1/17/23 USWNT New Zealand Friendlies Tues & Fri 10 pm HBO Max, Peacock, Big Games on TV

US Women Face New Zealand in WC Warm-Up Tues/Fri 10 pm HBO Max, Telemundo and Peacock in Spanish

With less than 6 months to the World Cup the US Ladies start the 2023 be playing down under in the stadiums they will play In for the World Cup vs the Kiwis on Tuesday and Friday at 10 pm on HBO Max.  Yes HBO Max and Turner Sports outbid Fox and ESPN and everyone else to become the new station for the US National Team games.  Julie Fowdy has left ESPN and will join Shannon Boxx, DaMarcus Beasley, Kyle Martino and broadcaster Luke Wileman with reporters Sara Walsh and Melissa Ortiz.  It will be interesting to see which games are on cable -TBS and TNT and which games are streaming only HBO Max.  Fortunately I already have HBO Max – still it seems wrong to have our US National Team Men’s and Women’s Games not be on Free/Cable TV.  US Soccer is just showing THEY ARE STUPID Again.  This should not be about a few extra dollars on the TV Contract – but rather about trying to get Soccer in front of as many people as possible before our watershed hosting of the 2026 World Cup. Once again our US Soccer Leadership shows just how INEPT they are.  From this whole Berhalter vs Reyna situation to the TV contracts – US Soccer is Clueless.  

The US Ladies have announced the Female Player of the Year goes to Sophia Smith.   Year End Review for the US Ladies // Cool USWNT Commercial ESPN  //  Top 10 Goal 2022 USMNT  // Alyssa Naeher Making Saves

The USMNT Roster for NZ

ROSTER (club; caps/goals)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Adrianna Franch (Kansas City Current; 10), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 11), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 86)

DEFENDERS (8): Alana Cook (OL Reign; 19/0), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 22/0), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 126/24), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC; 10/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 25/0), Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current; 8/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 211/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 69/1)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC; 4/0), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 122/26), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC; 7/1), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 84/22), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 46/7), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 17/3), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 37/3)

FORWARDS (6): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 14/4), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC; 200/119), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 20/4), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit; 10/2), Mallory Swanson (Chicago Red Stars; 82/25), Lynn Williams (Kansas City Current; 47/14)

US Women updated Stories for tonight

USWNT’S JANUARY GAMES AVAILABLE ON HBO MAX UNDER NEW TV DEAL

THREE THINGS I WANT TO SEE FROM THE USWNT TO START 2023

WILL SAM MEWIS RETURN TO USWNT? VLATKO ANDONOVSKI CAN’T SAY

USWNT 2023 WORLD CUP ROSTER: WHERE IS JULIE ERTZ?

WHAT FORMER USWNT PLAYERS HAVE SAID ABOUT THE CURRENT ROSTER

THE CASE FOR THE MOST ESSENTIAL USWNT PLAYER: ALEX MORGAN

Derby Weekend -Games to Watch

Some huge Derby’s on the docket this week as Man United hosts Man City Sat at 7:30 am on USA leads things off with a battle between the 2nd and 4th ranked teams in the EPL.  Sunday we get top of the table Arsenal traveling to 5th place Tottenham on Peacock at 11:30 am.  Followed by El Classico – Real Madrid hosting Barcelona on ABC TV at 2 pm. This all after 6th place Fulham and Americans Tim Ream and Jedi Robinson travel to 4th place New Castle United at 9 am on Peacock. Wednesday gives us AC Milan vs Inter Milan in Italy’s Super Cup on CBS Sports Network at 2 pm, while Thursday features Man City hosting Tottenham at 3 pm on Peacock.  Friday we get 2 of Germany’s best as RB Leipzig and American Gio Reyna host Bayern Munich.  Hugely disappointing week for Leeds United States at they tied in FA Cup play last  weekend and lost on the road to Aston Villa despite outshooting them today today (highlights).  Fulham America however continues to thrive with US Center Back Tim Ream captaining them to a huge win over Chelsea Thursday (highlights) and top 6 in the table for the first time in decades.  For all the US Men on TV this Weekend

CARMEL FC GK — 2 GKs make ODP Teams for Memphis

Super proud that 2 of our Carmel FC Goalkeepers Emma Bukovac (2010) and Olivia Aft (2012) have each made the Indiana ODP Red team rosters for the upcoming tournament President’s Day weekend in Memphis, Tenn. Pretty sure we have other CFC field players who also made rosters . https://www.soccerindiana.org/odp/odp-news-and-events

GAMES ON TV

Sat, Jan 14                          

7:30 am USA               Man United  vs Man City

8 am ESPN+                       Barcelona vs Espanoyl.

10 am Peacock                 Brighton vs Liverpool  

10 amUSA                          Everoton vs Southampton

12:30 pm NBC                   Brentford vs Bournmouth

Sun, Jan 15                         

7 am CBSSN                       Arsenal vs Chelsea FC Ladies

9 am Peacock Newcastle United vs Fulham (Ream, Jedi)

9 am USA                            Chelsea vs Cyrstal Palace9

11:30 am  Peacock     Tottenham vs Arsenal  

2 pm ABC                    Real Madrid vs Barcelona

2:45 pm beIN Sport          Rennes vs PSG

Tues, Jan 17

2:45 pm ESPN+                  Wolverhampton vs Liverpool FA Cup

2:$5 pm ESPN+                  Wigan vs Luton Town (US GK Horvath)  FA Cup

10 pm HBO Max         US Women vs New Zealand

Wed, Jan 18

2:45 pm ESPN+           Leeds United (Aaronson, Adams) vs Cardiff City FA Cup

2 pm CBS SN               AC Milan vs Inter Milan   Super Cup

3 pm Peacock                    Crystal Palace vs Man United

Thur, Jan 19

3 pm Peacock             Man City vs Tottenham

Fri, Jan 20

2:30 pm ESPN+ & Des    RB Liepzig vs Bayern Munich  

10 pm HBO Max         US Women vs New Zealand

Sat, Jan 21                        

7:30 am USA               Liverpool vs Chelsea  

12:30 pm NBC                   Crystal Palace vs New Castle United

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

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

US Women

US Ladies Roster is Announced
HBO Max’s First Live Sports Stream in U.S. to Feature USWNT

USWNT WILL FACE TWO TOP-10 TEAMS AT 2023 SHEBELIEVES CUP

US Men

Berhalter-Reyna explained: Drama’s roots in U.S.’s overbearing parents  Jeff Carlisle
USMNT’s Timothy Weah, Haji Wright linked with Premier League clubs

Puliaix out for a Couple of Months with latest injury – not for Sale Says Chelsea
Pulisic out ‘couple of months’ and Sterling less than that, says Chelsea’s Potter

