MLS Starts season Sat – on Apple TV Subscription
So the MLS season starts this Saturday and I should be excited but just 2 games are on network TV – and not the good ones. Oh and if you have Apple TV already like me and was thinking cool I can watch. NOPE you have to buy the subscription. So instead of talking all about how MLS is doing things right by giving us El Traffico in The ROSE BOWL for the first time ever – a sold out game with over 85K in attendance hopefully – I will tell you tough you can’t watch it. Between US soccer putting most games on HBO Max and now MLS going to Apple TV Subscription only, along with Paramount+ for Champions League and Peacock for EPL, and ESPN+ for Bundesliga and Spain – this might just be the final straw for me. Oh and they don’t have a new playoff format yet. Mickey Mouse crap right there. Sorry MLS I don’t care enough to pay to $80 a year to watch your semi-decent games. Good luck!! Oh there are 2 games on actual TV – Sat has Nashville and NYCFC Sat at 4 pm on FOX and Sunday has Seattle hosting Colorado on Fox Sports 1 at 8 pm. I WON’T be Watching.
US Ladies Win She Believes Cup – -1 more set of Games in Apr before World Cup in July
Thanks to Mallory Swanson with a little help from Alex Morgan the US hoisted another She Believe’s Cup Trophy (their 6th straight) after beating Brazil 2-1 Wed night. Lots of stories below some great saves by Nauer in Goal and full Highlights and lots of stories below. More next week when I have time to digest.
Big Games to Watch
The US U17 Boys play tonight on FS 1 in the Semi-Finals of the CONCACAF U17 Finals – they have already qualified for the :U17 World Cup in November. Congrats boys and good luck this weekend – finals vs Mexico on Sun 5 pm FS2. Sat Leeds United and our 3 American’s are in a HUGE relegation battle with Southampton at 10 am on USA – must win game. Leads up to the 12:30 pm Madrid Derby between Atletico and Real Madrid on ESPN+. Sun AM we get League Cup Championship between Man United and New Castle United on ESPN+ at 11:30 pm. Tues FA Cup action gives us the All-American showdown Fulham with defenders Captain Tim Ream and Jedi Robinson hosting Leeds United and American midfield Tyler Adams, Weston McKinney and Brendan Aaronson at 2:45 on ESPN+ (maybe ESPN will wake up and move this game to ESPN2 or ESPN News lets hope.
GAMES ON TV
(American’s names in Parenthesis)
Fri, Feb 24
5pm FS2 U17 Semis USA 2-Canada 0
8 pm FS2 U17 Semis Mexico 5-Panama 0
8 pm FS2 Juerez vs Leon
Sat, Feb 25
7:30 am USA Aston Villa vs Arsenal
9:30 am ESPN+ Hoffenheim vs Dortmund (Reyna)
10 am USA Leeds United (Adams, Mckinney, Aaronson) vs Southampton
10 am Peacock Leicester City vs Aston Villa
12:30 pm ESPN+ Real Madrid vs Atletico MADRID DERBY
12:30 pm NBC Bournemouth vs Man City
2:45 pm Peacock Crystal Palace vs Liverpool
4:30 pm Fox Nashville vs NYCFC MLS
8 pm Univision Tigres vs Guadalajara
9:30 pm Apple TV LA Galaxy vs LAFC (CANCELED)
10 pm Univision Atlas vs America
Sun, Feb 26
8:30 am USA Tottenham vs Brentford
11:30 am ESPN+ Man United vs New Castle League Cup
11:30 am ESPN+ Union Berlin (Pfuk) vs Bayern Munich
2:45 pm Para+ Milan vs Atalanta
5 pm FS2 U17 CC Final USA vs Mexico
8 pm Fox Sport 1 Seattle Sounders vs Colorado Rapids
10 pm FS2 Tijuana vs Pachuca
Tues Feb 28 FA Cup
2:15 pm ESPN+ Stoke City vs Brighton
2:45 pm ESPN+ Fulham (Ream, Jedi) vs Leeds United (Adams, McKinney, Aaronson)
3 pm ESPN+ Bristol City vs Man City
Weds Mar 1 FA Cup
2:15 pm ESPN_+ Southampton vs Grimsby Town
2:30 pm ESPN+ Burnley vs Fleetwood Town
2:45 pm ESPN+ Man United vs West Ham
2:45 pm USA Arsenal vs Everton
3 pm ESPN+ Sheffield United vs Tottenham
3 pm Peacock Liverpool vs Wolverhampton
Thurs Mar 2 Copa Del Rey
3 pm ESPN+ Real Madrid vs Barcelona
2:30 pm ESPN+ Dortmund (Reyna) vs RB Leipzig
2:$5 pm CBS SN Napoli vs Lazio
Sat, Mar 4
7:30 am USA Man City vs New Castle United
9:30 am ESPN+ Union Berlin (Pfuk) vs Koln
10 am USA Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leeds United (Adams, Mckinney, Aaronson)
10 am Peacock Wolverhampton vs Tottenham
12:30 pm NBC South Hampton vs Leicester City
12:30 pm ESPN+ Stutgart vs Bayern Munich
2:45 pm Para+ Fiorentina vs Milan
3 pm beIN Sport PSG vs Nantes
3 pm ESPN+ Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla
4:30 pm Fox LAFC vs Portland Timbers MLS
7:30 pm Apple+ Orlando City vs Cincy
9:30 pm Apple TV LA Galaxy vs LAFC
9 am USA Nottingham Forest vs Everton
10:15 am ESPN+ Barcelona vs Valencia (Musah)
11:30 am USA? Liverpool vs Man United
2:45 pm Para+ Roma vs Juventus
3 pm ESPND + Real Bettis vs Real Madrid
3 pm USA Brentford vs Fulham (Ream, Jedi)
Tues,Mar 7 Champions League + CCL
3 pm Para+ Club Brugge vs Benifica
3 pm CBS Chelsea (Pulisc) vs Dortmund (Reyna)
6 pm FS1 Violette vs Austin FC CCL
8 pm FS1 Alianza vs Philly Union
10 pm FS2 Tigres vs Orlando City
Weds,Mar 8 Champions League + CCL
3 pm Para+ Tottenham vs Milan
3 pm CBS Bayern Munich vs PSG (Messi)
10 pm FS2 Vancouver vs Real Espana CCL
Thurs, Mar 9 Europa League + CCL
1230 pm CBS SN Europa League Wrap-Around
12:30 pm Para+ Sporting CP vs Arsenal (Turner)
12:30 pm Para+ Union Berlin (Pfuk) vs Saint-Gilloise
12:45 pm Para+ Larnaca vs West Ham United
3 pm Para+ Roma vs Real Socidad
