 million release clause at the German team. The same clubs are already vying for position to sign Bellingham, who emerged from the 2022 World Cup as one of the stars of the tournament with England, despite being just 19 years old during Qatar 2022.
Sources have told ESPN that Liverpool, Manchester City and Real Madrid are leading the chase to sign the midfielder, with Manchester United accepting that they cannot compete for a player they came close to signing as a 17-year-old when he left Birmingham City for Dortmund in 2020.
Liverpool have spent more than 12 months attempting to put themselves in pole position for Bellingham, and sources have said they remain a strong contender, but with the player not having an escape clause like Haaland had in his contract, Dortmund will expect a transfer fee in excess of £120 million — a sum that could price Liverpool out.
If it comes down to which club can pay the biggest fee, City and Real will be the final two again, just as they were with Haaland. But don’t rule Liverpool out. They have done so much groundwork on Bellingham that it might yet prove decisive.
Celebrating Pele, the greatest player in World Cup history
Michael CoxDec 29, 202240
It is a matter of opinion whether Edson Arantes do Nascimento was the greatest footballer in the history of the world, but there’s little doubt he was the greatest footballer in the history of the World Cup. One simple fact concisely demonstrates that: Pele won it three times. No one else in history, man or woman, can match that.
Pele was nine years old when Brazil suffered a shock loss to Uruguay at the Maracana in the 1950 final, surely the most devastating defeat any nation has suffered in a World Cup. In the days before television, Pele’s family listened to the game on the radio, while Pele ran in and out of the house, playing football while periodically checking the scoreline.
At full-time, Pele saw his father — himself a renowned footballer — cry for the first time. He says he promised he would bring the Jules Rimet trophy back to Brazil one day.
But even Pele himself couldn’t have imagined it would be only eight years before he fulfilled his promise — and he remains the youngest ever World Cup winner, at 17 years and 249 days. When the Brazil side departed for Sweden, it was the first time Pele had been on a plane.
He nearly didn’t make it. The 17-year-old, who only had a year’s experience of professional football, was a highly controversial pick ahead of Corinthians legend Luizinho. Before departing for Sweden, one of Brazil’s warm-up matches was against Corinthians — and, with tremendous predictability, Pele was hacked to the ground by a defender, which threatened his participation in the tournament — and briefly re-opened the door for Luizinho.
Pele missed Brazil’s subsequent warm-up games and the first two games of the tournament, before making his World Cup debut, still far from 100% fit, in a comfortable 2-0 win over USSR. Pele didn’t score, although he was confident enough to try an audacious chip over Lev Yashin, still widely regarded as the greatest goalkeeper ever.
Pele scored six goals at his first World Cup, and all came in the knockout stage. His first came in a 1-0 victory over Wales, a tight game settled by a moment of brilliance that was typical Pele. It consisted of three touches, all of which would become familiar across subsequent tournaments.
The first touch was with his chest, which Pele used more successfully than any player in football history.
The second touch allowed him to turn past the defender in a typically smooth way. This was Pele’s real speciality, his ability to beat players on the spin. “[You have to] know how to receive a pass, to touch the ball onto wherever you want it to go,” he later explained. “Many of my team-mates could run well with the ball, tackle well and perform tricks, but not all of them knew how to receive the ball. They didn’t have this extra vision that I seemed to have. Maybe it’s something you can’t teach.”
The third touch was also classic Pele — although two-footed, he would shoot with his right foot when possible, even if the ball was slightly awkward to reach. He always got his head over a bouncing ball, keeping the shot down.
Pele’s only World Cup hat-trick came in the semi-final, a 5-2 win over France. The first was an open goal after the goalkeeper had spilled it into his path.
The second came when Pele produced another of his signature moves, receiving the ball and trying to tee himself up for a mid-air shot. However, he then selflessly attempted to pass to Vava, and when the shot was blocked, he pounced. Again, Pele decided to shoot with his right foot, cutting across the ball with the outside of his boot, when others might have swung their left leg at it.
The third, once again, came when Pele received a bouncing ball and set himself for a mid-air shot — this time, a dipping effort dispatched perfectly.
A freeze frame just before he takes the shot shows what a beautifully elegant player Pele was. This feels almost like a cartoon, a textbook diagram of a perfect volleyed effort.
The final pitched Brazil against hosts Sweden, who took an early 1-0 lead. But Brazil stormed back with two goals from Pele’s strike partner Vava, both close-range finishes after the sublime Garrincha had made inroads down the right.
In between, Vava set up Pele for what was nearly his greatest moment. Brazil’s No 10 received the ball 25 yards out with his left foot, did his usual thing of knocking it up for a mid-air smash with his right, but then touched the ball back onto his left foot, let it drop, and crashed a remarkable half-volley against the top of the far post. It would have been the greatest World Cup final goal of all time.
Pele shakes hands with Gustaf VI Adolf, king of Sweden, before the final (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)
But Pele still earned that honour later in the same game.
Towards the end of the first half, he received a long cross from left-back Nilton Santos with his chest, controlled with his thigh, then knocked the ball past a defender and, with everyone waiting to see the net ripple… he scuffed a shot wide with his left foot.
That was a warning sign. Ten minutes into the second half, he again received a deep cross from Santos, again controlled the ball with his chest, again flicked the ball over a defender — who desperately tried to bring him down…
… before producing another of his classic finishes, again with his head over the ball, dipping the shot down underneath the goalkeeper.
After Mario Zagallo added the fourth and Sweden got one back, Pele completed the scoring in stoppage time with a header.
Pele was outstanding in the air, primarily because he boasted such an impressive leap. He was only 5ft 8in, yet would score a huge number of headers throughout his career, particularly for someone who played as a No 10 rather than a No 9. Almost all his headed contributions came when hanging wide at the far post on the right and receiving a cross from the left.
(Photo: Getty Images)
But footage from the final often only shows the finish itself. That, sadly, omits what Pele did beforehand. Yet again he received the ball with his chest, glanced over his shoulder to check the position of the defender, before bringing his right foot in front of his left and backheeling the ball through to Zagallo, who provided the cross.
That backheel was, in the context of 1950s football, in the context of a World Cup final, a wondrous piece of skill that even Pele often forgot about when later recalling the goal.
Sigge Parling, the defender who had marked Pele in the final, said, “After the fifth goal, even I wanted to cheer for him.” The Brazilian side lifted the trophy and then conducted a lap of honour — not with their own flag, but with that of the host nation, thanking the Swedes for their generosity and sportsmanship.
This was a marked contrast to the scenes after the previous two finals. The 1950 final was treated as a national disaster in Brazil, while the 1954 final, an ugly game where West Germany defeated Hungary in atrocious weather conditions, was dominated by controversy about refereeing decisions, and the fact Ferenc Puskas was still suffering from an ankle injury sustained by a German defender earlier in the competition.
In 1958, though, the world fell in love with Pele.
An unknown in 1958, by the 1962 World Cup he was a global superstar. That status wasn’t enough to get him out of doing military service, however, and therefore in a period of a few months Pele represented five teams: Brazil, Santos, a representative state side, the army national team and his barracks team. Unsurprisingly, this caused physical issues, and Pele developed a persistent groin strain that he attributed to playing too many games.
Brazil started the 1962 World Cup with a battling 2-0 win over Mexico, with Pele assisting Mario Zagallo for a headed opener and then scoring his most underrated World Cup goal, when he essentially outwitted five opponents.
Receiving the ball on the right flank, he knocked the ball past one defender and ran around a second to reach the ball before a third defender, before simply surging past another opponent and belting the ball home with his left foot before a fifth defender could intervene.
It’s a clip barely ever shown on television, which only underlines quite how many remarkable World Cup moments Pele contributed.
In Brazil’s second game, a 0-0 draw with Czechoslovakia, Pele struck a dipping left-footed strike from range, which the goalkeeper parried — and as Pele attempted to get on the end of the rebound, he pulled his groin. With no substitutes allowed in those days, he was forced to soldier on.
At this point, the standard procedure in 1960s football would be for the opposition to kick Pele out of the game. Notably, they didn’t — and in much the same manner that modern-day defenders seem genuinely apologetic when fouling Lionel Messi, the Czechs didn’t go in for the kill.
“I felt as though I was handed a lifeline by the generosity and spirit of the Czech players,” Pele later said. “They could see I was suffering, but rather than exploiting that weakness and seeing me off the pitch for the rest of the game, perhaps even permanently, they chose to gently neutralise me. That’s the definition of fair play… that experience with the Czech players was really moving.”
But that was the end of Pele’s tournament. He sat out the next three games, intending to return for the final, before pulling up in a training session just beforehand. A distraught Pele wanted to return to Brazil, but the management convinced him to stay to make Brazil’s starting XI less predictable for their opponents — who, once again, were Czechoslovakia.
Brazil retained the World Cup, with Amarildo as Pele’s replacement, Vava becoming the first man to score in two World Cup finals, but right-winger Garrincha the true star. Pele had earned a second World Cup winners’ medal.
Pele hugs a team-mate after missing the final through injury (Photo: Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Despite two World Cup successes, in some ways Pele’s life had barely changed — he still lived with his brother, briefly of Santos, and several other team-mates in a shared house in Sao Paulo.
Brazil went into the 1966 World Cup in England as overwhelming favourites, but complacency and poor preparation hampered their performance and they dramatically exited in the group stage.
Brazil arrived in England as the favourites (Photo: Len Trievnor/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Pele did score in their opener against Bulgaria, a blasted free-kick — although it wasn’t even the best Brazilian free-kick of that game, as the wonderful Garrincha scored a memorable outside-of-the-boot swerving effort into the top corner. It was the last time the two legendary attackers would play together.
Pele’s World Cup, though, is remembered primarily for the physical treatment he suffered, and Bulgarian defender Dobromir Zhechev was particularly aggressive. “He seemed to mistake my ankles for the ball,” Pele wryly observed.
Pele after being fouled by Bulgaria (Photo: PA Images via Getty Images)
But this was relatively common practice. “I think every team will take care of him in the same manner,” offered Hungary boss Lajos Baroti by way of defence. That proved prescient.
A hobbling Pele was rested for the second group game against Hungary. Brazil lost — and then, in the final group game against a Portugal side coached by the legendary Brazilian Otto Gloria, Brazil lost again. Pele was back in the side but clearly well short of full fitness, exacerbated by the fact that he was again kicked out of the game, particularly by Joao Morais, who hacked him down twice in one move.
Pele had to be carried from the pitch — again, no substitutes were permitted — and returned to limp around for the final hour, still surprisingly effective despite his obvious limitations.