Yedlin, Zimmerman praise embattled US coach Berhalter

US Men on TV this Weekend

 World


EPL’s Double Derby Weekend Kicks Off in Old Trafford

Arsenal, Man City face Premier League derby dates

Arsenal relaxed ahead of Spurs clash, says Arteta

Aston Villa make wasteful Leeds pay

Another win for Aston Villa, Emery as Leeds’ frustrations continue

Potter’s misery mounts as Fulham beat Chelsea after Felix red card

Liverpool cannot solve problems in transfer window, says Klopp

Rampant Napoli crush Juventus to move 10 points clear

Messi, Mbappe and Neymar set to join forces for first time since World Cup

New US owner of Bournemouth invests in French club Lorient

Barca beat Betis on penalties, reach Clasico Super Cup final

Courtois helps Madrid beat Valencia to reach Super Cup final

Messi and Mbappe among nominees for FIFA Best award

Reffing

History-making Frappart on Women’s World Cup referees list

Goalkeeping

50 Best Saves of the Year so Far

EPL Goalkeeper Ratings

EPL GK Stats NBC

Best EPL Saves Dec

Best 5 GKs  at the World Cup

Alyssa Naeher US GK Making Saves

===================RackZ BAR BQ ====Save 20% ====================== 

AFTER YOUR PRACTICE or GAMES AT

BADGER FIELDHOUSE

Try out the Best BarBQ in Town right across the street (131st) from Northview Church & Badger Field on the corner of Hazelldell & 131st. RackZ BBQ

Save 20% on your order 

(mention the ole ballcoach) 

Check out the BarBQ Ribs, pulled Pork and Chicken, Brisket and more.  Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 20% off your next mealhttps://www.rackzbbqindy.com/ Call ahead at 317-688-7290  M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday.  Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You!  

Save 20% on these Succulent Ribs at Rackz BarBQ when you mention the Ole Ballcoach – Corner of 131 & Hazelldell. – Call 317-688-7290.

=====================RackZ BAR BBQ ======Save 20% ======================

United States begins Women’s World Cup warmup with ‘important’ friendlies against New Zealand

Jan 16, 2023 ESPN

The United States women are beginning the run-in to this summer’s World Cup with a pair of friendlies against New Zealand — one of the host countries along with Australia for the 2023 showpiece event.And, according to veteran Becky Sauerbrunn, the Jan. 18 and 21 matches aren’t just warmup games, they are “really important” as the U.S. looks to defend its 2019 title.”It is extremely important,” Sauerbrunn said on Monday. “I think it’s really difficult to replicate what you are going to see at a World Cup. So, to be able to come here six months prior and to play in the stadiums, to get a feel for the town and cities that you are going to play in, it’s really important and super helpful for us.”

EDITOR’S PICKS

The U.S. beat the Netherlands in the final in France in 2019 to win its fourth World Cup crown and now faces a field loaded with top teams — like Germany, Brazil and 2022 Women’s Euro champions England — as it looks to lift a third-consecutive trophy.

Vlatko Andonovski’s team has been training Down Under for the last 12 days and is taking on a New Zealand side its faced regularly in recent years, but knowing two of its first three group matches will be played in the same stadiums this summer adds an extra level of significance to the preparations.”Hopefully we’ll see a great turnout at the games,” Sauerbrunn said. “I know the Kiwis have just continued to just do so well. Over the last five or 10 years that we’ve played them quite a few times, and I know a lot of the players on the team as well.

“But having a World Cup here on home soil, it just puts a lot more excitement but also pressure on them as well just to make things even better, to take it a few more notches up.

“So, for us to be here, I hope that it continues to create buzz and excitement for the World Cup and for women’s football. And I think that we are doing that, but we are here for one thing and that’s to get preparation in for the World Cup and to have two games that help us take two steps forward as we inch closer.”

The U.S. have been drawn in Group E with the Netherlands, Vietnam and the winner of a playoff that has yet to be determined. World Cup play begins on July 20 and concludes with the final on Aug. 20 at Stadium Australia in Sydney.

The USWNT squad has rarely looked so uncertain ahead of a World Cup. Which players must step up?

Jan 16, 2023 ESPN Sophie Lawson

It’s January of a World Cup year, and the U.S. women’s national team is about to kick off the first of a series of friendly games that will take the Americans to the start of the quadrennial tournament.

Ahead of the 2019 and 2015 Women’s World Cups, it was trips to France for the U.S., both resulting with losses to Les Bleues, whereas in 2011 it was a flight to China, where that year started with a loss to Sweden. This time, however, the Americans are heading to the Southern Hemisphere for a doubleheader against New Zealand that will see them play in the two group-stage venues they’ll compete in at the World Cup this summer.

Indeed, the USWNT tends to break out of its normal routine of playing games domestically and go abroad to kick off a World Cup year — but there is one big difference for the U.S. now compared to previous cycles: possibly more than ever before, there are endless question marks around the U.S. team. The pair of games in New Zealand on Tuesday and Friday will offer two chances to find answers.While there is always some degree of fan anxiety around the USWNT when a new tournament year rolls around, the pedigree of the squad remains tangibly high, as does the tacit understanding that the team will always be one of the strongest at the tournament. Despite the many questions during the era of previous coach Jill Ellis, the team still usually managed to deliver at the key moments and won back-to-back World Cups. However, during current coach Vlatko Andonovski’s tenure, such assurances have been absent.When Ellis assembled the players to take to pre-World Cup friendlies in Europe in 2015 and 2019, it was with the view to test them, highlight the shortcomings of the team and fix them ahead of the long summers — but there was already a somewhat clear picture of who had done enough to earn their spot at the World Cup. This time, however, that particular clarity is missing, and players are vying for a slew of spots that appear to be up for grabs.

Can anyone replace Julie Ertz in midfield?

In the U.S. job for more than three years, Andonovski has almost exclusively trotted out a 4-3-3 formation that rarely failed with defensive midfielder Julie Ertz playing at the base of the midfield diamond — yet without a fit Ertz to call upon, things have often fallen apart.

EDITOR’S PICKS

In her place, the coach has opted for Lindsey Horan or Andi Sullivan, and neither has commanded the role as Ertz did. Indeed there is arguably no one person in the U.S. player pool who can fulfill that role anymore — not even Ertz herself, who has been on leave since having her first child in August.

While it’s likely that Horan will be on the plane this summer, the role she plays for the U.S. is still open for interpretation as the midfielder is one you’d ideally want higher up the pitch, creating rather than nullifying — or attempting to nullify — the opposition.