3 pm Para+ Man United vs Real Betis
3 pm Para+ Juventus vs Freiburg
3 pm Para+ Shakhtar Donestsk vs Feyenoord
8 pm FS2 Motagua vs Pachuca CCL
10 pm FS2 Alajuelense vs LAFC
Sat, Mar 11
7:30 am USA Bournemouth vs Liverpool
9:30 am ESPN+ RB Leipzig vs Mgladbach (Scaly)
9:30 am ESPN+ Bayern Munich vs Ausburg
10 am USA Leeds United (Adams, Mckinney, Aaronson) vs Brighton
10 am Peacock Leicester City vs Chelsea
10 am Peacock Man United vs Southampton
12 pm Fox Chalotte vs Atlanta United MLS
12:30 pm NBC Crystal Palace vs Man City
12:30 pm ESPN+ Schalke vs Dortmund
3 pm ESPN+ Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla
7:30 pm ESPN+ Tampa Bay Rowdies vs INDY 11
7:30 pm Apple+ Cincy vs Seattle MSL
9:30 pm Apple TV Portland vs St Louis
10 am USA Fulham (Ream, Jedi) vs Arsenal
10 am USA? West Ham vs Aston Villa
12 N PEacock New Castle vs Wolverhampton
3:45 pm Para+ Juventus vs Sampdoria
4 pm ESPND + Athletic Club vs Barceloa
9 pm FS2 Santos Laguna vs Tiajuana
10:30 pm Apple LAFC vvs New England
Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw
USWNT wins SheBelieves Cup, but performances leave questions for the World Cup ESPNFC Caitlin Murray
USWNT mock roster 1.0: Who will go to the 2023 World Cup?
USWNT struggles but the sky isn’t falling: Three thoughts on the SheBelieves Cup
Rose Lavelle bolsters ‘dangerous’ USWNT attack in return
Alex Morgan breaks USWNT record for most goals scored as a mom
Alex Morgan became the USWNT’s top scoring mom with a golazo
USWNT wins SheBelieves Cup for fourth straight year
2023 SheBelieves Cup – USA 2-1 Brazil: Triumph in Texas as the USWNT take the trophy
Megan Rapinoe sees Naomi Girma as ‘the future’ for the USWNT
What Crystal Dunn’s position switch says about USWNT defense
Is US Ready for World Cup – the 18
Portugal wins World Cup playoff to join USWNT in Group E
Portugal beat Cameroon to qualify for Women’s World Cup, join USWNT in Group E
Arsenal’s Foord on target as Australian women win Cup of Nations
World Cup 2023: Which teams have qualified?
What we learned about all 32 World Cup teams in the February window 7hSophie Lawson
Pulisic back in training, nearing return to sinking ship that is Chelsea
The Americans Abroad Five: Leeds is in big trouble
Friedel: If Turner can’t start at Arsenal, he’s got to go
Mexico has a new coach – Who is Diego Cocca? Should the USMNT be worried?
Comeback kings Madrid in their element amid European chaos
Ancelotti: ‘No way’ Liverpool-Madrid tie is over ESPNFC Mark Ogden
Vinicius vows more to come after Liverpool rout ESPNFC Adriana Garcia
Helpless Liverpool picked apart by five-star Real Madrid at Anfield
Liverpool Suffer Worse Ever Home Defeat in Europe
Jurgen Klopp calls Liverpool’s defending ‘slapstick’ after Real Madrid loss
Liverpool’s defence is a laughing stock – here is the proof
Liverpool face ‘almost impossible’ job in Madrid, admits Van Dijk
Liverpool rebuild begins now after Real Madrid humiliation
Osimhen sends Napoli to victory in Champions League last 16
Spalletti warns Napoli ‘it’s not done’ after Frankfurt first leg win
The 10 biggest questions as the 2023 MLS season kicks off
MLS opens 28th season, build up to World Cup starts now
MLS revamps playoffs with best-of-3 opening round
Is MLS truly a major league in the US? It depends where you are
Retirement? Giorgio Chiellini too busy living the good life with LAFC to quit
Leeds United appoint Javi Gracia and hope he take charge for Southampton game
Rashford hot streak sustains Man Utd’s quadruple dream
Jurgen Klopp’s first great Liverpool era is over – now he must build another one
Tracking English Premier League managers sacked in 2022-23
The Erik ten Hag masterstrokes that have thrust Manchester United into the title race
When is the Carabao Cup final 2023: Date, kick-off time and favourites to win
Eddie Howe backs Loris Karius to change story of his career in Carabao Cup final
The ace up Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s sleeve in Manchester United takeover battle with Qatar
If this is Simeone’s last Madrid derby, he’ll be remembered for reviving it 4hSid Lowe
Ten Hag: Utd can beat anyone after ousting Barca 15hRob Dawson
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USWNT struggles but the sky isn’t falling: Three thoughts on the SheBelieves Cup
February 23, 2023 4:46 pm ET
At the moment, the U.S. women’s national team is a cliché glass of water.
If you see a team that has now won six straight games and just beat three strong sides in Canada, Japan, and Brazil en route to yet another SheBelieves Cup title, you’re looking at a half-full glass. They have a key player in extraordinary form, injured regulars are approaching full fitness, and they gave up just one goal in what is effectively a preseason tournament while facing sides whose players are in many cases closer to 100%.
If you’re thinking that Canada was a shadow of itself due to off-field issues with its federation, or that Japan worried the USWNT throughout their match, or are picturing Brazil’s near-misses from Kerolin or Adriana, you’re Team Half-Empty. You saw the USWNT struggle with two very different pressing set-ups, and are expecting things to go awry in the first game where the U.S. doesn’t bury their first great look at goal.