(Photo: PA Images via Getty Images)
Brazil were eliminated and Pele was so furious by the failure of referees to penalise foul play that he announced his international retirement. “The games were a revelation to me in their unsportsmanlike conduct and weak refereeing,” he later explained. He suggested there was a conspiracy from FIFA president Stanley Rous to have Brazil eliminated from the tournament, to the benefit of Rous’ home country, England.
It was certainly true that the 1966 World Cup was dominated by physicality and strength rather than finesse and technique. That wasn’t for Pele.
For two years Pele kept his word and stayed away from the national side. He focused on Santos, whom he believes peaked in 1968 — they were renowned for their attacking football and their spirit of fair play, in stark contrast with the physical football which was increasingly dominating both the club and international game.
But then Pele had a change of heart, frustrated he’d played in three World Cups without being able to complete them because of physical issues. He’d missed the first two matches in 1958 through injury, the final four matches in 1962 because of injury, and was kicked out of the game in both matches he played in 1966. He’d won two winners’ medals and had scored in all three tournaments. But he was determined to truly dominate a World Cup.
So in 1970, that’s what he did.
Brazil’s preparation for the tournament was, by 1970 standards, extremely advanced. They stayed in Mexico for three weeks before the tournament to adjust to the altitude and manufactured revolutionary kits that didn’t accumulate sweat. Mario Zagallo, with whom Pele had combined excellently in his first two World Cups, was now the manager.
And Pele’s opening goal of the tournament against Czechoslovakia was a throwback to the legendary one Zagallo had assisted for him in the 1958 final — a deep left-footed cross towards the right of the box, which Pele typically brought down with an outstanding leap and perfect chest control, before lashing it home.
(Photo: Allan Olley & Monte Fresco/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
He had now scored in four World Cups, a feat that West Germany’s Uwe Seeler also achieved on the same day when he scored against Morocco.
But Pele’s historic goal was actually overshadowed by one he didn’t score — when he famously shot from inside his own half, only for the ball to drop inches wide of the goal.
This was not an entirely improvised move — Pele had previously noticed that Ivo Viktor, the impressive goalkeeper who would later finish third in the Ballon d’Or voting in 1976, had a tendency to position himself a long way off his line. Pele had looked up and checked his positioning a couple of times beforehand and turned down the opportunity to shoot.
This time he went for it and was inches away from the most famous World Cup goal of all. In a post-Beckham world, and with the internet offering us thousands of goals every weekend, we’ve become a little blase about goals from the halfway line.
But this would have been the first time anyone watching had ever seen anything like this, which is why that near-miss remained such a major part of Pele’s legacy.
Amazingly, it arguably wasn’t even Pele’s most famous near-miss of the tournament. And that’s not even a reference to Gordon Banks’ famous save from Pele’s header in the next group game — another reminder of how Pele was such a tremendous aerial force despite his slight stature. Brazil defeated England, the world champions, 1-0.
Brazil then confidently defeated Romania 3-2 to top the group with eight goals. Pele scored twice in that game, in completely different situations. The first was another blasted free-kick, reminiscent of his sole goal from the 1966 tournament, and the second a good poacher’s effort.
Next came two knockout victories over fellow South American opponents, 4-2 against Peru and then 3-1 against Uruguay. They couldn’t have been more different in style: the quarter-final was a thrilling end-to-end contest. Pele didn’t score, but he hit the post twice (the first time after having yet again brought down a long pass with wonderful chest control) and later produced a wonderful side-footed chip that dropped just wide. He also created a goal for Tostao.
The semi-final was as expected: Brazilian flair against Uruguayan physicality, with the favourites running out 3-1 winners. Pele played a lovely disguised backheel in the build-up to the second, scored by Jairzinho, and then assisted Rivelino for the third.
Then came Pele’s second — or third, if you count the Banks save — legendary miss of this tournament.
As the game went into stoppage time, Brazil charged forward and Tostao played the ball in behind for Pele — perhaps slightly overhit — which invited Pele to throw an outrageous dummy to take Ladislao Mazurkiewicz out of the equation, before running past him, putting the brakes on and turning to collect the ball, before dragging a shot just wide of the far post, with the goal gaping.
“I sometimes dream about both of them hitting the net,” Pele later admitted. “I didn’t attempt those shots thinking about how they would look, though.” Like all the greats, Pele’s trickery was for a purpose.
Speaking to The Athletic last year, the former Brazil centre-back Roque Junior said: “He scored so many goals, but I will always remember that famous one he didn’t score, when he let the ball run past the goalkeeper (against Czechoslovakia in 1970 World Cup.) That was emblematic of his genius. He’s the best player in the history of football. He set a standard that no one has matched since. The fact he was Brazilian was just a bonus.”
And then came the 1970 final for Pele and Brazil, surely still the most celebrated team display of all time. Brazil destroyed a defensive, physical Italian side, with Pele at the heart of everything.
He opened the scoring with another trademark header, beating the ultra-physical Tarcisio Burgnich in the air courtesy of his wonderful spring, and powering a header home.
Rosana, a left-back who made 112 appearances for Brazil women’s team, told The Athletic: “I always think about his goal against Italy in 1970, when a cross came in and he jumped up to an absurd height to head it. It was fantastic, so athletic, and the technique was perfect. That was Pele.”
Pele beat the same defender Burgnich to put the ball in the net a second time, although the referee had adjudged him to have fouled Burgnich. Considering how often the reverse was true throughout this game, it felt somewhat ironic.
(Photo: Mario De Biasi/Mondadori via Getty Images)
After Italy equalized, Gerson scored a long-range thunderbolt to restore Brazil’s lead. Then Pele rounded things off with two assists. The second is more famous, but the first was arguably more stereotypical — yet again, it came from a high ball to the far post, where Pele had pulled off Burgnich to nod the ball across for Jairzinho to bundle the ball home.
Then came the crowning glory, a goal that looks — in isolation — like a fairly standard team move played at walking pace, but in the context of the match overall is the epitome of icing on the cake. Brazil played wonderful football throughout that final, their elegant passing leaving Italy exhausted in the Mexico City heat — the game, incredibly, kicked off at midday. It was, as Brian Glanville wrote, “a marvellous affirmation of what could still be done with attacking football, a splendid reassurance that cynicism, caution and negativity had not, after all, gained a stranglehold on football”.
The fourth goal, like much of Brazil’s fantastic football at this World Cup, wasn’t based upon spontaneity but upon a pre-decided tactical plan. Brazil knew that Italy captain Giacinto Facchetti, the outstanding left-back of his generation, would man-mark right-winger Jairzinho, and therefore tasked him with drifting inside and opening up space on the outside for the onrushing Carlos Alberto. Brazil would switch the play to him making late runs.
In fact, go back to the quarter-final and Brazil nearly scored the same goal against Peru. On that occasion, the shot was blocked.
This time around it worked perfectly. Note that when Pele receives the ball, Tostao, the centre-forward, is directing the play and pointing to the space Alberto is about to sprint into.
(Photo: Peter Robinson/EMPICS via Getty Images)
In truth, Pele probably knew what to do anyway. Not that anyone officially recorded assists back in 1970 but that was Pele’s sixth of the tournament — a record that stands today.
More importantly, in terms of the record books, Brazil became the first nation to win the tournament for a third time — and therefore they were allowed to keep the original Jules Rimet trophy forever, as had been stipulated in 1930 by Rimet, the competition’s originator. A new trophy was commissioned by FIFA ahead of the 1974 World Cup.
If the nation that won the World Cup three times were allowed to keep the trophy, surely the only man to have won the World Cup three times deserves something comparable. The new trophy remains known as the rather bland “FIFA World Cup Trophy”. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to rename it after the greatest World Cup player of all, Pele.
Ream’s Big Day, Mixed Championship performances, Cremaschi to Argentina?
Tim Ream’s great year just keeps getting better with a goal and a new contract. Also, Americans abroad had a very mixed Boxing Day. Finally, U.S. Soccer seems set to lose a top prospect to Argentina. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta offers up his thoughts on the news.
BY BRIAN SCIARETTAPOSTEDDECEMBER 27, 20223:50 AM
CHRISTMAS IS OVER, the World Cup is over, and American soccer is set to return to normal. European leagues are gradually coming back with England resuming on Boxing Day. MLS preseason is set to open at the end of next week. The transfer window will also soon open, and the normal course of events will resume.
With the start of the first week after Christmas, here is a brief rundown of the news.
REAM’S BIG DAY
Tim Ream, 35, is a finalist for U.S. Soccer’s Player of the Year on the men’s side. The evidence continues to mount that he should win it. On Monday, Ream helped deliver Fulham a 3-0 Boxing Day win on the road over Crystal Palace in a London Derby.With Fulham up 1-0 and Crystal Palace reduced to nine players after two defenders were sent off, Ream got on the end of a scramble following a corner kick to send home a classy finish for a 2-0 lead. It was his first Premier League goal.Fulham’s comfortable win saw it move to eighth in the Premier League table (at least for now, they have played more games than most teams).But for Ream, the news got even better as it was announced after the game that he had signed a new deal with Fulham to remain at the club through the end of the 2023/24 season. He was set to be a free agent after this season but he is playing the best soccer of his career despite now being 35.
There has always been speculation that Ream would be a target for St. Louis SC which will mark its inaugural season in MLS in 2023. Ream told ASN in November that he felt he could play another three seasons. Ending his career in his hometown in St. Louis makes sense, but he is well settled in London and is well loved in Craven Cottage. Why change a good thing?
- But Ream should win U.S. Soccer’s Player of the Year. His 2022 resume is stellar.
- Guided Fulham to promotion in May
- Will finish 2022 with Fulham top 10 in the Premier League
- Has captained most of Fulham’s games
- Has played 99% of Fulham’s minutes in 2022
- Had a terrific World Cup for the United States where he played every minute over four games. Led the U.S. to advancing from the group stage.
Tyler Adams and Christian Pulisic both had great moments in 2022, but Ream has the most complete resume.
ROBINSON & RICHARDS
Ream was not the only American to play in Fulham’s 3-0 win over Crystal Palace. The game also featured Antonee Robinson and Chris Richards.
For Robinson, it was his usual steady self although Fulham was not tested much defensively after Palace went down to 10 men. He continues to be a dangerous attacking left back who has the athleticism and the speed to be a valuable asset in the Premier League.
It’s obvious that the plan wasn’t for Richards to play in this game. He didn’t play much in recent friendlies since teams returned to camp from the World Cup break. Usual starter Marc Guéhi was suspended for Palace against Fulham. But Palace boss Patrick Vieira went with James Tompkins instead of Richards. Tompkins was eventually sent off.
Richards, 22, has had a tough year. He made just six appearances for Hoffenheim in the second half of last season. Now he’s made just three for Palace (for a total of 44 minutes). He’s barely played 600 minutes of league soccer this year. Injuries have set him back this year.