With just four caps to her name, Sam Coffey could stamp her authority on the defensive midfielder role this camp as she is far more suited to the bullish defensive role in midfield than Sullivan. Returning from injury, Emily Sonnett, who has typically played as a right-back or center-back for the U.S., could arguably throw her own hat into the ring as she has the aptitude as well as versatile experience for the role.

This is all assuming that Andonovski continues with his favored 4-3-3, with the caveat that during the USWNT’s second game against Germany at the end of last year, the coach tweaked his system to allow more attacking flow forward and take the pressure off his exposed defense.

Should the coach persist with this approach, fans can expect to see more pressure on both his attack and defense as the team continues to be more rushed in its play, rather than allowing the vast talents of the players available to shine.

Veterans or newbies in the back?

With Sofia Huerta having made the right-back role her own as veteran Kelley O’Hara dealt with injuries last year, left-back remains an area of uncertainty for Andonovski.

Crystal DunnEmily Fox and Hailie Mace are all capable of playing the role, even though Fox is the only one of the trio who plays the role for her club team, Racing Louisville. While all three are also capable of getting forward and aiding the attack, they all have different abilities when it comes to the defensive duties that would be tested during the latter stages of a World Cup. In this respect, facing a youthful New Zealand team ranked 24th in the world — who will likely be fielding a lot of inexperience in attack — might not be the best test of the USWNT’s defensive strengths.

Although both center-backs Alana Cook and Becky Sauerbrunn are near certainties to make the squad that travels to the World Cup, with the hit-and-miss performances from both late last year, there is a question of who will start in the heart of defence. Naomi Girma, who will enter her second season as a professional this year for the San Diego Wave, looks like she has nailed down one of the two starting center-back spots.

Further back, Casey Murphy could make a case for herself to be the starting goalkeeper for the team with the coach shuffling between her and regular starter Alyssa Naeher over the past year or so. Similarly, if she is given the nod, Adrianna Franch could force herself back into consideration, having been the coach’s choice during the 2021 Olympics when Naeher was forced off injured in their penultimate game in Japan — but she has clearly fallen out of favor since then.

As players return from injury, attack gets crowded

For the sheer depth of talent available to Andonovski, or any coach who has ever led the U.S. national team, there is no area where the Americans are more spoiled than in attack.

Out injured since March 2022, Lynn Williams is making a welcome return to the team and has proved herself to be a favorite of her coach, with her selfless off-the-ball work and incisive runs a notable highlight of the Andonovski years. But Williams finds herself coming into a team in which Mallory Swanson (née Pugh), Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith (not included in this roster due to a foot injury) have become regular contributors.

With both Smith and veteran Megan Rapinoe absent, Williams has the best chance of demonstrating her worth and consideration to her coach. But following such a lengthy layoff, it could be her work on the training pitch during camp that will prove to be more important.

Foudy: USWNT’s World Cup draw very favourable

Julie Foudy reacts to the USWNT’s group opponents for the 2023 World Cup.

The wider question isn’t whether Andonovski takes Williams or Smith to the World Cup but rather which players constitute his best attacking unit, and who can benefit more from the creativity coming out of a midfield that could feature any mixture of Rose Lavelle, Horan, Ashley SanchezTaylor KornieckKristie Mewis, Sullivan and Coffey.

Indeed, there are very few players who seem to have firmly locked themselves into Andonovski’s plans for this summer, and with a potential return for Catarina Macario, who continues to work back to fitness following an ACL injury, roster spots are at a premium and strong national team performances leading up to the World Cup could be the difference for many called up.

In cycles past, the final World Cup rosters often had an air of inevitability to them, even as coaches tinkered and tested players all the way up until the tournament, but Andonovski has some genuine questions with no clear-cut answers — and only six months to sort them until the World Cup begins.

USWNT’s Williams, Sonnett return for New Zealand friendlies: How the trip can prepare U.S. for World Cup

Oct 26, 2021; St. Paul, Minnesota, USA; United States forward Lynn Williams (6) traps the ball between South Korea defender Lee Youngju (17) and midfielder Cho Sohyun (8) in the second half of an international friendly soccer match at Allianz Field. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

By Meg Linehan Jan 5, 2023 20


On Thursday, U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski announced the 24-player roster heading to New Zealand next week. The senior team will hold a six-day camp before a pair of friendlies against New Zealand in Wellington/Te Whanganui-a-Tara and Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Defender Emily Sonnett and forward Lynn Williams make their return after injuries. Sonnett featured in last summer’s World Cup qualifiers, but Williams missed most of 2022 with a major hamstring injury.
  • Sophia Smith, the reigning NWSL MVP and championship winner with the Portland Thorns, is out with a foot injury. Also missing from this roster is Megan Rapinoe with an ankle injury.
  • Andonovski is scheduled to speak on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. ET and may provide more details on a timeline for both Smith and Rapinoe, as well as the number of other players still working on various injury recoveries.

The roster

The 24-player roster doesn’t feature any major surprises, as the team begins the work of reincorporating players returning from injury. With Adrianna Franch earning back a spot in the goalkeeping pool following an excellent 2022 NWSL season, the three picks remain steady with her, Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage) and Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

ADVERTISEMENT

https://b8fd7c67e85acc6fdf8c8b3607c693f5.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html

No defenders have been dropped from the final roster of 2022 for the two friendlies against Germany; only Sonnett has been added. Alana Cook (OL Reign), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (Reign), Hailie Mace (Current) and Becky Sauerbrunn (Thorns) are all back for the trip to New Zealand.

There are no changes in the midfield either. Sam Coffey (Thorns), Lindsey Horan (Lyon), Taylor Kornieck (Wave), Rose Lavelle (Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit) and Andi Sullivan (Spirit) were all called up once again.

Midge Purce makes her return to the forward pool for the first time since last September’s friendlies, and Williams is also back in the mix. Mallory Pugh has changed her name following her marriage to Chicago Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson and will start 2023 on the field as Mallory Swanson. Ashley Hatch (Spirit), Alex Morgan (Wave) and Trinity Rodman (Spirit) are all back for 2023 as well.

The matches

The Ferns are a familiar matchup for the USWNT, but the U.S. has never played in New Zealand before. The two friendlies will also take place in the two stadiums where the team will play their group stage matches in this summer’s World Cup, providing a chance to mimic tournament conditions (though they won’t be able to replicate the weather conditions since it will be winter in New Zealand during the tournament).

After the six-day training camp, they’ll head to Wellington/Te Whanganui-a-Tara for the first friendly, set for 4 p.m. local time on Jan. 18 (10 p.m. ET on Jan. 17 with the time difference) at Sky Stadium. The two teams will face off again at Eden Park in Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau on Jan. 21 at 4 p.m. local (10 p.m. ET, Jan. 20) — the first time the Ferns will ever play at their home national stadium.