Well friends, guess what? You’re both making great points. Let’s get into the positives and negatives of the USWNT’s showing at the SheBelieves Cup.
Mallory Swanson is unstoppable at the moment, scoring in all three SheBelieves Cup matches for the USWNT and in seven straight games overall. The list of attacking players anywhere sharing this sort of stratospheric form consists of maybe Sam Kerr, and that’s it.
Under Vlatko Andonovski, there was a Christen Press phase before the pandemic like this, and Catarina Macario and Sophia Smith have spent time as the seemingly inevitable source of goals and assists on this team. Swanson is indisputably having her time under the spotlight right now.
One remarkable thing about this run is that it’s not happening with a particularly stable attacking group around her. The following is a list of what other attacking players were on the field when Swanson scored on this run:
- Morgan, Smith, Lavelle
- Morgan, Rodman, Lavelle
- Hatch, Rodman, Sanchez
- Morgan, Williams, Sanchez
- Morgan, Rodman, Sanchez
- Morgan, Williams, Lavelle
With Smith absent for both camps this year due to a foot injury, and Rose Lavelle missing two SheBelieves Cup games for precautionary reasons, Vlatko Andonovski has toggled between plenty of groups on offense, and Swanson seems to work just as well alongside any of them. We also saw Swanson look very comfortable playing off of Macario in 2021 and the early part of 2022, leaving little worry if the USWNT ends up going back to more of a false No. 9 look come the World Cup.
What’s been very impressive from Swanson is that she’s using her off-ball movement to create the kinds of chances she thrives in: running a channel, receiving the ball just as she breaks in behind the defense. Teams know the USWNT is looking for it. Right-sided defensive players know that’s where she’s going to end up, and still — whether in counter-pressing moments, long balls from the back, passes from midfield, or combination play — they can’t stop her from getting there anyway.
In the months ahead, any team that’s serious about winning the World Cup or that finds itself in Group E is going to be intently studying how to either prevent Swanson from finding these openings, or to cut off her supply from the rest of the group.
It’s vital for the USWNT that they keep opponents guessing, because at the moment, this doesn’t seem like a team that is going to imperiously march through seven games to a trophy. Much like these last two games in particular, the USWNT is on course for some very tight knockout round games in which one player being decisive is the difference.
The good news? The roster is deep with that kind of player, and Swanson in particular is arguably the decisive player in women’s soccer right now. If the team can maintain that — and especially if they add to it — their chances of a third straight World Cup victory are stronger than people seem to think right now.
That said, there is a reason your social media timeline of choice seems full of doubt. It boils down to some clear issues the USWNT has had facing a high press. To be fair, any organized high press attempted by fast players is by its nature difficult to play through. To their credit, the USWNT has used friendlies to actually work on this rather than simply playing it safe in hopes of an exhibition victory.
However, it’s fair to say this is very much a work in progress, and come the World Cup, we may see them have to adopt some safety-first tactics to get through the opening stages of games. Generally speaking, that’s how high-pressing teams operate: you press for 15-20 minutes trying to get a lead or at least throw your opponent into disarray, then spend some time defending out of a more defined block so you don’t have a team full of exhausted players.
The USWNT, after simply overwhelming a Canada side that had been through so much coming into game one, found themselves on the other side of the coin against both Japan and Brazil. These games weren’t equal — Japan’s press was more organized and dangerous, whereas a tired-looking U.S. gave Brazil an assist by offering up some uncharacteristically sloppy play — but the outcome was close enough to the same that it should be a concern.
(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
We’ve seen some other top teams unsettle the USWNT like this over the past few years. Sweden did it at the Olympics, and both Germany and Spain showed that they were paying attention to the trend late in 2022.
As was already covered here, to some extent any press that is executed at a reasonable level is going to make the team in possession look uncomfortable. There seems to be an expectation among fans that can’t be reconciled: many teams are improving worldwide and deserve more respect, but also, the USWNT should be able to beat anyone anywhere with ease, so that discomfort must be an indicator that the team is falling off a cliff.
The sky is not falling for the USWNT, who as a reminder just beat three higher-end teams despite fielding a squad that is (Lindsey Horan aside) in preseason. But it is time for the fanbase to come to grips with a reality that, as high-pressing tactics have become more and more a regular thing in the women’s game, USWNT games might look a little rough around the edges.
It also must be said that the USWNT showed its preseason status in these two games. Some fundamental elements — first touch, body shape when receiving the ball, how often they checked their shoulders, and how early they made their move to be an option for the next pass — were lacking. By contrast, Japan and Brazil both seemed to be closer to top gear. That shouldn’t be the case at the World Cup.
However, here’s where the worried USWNT fan might want to start looking when they consider issues with the team: in this tournament, both Japan and Brazil pressed the way you’d expect them to. Japan’s 3-4-2-1 is not an unknown quantity, and Pia Sundhage’s 4-4-2 with Brazil is something everyone should be very familiar with by now.
Why, then, did these pressing structures seem to come as such a surprise? It’s one thing to enter a game knowing that it’ll be a bit scruffy because both teams are pressing. It’s another to see the USWNT seemingly not prepared to find the angles needed to play around those differing shapes. Every press gives up openings to gain certain things, but the U.S. had to find those spaces rather than knowing where they would be from the jump.
Japan and Brazil both seemed to catch the USWNT off guard, and while the players and coaching staff both did solid work sorting things out on the fly, it’s a bit alarming that they were having to find their way mid-game, and that’s not a completely new issue. Last year’s three-game losing streak saw a similar dynamic play out.
The pressure right now on the coaching staff should be on making sure more games resemble the Canada match rather than a worrisome scramble to get through the first 20 minutes without conceding. Higher-end teams are no longer going to hold off on taking the big tactical risk pressing is against the USWNT, and as we saw last year, there are teams out there good enough to turn a worrying phase for the USWNT into actual goals.
The flip side to the USWNT’s issues when facing a press is that they remain an absolute nightmare of a counter-pressing team. That’s down to both the work of the coaching staff — Andonovski’s teams, going back to FC Kansas City and the former Seattle Reign, have largely been counter-pressing experts — and the individual players.