The problem for Richards is knowing where the minutes will come from in 2023. He will have to seize any opportunity he gets. If suspensions and injuries allow him to play on Saturday vs. Bournemouth, he must seize the opportunity.
YANKS IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP/LEAGUE 1
A busy slate of Boxing Day games in the Championship didn’t yield anything particularly positive.
The best news came from the goalkeepers. Zack Steffen made four saves and allowed one goal for Middlesbrough in a 4-1 win over Wigan Athletic.
Boro was once sitting in the relegation zone but now has five wins in its last six games to move all the way into 10th place. The club is surging, and Steffen has been part of that.
Meanwhile, Ethan Horvath also made four saves from five shots in a big 2-1 win over Norwich City. The win lifted Luton Town into 12th place.
Those games also brough news for other Americans. Matthew Hoppe, 21, played the final six minutes for Middlesbrough and his club situation is concerning as he sparsely plays for Boro (54 minutes all season) and is limited to mop-up time.
In my opinion, Hoppe doesn’t need a move. He doesn’t need to join his fourth club in under two years (none of which were loans). He hasn’t gained traction under two managers at Mallorca and now two at Middlesbrough. He needs to fix the reason why that’s the case.
Josh Sargent, 22, meanwhile went the distance for Norwich in a very ugly loss. The U.S. national team attacker played mostly on the wing. But Luton Town’s winning goal came in stoppage time after Luton Town was reduced to 10 men in the 80th minute. Sargent fought hard, won his duels, but was limited to just one shot (which was blocked). He is handling the physical side of the game in the Championship very well, but his production on the wing hasn’t been great.
But changes are coming for Sargent and Norwich as head coach Dean Smith was fired on Tuesday. We have no idea how this will affect Sargent until we know the new manager.
Lynden Gooch has been converted into a right back this season at Sunderland and is doing well. The Santa Cruz native went the distance on Monday in a 2-1 win over Blackburn. His attacking nature and his physical strength have seen him fit well into the position.What is most impressive is that he’s been a key part of Sunderland’s strong start to the season. Fresh off earning promotion to the Championship, Sunderland is currently sitting in eighth place. The club clearly looks to be relevant again and Gooch has been a part of that (after being affiliated with the club since he was 10).
Daryl Dike started and played 64 minutes for West Brom in a 2-0 win away at Bristol City. Dike, 22, was quiet and managed just three shots. He is still getting his rhythm back as he missed most of the first half of the season due to injury. This was his fourth appearance since play resumed since the World Cup. He had one great outing off the bench against Sunderland with a goal and an assist but has been quiet in the other games.
For Dike, he needs to return to the level where he is always dangerous and can impact games by his presence – even if he doesn’t score. He isn’t there yet, but it should come with time.
Duane Holmes started for Huddersfield and played very well in a 2-1 win over Preston North End. It was a much needed win because while Huddersfield remains in last place of the Championship, the gap for clawing out of the basement is now down to two points.
Finally, in League One, Hartford-born Alex Mighten started and went the distance for Sheffield Wednesday in a 2-1 win over Fleetwood Town. Mighten, 20, has been playing as a right wingback in a 3-5-2 formation. On loan from Nottingham Forest, Mighten is gradually playing more in the third tier and has Sheffield Wednesday in third place as they contend for promotion.
Mighten’s agent has said that he is in the process of switching his international representation from England to the United States. He could be a factor for the U.S. U-23 team in 2023 as it prepares for the 2024 Olympics.
MCKENZIE AND GENK LOSE
In what was very surprising news on Monday, Genk lost to Kortrijk 1-0 on Monday. It was a big upset and Genk’s first loss of the season. In its last 16 games before the World Cup break, Genk won 15 games a drew one. With the loss, Genk’s lead atop Belgium’s First Division shrunk from 10 to seven points.
Mark McKenzie, 23, went the distance for Genk. The former Philadelphia Union product is looking to build up his case to be a regular on the national team and winning the Belgian league will only help that case. A loss was always going to happen for Genk, but the concern is that the World Cup break really hurt the team’s momentum.
WRIGHT AND ANTALYASPOR STRUGGLE
Turkey’s Super Lig has resumed from World Cup break and Haji Wright hasn’t had a great time. On Tuesday, Antalyaspor dropped a 2-0 decision to Istanbul Basaksehir and that comes off a 2-0 loss to Ankaragucu at home on December 23rd.
Wright has had a big year in 2022 where he scored 19 goals in the Super Lig and then a World Cup goal (albeit with a bit of luck). But the year will conclude with two tough outings where he really struggled to get involved.
CREMASCHI CONTINUES ARGENTINA’S PUSH
Argentina’s U-20 team will take part next month in the CONMEBOL U-20 Championships. Inter Miami homegrown signing Ben Cremaschi is on the verge of making Argentina’s U-20 team as he was named to the final 28 player list by head coach Javier Mascherano.
That in and of itself is a massive accomplishment as Cremaschi is the only 2005-born player on the roster and is actually playing up a U-20 cycle.
Cremaschi was born and raised in Florida and has represented the United States youth national teams. This year a lone he has played with the U-19 team twice and the U.S. U-20 team in October when it worked with the domestic-based full national team players ahead of the World Cup.
Cremaschi has not made Argentina’s U-20 Championship team yet but he has an excellent chance as Argentina clearly rates him and surely understands U.S. Soccer will put him on their U-20 World Cup team if Argentina does not. If Cremaschi plays for Argentina in the CONMEBOL tournament or the U-20 World Cup, he could then only return to the United States via a one-time switch.
Should Cremaschi bolt for Argentina and make their team, it would be a significant loss for U.S. Soccer as Cremaschi is one of the country’s best 2005-born prospects. At this point, U.S. Soccer cannot afford to lose top prospects.
Regardless of what country he chooses, Cremaschi is in a great position – as is Inter Miami. Having the youngest player on Argentina’s U-20 team and one of their top 2005-born prospects as well is a big deal. His value will surge as a result. It will also be very interesting to see how Cremaschi plays this season for Inter Miami as he is likely to break into the first team.
The loss of a top prospect would sting for U.S. Soccer and if Argentina wants Cremaschi and Cremaschi wants to play for Argentina, there isn’t much that can be done to stop it. Free will always wins. But the fact that top programs like Argentina are looking here for talent is encouraging and as more MLS teams become invested in youth development, more prospects like Cremaschi will emerge. The U.S. U-20 team remains very good and the 2005-born class is still strong, although it would be much stronger with Cremaschi.
USWNT WILL FACE TWO TOP-10 TEAMS AT 2023 SHEBELIEVES CUP
The U.S. women’s national team will face off against two of the top 10 teams in the world as part of the 2023 SheBelieves Cup.Canada (No. 6) and Brazil (No. 9) will feature in the February tournament alongside Japan, which sits just outside of the top 10 in the FIFA women’s ranking at No. 11.USWNT maintained its hold on the No. 1 spot in the final ranking of 2022, released Friday, despite losing three straight games for the first time since 1993.Canada features in the tournament for the second time after first appearing in 2021. Both Brazil and Japan have played in the tournament twice, with Japan’s last appearance coming in 2020 and Brazil’s in 2021.n last year’s SheBelieves Cup, the USWNT won for the third straight time, beating out the Czech Republic, Iceland and New Zealand.The 2023 SheBelieves Cup will be held in Orlando, Nashville and Frisco, Texas. The three-city showcase will be the first tournament of the year for the USWNT, which will make a run at a third consecutive World Cup title starting in July.The tournament will begin on Feb. 16, with the USWNT facing off against Canada at 7 p.m. ET. Japan will play Brazil at 4 p.m. ET.From there, the teams will play again Feb. 19 and 22.
SHEBELIEVES CUP SCHEDULE
Thursday, Feb. 16, in Orlando:
- Japan vs. Brazil @ 4 p.m.
- USWNT vs. Canada @ 7 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 19, in Nashville:
- USWNT vs. Japan @ 3:30 p.m.
- Brazil vs. Canada @ 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 22, in Frisco, Texas:
- Canada vs. Japan @ 4 p.m.
- USWNT vs. Brazil @ 7 p.m.
WOMEN’S WORLD CUP 2023: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE TOURNAMENT
The start of 2023 is fast approaching. And with it comes a World Cup year for all women’s soccer fans.Here’s everything you need to know about the tournament, which is set to kick off in less than seven months.
WHEN IS IT?
The tournament is set to kick off on July 20 and will run through August 20. The co-hosting countries will play in the opening matches: New Zealand will face Norway to start the festivities, and Australia will begin its run a few hours later against Ireland.
WHERE IS IT?
Matches will be split between Australia and New Zealand, with four sites in New Zealand and five sites in Australia.
- Adelaide, AU – Hindmarsh Stadium
- Auckland, NZ – Eden Park
- Brisbane, AU – Brisbane Stadium
- Dunedin, NZ – Dunedin Stadium
- Hamilton, NZ – Waikato Stadium
- Melbourne, AU – Melbourne Rectangular Stadium
- Perth, AU – Perth Rectangular Stadium
- Sydney, AU – Stadium Australia and Sydney Football Stadium
- Wellington, NZ – Wellington Stadium
WHAT IS THE DRAW?
The 32 teams at the tournament are divided into eight groups of four countries. In each group, the two highest-finishing teams will advance to the knockout rounds.
- Group A: New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Switzerland
- Group B: Australia, Canada, Nigeria, Republic of Ireland
- Group C: Costa Rica, Japan, Spain, Zambia
- Group D: China, Denmark, England, Playoff Group B winners
- Group E: Netherlands, United States, Vietnam, Playoff Group A winners
- Group F: Brazil, France, Jamaica, Playoff Group C winners
- Group G: Argentina, Italy, South Africa, Sweden
- Group H: Colombia, Germany, Morocco, South Korea
To view the full schedule for the entire World Cup group stage, click here.
WHAT IS THE USWNT’S SCHEDULE?
The USWNT will play three games during the group stage, beginning July 22.
Group E includes the team the United States beat in the 2019 World Cup final, the Netherlands. Still, USWNT legend Julie Foudy said the squad landed a “very winnable group” — one that became even more winnable with Dutch star Vivianne Miedema’s recent ACL injury.
- Saturday, July 22
- United States vs. Vietnam (Eden Park, Auckland)
- Thursday, July 27
- United States vs. Netherlands (Wellington Regional)
- Tuesday, Aug. 1
- United States vs. Intercontinental playoff winner (Eden Park, Auckland)
HOW MANY WORLD CUP SPOTS REMAIN UP FOR GRABS?
Out of the 32 total spots in the World Cup, three are yet to be decided. An intercontinental play-in tournament in February will determine the final three entrants.