ADVERTISEMENT

https://b8fd7c67e85acc6fdf8c8b3607c693f5.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html

Both matches will air on HBO Max, as part of U.S. Soccer’s new media rights deal.

What they’re saying

Andonovski said in the release: “We’ve been thinking about and planning for the World Cup for a long time, but when the calendar turns to the World Cup year, for sure it brings some renewed focus and energy as the tournament starts in less than 200 days. To get to bring the team to New Zealand in January and play in our World Cup venues has so many benefits so we are going to make sure we maximize our time together, make this trip as productive as possible and enjoy a unique experience as many of our players have never been to New Zealand before.”

Midfielder Sam Coffey: “Especially for us as young players, (the upcoming World Cup) is an incredibly overwhelming thing — in the best way — looming in the distance, so to have some sort of familiarity going into it, I think, will serve us greatly.”

Injury updates

Andonovski provided injury updates on Smith, Cat Macario and more while speaking on a conference call following the roster reveal.

“We have some back already, like Lynn Williams and Emily Sonnett. Tierna (Davidson) and Kelley (O’Hara) are also very close, the other ones may take a couple more months before we see them back,” Andonovski said.

On Macario: “Cat is doing very good, she’s progressing very well. She’s in line to be on the field, or in contact play, probably in about four to five weeks.”

On Smith: “It’s not a serious injury. In fact, it’s something that has been bothering (Sophia) for a longer time, and we felt this is the time that we wanted to fix this and not have any problems going forward. In fact, she’s back to training, light training, and because of the treatment she received in December, she wasn’t able to train and get up to speed or necessary fitness in order to be in the January camp. Hopefully, she’ll be able to regain fitness for SheBelieves Cup (in February).”

USWNT, Thorns’ Sophia Smith wins U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year

Nov 10, 2022; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA; United States forward Sophia Smith (11) runs with the ball during the first half against Germany at DRV PNK Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

By Meg LinehanJan 6, 20236


U.S. women’s national team and Portland Thorns FC forward Sophia Smith has been voted the U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year for 2022, the federation announced Friday. Additionally, San Diego Wave midfielder/forward Jaedyn Shaw has been voted the U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Smith’s win, with over 50 percent of the vote, is the first time a woman of color has won the award in the 38-year history of the U.S. Soccer female player of the year award (since 1985).
  • Smith was the leading scorer for both the USWNT and the Thorns during 2022, won the NWSL MVP award and was named MVP of the NWSL Championship match.
  • Shaw made her professional debut with the Wave last July and scored in her first appearance. She tallied three goals for the Wave as they earned a playoff spot in their first season as an NWSL expansion team.

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

The obvious and correct choice

Smith had a stellar 2022 with both the national team and the Thorns. She scored 11 goals for the USWNT, and 14 for Portland, making her only the fourth player to ever score 10+ goals for both NWSL club and country in a calendar year (Abby Wambach in 2013, Sydney Leroux in 2013 and Christen Press in 2015 are the only other players to ever do it).

ADVERTISEMENT

https://75b7adfdfcababbc84f895e81286abb6.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html

Only 22 years old, she was the youngest player to lead scoring on the national team since 1993, and the youngest player to win the NWSL MVP award. Smith has cemented herself on the forward line for the USWNT head of this summer’s World Cup, though she’s missing out on the January trip to New Zealand for a pair of friendlies due to injury.

As a reminder, her first cap for the senior national team only came in November 2020, and effectively, 2022 was her second full season with the Thorns. After winning the NWSL MVP award in October, she told reporters: “My first season, it was just a matter of me getting a feel for the league. Obviously, it’s a very different environment, so I felt like I couldn’t fully find my place my first year. This year, everything just came together. I felt like I could just be Soph, play exactly how I wanted to play, and I had the most support around me. So it just feels like everything clicked this season.”

Smith’s trophy cabinet already has a decent head start thanks to the NWSL — and she’s also a previous winner of the U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year award in 2017. On Friday, she’s adding another major one celebrating her individual accomplishments.

What they’re saying

Smith: “Obviously this is surreal, and I’m super humbled. It’s been a very exciting year, and certainly there’s been some challenges, but just being able to grow and develop in the environments with the National Team and the Thorns, and being surrounded by such amazing players, players that I have looked up to for so long, has pushed me to become a better player and person.

“I’ve said many times, if you embrace these environments, you have no choice but to get better and grow, and that’s a testament to the players, coaches and all of the staff. I appreciate everyone holding me to such high standards day in and day out. This award wouldn’t be possible without all those people, and the best thing about it, is that it’s fun too. The journey is so much better when you are doing something so fun and something you love.”

ADVERTISEMENT

https://75b7adfdfcababbc84f895e81286abb6.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html

Shaw: “It means everything to me to be a part of the list of players who have won this award, but it also tells me I have so much work to do to keep improving and growing. I just feel super honored and blessed and it’s an amazing way to start the year. I want to say thank you to everyone who voted for me and to all the National Team coaches I’ve worked with since the U-14 level and to my coaches on the Wave. Thanks also to all my teammates who have pushed me and will continue to push me. All of this makes me even more excited to get going with this NWSL season and to get back into camps with the Youth National Teams. I’m just excited for what’s to come and I wouldn’t be where I am today without God’s grace and favor over my life.”

Required reading

Foudy, Beasley, Martino, Wileman to lead U.S. Soccer coverage on HBO Max, TNT

By Joshua Kloke and The Athletic StaffJan 10, 2023


Julie Foudy, DaMarcus Beasley, Shannon Boxx and Kyle Martino will feature as analysts and Luke Wileman will serve as lead play-by-play announcer for U.S. women’s and men’s national team coverage under the new deal with HBO Max and TNT, Warner Media announced Tuesday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Foudy, a former USWNT captain, helped lead the U.S. to two World Cup titles and a pair of Olympic gold medals during her 17-year career. She is currently an analyst with ESPN.
  • Beasley and Boxx were both inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2022. Beasley recorded 126 caps in his 16-year USMNT career, while Boxx appeared in 195 games for the USWNT from 2003-15.
  • Martino, a former MLS Rookie of the Year with eight international caps, served as a studio and game analyst for NBC’s coverage of the English Premier League from 2013-20.
  • Wileman has served as TSN’s lead MLS broadcaster for years and called games for multiple women’s World Cups and the Olympics. He’ll continue to call MLS games for TSN, according to a report by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Backstory

Last March, U.S. Soccer announced an eight-year deal with Turner Sports and HBO for its English-language media rights that begins this year. The federation will receive between $25 million and $27 million annually for the English-language rights, The Athletic reported when the deal was announced.