Swanson’s goal came from counter-pressure that ended with Lynn Williams forcing a turnover and getting the ball to Lavelle in space. The USWNT counter-pressed Brazil into a giveaway on Alex Morgan’s goal that wasn’t (a shame, since Andi Sullivan’s first-time through ball was the best pass either team played on Wednesday), and seized on another chaotic situation when Morgan scored a goal that actually counted a few moments later.
Williams is comfortably the best counter-pressing forward on the planet, and last month we were talking about how strong her claim is for a World Cup roster spot despite losing 2022 to injury. This is ultimately why the talk about her not being the most clinical finisher has always missed the point: the USWNT will score more goals with her in games, because they’ll get more chances, because no team and no individual is better at counter-pressing.
It’s not just Williams, though. Anyone who has watched Trinity Rodman in NWSL has seen her — even in mid-block systems, which the Washington Spirit have largely played during her first two seasons — force turnovers by combining a clear understanding of when to jump on an opposing player with her obvious athletic gifts. Rodman’s ability on that front already seems top-tier, and we’ve only really seen the tip of the iceberg. In Mark Parsons’ system this year — expect more high pressure and more counter-pressing — she’s going to improve rapidly.
Swanson and Smith may not force as many turnovers, but they’re both vital cogs in this machine due to how quickly they choose and make the correct run after the turnover comes. Going back to Swanson always managing to get stereotypical Swanson chances even though every opponent wants to prevent them, this is often where they come from. She (and Smith) see the turnover coming, and make the most dangerous run early. The USWNT player picking up the loose ball doesn’t have to cycle through options or take an extra touch to wait for the opening. The ball pops loose, and the pass in behind to a world-class attacker is already on.
Probably not a game that will be known for its attacking brilliance, but w/ USA only getting off 5 shots to Japan’s 15, the chances that USA had *on average* were far better than the opponent.
— Arielle Dror (@arielle_dror) February 19, 2023
The Japan game was a perfect example. Japan’s expected goals were higher, as even a casual viewer would have guessed. However, since they also out-shot the USWNT by nine, their xG per shot was quite low. The USWNT didn’t create a lot, but the chances they carved out were good ones, and with their forwards, the higher xG chances tend to become actual goals.
All of this is to say that counter-pressing, and the avenue towards higher-leverage openings, is how the USWNT has been winning games that seem more even on a surface level. They put teams into terrible positions just when they believe they’ve dealt with the threat and start to open up their shape, and they have a range of forwards and midfielders (it must be mentioned that Lavelle is more or less an ideal No. 10 to receive the ball in a counter-pressing situation) built to thrive in exactly these moments.
More than any other thing, this is the path towards a USWNT World Cup win this summer.
USWNT to face Ireland in April friendlies
USWNT counter-presses their way to SheBelieves Cup win over Brazil
USWNT wins SheBelieves Cup for fourth straight year
USWNT mock roster 1.0: Who will go to the 2023 World Cup?
Claire WatkinsFebruary 22, 2023
Alex Morgan and Mallory Swanson are both currently locks for the 2023 World Cup roster. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
With only a few games left before the U.S. women’s national team takes off for the 2023 World Cup in New Zealand, the final roster is slowly taking shape.The USWNT has been dealing with the absence of a number of key contributors due to injury, making it difficult to foresee exactly which players might be pushed to the roster bubble in the next few months. But the team’s approach to the SheBelieves Cup this past week has offered some insight into head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s thinking.If the U.S. were getting on the plane to New Zealand today, who would Andonovski select to the 23-player roster, tasked with defending the team’s 2019 World Cup win? Here is the first edition of our mock World Cup roster.
Locks: Alyssa Naeher, Casey Murphy, Adrianna Franch
First players out: Aubrey Kingsbury, Jane Campbell, Bella Bixby
This position is fairly straightforward: Naeher and Murphy are the USWNT’s No. 1 and No. 2 goalkeepers, and Franch’s recent form should earn her the spot at No 3. NWSL action could sway that decision if Kingsbury, Campbell or Bixby start the season out strong, but Franch would have to slip in form to make room for any changes.
Kelley O’Hara (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Locks: Naomi Girma, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alana Cook, Sofia Huerta, Emily Sonnett, Crystal Dunn, Emily Fox
First players out: Tierna Davidson, Kelley O’Hara, Casey Krueger
The first players out in this scenario could absolutely make their way to the World Cup, but the lack of recent game tape from Davidson, O’Hara and Krueger makes it difficult to select them if the tournament started today.The player most vulnerable to being overtaken by someone coming back from injury is Emily Sonnett. The 29-year-old has played both center back and outside back for the U.S. in recent international windows, with Andonovski not committing her to either position. Davidson has similar versatility and might be considered a more stable presence on the backline.O’Hara and Krueger are experienced defenders who will have an opportunity to push for the spot currently held by Sofia Heurta at right back. If O’Hara is fit, she’ll be on the plane, but she simply needs to show she can handle the workload. Krueger is probably one step further out, but she could get a look at April camp.
Catarina Macario (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Locks: Lindsey Horan, Andi Sullivan, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario, Kristie Mewis, Ashley Sanchez, Taylor Kornieck
First players out: Sam Coffey, Jaelin Howell, Morgan Gautrat
The U.S. midfield is a complicated project, with Andonovski packing the roster with players who fill similar roles for their club teams as Lindsey Horan, who has appeared undroppable from the starting lineup in recent games. Andi Sullivan will likely be relied upon heavily in the defensive midfield, aided by a combination of Horan, Kristie Mewis and Taylor Kornieck.Andonovski has said recently that he considers Catarina Macario to be an attacking midfielder, but the 23-year-old can also play at the point of the team’s new 4-2-3-1 formation. She’s the one player who has a seat on the plane to New Zealand regardless of fitness, though she’s very close to making her national team return after tearing her ACL last June.The three players just outside the roster bubble are all defensive midfielders, as Andonovski doesn’t appear to have a true backup No. 6 in his plans. Sam Coffey and Jaelin Howell are both up and coming at the position, perhaps tabbed for tournaments in the future. Morgan Gautrat is an experienced holding midfielder at both the club and international level, but she hasn’t gotten much time with the U.S. while coming back from injury in 2022.