Ten teams from the six continental confederations have been split into three groups, and the winner of each group will stamp their tickets to the World Cup.
- Group A
- Feb. 18 – Cameroon vs. Thailand (Semifinal)
- Feb. 22 – Portugal vs. Semifinal winner (Final)
- The winner of the final will join Group E at the World Cup.
- Group B
- Feb. 19 – Senegal vs. Haiti (Semifinal)
- Feb. 22 – Chile vs. Semifinal winner (Final)
- The winner of the final will join Group D at the World Cup.
- Group C:
- Feb. 19 – Chinese Taipei vs. Paraguay (Semifinal #1)
- Feb. 19 – Papua New Guinea vs. Panama (Semifinal #2)
- Feb. 23 – Winner of SF1 vs. Winner of SF2 (Final)
- The winner of the final will join Group F at the World Cup.
CONCERNS AND HOPE FOR A NEW ERA: BIGGEST USWNT STORIES OF 2022
If you do it right, the best kind of World Cup preparation years eventually render themselves irrelevant. No one will remember the growing pains of roster reconstruction or the dropped friendly results if you are the last team standing in 2023.
We don’t know if that will come to fruition for the USWNT in the new year, but let’s revisit the moments we will look back on when we remember the team’s 2022.
THE YEAR OF PLAYER TURNOVER
This year will likely be remembered forever as the one where the U.S. turned back the clock, dealing with growing pains as the team got young fast. The USWNT started 13 players with five or fewer caps this year as a result of both circumstances and a philosophical shift.
Major injuries rocked the women’s game in 2022, and the USWNT was not immune to the developments. Catarina Macario, Lynn Williams, Abby Dahlkemper, Sam Mewis, Julie Ertz, Tierna Davidson, Emily Sonnett, Kelley O’Hara, and Crystal Dunn all missed significant time due to absences or injuries, though Dunn had begun to make her return by the end of the calendar year. Players like Christen Press and Tobin Heath also dealt with injuries before they could make their cases for their own USWNT returns.
The U.S. has long been criticized for relying on certain players with too much consistency, but Vlatko Andonovski was forced to change that philosophy and give a number of new players more experience in big games. Ertz’s absence loomed over the midfield in particular, and Macario’s ACL tear disrupted momentum on the team’s new-look front line. But some of the choices were more intentional and not just byproducts of injury rotation.
Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith etched their names into the starting XI with strong performances in 2022, and more young players meshed with big personalities as the second half of the year wore on. Alex Morgan made her return to center forward in July, and Megan Rapinoe continued her role as a locker-room leader and super substitute. Getting that mix exactly right will be key for the USWNT to make 2023 a success.
BIG JOB DONE
The U.S. had their struggles in 2022, but when they had an important job to do, they pulled it off. The Concacaf W Championship doesn’t have the same parity as other confederation tournaments, but the USWNT that walked into World Cup qualifying in July didn’t have the experience of its predecessors and still came out on top.
Qualifying for the 2023 World Cup is a basic expectation for the U.S., and despite starting players with very little big-game experience, the reigning champions made it through to the semifinals without conceding a single goal. They were put to the test against Costa Rica in the semifinal and managed to make the championship game against Canada, the reigning Olympic gold medalists, that most had expected when the tournament began.
With an Olympic spot on the line, the U.S. had a chance to regain the upper hand over their regional rival, and they stepped up to the challenge. While a few missed chances kept the game close into the second half, the USWNT came out in the Concacaf W final looking confident and unfazed by Canada’s ascension to the higher tier of international soccer. The breakthrough in the run of play never quite presented itself, but Alex Morgan gave the U.S. a 1-0 victory with a goal from the penalty spot.
Canada now has to play one more game against Costa Rica to qualify for Paris 2024. The fact that the U.S. avoided the same fate is a commendable feat as they prepare for a crucial 2023.
The USWNT’s last four friendlies of the year — which resulted in three losses and a win — will be remembered either as the iron that sharpened the group going into a World Cup or as a sign of trouble to come. The trip to Europe to play England and Spain (without Morgan or Pugh) culminated in a decent performance against the Lionesses and another performance against Spain that was incredibly troubling.
In the following two games against Germany at home, the team appeared to be in a holding pattern, waiting for player returns in 2023 that will propel the group toward New Zealand. But the world of football has changed, and the U.S. can’t afford to take it slow when other national teams are completing their own preparation cycles. Any one of England, Germany, and Spain could end up World Champions next year due to a combination of player development and a sense of cohesion that the U.S. has not achieved this year despite their Concacaf success.
The final win against Germany did showcase the fight fans have been looking for, and that could be the biggest difference-maker as the international competition stiffens. Pugh and Sophia Smith carried the team on their shoulders, Naomi Girma became the steadiest presence along the backline, and suddenly the newer faces were the backbone the team needed in the moment.
THE VLATKO QUESTION
It’s possible that the greatest decision made in 2022 came at the coaching level. Even as the results began to waver, U.S. Soccer appeared committed to granting Vlatko Andonovski a full cycle to see his vision for the team through.
Andonovski’s 2022 could end up being the beginning of a new and exciting era for the USWNT, when new players finally got their chance to show what they can do as the future of the team. Roster rotation can be thankless work, and it’s difficult to know whether mistakes are being made or if it’s better to stay the course.
Still, the struggles that led to listless performances in 2021 seemed to linger even with new players on the pitch. The USWNT always looked somewhat constricted, overthinking their formation to the point of ineffectiveness. The rigidity of Andonovski’s 4-3-3 formation doesn’t always give players the room to be their best creative selves, and disjointedness in the midfield often gave opponents the opportunity to flip a match. It’s possible that 2023 yields the effortless football the team is looking for, but it’s also possible that the principles aren’t sticking with the players and they will be exposed again against top competition.
All too often, the U.S. came out looking like a team overly focused on improving vulnerabilities rather than just playing in a style that suits them. The U.S. needs a short project, not a long one, and Andonvoski is now moving into the definitive year of his tenure.
Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.
DECEMBER 25, 2022 – EMMA HRUBY
5 THINGS ON THE USWNT’S TO-DO LIST BEFORE THE 2023 WORLD CUP
- The United States women’s national team have just months left before the start of the 2023 World Cup
- Here’s what Vlatko Andonovski and Co. need to accomplish before that tournament kicks off
While the United States women’s national team still sits in the number one spot in the latest FIFA rankings, their recent performances and results have raised some questions. The USWNT lost three games in 2022 – all of them came in the last few months in matches against England, Spain, and Germany.What does the USWNT have to do to get back to their winning ways ahead of the 2023 World Cup? Let’s run through their checklist for the start of 2023.
1. GET HEALTHY
This is the most obvious item on this list, but that doesn’t make it any less important. The USWNT’s injury list neared double digits for most of 2022 and impacted the defense, midfield, and attack. Some of these players, like Tierna Davison (ACL), Catarina Macario (ACL), and Lynn Williams (hamstring), are set to return early in 2023, per head coach Vlatko Andonovski. Others have a longer – and less certain – recovery timeline, like Abby Dahlkemper (back) and Sam Mewis (knee).
Once these players return, Andonovski will have to figure out how and where they fit into his system, and do so rather quickly. He mentioned back in November that “no matter what, we have to get better, but there are some things that may change by changing the personnel.” It’s clear the USWNT will look a little different next year as injured players return to strength.
2. IRON OUT AN ATTACKING GAMEPLAN
There is no shortage of starpower in the United States’ attack.
With Sophia Smith, Mallory Pugh, and Alex Morgan in the lineup, the U.S. should be scoring a lot of goals. However, they’re averaging one goal-per-game in their last four outings, games against England, Spain, and two against Germany. That’s not terrible, but it’s not great, either.
The USWNT have been inconsistent in the final third. They’ve been playing a heavy crossing game for most of 2022. For reference, in one of their matches against Germany, the USWNT registered 3.5 times more crosses than their opponent (StatsPerform).
Crosses aren’t always bad, but the attack looks best when the USWNT build up play and finds runners darting through their opponents’ backlines. Coincidentally, that’s also when the national team’s leading scorer in 2022, Sophia Smith, excels both for club and country. Smith scored the eventual game-winning goal in the NWSL Championship earlier this fall after receiving a ball through Kansas City’s backline.
this in a U.S. uniform!
While the U.S. would benefit from limiting aimless crossing, it would be unfair to say that the USWNT attack has been awful. They’ve been doing a decent job at creating chances, even if they’re not finding the back of the net.
Regardless, expected goals can’t win trophies – and some of the team’s inconsistency is troubling. The USWNT will have to figure out ways to convert these chances into goals and put themselves on the scoreboard more often.3.
3 (FINALLY) FIGURE OUT THE NO. 6 POSITION
I have been beating the “USWNT needs a No. 6” drum all year. I’m just not convinced that Andi Sullivan – who has gotten the most defensive-midfield minutes in 2022 – is the right pick for this position.Don’t get me wrong, Sullivan is a good player. She can see the field well and excels at connecting the backline to the attack, but she’s only done that in flashes for the national team. One such flash of brilliance was in the USWNT’s last game of the year.z
So, who should slot in for Sullivan? It’s worth seeing what Sam Coffey can do with extended minutes in the USWNT midfield since she was lights out in Portland last season. She made four international appearances in 2022, and I’m hoping we see her on the field more often next year.
4. CHOOSE A STARTING GOALKEEPER
While Alyssa Naeher has been a mainstay in the USWNT defense for the last several years, Andonovski has been exploring his options. Of the 17 games the USWNT played in 2022, Casey Murphy was tabbed nine times, Naeher seven times, and Aubrey Kingsbury once.It’s interesting to see this goalkeeping swap from Naeher to Murphy (and back), since neither player had the best club season this year. Of goalkeepers that recorded at least half of their team’s regular-season minutes, Murphy and Naeher ranked in the bottom five in goals minus expected goals and goals added per 96’ (American Soccer Analysis). Though these stats don’t paint either player in the best light, they should be considered with North Carolina’s defensive struggles and Chicago’s defensive injuries in mind. Recent NWSL stats aside, I doubt Andonovski’s starting goalkeeper next year will be anyone other than Murphy or Naeher. Either way, though, he needs to make that decision soon. It’s obviously important for a goalkeeper to get game reps, but it’s also important for them to gel with their backline, which brings me to my last point…
5. PIN DOWN A CENTER BACK PAIRING
Andonovski rotated his starting lineup a ton this year, and that certainly includes his backline.There were many combinations of players at the center back position, but Alana Cook, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Naomi Girma made the most center back starts in 2022. Cook started the most consistently, making the lineup 15 times. She was paired with Sauerbrunn six times, and Girma five. It’s likely that Tierna Davidson would have gotten significant minutes this year, too, if she hadn’t torn her ACL at the start of the NWSL season. Though signs are pointing to some combination of these four players, it’s hard to tell which will be called on. Sauerbrunn has been a staple in the U.S.’s backline for the last two World Cups, but she’ll be 38 by the time the next one kicks off. Davidson has World Cup experience, and she has the most international experience of defenders not named Becky Sauerbrunn (48 appearances). Cook and Girma have fewer than 20 international appearances each, but Girma especially has begun to make her case as a USWNT-caliber defender, having won Rookie of the Year and Defender of the Year in the NWSL last season. All this is to say that Andonovski probably can’t go wrong with any pairing of Sauerbrunn, Davidson, Cook, and Girma. The winning pair will undoubtedly need game minutes in front of the USWNT’s starting goalkeeper ahead of the World Cup, though.Much of the USWNT’s success next year will hinge on Andonovski’s – and the team’s – ability to complete this checklist as soon as possible. And whether they’re ready or not, the World Cup is set to kick off in just seven months.