ADVERTISEMENT

https://f011b4be4a4a98dca4d05cbf181e4a13.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html

Under the new agreement, “high-profile matches” will air on TNT or TBS and more than 20 matches in total (approximately half of which will also be on TV) will live stream on HBO Max each year. Bleacher Report, owned by Turner, has digital and highlight rights. Both Turner and HBO are under the Warner Media umbrella.

The World Cup is not included in the U.S. media rights package. Those rights are held by Fox Sports for the 2023 women’s and 2026 men’s World Cups. Turner has the rights to U.S. Soccer properties, which include men’s and women’s national team friendlies, the SheBelieves Cup and U.S. men’s and women’s national team World Cup qualifiers.

U.S. Soccer’s previous contract was with ESPN and Fox Sports.

USMNT names Anthony Hudson head coach for January camp: What does it mean for Gregg Berhalter?

Apr 27, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Colorado Rapids head coach Anthony Hudson walks on the field before a game against Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

By Jeff Rueter and The Athletic Staff

Jan 4, 2023

70


Anthony Hudson, assistant coach for the U.S. men’s national team at the 2022 World Cup, will serve as the team’s head coach for its January training camp in Carson, Calif., sporting director Earnie Stewart announced Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The news comes one day after Gregg Berhalter, whose contract as head coach was up at the end of 2022, issued a lengthy statement alleging an individual tried to end his relationship with the team by telling U.S. Soccer about a 1991 domestic violence incident between him and his now-wife. The Athletic reported Wednesday the individual was Danielle Reyna, mother of USMNT forward Gio Reyna and a former USWNT player. The USSF is investigating the situation.
  • Hudson, who has been with the U.S. squad since 2021, will be joined by fellow World Cup assistant coach B.J. Callaghan and Under-20 men’s youth national team head coach Mikey Varas in “selecting and managing” the camp roster.
  • Hudson’s appointment is not expected to impact whether Berhalter is re-signed. Stewart said in a news conference later Wednesday that Berhalter remains “under consideration” for the full-time head-coaching job.
  • The Americans are scheduled to play two matches in Southern California: one against Serbia on Jan. 15 and one against Colombia on Jan. 29.

What U.S. Soccer said

The federation addressed Berhalter’s status in its announcement about Hudson, saying that the timing of the World Cup impacted its ability to assess his contract.

ADVERTISEMENT

https://97fa1fc2f9a995a485df64f3f7c01829.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html

“In the past, the customary review of the past four years of the entire program following a World Cup would begin in the summer, well ahead of any year-end contract expiration,” the announcement said. “The unique November-December timing of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar significantly reduced the amount of time that the Federation would have to conduct a proper assessment prior to the end of the head coach’s contract.”

Stewart later added: “When it comes to our head-coaching position that we have right now, Gregg Berhalter — until the investigation and the review takes place — is still under consideration for the head coach job of our U.S. men’s national team.”

Why Hudson?

There’s some precedent to having a recent assistant lead the camp immediately following a World Cup cycle. When Bruce Arena stepped aside after the U.S. missed the 2018 World Cup, assistant Dave Sarachan served as interim head coach for over a year before Berhalter’s appointment. Even if Hudson’s CV doesn’t suggest he’s a serious contender to inherit the post, he’s familiar with the current player pool and a good option to carry momentum from a solid World Cup showing while also knowing the “B-team” from the pool, which fared well in the 2021 Gold Cup. — Rueter

What to expect

Ideally, Hudson will serve as a surrogate in terms of the approach and tactics the player pool has become familiar with during the Berhalter era. It would be worrying to see too far of a deviation, as Hudson’s uninspiring tenure with the Colorado Rapids ended in spectacular fashion after he called his team “a bottom group of players.” That team included World Cup veteran Kellyn Acosta, who almost certainly won’t have forgotten Hudson’s parting remarks. In short: the less of that ideology brought to the table, the better. — Rueter

What does this mean for Berhalter?

While the Berhalter family has plenty to navigate in the coming weeks, Hudson’s assignment will be the least of those worries. Hudson getting the temporary post suggests that the program is happy with many of the tactical developments under Berhalter. Still, it’s a pick made out of familiarity if not outright convenience, and there’s little to glean from this part of today’s news in terms of Berhalter’s future with U.S. Soccer. — Rueter

USMNT weekend viewing guide: A mixed bag

The schedule is light, but there is meaningful action across the weekend.

Saturday

Lecce v AC Milan – Noon on Paramount+

The situation around Sergiño Dest may be one to continue to monitor, as he has been used sparingly for AC Milan with just five minutes in their two league matches since the break. He did start the team’s Coppa Italia match on Wednesday but his side gave up the loan goal of the match in extra time, shortly after Dest was subbed off. Furthermore, Dest was deployed on the left side as a left wing back in the loss. It may be hard for Dest to find minutes moving forward and it will be interesting to see if he decides a move elsewhere would be best in the near future. For now, Milan will look to improve on their third place position in Serie A when they face Lecce at noon Saturday.

Other notes:

  • With the slow day on Saturday, perhaps there’s some time to check out a little Eredivisie action as Djordje Mihailovic looks for his second straight start for AZ Alkmaar when they travel to Heerenveen at 12:45p on ESPN+.

Sunday

Newcastle United v Fulham FC – 9a on Peacock

Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson and Fulham continued their unexpected run with a victory over 10-man Chelsea on Thursday. Fulham were level with Chelsea in the 58th minute when Chelsea’s new signee Joao Felix was sent off in his club debut after drawing a red card on a dangerous challenge. Fulham would go on to score another and move into sixth place with the win. Somehow, the side is just two points back of Tottenham for Europa League qualification and four points back of Manchester United for fourth place and Champions League play.

Fulham go right into another tough match, as they face a Newcastle side on Sunday that currently sit in third place having lost just once this season. Newcastle have drawn their past two league matches, first against Leeds and more recently against league-leading Arsenal FC. They are a tough matchup and any points at St. James’ Park would be another huge pickup for Fulham.

Other notes:

  • Timothy Weah should probably also be looking for a move as he can’t seem to stake a claim to serious minutes, even in a cup match. He saw just 12 minutes off the bench last weekend in French Cup play and has been deployed as a right back as well. Lille’s opponent this weekend should look familiar, as it is the Troyes team they just defeated in cup play last weekend. Erik Palmer-Brown was not included in the squad for Troyes last weekend, which was the first match he has failed to play a significant role in this season.
  • Reports out of Chelsea are that Christian Pulisic will miss two months due to a knee injury he picked up in Chelsea’s loss to Manchester City a little over a week ago. Pulisic may have a new boss to impress by the time he returns as the seat is likely getting toasty for Graham Potter with his Chelsea side dropping to 10th place following their loss to Fulham on Thursday. Chelsea face Chris Richards’ Crystal Palace side on Sunday at 9a on USA Network and 12th place Palace would draw level with a win. Richards has yet to break through for Palace, with just 30 minutes across all competitions since his return from injury.