Christen Press (Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Locks: Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Lynn Williams, Sophia Smith, Mallory Swanson, Trinity Rodman
First players out: Midge Purce, Christen Press, Ashley Hatch, Alyssa Thompson
Whether Macario is listed as a midfielder or a center forward will influence how many players are taken at each position, but her presence will influence the frontline selections no matter how she is designated. Ashley Hatch has served as the backup to Alex Morgan in Macario’s absence but will likely be the odd player out when Morgan and Macario are healthy at the same time.Midge Purce and Christen Press both suffer from the USWNT’s incredible depth at the winger position. Purce hasn’t gotten significant time at the SheBelieves Cup, with Trinity Rodman and Lynn Williams getting starts at right wing. Rodman is an exciting connecting winger with a high ceiling, and Williams is arguably the player most integral to making Andonovski’s defensive press work.Press is simply in a race against time, as she works her way back from an ACL injury that cut her 2022 season short with Angel City. The two left wingers in front of her are Rapinoe and Swanson, though the starting job will almost certainly go to Swanson if she’s fit. If Press can hit the ground running in March, she deserves consideration to return to the team in April. But if she has any setbacks in her recovery, she might run out of opportunities to make it back to the international stage in 2023.
Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.
USWNT wins SheBelieves Cup with win over Brazil, but performances leave questions for World Cup
Feb 22, 2023 Caitlin MurrayESPNFC
The U.S. women’s national team claimed its sixth SheBelieves Cup trophy with a 2-1 win over Brazil on Wednesday.Goals from Alex Morgan and Mallory Swanson, who was named tournament MVP, put the Americans in control for much of the second half, but Brazil pulled one back in the 90th minute from forward Ludmila.The USWNT went undefeated in the SheBelieves Cup after beating Canada and Japan in earlier games. But now, the next tournament on the calendar is the Women’s World Cup, which kicks off for the Americans on July 22 in New Zealand.
1. USWNT wins SheBelieves Cup, but now the World Cup awaits
The U.S. women’s national team didn’t even need to win against Brazil to secure its sixth SheBelieves Cup trophy — a loss by one goal still would’ve been enough for the Americans to finish atop the standings, and the USWNT cleared that low bar and then some with a win over Brazil on Wednesday.Winning the SheBelieves Cup is nice, and the American players have earned a nice little bonus payment for it, but ultimately this tournament largely exists to prepare the USWNT for the World Cup. To that end, it might warrant a bit of worry that the Americans never quite put together a full 90-minute performance during the SheBelieves Cup, including against Brazil.As Crystal Dunn said before heading into the locker room for halftime: “It’s not our best half. We gave away some cheap balls, but it’s about resetting now.” The match result and the tournament are marked down as wins for the USWNT, but — as Dunn suggested — the performances were not as confidence-inspiring, and the USWNT’s slow start was palpable on Wednesday.That might be fine — winning ugly counts all the same as winning in style, and lifting a trophy at the end of the 2023 Women’s World Cup is all that matters. The USWNT would surely take its wins at the SheBelieves Cup over the worrying losses last fall to England, Spain and Germany. But the performances in this tournament do leave seeds of doubt, and the fact remains that the World Cup is a different beast than the SheBelieves Cup.
2. Brazil’s counterattack gives the USWNT a key test
Brazil certainly had its chances to score on the USWNT — almost all of them came from quick counterattacks, and usually with Kerolin slicing her way through the midfield.That led to some nervy moments when American center-backs Becky Sauerbrunn and Naomi Girma were caught alone trying to keep yellow shirts at bay as fellow defenders Dunn and Emily Fox were far flung upfield.This isn’t a new concern for the USWNT, and before the Americans won the World Cup 2019, it looked like the USWNT’s tendency to get caught overcommitting in the attack was its chief (and arguably only) vulnerability. No one made the Americans pay in France at that World Cup, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a risk that the Americans took. And that Brazil left the U.S. defense scrambling in transition the way they did gave the U.S. yet another good stress test after Canada and Japan presented different challenges in the first two games of the SheBelieves Cup.To be clear, Dunn and Fox, the two American full-backs, are doing exactly what U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski wants from them. The Americans get forward and they have a very attack-focused approach, even against top-ranked teams, but if Brazil and in particular Adriana had just finished their chances, this could be a different postgame conversation.
3. What’s the Plan B for the USWNT?
Andonovski has spoken openly about his desire to use this tournament to refine and ratchet up the intensity of the USWNT’s press and counter-press. Alex Morgan‘s goal in the third minute of first-half stoppage time gave a glimpse of why the USWNT’s press is so important: Off a Brazil turnover, the U.S. transitioned quickly, Mallory Swanson had a shot blocked, and Morgan picked up the rebound with a well-taken finish that took advantage of Brazilian goalkeeper Lorena being caught off her line. Swanson’s goal in the second half also came from a turnover.
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- Andonovski: No one’s forcing Dunn to play LB6dJeff Carlisle
- Alex Morgan: ‘Bizarre’ for Saudis to sponsor WWC15dJeff Carlisle
But in the moments the press hasn’t worked against teams like Brazil or, in the previous match again, Japan — when opponents have been able to settle into their shape and be patient — the Americans have run out of ideas quickly. When those spaces haven’t been pried open by catching a team in transition, the USWNT often resorts to playing direct over the top in a brute force attempt, which sometimes can create something out of nothing but more often is a good way to lose the ball.
The return of Rose Lavelle from a muscle strain injury could help. She found seams to move the ball into with varying success against Brazil, but often crumbled under pressure as Brazilian players converged on her. If she can be on her A-game in Australia/New Zealand this summer and the American midfield can click well enough to move the ball more quickly, that can help open things up for the USWNT. If not, the USWNT could find it will need more at the World Cup as teams shut down those spaces, particularly in the final third.
– USWNT vs. Canada: Swanson cements World Cup spot
– USWNT vs. Japan: Finishing good, but midfield a concern
Best and worst performers
Best: Alex Morgan, USWNT
No one on the USWNT can take a beating during a match like Alex Morgan can, and the USWNT relied on her to absorb much of the pressure from a physical Brazil side. Even before her well-taken goal from outside the box, she had a would-be goal waved off that might’ve stood if a VAR review were possible. She does a lot of work that isn’t lauded, but deservingly got a goal to her name.