USWNT and NWSL players associations, achieving generational change: Our U.S. Women’s Soccer Persons of the Year
Dec 15, 2022
In December, The Athletic will be highlighting the coaches, athletes and other figures who made the biggest impact in the U.S. sports we cover, as well as in the fields of sports business, media and culture. Next up in the series is our honoree in U.S. women’s soccer: the U.S. women’s national team and National Women’s Soccer League players associations, who fought for groundbreaking CBAs to improve pay and other conditions. The full schedule is here.
There were many significant accomplishments that occurred on the field in American women’s soccer in 2022, but this was a year defined by the strength and importance of players associations. Both the U.S. women’s national team PA and the National Women’s Soccer League PA successfully negotiated historic collective bargaining agreements that will have larger impacts than any goal scored or championship won this year.
After a three-year legal battle, the USWNT PA found a compromise with the U.S. Soccer Federation to reach a proposed settlement for their equal pay lawsuit via their new CBA that brings not only wage equality, but equal working conditions and equal World Cup prize money with the men’s national team, as well.
At the league level, 35 NWSL players served on the bargaining committee that finally achieved the first CBA in the 10-year history of the league. It was an agreement that, amongst other victories for the players, won a 160 percent increase to the league’s minimum salary. That number is still only $35,000 for the 2022 season, set for an increase to $36,400 next year.
The players did more than just solidify their own financial security, though. These two documents, now ratified and in effect, serve as tangible accomplishments in the wake of the tremendous upheaval in American women’s soccer over the past two years. There are improved protections for players’ health and safety, more control over their own names and likenesses, and more control over their own careers via the introduction of free agency in the NWSL.
These accomplishments — the two CBAs, the work ahead to fix the NWSL in the wake of numerous accusations of misconduct against coaches and executives, and the challenge to FIFA to make a greater investment in the women’s game — all are deeply intertwined. In 2022, the two players associations achieved the beginning of generational change, making them The Athletic’s U.S. Women’s Soccer Persons of the Year.
“What hill are you willing to die on?”
For the players of the NWSL, those eight words were the foundation they rallied around as they negotiated their first CBA. What were the non-negotiables? What did they not just want to fight for, but need to fight for? The talks between the two sides began in 2020, and by January 2022, the players were ready to refuse to report to their clubs if a CBA wasn’t in place for the start of preseason on Feb. 1.
“If that means we don’t go into preseason, then we’ll do whatever it takes, because the CBA is historical and the first of its kind,” Angel City FC forward Simone Charley, who served on the bargaining committee, told The Athletic in February after the agreement was reached. “But it’s also setting a standard, not just for us, but for the future of women’s soccer. I think that was in the back of everyone’s mind. It’s not just about us and what we’re doing now. It’s about the next generation. That’s what brought everything into focus.”
The PA had already launched two campaigns in 2021, both addressing the realities of life as NWSL players, though the first was more geared toward rallying public support of the union and its players. “No More Side Hustles” highlighted the reality that players were working multiple jobs in order to survive as professional athletes, and provided the PA with a catchphrase for social media and merchandise. In December, the PA launched a support fund to directly benefit current and former players by addressing their financial needs for any number of reasons, whether it was mental health support or covering the expenses of a move following an unexpected trade to another team.
The completion of the NWSL CBA came down to the wire — it was announced the night before preseason was due to start. The two sides avoided the work stoppage with the NWSL board of governors ratifying the agreement on Feb. 1. The document was signed in person by NWSLPA executive director Meghann Burke and incoming NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman ahead of Angel City’s inaugural regular-season home game on Apr. 29.
Defender Addisyn Merrick, now with the Kansas City Current, was playing for Racing Louisville FC and served as a player rep for the team during negotiations. As one of the younger players working on the CBA, she said the project as a whole was exhausting, but rewarding and instructive at the same time.
“There were so many times, on really important topics, that we would have over 100 players on a call,” she said. “I feel like it was a huge movement. We truly were all together.”
With so much at stake in the first CBA, many players had their own topics of focus. For Merrick, that focus was guided by her experience of getting a second opinion on a medical issue — a second opinion that helped her avoid what she called a “life-altering” surgery she did not actually need. She pushed for higher standards for medical staff at NWSL clubs.
North Carolina Courage defender Merritt Mathias’ non-negotiable was playing surfaces. She recalled a time where former NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird asked the players why playing on baseball fields wasn’t OK. “I think my head rolled off my shoulders,” she said. The players weren’t asking for every team to go out and build multi-million dollar, soccer-specific stadiums, after all. “We’re just asking to play on safe grass or turf that has regulations to it.”
In the end, there were compromises on both sides, but also a better sense of a shared destiny. There’s a provision to potentially get a 10 percent cut of media/broadcast revenue if the league becomes profitable over the final three years of the CBA. There’s fun stuff too, like an article overseeing a potential all-star game for the league.
But for the next five years, the NWSL and the players have an agreement in place that will ensure teams aren’t skating by on the bare minimum, even as the sport enjoys a huge wave of greater attention and investment, that player safety won’t be the first thing cut on the way to profit for owners.
As former Houston Dash player Bri Visalli put it, there’s a roadmap. For a league with so much potential yet so many struggles, the gift of a concrete plan cannot be overstated.
“The Players Association agrees that, beginning with compensation and benefits provided by the Federation to Players after the CBA Implementation Date, the compensation structure in the CBAs is identical and does not discriminate in favor of or against either the MNT or WNT or either team’s players individually.”
The language in section B of Article 7 “Equal Pay Acknowledgement” in the USWNT CBA with the federation is fairly dry, despite how monumental the accomplishment is. The first piece of that equalized prize money is already known: the 23 players (maybe 26, depending on FIFA squad-size regulations) heading to New Zealand for the 2023 World Cup will split their share of the men’s national team’s prize money for reaching the round of 16 in the 2022 World Cup, a pool of $5,850,000 for the WNT.
6 – The US men’s prize figure, divided in half, means the US women will get $5,850,000 of the men’s prize split. More precisely, the 23-26 players who make the 2023 Women’s World Cup roster will get that money.
— Rachel Bachman (@Bachscore) December 3, 2022
The women will get their chance to add their own contribution to the shared pool next summer; with the final number only limited by FIFA’s imbalanced approach to Women’s World Cup prize money compared to that for the men’s World Cup.
Much like the NWSL CBA, the USWNT’s document has a sense of shared destiny — not just with the men, but with the federation itself. Both national teams are on agreements that run through 2028; both national teams are incentivized not just to maximize their own performances to ensure a maximum payout, but to work with the federation to grow the sport so all may benefit via revenue sharing.
The history behind the U.S. national team CBA is vastly different for the women, though, even beyond the players filing a lawsuit against their own federation to force the issue of equal pay. The context of the USWNT CBA can’t entirely be divorced from the history of the NWSL, considering how the majority of the players have spent most of their time as pros playing stateside.
USWNT players were able to accept more risk with the national team CBA as the security of the NWSL increased, player salaries rose, and that CBA was also implemented. The USWNT PA’s bargaining committee reflected multiple experiences with the league, from players like Midge Purce, Tierna Davidson and Lynn Williams, who were all top draft picks, to Alex Morgan and Kelley O’Hara, who had also played in a previous American pro league.
NWSL and USWNT rookie Sam Coffey was all smiles in the mixed zone this summer, following a USWNT win at Audi Field and a ceremony held to celebrate the new CBA. She’s one of the players who’s only stepped foot on the field with both the NWSL and USWNT CBA in place. She called the money at stake “life-changing,” but also didn’t take for granted the long fight that had taken place before she got to this stage.
“You hear so many horror stories about players ice-bathing in trash cans, living in homes that have broken doors and windows,” she said. “So many of those things are still happening, but maybe don’t get the spotlight. This is unbelievably deserved and long overdue.”
The power of the players and of their unions doesn’t end with the CBAs, though. As we’ve seen revealed through investigative reporting and independent investigations, there has been a painful cost to the growth of women’s soccer in this country. As the sport still grapples with the full accounting of the systemic abuse across the professional game (and beyond), the players are still demanding better of the leaders who have previously failed them — and in some cases, outright calling for the ouster of people in power who failed to protect players from harm.
— Meg Linehan (@itsmeglinehan) October 6, 2022
Sometimes it’s been through team statements, shared by a unified group of players on social media. It’s not a new trick for female athletes, or even NWSL players, but it’s still an effective way to make a point as a collective unit.
The players, with support from fans and sponsors, are reshaping the sport and the league. As of December, both Portland Thorns owner Merritt Paulson and Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler have announced their intention to sell their respective clubs following public pressure related to their handling of accusations of misconduct within their respective organizations.
On Wednesday, the NWSL and NWSLPA joint investigation team released their final report, which once again showed that widespread misconduct occurred throughout the league.
“From the early days of the league, they were told to be grateful, loyal, and acquiescent, even as they were not afforded the resources or respect due to professional athletes,” the report states.
But those days are now hopefully over; instead, the players have shown their willingness and desire to not just demand better, but lead the way themselves.
There’s still much work ahead off the field. There’s plenty of work on the field, too. The USWNT are looking to threepeat at next summer’s World Cup in New Zealand and Australia; the players of the 12 NWSL clubs are all looking to lift a trophy come next November. Thanks to their own work and the power of their unions, they’ll all be a little more secure as they push to keep this momentum going into 2023 and across generations to come.
The USWNT star and Champions League winner, who finished No. 9 in the Ballon d’Or voting, has been in Doha rehabbing an ACL injury for the last two months.
|GRANT WAHL DEC 7 ∙ PAID|
DOHA, Qatar — It was an absolute pleasure to meet up again a few days ago with Catarina Macario, the USWNT and Lyon star who has been in Doha for the past two months rehabbing after an ACL injury in June. She had a breakout season in 2021-22, winning the Champions League and French league titles with Lyon and finishing No. 9 in the Ballon d’Or voting. We caught up just before the USA-Netherlands game on Saturday at the World Cup.