Hit the comments below to let us know what else we should be keeping an eye on this weekend or if you see anything noteworthy from USMNT-eligible players as the matches progress.

Berhalter vs. Reyna explained: Does the drama trace its roots to overbearing parents in the U.S.?

Jan 12, 2023

  • Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

John Hackworth remembers the incident with instant clarity.

It was the spring of 2012, and he was an assistant with the Philadelphia Union in MLS, but he was also taking time out to coach his son’s youth team. It was a typical weekend youth tournament, with two games on a Saturday, another on Sunday morning and possibly a final that afternoon. As such, he decided to spread out the playing time on Saturday and make sure every kid started at least one game. That didn’t sit well with one parent.

“In between games, I had a mom go ballistic on me because her son didn’t start in the game,” said Hackworth, now the director of coaching with MLS expansion side St. Louis City SC. “Another kid, who she didn’t feel was as good as her kid, started on that first game on that Saturday morning.”

All of this happened at the under-11 level, but Hackworth encountered similar behavior at even younger age groups.

“You would think that I had no clue what I was doing, and all these people wanted me to coach because they knew I [coached professionally]. And yet at the same time, whatever it was that I did, that they didn’t agree with … some of the communication was just outrageous. So I do think it’s commonplace in this country, and the reality is that it is problematic.”

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

Former United States U17 national team manager John Ellinger recalls how one father informed him that his son “only plays forward,” to which Ellinger responded, “Uh, that’s not going to work. He’s entered this program, and we’ll play him wherever he seems to help the team.” He added, “If it’s an easy thing, yeah, it might work, but most of the times you can’t really give in because then it just opens the barn doors for more of it.”

Overbearing parents have been a staple of youth sports for as long as such leagues have been around, but the topic has been thrust back into the limelight in the wake of the dynamic that emerged at the 2022 World Cup between U.S. men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter and the family of U.S. forward Giovanni Reyna.

Claudio Reyna, a former U.S. international and current sporting director for MLS side Austin FC, has been friends with Berhalter for decades and was the best man at Berhalter’s wedding. Their respective wives were teammates at the University of North Carolina from 1991 to ’94 and spent some of that time as roommates, and the two families remained close. Yet when the younger Reyna’s playing time in Qatar was significantly less than expected, that was the catalyst for the unraveling of a relationship in full view of the public.

Claudio Reyna has admitted to sending multiple communications to U.S. Soccer Federation sporting director Earnie Stewart and USMNT GM Brian McBride about his son’s role. When Berhalter, speaking at a post-World Cup leadership conference, made a reference to a player he nearly sent home — later identified as Gio Reyna — the ante was upped further, with Reyna’s wife, Danielle, admitting she told Stewart of an incident of domestic violence in 1991 involving Berhalter and his now-wife, Rosalind. Now, amid a disintegrating friendship, the USSF is investigating.

EDITOR’S PICKS

There is an impulse to think that the Berhalter/Reyna scenario, and others like it, is unique to U.S. culture, or to American youth soccer in general. The reality is there are examples in other countries of heavy parental involvement, whether it’s Veronique Rabiot, the mother and agent of Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot, or Neymar Santos Sr., the father and agent of Brazil star Neymar. Other sports in the U.S. also aren’t immune.

“I think if you talk to coaches and organizational leaders, they will say our biggest issue is parents. I think if you look at youth baseball, youth basketball, it’s happening in every sport,” said Jason Sacks, president of the Positive Coaching Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to cultivating a positive youth sports culture. “Then it’s also happening at the high school level within high school athletic departments and high school sports. And that’s across, whether it’s individual sports like running or something like that, or team sports. It’s happening everywhere.”

But there are some cultural aspects to life in the U.S. that make it fertile ground for such behavior. Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede accumulated data for more than 40 years as a means of discerning cultural differences among countries. Among the areas he researched are how countries stack up in terms of individualism vs. collectivism and long-term orientation.

Hofstede’s research found that the U.S. is highly individualistic, scoring 91 out of 100, while also scoring just 26 in terms of long-term orientation. By contrast, China scored 20 and 87, respectively, while Germany scored 67 and 83.

“It is very hard to get Americans to accept suppressing, even temporarily, their individual desires in favor of group goals and endeavors,” said Doug Lemov, who is the author of “Teach Like a Champion” and is the chief knowledge officer and founder of the teaching education company of the same name. “And every ‘institution’ — every school, every club, every team — lives or dies on collective action problems. Can I get the individual members to make small temporary sacrifices that will bring us all immense long-term benefit if we all make them?

“Increasingly, clubs are finding that no, they can’t cause people to engage in these behaviors like they used to.”

What happens next for Berhalter, Reyna and U.S. Soccer?

Kyle Bonagura explains potential outcomes for Gregg Berhalter and U.S. Soccer after Danielle and Claudio Reyna threatened to reveal sensitive information about the USMNT coach.

One label affixed to the overbearing parent is that of the “helicopter parent” constantly hovering in the background, but Sacks prefers the “snowplow” metaphor, one where obstacles the child might encounter are cleared by the parent. It might make things easier in the short term but tougher to deal with later on.

“It’s the old saying, ‘Prepare the child for the path; don’t prepare the path for the child,'” Sacks said.

Other factors come into play as well. Soccer is often the first youth sport to which parents get exposed. The pay-to-play model — in which parents in the U.S. have to pay thousands of dollars per year for their child to play on competitive teams — can have the effect of providing a sense of entitlement for having a say on team matters. That wasn’t present in the Reyna case, but any time money or possible advancement to the pro ranks is involved, that can lead to poor behavior. The parent community is also becoming increasingly filled with people who have some kind of background in the game of soccer, giving rise to the feeling that their opinions, no matter how unreasonable, must be listened to.

For Lesle Gallimore, head coach of the University of Washington women’s team from 1994 to 2019 and current commissioner of the Girls Academy, a national player development platform for more than 13,000 girls nationwide, the pandemic hasn’t helped. She said in the past couple of years she has witnessed “way more aggression” from parents, even as the vast majority succeed in staying in their lane.

“I don’t know if people were locked up for too long and just lost their way a little bit in isolation, but I’ve seen threatening language, poor language, fights, fights between parents on the same team, parents entering the field, aggression towards referees, you name it,” she said. “For me, it’s not the bulk of what happens, but when it happens one time, it’s so alarming that it’s too much. It shouldn’t happen at all, ever, and those types of behaviors are the ones that I think, as leaders, we need to continue to address and educate around.”