Best: Mallory Swanson, USWNT
What more is there to say at this point? No one on the USWNT is finishing like she is these days and there’s a reason she was named the best player of the SheBelieves Cup. She has eight goals in her past six games now.
Best: Kerolin, Brazil
She gave the USWNT back line fits with her incisive dribbling and passing, and she was at the heart of all of Brazil’s promising attacks.
Worst: Debinha, Brazil
The bar is high for the Kansas City Current forward who has been one of the best players in the NWSL and for Brazil, but she couldn’t get into the game and was subbed off at halftime after touching the ball only 16 times.
Worst: Trinity Rodman, USWNT
A bubble player trying to secure a spot at the World Cup, Rodman wasn’t consistent enough to wrestle away the spot that opened up with fellow winger Sophia Smith missing this tournament’s roster for injury. Although Rodman’s defensive work rate was good, and she is still an up-and-coming player with a bright future ahead of her, on this night she often wasn’t able to link up with her teammates and ended promising attacks by losing possession.
Worst: Adriana, Brazil
She had the chances, but she just couldn’t finish them. Ultimately, that may have been the difference in this match. Swanson and Morgan are reliable finishers, and Brazil just didn’t have that when it needed it. That, of course, does not all fall on Adriana, but she did have the best chances on the night.
Highlights and notable moments
Alex Morgan scored the USWNT’s opener at the end of first-half stoppage time.The USWNT won the ball in the midfield and sprung into transition, with Mallory Swanson taking a shot that was blocked. Morgan collected the rebound just outside the box, swiveled around and struck for a splendid finish.Mallory Swanson doubled the USWNT’s lead in the 63rd minute.Again, the USWNT pressed and won the ball in the midfield and then transitioned toward Brazil’s goal. Rose Lavelle laid it off to Swanson, who placed it well.In the 90th minute, Brazil pulled a goal back.Bruninha lofted a long ball to the far post and Ludmila headed it past USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
After the match: What the players and manager said
U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski on winning the SheBelieves Cup: “I don’t think we’re going to talk a lot about the title. We’re actually going to talk a lot about the play and the details and we’re going to use these games in preparation for the World Cup. That’s what’s good about this, not necessarily the title. We enjoy winning the title, but it’s the outcome of this game is what is more important for us. The whole time throughout the tournament while we’re in camp, we’re talking about how it’s not just about this tournament, it’s about preparation for the World Cup.”
Mallory Swanson on Brazil playing very physically and pressing: “Yeah, I just remember before the game, Vlatko said ‘Expect that it’s going to happen, expect that they’re going to come out hard.’ We did that and we weren’t on our heels. There were definitely times that they had transition and they were running at our goal, but I think that helped me going into the game expecting that and expecting it’ll be a dogfight, you could say.”
Swanson on winning the SheBelieves Cup and the experience for players: “The first game [against Canada], we started off really fast. Against Japan, we didn’t start off as fast but we still found a way, and today we just kind of controlled the game. Brazil is a great team and they have really crafty players. Overall, it’s just a really good experience for everyone, especially some of the younger girls who don’t have as much experience — they played a lot of minutes. Especially Foxy [Emily Fox], she played outstanding this tournament. Lindsey [Horan] played outstanding — she played almost three 90-minute games back-to-back-to-back. So, there are definitely some people who stepped up big-time and it’s going to take that.”
Swanson on knowing opponents raise their level to play the USWNT: “If you shift your mindset, that’s exciting. We’re going to get everyone’s best game, and if we go out and put our best performance out there — sometimes we’re not going to be able to, sometimes it’s going to like against Japan a grind — but it’s exciting that we’re going to get everyone’s best game and we can ultimately play our game and continue to work on us and the details and continue to grow.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
- Alex Morgan scored her first goal from outside the box for the U.S. since June 19, 2014, vs. France.
- Morgan has scored or assisted in each of her four appearances for the U.S. in 2023.
- Mallory Swanson’s six-game scoring streak is the longest by a USWNT player since Christen Press scored in six straight from November 2019 to February 2020.
- Swanson has scored half (7/14) of the goals by the USWNT in 2023. Rose Lavelle and Alex Morgan are the only other players with multiple goals (two each).
- Ludmila scored the first goal that the U.S. has conceded in five games in 2023 — the U.S. had won its first four games by a combined 12-0 before Wednesday’s match.
United States: The USWNT has one more international window left until the Women’s World Cup. The games in that window in April have not yet been announced by U.S. Soccer, but reports suggest it’ll be a pair of games against Ireland on April 8 in Austin, Texas, and April 11 in St. Louis, Missouri. The USWNT’s World Cup starts on July 22, when the Americans face Vietnam in their tournament opener in New Zealand.
Brazil: The Brazil WNT will face England in the Women’s Finalissima, which pits the Copa América Femenina winner (Brazil) against the winners of the Women’s Euro (England). That match will take place at Wembley on April 6. Then Brazil’s World Cup begins on July 24.
The Americans Abroad Five: Leeds is in big trouble
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February 21, 2023 9:28 am ET
Saturday was the kind of game that Leeds should have been up for.
Facing relegation rival Everton at Goodison Park, Leeds needed to show some kind of sign it can turn around the ever-worsening tailspin this season is becoming.Instead, Leeds was lifeless. Everton wasn’t brilliant either, but it didn’t need to be. One gritty performance and one lighting-bolt of a goal from Seamus Coleman sealed a 1-0 win for the Toffees.Leeds is now 19th after a damaging weekend that also saw fellow strugglers Southampton and Bournemouth win. The club’s decision to sack Jesse Marsch a couple weeks ago wasn’t necessarily wrong, but doing so without having a potential replacement has been disastrous.After being turned down in embarrassing and repeated fashion, the club is still being led by the caretaker trio of Michael Skubala, Chris Armas and Paco Gallardo. The Everton performance has, apparently, made Leeds hierarchy reconsider the wisdom of letting that trio continue much longer.Leeds has become appointment viewing for American fans, but that may not last if things continue down this road.Let’s explore that and a few other pressing topics in this week’s Five.