The entirety of the written interview below is reserved for paid subscribers. As always, you can still get the entire free audio version of my podcast when it publishes Thursday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you like to go for your pods.
Big thanks to Adidas for helping set up today’s interview. We’ve got a good one today. Our guest is with me here in Doha, and she has been rehabbing here for a little while now. Catarina Macario is working her way back to the U.S. women’s national team and her club Lyon after suffering an ACL injury in June. She’s also attending some of the World Cup games, and we’re recording this on Saturday, just a couple hours before the U.S.A-Netherlands game. Cat, it is great to see you again. Thanks for coming on the show.
Thanks, Grant. Thanks for having me.
First question, how are you?
I’m doing well. Yeah. Thank you. Just rehabbing away, so yeah, just hoping to get back on the field as soon as possible.
And what led to you coming to Doha for your rehab, and how much time have you spent here?
I’ve been here for about two months now, and I’m here because I’m doing rehabilitation at Aspetar, which is one of the best rehab centers in the world, actually. And I just wanted to be treated by the best. And I have my goals of going to the World Cup. And just want to make sure that I’m a hundred percent. And so I just figured that here would be the best place to get back to the best version of myself.
I mean, the facilities here are incredible. I’ve taken a tour of them before, so I totally understand why you’re here doing this. How many World Cup games have you attended? What’s it been like?
That’s a good question. Thankfully, Adidas has been very kind to me since they know that I was already here. So I’ve just been going to about one game per day or so. I’ve never been to a World Cup before, and this was a very once in a lifetime opportunity, obviously, because I’m supposed to be playing instead of being injured and being here. But it just happened that the World Cup was here, so we’re able to make it happen.
How many U.S. games? How many Brazil games?
All the U.S. games, and all the Brazil games except one.
So, this time off from playing for the U.S. national team and Lyon. I know it’s not what you wanted, but how have you tried to approach these last six months?
GrantWahl.com is reader-supported. Free and paid subscriptions are available. This is how I make a living, and quality journalism and traveling to Qatar require resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now.
It’s been five months since my surgery actually. But like you said, it’s definitely not what I wanted. But things happen. Injuries are part of football, and I’m just kind of taking it one day at a time and just knowing that this would make me a better player and this would make me a better person. And I feel like injuries really help you almost get grounded in a way. And just knowing that’s like, okay, I’m not just a football player, and I have way more to life than just football. And so it’s been very eye-opening, actually, and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
Are there any human things that you’re doing during this period that maybe you weren’t doing as much of before?
I’ve honestly never been really able to travel, and this has been a really cool period just to do that, a few weekends here and there, just because when you’re playing, even if you have one or two days off, you have to think about the next week and recovery and things like that. But this time, I was like, you know what? I’m going to treat myself, and I’m going to go on a trip. I’ve been able to spend more time with my dad, which has been cool. Just reading more books and just really practicing more mindfulness. And it’s been really cool, yeah, just getting more in touch with myself, and obviously connecting more with my friends, which sometimes I don’t necessarily get the opportunity to. And just getting to know the world a little bit better.
That’s really interesting. That’s cool. Thanks for sharing. When are you hoping to be back on the field?
That’s a good question. I would love to be back around March. Yeah, we’ll see. March, April. Obviously, it depends. There’s no set timeline. Sometimes, unfortunately with injuries, you have some good days, you have some off days, good weeks, off weeks, so it just kind of depends. And again, I’m thankful that I’m here at the best place in the world, and so I know that I’m in good hands. I’m itching to be back with a team again, but I just want to do it as safely as possible, so taking my time.
It makes sense. The U.S. women’s team, they won their last game. They’ve had an extremely rare, epically rare three-game losing streak recently against top European teams, England, Spain, Germany. What was it like for you watching those games?
I mean, it was I think kind of what every fan was feeling. I was like, whoa, what’s going on? But I feel like the one thing that you get with the U.S. is that they have a crazy mentality, and they’ll always bounce back. And I was so thankful to be able to see that in the fourth match. I think the team lacks experience right now. Obviously we have a lot of young players. And first and foremost, I wish that I was there to be getting that experience and obviously be with the team and help them as much as I can.
But also, I think it’s a good thing. It’s a good wake-up call. It’s a good experience to have, and it’s better to happen now than later. And so you have to make the adjustments and just get back to the winning ways and the standard that the U.S. team has. And sometimes that takes a couple losses, but after all, I think this will set us up in a good path for 2023.
The first U.S. game at the Women’s World Cup is July 22. Not that many months away, actually.
I know, yeah.
Seven months from now. Are you still hoping to make a big impact with the U.S. at the World Cup?
Yeah, of course. I mean, I think not just individually but collectively. You’d say, of course we want to win again. Not just that, but we want to win and play well. And whether it be against Vietnam, Netherlands, whatever, just the whole tournament, it’s a great opportunity to show who we are, not only individually but also collectively. And I think it’s been really cool just to see the different nations stepping up in their investments, just stepping up in how they’re growing the women’s game, and it’s been really cool and exciting to be a part of. So I’m super excited for Australia and New Zealand.
I mean, when you go to these U.S. games and you feel the tension in the stands, does it make you think about what it might be like to experience? Obviously you wouldn’t be a fan at the women’s World Cup, you would be on the field.
No, a hundred percent, a hundred percent. Honestly, there are times when I hear the anthem and I almost feel like crying, just because I get a little bit emotional. It’s the fact that you get to represent your country on such a big stage, and that’s so special. And so it’s going to be different for sure walking onto the field hopefully in 2023, but it’s something that I’ve been looking forward to my whole life. And I hope to do it whenever I’m feeling at my best possible self.
What sort of conversations have you had with the U.S. coach, Vlatko Andonovski?
He’s here actually.
I’ll track him down. I didn’t know that.
Yeah. Yeah, he’s here. He’s doing some scouting to help with the men’s team, obviously.
But we just catch up here and there, obviously keeping him updated on my injuries and whatnot. But yeah, kind of just talking. We talked a little bit about the games and things like that, the games that the U.S. has had recently. He’s just a great guy, honestly. Overall, we just talk kind of human to human, and he makes you feel comfortable, which is something that you don’t find in every coach, honestly, and it’s something that I really appreciate, just because he trusts you. No matter what, he tries to get the best out of his players. It’s been good to see him here. And obviously we’re supporting the U.S. and hoping that they go as far as possible, but also in the back of our minds, we both know, okay, we enjoy watching football, but also we have work to do for 2023.
We have seen superstars in the women’s game have ACL injuries in the last year. It’s an experience I can only imagine, but you, Alexia Putellas, Beth Mead recently with England. Do you ever wonder what’s going on with that, why it’s happening?
Yeah. I mean, I’m no scientific expert or anything like that, but I think first of all women are already more predisposed to having ACL injuries. I think something with the hips or whatnot. Again, I’m not an expert.
No, I understand. I put you in a tough spot.
And also we have periods and things like that, just different things that can increase your rate of injury, your likelihood to get injured. And I just think that there’s a big, big lack of research right now in the women’s field, just really focusing on women’s players. And everything that’s done is generally concentrated on males. And it’s like, okay, but we’re completely different people. And so I think now that we’re playing more intense games, obviously the demand is higher, and I think that maybe the research has not followed. And same with the medical field. I don’t think that some clubs are necessarily doing everything that they can to help with the prevention side of injuries and whatnot. And unfortunately, we are seeing this a lot right now. It’s just really unfortunate, but I hope that we’ll come to a day that’s like, we’ll put this behind us.
I hope sports science hears this and makes some progress-
I hope so too. Yeah. Yeah.
… on this, because I think it’s important for the growth of women’s sports.
And until your injury happened in June, it had been really a dream season for you with Lyon. You took back the Champions League title from Barcelona, the league title from PSG. You personally were number nine and the highest American in the voting for the Ballon d’Or Award. It’s funny because the story I wrote about you in January, we had an artist do a picture of you at the start of it, and we had in the artwork holding up a shirt that said, “Ballon d’Or ‘24?” And it made me think we were too conservative in saying ‘24. Congratulations on that.
Thank you. Thank you so much.
When you look back on that season, how would you describe it?
Yeah, I mean, it was a tremendous, tremendous season. It kind of went by in a blink of an eye, I’m not going to lie. Obviously, it was like my first professional season, my first full season, and I’m just so glad that we were able to just get the Champions League and get back the trophy as well. And obviously individually, it wasn’t bad. So I am very, very thrilled just, because in the beginning, it was definitely tough making the transition to professional football.
So I’m very happy. Obviously at the end I had my injury, but it was a tremendous year. I wouldn’t change anything about it. And I just hope that this is only the beginning that will keep getting better and better. And obviously I have my eye set for the World Cup.
We are only 28 days away from New Year’s Eve parties. It’s weird to be at a World Cup in December. I’m wrapping my mind around it still.
I know. It doesn’t even feel like December.
That’s a time when people think about the year ahead. What will you be thinking about when the clock hits midnight on New Year’s Eve?
Well, I will be thinking about just getting as healthy as possible as quick as possible, but as safe as possible, and just doing absolutely everything I can in order to help the United States win another World Cup.
Catarina Macario is hard at work to get back on the field for the U.S. women’s national team and Lyon. Cat, thanks for coming on the show.
Yeah. Thank you. Always a pleasure, Grant.
USWNT 2022 PLAYER GRADES: ALYSSA NAEHER STILL NO. 1 GOALKEEPER
It’s the end of the calendar year for the U.S. women’s national team, with 2022 performances all wrapped up in a bow. Naturally, that also means it’s time for end-of-year report cards to evaluate how each player did in the run-up to the 2023 World Cup.First, a quick set of criteria: Despite the team’s first three-game losing streak in decades, the U.S. lost only three games total in 2022. A failing grade would indicate a player is wildly unprepared for the game at this level, which is not something we saw from the group playing the lion’s share of minutes this year. Likewise, an A+ indicates a player with all-star, team-on-their-back, best-in-the-world status.Throughout this series, which will grade players by position, I’m going to avoid those who didn’t get minutes in 2022 and those who have missed significant time due to injury.Today, let’s take a look at the goalkeeping pool.
ALYSSA NAEHER – B+
Naeher started all eight matches she played in 2022, conceding only four goals over the course of the year. After returning from a hyper-extension in her knee that kept her sidelined for the USWNT’s post-Olympics stretch in 2021, she looked especially sharp coming off her line. Her kick-save in the final match of the year against Germany, which was essentially a must-win game, swung momentum back in favor of the U.S. and spurred their 2-1 comeback victory.Naeher is 34 and appears to have her successor developing closely behind her. But in the minutes she did get in 2022, she gave no clear reason to think that now is the time to shake up the USWNT’s hierarchy at the top. Naeher’s wealth of experience in big moments has led to discipline and calm control of a rotating defense in front of her, and she’s still the keeper I’d call upon in a high-profile matchup.