STREAM FUTBOL AMERICAS ON ESPN+

Herculez Gomez and Sebastian Salazar debate the biggest storylines and break down the best highlights that soccer in the Americas has to offer. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S. only)

When you add in the increasing professionalization and early specialization of youth sports, be it in soccer with MLS Next, or shoe company-sponsored club teams in basketball, you have a recipe for parents engaging in behavior that they shouldn’t. The damage can be intense for all involved, for coaches and for players, leading members of both constituencies to leave the game.

However, there are some steps clubs and organizations can take to lower the collective temperature. Having a buffer between coach and parent can help, be it a team administrator or a director of coaching. But Gallimore said she has seen this cut both ways. Given how the coach needs to control the “performance environment,” as she put it, another layer of management can create complications.

“That buffer better be on the same page as you want them to be, or it can have the exact opposite effect,” she said. “I’ve seen it both ways, so it becomes a management issue.”

A steady, proactive flow of communication throughout the season is also vital. It can serve to communicate the club’s overall culture in terms of player development and results, as well as spell out some parameters for how playing time — probably the biggest potential source of conflict between coaches and parents — is to be doled out. It also helps ensure that the first interaction between parents and coach isn’t when something has gone wrong. Yet it’s not as easy as it sounds.

“I think that a lot of clubs operate in fear,” Lemov said. “I don’t think you can be great at what you’re trying to do when your primary goal is to avoid difficult situations when you’re operating out of fear and anxiety.”

Communication can also help set boundaries. Hackworth recalled getting pushback when he told parents they couldn’t set up lawn chairs right next to the field to watch practice but had to watch behind a fence. He insisted, however, that the parents needed to let their kids practice without the kind of immediate parental feedback that could be a distraction. His approach ended up carrying the day.

That isn’t to say parents shouldn’t have any input. For Gallimore, if the family is paying, parents should be heard, especially if the child in question is, say, 10 years old and isn’t quite ready to have conversations where they have to stick up for themselves to an adult. But clear parameters should be set in terms of what is an acceptable discussion topic. It shouldn’t be a one-way street either, and the Girls Academy is notable for having a player advisory panel to raise concerns.

Boundaries also need to be communicated and set in terms of personal relationships. Gallimore noted that at youth level, parents and coaches often socialize with each other, stay in the same hotels and even drink together. She recalled that there were some instances when parents expected that dynamic to continue at the collegiate level, although by that stage, the switch had flipped. The parents are no longer paying. The college or professional club is now the one paying, shifting the power dynamic.

“These parents have this expectation that they’re like, going to hang out with the coaching staff, and that’s just not the gig,” Gallimore said. “And as coaches in college, you have to explain to them, ‘Listen, I am here for your daughter. I want her to have a great experience. I want this to be a place where she feels valued. I will be upfront about everything and fair.’ And there’s no perfection to that in coaching.”

The impact of personal relationships proved to be a problem in the Reyna situation in that not only were the Berhalters and Reynas friends, but Stewart and McBride were also former international teammates of Claudio Reyna’s. That dynamic extends throughout much of the U.S. soccer landscape. The roots don’t just run deep; they are tangled, especially on the men’s side, given the pervasiveness of the Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena coaching trees. Only once in the past 25 years has the USMNT been managed by someone who didn’t hail from the New York/New Jersey area.

All the more reason to put up more of a firewall so matters don’t get personal.https://www.youtube.com/embed/NclftvaHChk?wmode=transparent

“In soccer in particular, there’s a pretty small group of people that know a lot about each other, is what I’d say,” Gallimore said. “So it wouldn’t take [more than] one little thing going sideways for something like this to happen, and it’s just a shame, to be honest.”

Hackworth added that how coaches treat their players can go a long way toward mitigating any angst that might arise in the coach/player/parent relationship. There are certainly instances when coaches have to be firm, but kindness counts too.

“If there’s a silver bullet that I could give most coaches at any sport, or any activity, it’s that if you treat your students, your athletes well, if you treat them with respect, if you treat them with empathy and kindness, if you treat them with care, it will alleviate so many of these emotional issues that happen in sports,” he said. “So when things like playing time become an issue, you have a little equity in the bank because you treat them well.

“It sounds easy coming out of my mouth. That sounds like anybody in the world could do it. It’s amazing to me how at every level — professional, college, amateur — that doesn’t happen.”

That goes for parents too. Later, Gallimore forwarded a text from a parent who had just received the league’s newsletter and thanked the league profusely for sending it out.

“[It] made me smile,” she wrote.

‘Fulham are the poor cousins, beating Chelsea means everything’

‘Fulham are the poor cousins, beating Chelsea means everything’

By Peter Rutzler

Jan 13, 2023

18


Craven Cottage erupts. Referee David Coote has blown the final whistle and with it an end to almost 16 years of purgatory. Fulham supporters have waited so long to beat Chelsea again that initially it is bewildering. Not only have Fulham defeated their disliked local rivals, but they are six points clear of them in the Premier League table.

ADVERTISEMENT

https://7cb06c197d72783f43742491173cc443.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html

It is the stuff of dreams but that is what Marco Silva has taught Fulham to do over the past 18 months. From storming to the Championship title to record-breaking scorelines and goalscorers, Fulham’s success has felt like a whirlwind.

Yet for all the milestones ticked off, this result carries greater significance — Fulham served up the result their supporters craved the most.

“It was a great night for our fans,” said Silva. “Chelsea’s superiority has been huge in these games. They are a massive club. Their budget is completely different, we can’t compare. But we knew that with our work, with our strategy, our identity, we can balance things.

“And we did it.”

Fulham’s record against Chelsea has been nothing short of abysmal. Heading into the game, no fixture played more than 50 times in the English Football League has seen a worse win rate than that of Fulham against Chelsea.

The last time Fulham won, substitute Luke Harris had not celebrated his first birthday. Since that day, when Silva’s assistant Luis Boa Morte scored the only goal in a 1-0 win on March 19, 2006, Fulham have tried and failed 21 times.

That solitary success is the only win in all competitions from 40 matches since 1979, when both teams were in the old Division Two. At the same time, Fulham have watched Chelsea win every trophy available, ascending to greater heights and drifting further away.

For supporters, then, while Brentford may have muscled into the top-flight conversation and QPR pop up from time to time, it is this frustrating fixture, against the team who are based a miledown the road and who share the same postcode, that matters most.

A belated victory tastes all the sweeter.


Sat outside The Boathouse pub in Putney, the Ventoms are nursing a drink and calming the nerves.