Relegation could break up Leeds America
Within a year, Leeds went from having no Americans involved in the first-team setup to five. That number could quickly plummet though if the club is relegated.Marsch is already gone and it’s unclear how long Armas will stay, even though he just arrived. That leaves the three members of the playing squad, Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson and Weston McKennie.Adams has had such a strong debut season in the Premier League that he could leave Leeds at season’s end regardless of whether the club is relegated. McKennie has a reported €33 million purchase option on his Juventus loan, which would likely be too rich for a team heading down to the Championship.That leaves Aaronson, who has faded after a strong start to the campaign. A year or two in the notoriously physical Championship may not be a bad thing for a player who at times has been pushed around in the Premier League. But it would be a pride-swallowing moment for a player who cost €22m just last summer.
Clark making positive steps
Caden Clark took the long road to making his first matchday squad for RB Leipzig, which he did on Saturday against Wolfsburg.Clark originally signed for Leipzig in June 2021, but went on loan back to the New York Red Bulls on two separate occasions. The winger failed to really shine back in MLS though, as injuries and indifferent form limited him to just 16 games last year.That left the U.S. youth international facing some real uncertainty when he headed back to Leipzig at the end of the 2022 MLS season. There were some initial positive signs upon his arrival, but words are one thing and making a gameday squad is something different.It’s easy to forget that Clark is still just 19. He’s got a way to go, but there are now some real signs he’s heading in the right direction again.
Pepi keeps rolling
Just like he did last season, Ricardo Pepi plays for a bad team. But very much unlike last season, Pepi keeps finding a way to score goals with Groningen.Pepi notched his eighth league goal of the season on Saturday as Groningen could only draw 1-1 against its fellow relegation rival FC Emmen. Groningen only has 22 Eredivisie goals this season, of which Pepi has scored more than a third.The 20-year-old is doing what he needed to do in the Netherlands. Will it be enough for Augsburg to give him another shot when his loan expires at the end of the season? Perhaps, but it’s also hard not to wonder what the striker could do on a team that actually created a few chances.
Hoppe is on the board
May 15, 2021. That was the last time Matthew Hoppe scored a goal for a club team before this weekend. For someone who plays as a forward, that is not great!But Hoppe came on as a first-half sub for Hibernian on Saturday against Kilmarnock and found the net early in the second half, helping his team to a 2-0 win. After nearly two years and two scoreless clubs (Mallorca and Middlesbrough), this one was long overdue.It’s still looking like Hoppe’s big breakout at Schalke in 2020-21 was a bit of a fluke, but he’s still only 21 and some consistent playing time in Scotland could do a world of good for his confidence.
Hello Jaheim Headley
There is a seemingly endless reserve of under-the-radar talent in Europe that happens to have USMNT eligibility and this week we are officially adding another name to our list: Jaheim Headley.Headley, 21, had a breakout performance for Huddersfield in just his second start for the club, scoring a goal and adding an assist in a 2-1 win over Birmingham City.
That’s one way to win a game…#htafc pic.twitter.com/bgiuisxa8x— Huddersfield Town (@htafc) February 19, 2023
The London-born left back developed in Huddersfield’s academy before going on a series of loans to lower-tier English teams. Now back with his parent club, Headley appears to poised to earn a real run of games. That could eventually earn him international attention, as he’s eligible for England and Jamaica in addition to the U.S.
Friedel: If Turner can’t start at Arsenal, he’s got to go
February 23, 2023 2:23 pm ET
Brad Friedel has told U.S. national team goalkeeper Matt Turner that if he can’t win the starting role at Arsenal, he has to leave the club.
Turner made the move to north London last summer from the New England Revolution, slotting in as Arsenal’s backup behind Aaron Ramsdale.
The 28-year-old has impressed when given the chance with Arsenal, but has made just six appearances and is still awaiting his Premier League debut.
Turner’s stock rose even higher after a strong World Cup with the USMNT, as he looks capable of starting for a number of clubs in Europe’s top five leagues.
Friedel, who coached Turner with the Revolution in 2018 and 2019, has encouraged the goalkeeper to seek out pastures new if he can’t overtake Ramsdale by next season.
“When I wasn’t playing consistently when I was at Liverpool I had to get out,” the former USMNT goalkeeper told sportingpost.com. “Even though I loved the club and it was the team I supported, I had to leave for my career. You have such a short career as a professional footballer and you need to play as many games as possible inside that time.
“Look at Matt’s competition for the national team spot. He was the number one then and he’s gone all this time without playing, but Zack Steffen, who wasn’t getting a game at Manchester City, is now playing well for Middlesbrough. They are possible promotion candidates and all of a sudden with Zack playing at a high level in the Championship and potentially in the Premier League and he’s playing every week whilst Matt is on the bench, then you’re looking at another change in who is the number one keeper for the U.S. national team.
“I think that Matt, no matter what, even though Arsenal are an incredible club, has to find consistent football somewhere. This season, fine, but if he’s not going to be the number one he has got to go. The only issue is that he’s on a long contract and if you’re Arsenal, why would you let him go? You’ve got an incredible goalkeeper, an incredible guy, a great worker, you have one of the best number twos on the planet.”
While Turner remains a backup, the next three keepers on the USMNT depth chart are all starters with their current clubs: Steffen (Middlesbrough) and Ethan Horvath (Luton Town) on loan in the Championship and Sean Johnson at his new club Toronto FC.
The 10 biggest questions as the 2023 MLS season kicks off
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February 21, 2023 11:32 am ET
Major League Soccer is back for its 28th season, as the LA Galaxy and LAFC kick things off with a special edition of El Tráfico at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
There are plenty of major talking points to explore this season as MLS continues finding its place in the hierarchy of world leagues. Is it a selling league? A destination league? Or can it be both?
There are also new faces in the league, old faces in new places, a new team and, maybe most importantly for the long-term health of the league, a blockbuster and experimental media rights agreement with a technology giant.
Let’s explore the 10 biggest questions to ponder ahead of the new season.
Who is next to depart?