CASEY MURPHY – B
When evaluating a new USWNT goalkeeper, it can be important sometimes to grade on a curve. The point of getting Casey Murphy as many minutes as possible in 2022 was to prepare her for 2023 should she find herself in the same situation as AD Franch at last year’s Olympics, when Naeher hurt her knee and Franch was thrust into the lineup. Murphy’s caps jumped from four to 12 in 2022, and the USWNT newcomer did show some nerves in high-pressure moments.
The 26-year-old clearly has the mechanics to be a great USWNT goalkeeper, but hesitation at the back stopped her from becoming the team’s obvious No. 1 when presented with the opportunity. Murphy played very well against Australia last December but looked less comfortable in Concacaf W competition, including the team’s semifinal against Costa Rica. She actually played her best game of the year in the USWNT’s loss to Germany in November, perhaps setting the stage for steps forward in 2023.
AUBREY KINGSBURY – B-
Kingsbury performed perfectly well in her first and only USWNT cap of the year, a 9-0 blowout win over Uzbekistan. But her inability to break into the team’s current two-player rotation makes her spot on the 2023 World Cup roster far from a guarantee. Kingsbury is one of the best American goalkeepers in the NWSL, but her consistent call-ups came in the wake of the Washington Spirit’s championship win in 2021.
In 2022, Washington struggled and Kingsbury eventually found herself on the outside looking in of the USWNT as AD Franch made her return to camp at the end of the year. Franch herself never saw the field for the USWNT this year, but the choices made in January camp will indicate where Kingsbury currently stands on the depth chart and whether she needs different results in the NWSL to move back up.
ADRIANNA FRANCH – INCOMPLETE
I’m already breaking my own rules here, but Franch deserves a mention because she probably should have had USWNT minutes in 2022. Franch held her own in the midst of a difficult situation at the Tokyo Olympics, and she certainly was not the reason Canada advanced over the U.S. and to the gold-medal match off a penalty. She led her NWSL club, the Kansas City Current, all the way to the 2022 Championship and received a USWNT call-up in November. Naeher and Murphy split the two games, leaving Franch without an opportunity to prove herself.
It’s possible that Franch has played herself back into the conversation for the USWNT’s third goalkeeper spot, but she should also be in consideration for on-field time. As a pure shot-stopper, Franch continues to excel above the competition.
Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.
Tyler Adams, leader on and off the pitch: Our U.S. Men’s Soccer Person of the Year
Dec 21, 2022
In December, The Athletic will be highlighting the coaches, athletes and other figures who made the biggest impact in the U.S. sports we cover, as well as in the fields of sports business, media and culture. Next up in the series is our honoree in U.S. men’s soccer: Tyler Adams, who won a trophy in Germany, found a home in the Premier League and met the moment on the pitch and off it as the captain of the U.S. men’s national team at the World Cup. The full schedule is here.
It was less than a month into 2022, and Tyler Adams was already facing a setback.
After injuries slowed his initial involvement with RB Leipzig following his January 2019 transfer from his boyhood New York Red Bulls, Adams spent the next two years securing a place in the Bundesliga side’s rotation. But in January, he headed into the USMNT’s fourth World Cup qualifying window primed to do what he’d done all cycle long: playing every minute possible at the base of Gregg Berhalter’s midfield.
Following a frigid 1-0 win over El Salvador in Columbus, Adams was set for a pivotal match at Canada. Cyle Larin opened the scoring at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario, for the hosts within seven minutes, when a quick deflection off of Jonathan Osorio caught Adams out of position and rendered him unable to slow the sequence, as he listlessly tried to keep a read on the ball while Canada snatched a decisive goal.
Adams’ day hardly improved. In the 65th minute, he picked up a hamstring injury that would require him to come off four minutes later. The following day brought news that fans dreaded: Adams, the tireless midfield linchpin, would miss a must-win match against Honduras in Saint Paul.
Although the U.S. won that game without Adams, it was a frustrating sequence just two weeks before his 23rd birthday. When Adams left New York, it seemed that he and fellow MLS prospect Alphonso Davies would lead a new era of league-developed exports to become regulars with prominent European clubs.
As Davies quickly helped Bayern Munich to a Champions League title, Adams was still struggling to become a regular starter with Leipzig, who had employed four managers in Adams’ three years with the club.
With all of this fluctuation, it was almost inevitable that Adams would be linked with moves away from Leipzig. And yet, the January window closed with Adams still in Germany.
What transpired in the 11 months following his hamstring pull has radically altered the course of Adams’ career. Despite a rough first month, Adams closes 2022 having won his first trophy since leaving MLS. He earned a move to ensure first-choice status with a familiar voice barking instructions from the touchline. He ended a years-long captain’s vacancy for the United States men, donning the armband throughout their four World Cup matches. And, after perhaps being overshadowed by many of his fellow precocious compatriots, he’s become a highly respected midfield general. For all this, Adams is The Athletic’s U.S. Men’s Soccer Person of the Year.
Germany has rostered players from U.S. shores for decades. In total, 67 U.S.-eligible players have competed in the Bundesliga, but only those three had ever won the DFB-Pokal, Germany’s preeminent cup competition, heading into the 2021-22 season.
After finishing as runners-up the year before, Adams and Leipzig again made a run for their first German cup this season. Adams was an unused substitute in Leipzig’s quarterfinal and semifinal victories and was again listed as a substitute for the final between Leipzig and SC Freiburg. At last, nine minutes into extra time, Adams threw his jersey on. Playing with 10 men since a 57th-minute red card, Leipzig desperately needed fresh legs to keep an inspired Freiburg at bay.
In the ensuing shootout, Freiburg missed twice, as Leipzig made all four of their shots, giving them the historic victory. It wasn’t a full shift for Adams, nor was it a particularly glamorous one. Nevertheless, it was a reinforcement of why Leipzig brought Adams over from New York less than three years earlier.
Still, Adams’ name was again in circulation as the summer transfer window neared.
Leeds United had just narrowly avoided relegation in the Premier League, and they needed to replace starting midfielder Kalvin Phillips, giving Adams a potential outlet for more consistent match action than he’d found with Leipzig. The club also made fellow U.S. international Brenden Aaronson its record signing upon avoiding the drop, ensuring a friendly face would be making a similar adjustment to life in West Yorkshire.
And, as if all of that wasn’t enough, their survival was secured after hiring Adams’ two-time coach, and one of his staunchest supporters, as their manager: Jesse Marsch.
On July 6, a day before Leeds played their first preseason match, they announced they had secured their man, bringing Adams in just two days after selling Phillips to Manchester City. Adams relished the chance to not only re-reunite with Marsch, but to help a storied club find more stable footing.
“When Leeds came calling, I knew a lot about the club through the (Amazon) documentary (about the club from 2019), and the history of the club,” Adams said in November. “I didn’t completely understand the (magnitude) of how big the club is. The fans, the culture is a completely different level.”
Sure enough, Adams has been given ample opportunities to make a strong first impression on his new fan base as he became an instant starter in Phillips’ stead. He hasn’t looked like a player who’s only there because of a relationship with the coach, either. Adams has been a standout in his first Premier League season, making a smoother transition from Germany to England than many manage — it’s a perk to know your new coach’s system better than most of the locker room before even signing a contract.
|STATISTIC PER 90||DATA||PERCENTILE*|
|Pass completion %||84.7||68|
*Percentiles (via fbref dot com) compared to positional peers in men’s top five European leagues, Champions League, Europa League since Dec. 20, 2021. Based on a minimum of 1,350 minutes played (Adams has played 1,873 minutes).
Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams and Brendan Aaronson — USMNT teammates in Qatar — talk during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Chelsea on Aug. 21. (Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt / AMA / Getty Images)
Adams started all but one of Leeds’ 14 league matches before the World Cup break, missing their clash with Fulham with a minor muscle issue. He would’ve had a perfect record by turning in a full 90 minutes for each shift if it weren’t for the final game before the tournament, when he was shown a second yellow card in the 87th minute against Tottenham.
It’s a far cry from rotating in and out of Leipzig’s lineup, to say the least. The move to Leeds provided him with a perfect lead-in to the World Cup. He was getting consistent starts against some of the game’s best midfielders playing a style that’s comparable to Berhalter’s system.
The near-inevitable was confirmed as Adams was among the marquee names when Berhalter finalized his World Cup roster on Nov. 9. Adams would be adding to his 32 senior caps on the world’s biggest stage. Ready or not, here it was.
As a student from the school of Red Bull Football, Adams knows a thing or two about pressure.
In his installment of The Athletic’s “My Game in My Words” series, Adams discussed the nuance of both applying pressure on opponents with the ball as well as anticipating their own pressing when he’s about to collect it. With a more holistic approach to retaining the ball rather than relying on heroic dribbling tricks, Adams sees the latter circumstance as a time to recirculate.
“You want to create numerical advantages in soccer, so I think if I’m getting pressure right now from any player, I’m switching the ball immediately.”
That mental balance served Adams well in the U.S.’s first two group contests in Qatar. He was a vital presence to keep Wales at bay in the Americans’ opening draw. In the Black Friday blockbuster against England, Adams covered a bit more ground as midfield partner Weston McKennie was shunted wide to create numerical advantages on the right flank. All the same, Adams was impactful, marking Jude Bellingham into his worst game of the tournament while seeing out a scoreless draw.
To play so consistently in his first two World Cup matches was achievement enough, but Adams’ calm presence extended beyond the pitch, as well. After taking a rotational approach to the captain’s armband throughout qualifying, Berhalter named Adams the indisputable skipper in the days before the Wales match. It was an obvious pick: a player whose leadership chops extend far beyond his youthfulness.
“We used to have conversations in New York about whether we make Tyler the captain at 17, 18 years old,” Marsch said in an interview with The Athletic last year. “Everyone talked about his potential as a leader.”
On the field, the responsibility never appeared to burden Adams. In press conferences, however, he had to navigate a different kind of pressure on his own — particularly before the United States’ game against Iran.
Factors from both the U.S. Soccer camp and beyond raised the tension for that final group-stage match beyond the usual anxiety which comes with win-or-go-home stakes. Within Iran’s borders, anti-government protests have been staged since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody just three days after being arrested for not covering her hair while visiting her brother in Tehran. Days before the match, U.S. Soccer tweeted out a graphic that erased the Islamic Republic iconography on the Iranian flag.