ADVERTISEMENT

https://7cb06c197d72783f43742491173cc443.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html

It is 90 minutes before kick-off and the family are mulling over the possible teamsheet. There is Caroline, 58, and Mark, 61, and their children, Michael, 25, Liam, 23, and Laura, 22, as well as Mark’s brother Gerard, known as Tigs, 59, and his daughter Becky, 23. They are all Fulham fans and are all decked out in the colours. Caroline has her scarf on. Mark has his up-to-date training jacket. Liam is wearing the Puma shirt worn between 2003 and 2005 and Laura has the 1997-98 edition.

They all have season tickets in the Hammersmith End, where they sit in a row together, with Laura on a seat behind and Michael on one in front. Going to Fulham allows them to meet up each week and share a common passion.

“This game feels like we could actually win,” says Michael.

“You’re jinxing it!” interjects Liam.

Mark and Tigs first started going to matches in the 1960s. They lived in Barnes and could see the floodlights across the river from the end of the street. Sometimes, you could hear the crowd from Craven Cottage from the garden.

Tigs on his way to Craven Cottage for the Chelsea match

“My first game was in 1968,” says Mark, who is retired and works part-time as a tour guide at Craven Cottage. “I was 7. It was a pre-season friendly against Manchester United. They had just won the European Cup. It was Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law. My dad took me. I think he thought I’d fall in love with Man United. I’ve been a Fulham fan since.”

The rest of the family were drawn to Craven Cottage more regularly at different stages. Liam’s first memories are of Steed Malbranque, while Becky’s first match was the Europa League semi-final against Hamburg in 2010. The family live in Motspur Park, near the club’s training ground, and sometimes attend under-21 matches. Liam used to play alongside former academy player Jerome Opoku at school.

When it comes to the rivalry with Chelsea, they offer different perspectives. Tigs was there when Fulham last beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in October 1979, with Gordon Davies and John Beck on the scoresheet. “I was in the Shed End for my own safety!” he says.

ADVERTISEMENT

https://7cb06c197d72783f43742491173cc443.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html

The rivalry is not a mutual affliction. Historically, Chelsea’s formation is said to have begun when Gus Mears approached Fulham about playing at the Stamford Bridge Athletics Ground on Fulham Road. They declined, so he decided to form his own team. Chelsea was born.

The teams competed regularly with each other in the interwar years but between 1968 and 2001, they were only in the same division five times and they did not play each other between 1986 and 2001. Rarely have they competed for similar honours and the rivalry lacked that edge. “There is a rivalry, but it’s not United-City, or that we are a divided borough,” says Mark. “We are the poorer cousins. But when people ask who Fulham’s biggest rivals are, I will say Chelsea.”

Tigs agrees. “Fulham see it more as a rivalry than Chelsea fans do. They don’t see it as a rivalry at all.”

“It’s little brother and big brother,” says Caroline.

There was a time when fans would attend the other’s game if one was not playing. “In the early 1970s I went to see Fulham play Oldham and Chelsea were due to play United,” says Mark. “The Chelsea game was called off so the United fans went to the Putney End to support Oldham, and the Chelsea fans came and stood in the Hammy End. There were massive amounts of them.”

The modern era feels different, though. Fulham returned to the top flight in 1997 and the two sides have locked horns frequently. But with one-sided outcomes.

“It was always Chelsea,” says Liam. “It’s the game I would look out for in the fixtures, the first one we’d try to get tickets for the away game. It’s the biggest one.”

Recently, Brentford’s success means they have competed for similar things; promotion to the Premier League and top-flight stability.

“There have been tense battles with Brentford,” says Michael. “We don’t sing about Brentford. But Chelsea…”

ADVERTISEMENT

https://7cb06c197d72783f43742491173cc443.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html

“I knew about the rivalry but I hadn’t been to Fulham-Chelsea,” says Laura. “But the first games I went to, fans would sing about Chelsea. Even if we weren’t playing them. It came up every game. It stuck.”

The thought of predictions for the game evokes a sharp intake of breath and leaves Tigs with his head in his hands. With Chelsea in crisis mode, opportunity knocks and Fulham fans know it.

“I’m really nervous. It’s like going to watch your children play,” says Caroline.

“All my Chelsea friends are saying we are going to do it,” says Liam. “They are not confident. This is the chance.” 


Without Aleksandar Mitrovic, the stage was set for Carlos Vinicius. And, with one twist of his neck muscles, he etched his name into Fulham folklore.

His winning goal, from an inch-perfect Andreas Pereira cross, secures a victory that has felt intangible for so long. The celebrations match the achievement. Vinicius is swamped by his team-mates and coaching staff, not least Boa Morte who embraces him; two Fulham heroes of this fixture.

In the stands, the scenes are joyous.

“Pereira was man of the match,” says Caroline at full-time. “We’re so pleased for Vinicius. Leno was amazing.”

“The fans were so up for it from minute one,” says Liam. “Every tackle, every loose ball was cheered.”

For Chelsea supporters filtering out onto Stevenage Road, the thought of losing to Fulham will not carry much significance in comparison to their anxieties about a season of struggle.

But for Fulham, who are now sixth, this all feels unprecedented. They have broken the hoodoo and bloodied the noses of their so-called big brother. They have also now won four games in succession for the first time since April 1966 and are the first newly promoted team to achieve 31 points at this stage since Wigan Athletic in 2005-06.

Avoiding relegation remains the key target, but if they keep setting standards like this, they may even finish above Chelsea.

And for those unaccustomed to this fixture, that conveys the most un-Fulham reality.

“Becky and Laura have never been to a Fulham vs Chelsea game before,” says Mark. “They now think we win it all the time!”

===================RackZ BAR BQ ====Save 20% ====================== 

AFTER YOUR PRACTICE AT BADGER FIELDHOUSE

Try out the Best BarBQ in Town right across the street (131st) from Northview Church & Badger Field on the corner of Hazelldell & 131st. RackZ BBQ

Save 20% on your order 

(mention the ole ballcoach) 

Check out the BarBQ Ribs, pulled Pork and Chicken, Brisket and more.  Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 20% off your next mealhttps://www.rackzbbqindy.com/ Call ahead at 317-688-7290  M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday.  Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You!  

Save 20% on these Succulent Ribs at Rackz BarBQ when you mention the Ole Ballcoach – Corner of 131 & Hazelldell. – Call 317-688-7290.

=====================RackZ BAR BBQ ======Save 20% ======================

Earn Your Accredited College Degree at ½ the Cost and Time of Traditional Schools www.achievetestprep.com/shane

Check out The Ole Ballcoach online https://theoleballcoach.wordpress.com/
Proud Member of the Brick Yard Battalion – http://brickyardbattalion.com, Sam’s Army-http://sams-army.com , American Outlaws  https://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

Advertisement

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.