MLS has begun to embrace its status as a selling league. Five of the league’s top 10 outbound transfers have taken place in 2022 and 2023, and there should be more to come.
The next chance for European clubs to purchase players will come in the summer, and there are several MLS players who could be departing at midseason.
Among the top candidates to fetch major transfer fees are FC Cincinnati striker Brenner, New York Red Bulls left back John Tolkin, LAFC midfielder José Cifuentes and Atlanta United’s World Cup winner Thiago Almada.
It’s not ideal for teams to lose key players midseason, but that’s the reality MLS faces due to its schedule and its growing reputation as a league where players can develop and be sold on for profit.
Who will be the top newcomers?
It’s not just about the players leaving though! MLS has become an appealing destination for players from across the globe as clubs start to slowly but surely open their wallets to bring in top-tier talent.
Some of the more notable players arriving in 2023 include Atlanta United forward Giorgos Giakoumakis, Red Bulls forward Dante Vanzeir, D.C. United midfielder Mateusz Klich, Orlando City forward Martín Ojeda, Portland Timbers midfielder Evander, LAFC forward Stipe Biuk and Charlotte FC forward Enzo Copetti.
Six of those seven commanded multi-million transfer fees and all are expected to immediately step in and play a major role for their clubs in 2023.
How will St. Louis City do?
One of the most historic American soccer cities finally has an MLS team, as St. Louis City joins the league as its 29th team this season.
There should be plenty of excitement in St. Louis around the new team, which will play at brand-new Citypark in downtown. Will it be any good though? Who knows!
The roster is hardly filled with household names, as the club will rely on a core of MLS veterans and European players who are unproven in the league.
Perhaps the most recognizable name is Roman Bürki, the ex-Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper who will have to recapture his best form from Germany if the expansion club wants to surprise in year one.
Will the Apple gamble pay off?
MLS has a lot on the line in its new media rights partnership with Apple.
Last summer, the league and Apple came to a landmark agreement in a deal worth $2.5 billion over 10 years, moving every MLS match in English and Spanish to a subscription service called MLS Season Pass.
The deal is the first of its kind for a sports league: every match will be available without blackouts or geo-restrictions through a single streaming service, providing a one-stop destination for fans.
Though some matches will be on TV, it’s also a risk: MLS is betting on getting enough subscribers and attention to counteract the fact it has made its product more difficult to consume.
Can Atlanta turn it around?
Atlanta United was a MLS flagship franchise in its first few seasons, winning trophies, developing talent and selling out a huge football stadium downtown.
But the club has fallen on some hard times, missing the playoffs in two of the last three seasons. Last year was a new low, underlined by club legend Josef Martínez calling out teammates and flipping over tables of chicken and rice.
Giakoumakis will be crucial for the Five Stripes this season, as should the return of Miles Robinson. But the focal point will likely be newly minted World Cup champion Almada. If the 21-year-old plays up to his potential, Atlanta should be back in the postseason. The problem for the Five Stripes, though, is that the better Almada plays, the less likely it is he stays for the entire season.
Can LAFC pull an encore?
Steve Cherundolo’s debut season as LAFC head coach could not have gone any better.
The California club took home MLS Cup and the Supporters’ Shield to reestablish its place as one of the league’s elite teams. An encore in 2023 will be a daunting challenge.
For starters, LAFC will have to navigate an early-season schedule that will see them balance MLS play with CONCACAF Champions League matches. That struggle has seen a number of teams — like, for example, last year’s Seattle Sounders — fail to keep the pace in MLS amid a run in the CCL.
Cherundolo’s club will also have to replace the retired Gareth Bale and Chicho Arango, who left to join Pachuca. Bale struggled to stay on the field during his half-season in MLS, while Arango will be a bigger challenge to replace after he scored 30 goals in just two seasons with the club.
Is the Messi dream still alive?
Lionel Messi to Inter Miami is the rumor that simply won’t die.
Late last year it looked like the move was very much on but after Messi led Argentina to World Cup glory, several reports said he had agreed to sign a new contract with PSG.
But a couple months later, and that deal still has not been signed. A recent report from L’Equipe suggested that Messi once again is leaning toward a PSG exit.
Inter has been pushing to sign Messi for years. Should they land the iconic figure, it would be the biggest MLS signing since the club’s owner David Beckham landed with the LA Galaxy back in 2007.
How will teams approach the Leagues Cup?
This season will see MLS pause for more than a month, as all of its teams join all of Liga MX’s teams for an expanded version of the Leagues Cup.
MLS will take a break between July 15 and August 20. It will be interesting to see how teams approach the competition and how it will impact the season.
There are spots in the CONCACAF Champions League available to to the top three finishers in the Leagues Cup, but will teams take an opportunity to rest players midseason and test out new faces? Or will the chance to get one over on Liga MX and earn a CCL spot mean MLS teams go all out to win?
The answer may very based on a team’s place in the table, as well as its injury and depth situations at the time the Leagues Cup kicks off.
Who will be team 30?
In a story about MLS talking points, we would be remiss if we did not mention expansion, the story in this league that just keeps on giving.
With St. Louis joining as team 29, commissioner Don Garber has said the league plans to expand to 30 teams and then take a pause. We may find out this year which city will earn the league’s 30th franchise.
The race appears to be down to Sacramento, Phoenix, Las Vegas and San Diego. In a recent interview with Sports Business Journal, Garber said of San Diego: “I love the market, it is a gateway city to Mexico, and with our increased programming and increasingly closer relationship with Liga MX, San Diego is a priority market.”
How will the new playoff format play out?
The league’s new playoff format will see 18 of its 29 teams (62%) reach the postseason, a change from last season’s 14 of 28 (50%).
The increase in teams runs the risk of further devaluing the regular season, especially as the top seed in each conference no longer receives a bye as they did last season. There is also the new wrinkle of a best-of-three series in the first round, which could dramatically increase the number of games in the postseason.
That is, of course, the point of all of this. More playoff games means more content for Apple to offer Season Pass subscribers, and more games for teams to host and bring in matchday revenue.
As the regular season winds down, only the very worst teams will be eliminated from postseason contention. That will give those teams plenty to play for, but what about the teams who already clinched? That will be a development to monitor as the season enters its final months.