Also, Iran coach Carlos Quieroz had fielded several questions about the country’s restrictions on women’s rights. Quieroz repeatedly asked reporters why coaches like Gareth Southgate of England and Berhalter don’t face similar lines of questioning about their own country’s policies and actions. With Berhalter and Adams taking their coach and captain responsibilities to field questions on the eve of the match, Iranian reporters took the opportunity to take a similar approach to questioning.
Berhalter was asked to explain U.S. Soccer’s decision to omit the Islamic Republic symbol on social media, the presence of an American fleet in the Persian Gulf and high national inflation rates. Another writer directly asked Adams, who is Black, how it feels to represent a country with “so much discrimination against Black people” immediately after scolding the midfielder for mispronouncing “Iran” in his previous answer.
In response, Adams showed his level-headedness and maturity in the moment.
“There’s discrimination everywhere you go,” Adams said. “One thing that I’ve learned, especially from living abroad in the past years and having to fit into different cultures and kind of assimilate into different cultures, is that in the U.S., we’re continuing to make progress every single day. Growing up for me, I grew up in a White family with obviously an African-American heritage and background, as well.
“So I had a little bit of different cultures and I was very, very easily able to assimilate in different cultures. Not everyone has that ease and the ability to do that, and obviously, it takes longer for some to understand. Through education, I think it’s super important. Like you just educated me now on the pronunciation of your country. So yeah, it’s a process. I think, as long as you see progress, that’s the most important thing.”
For all of his skill on the field, it was in this press conference that Adams became the USMNT’s indisputable captain. Now, all that was left was the easy part: A game against a fired-up and well-organized opponent where anything less than a win would send the United States home sooner than they would’ve liked.
It’s easier to find areas in which Adams didn’t make his presence known in the match against Iran than those which he impacted. From box to box, he put in a shift worthy of his now-burgeoning reputation. He completed 62 of his 69 pass attempts, with 11 directed into the final third to facilitate attacking opportunities. He was 3-for-3 in tackling, won six of his nine ground duals, completed seven of his eight long passes, and made a staggering 12 ball recoveries.
And yet, the U.S. still narrowly clung to a 1-0 lead entering nine minutes of agonizing stoppage time. After some conservative substitutions by Berhalter, Iran would be the aggressors for the duration. Less than two minutes in, center back Morteza Pouraliganji got on the end of a free kick for a diving header which narrowly went wide of goal. U.S. goalkeeper Matt Turner collected himself and prepared to take a goal kick. Crisis averted thanks to a slightly misplaced attempt, right?
As ever, Adams was there to quietly play the hero once more. In the commotion around the defender’s attempt, the officiating crew missed a slight deflection from Adams which nudged the ball just off frame from Turner’s goal. While the ensuing seven minutes were no less stressful, Iran didn’t manage another attempt with the same level of promise as Pouraliganji’s dive. The final whistle mercifully blew after nine minutes and 53 seconds.
Going into the tournament, the U.S. was optimistic about getting out of the group stage. Even after the draw handed the young side one of the toughest groups among the field, a generation with so many promising players doesn’t expect to just play the minimum of three matches at a World Cup. Ahead of a 2026 tournament which will feature Adams and his peers in their projected prime years playing on home soil in North America, achieving success in Qatar was earmarked as a necessary step ahead of a competitive run in four years’ time.
While the U.S. lost to the Netherlands in the round of 16, the tournament gave a foundation for what’s to come. It’s a back-handed sort of compliment to Adams, but the fact that a rare mistake from him (failing to mark Memphis Depay after a turnover) led to the opening goal highlights just how consistent the midfielder had been throughout the previous three matches. Without Adams, it’s hard to imagine they would have fared as well in Group B.
“In the past three games, I’d say we defended the moments really, really well,” Adams said after the defeat. “And today the three goals come from moments where we’re probably sleeping a little bit.”
The strong tournament showing has once again put Adams into the conversation ahead of a transfer window. Thanks to the bizarre reality of a non-summer World Cup, the breakthrough comes just as teams on the fringes of contention for the Champions League are looking for sure-thing reinforcements to push them into the qualifying places. Manchester United and Inter Milan have reportedly been among the marquee early inquirers, although it’s hard to imagine Leeds will be in any rush to move such a vital part of a team they hope will grow together under Marsch’s leadership after a rocky start to the season.
With the first month of the year leaving his club status in a state of flux as an injury kept him from a must-win qualifier, 2022 was shaping up to be a pivotal year for Adams. Not only did he navigate it well, but he launched himself into a new plane of respect in the face of adversity. While it’s unclear what this bright young generation of U.S. men will accomplish both independently and as a collective, one thing is undeniable: Adams will play a massive role in that assessment, both now and likely for years to come.
Andres Cantor’s emotional Argentina World Cup victory call was 36 years in the making
By Christopher KamraniDec 20, 202222
The voice on the other line answered at 4:50 a.m. local time. It’s a famous voice, but a tad raspier than its typical eloquent baseline. Of course it was. It had to be. Imagine the demented multiverse we’d exist in without Sunday’s World Cup final, without the greatest and circuitous two hours the sport has potentially ever allotted to us, without Telemundo’s Buenos Aires-born play-by-play announcer Andrés Cantor belting out the most appropriate signature phrase in the sport.
In the way-too-early hours in Doha, nearly eight hours after Gonzalo Montiel went left with his winning spot kick to secure Argentina’s first men’s World Cup crown since 1986, Cantor, the emphatic voice who never fails to rise to the vital moments, is still searching for the words.
“Aye…” he says, scrolling through the Rolodex of his mind, before arriving at his destination: a 30-second clip from 1978, the intro to ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”.
“The ecstasy of victory and the agony of defeat,” Cantor said.
In his Doha dwelling on Monday morning, with his voice bouncing off the walls, Cantor recalled experiencing both the ecstasy and the agony within those irreplaceable two hours that Argentina and France provided. Sunday was Cantor’s ninth World Cup final either on television or radio.
“I don’t remember, out of all the World Cup finals I’ve been to, a more dominant final like Argentina dominated — until the 76th minute of this match,” he said. “But, I know this is soccer. This is football.”
Nonetheless, in the 74th minute, Cantor turned to his broadcast partner, 1986 World Cup champion Claudio Borghi, and asked without any sarcasm: “Is this real?”.
“Argentina was playing so well and we were just 14 minutes away,” Cantor explained. “I regret saying that because I know from experience. This is football. When France tied the match, obviously I had the responsibility of calling the World Cup final match and the tying goal.”
A double dose of Kylian Mbappe in the 80th and 81st minute immediately evaporated the elation that Argentines worldwide possessed. You can risk sounding hyperbolic by just claiming that this final had it all, but it did. It went from one-sided to all-out chaos, which Cantor was still laughing about over the phone eight hours later. Messi poking the ball over the line in the 108th minute, Mbappe cooly equalizing again 10 minutes later, and the moment Cantor kept mentioning: Emiliano Martinez’s otherworldly save in the 123rd minute, keeping Argentina very much alive at the death: “I get goosebumps. I get chills,” said Cantor of the decisive moment. All of it was a ridiculously entertaining, gut-churning precursor to penalty kicks. Martinez showed up again when the lights burned brightest and shimmied with unbridled arrogance. Eventually, it was up to Montiel, a 25-year-old full-back, to restore Argentina’s place as a soccer power. hat came out was love. “What came out were my true emotions,” Cantor said. “I said from the very first interview in 1990 that I would be a hypocrite if I said I don’t want Argentina to win the World Cup. But I had the composure and professionalism when France scored the tying goal and then almost went ahead and won the World Cup.”ADVERTISEMENT
What poured out of the sport’s venerated voice was a joy that hadn’t coarse through his veins in 36 years. “I showed I was human after all when Montiel hit the winning PK,” he said. Cantor grabbed hold of Borghi’s white dress shirt as he screamed and screamed and his voice cracked and he said the words five decades in the making.“I shortened the ‘GOOOOOOOL!’ because the scream every Argentine wanted to hear was ‘Argentina Campeon!’ I repeated it and repeated it,” Cantor said. “I remembered not only (Diego) Maradona, but the great world champions that have also passed away like (Jose Luis) Cuciuffo, (Jose Luis) Brown, (Leopoldo) Luque. I just remembered everyone who had so much to do in the history of Argentine football for these kids to be crowned champions today.”Cantor covered his first World Cup in 1986 aged 23 as a media member working for Argentine magazine El Grafico. He’d been to two previous tournaments as a fan, but the tournament in Mexico was his first doing his best to pry apart love for his national team and the objectivity required by the job. He watched Maradona and La Albiceleste lift their second World Cup trophy in three attempts (Argentina won as the host nation in 1978). In the four-year cycles since, there had been a frustrating mixture of sorrow and pitfalls and debacles — there were group-stage exits, title-caliber teams who never got going at a tournament, and a 113th-minute heartbreak in the 2014 World Cup final at the hands of Germany. “It’s been such a long wait,” Cantor said.Like everything, Cantor said he will have to let the adrenaline smooth itself out in the coming days before he is back on the headset on Boxing Day for the return of the Premier League. When asked if the final was the best match he’s called in his illustrious career, Cantor said he was still overwhelmed and will be overwhelmed for a while.
“I don’t know if it was the best game I’ve called in my career because it was kind of one-sided,” he said. “I was really, really controlling my emotions through the 75th minute. Then we had a game and then talk about a rollercoaster of emotions. The last 15 minutes, the extra 30 and then PKs? Oh, my God. That was the most intense game of my life for sure. I don’t know if it was the best play-by-play. The public will be there to judge. But for me, it was the most intense moment of my career, for sure.”
As if the jubilation wasn’t tangible enough, Cantor had the unique pleasure of soaking in the triumph with his kids in attendance. His son Nico was working pitchside for radio network Futbol de Primera, and daughter Andrea was in the stands in a No. 9 Argentina shirt. Nico had the luxury of traveling to the last four World Cups, either as a fan or, like his father, as a media member.
“This year he told me, ‘You know, you’re so lucky you got to see Argentina lift the World Cup twice. I’m heartbroken every time I go to the World Cup and Argentina can’t lift it’,” Andres said.
When Montiel’s penalty made the back of the net flutter, Nico cried on air, too. In the same stadium as his dad. In the same stadium as his sister. In the same stadium as thousands of exalted Argentines having experienced the ecstasy and the agony.
“If I was crying pitchside, I couldn’t imagine what my dad was going through live on air,” Nico said. “It’s part of my blood. It’s how I identify. I didn’t even need to see the video because I knew my dad was going to break down crying the way he did. I knew it. We’ve been waiting for this my entire life.”
After 36 years of waiting, Andres Cantor let it all out. The wait was over. Finally.
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