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Jill Ellis has found her voice – Equalizer Soccer

BALTIMORE — Jill Ellis began and ended her Saturday at the annual 2020 United Soccer Coaches Convention by receiving lifetime achievement awards.

She accepted her first of the day, the Women’s Soccer Award of Excellence, in front of a highly caffeinated crowd which rose early for one of the event’s marquee gatherings. She ended her day at another signature ceremony in front of a crowd full on more mature beverages, at the Walt Chyzowych Award Ceremony, the convention’s de-facto farewell. Each time, Ellis offered different stories with similar morals.

Her morning acceptance speech was arguably the most powerful of the four times she spoke on stage in about a 24-hour span. Each time, she was at ease on the microphone, exuding the type of confidence one would expect from a two-time World Cup-winning coach.

Those close to Ellis, however, know that hasn’t come easy. Only recently did the former United States women’s national team coach find the confidence to be comfortable with who she is — and she found it through soccer.

“The last time I got an award at this event, it was 2000,” she said during her morning acceptance speech. “And you know what? I didn’t want to come. I didn’t want to come get that award because I was a very shy, pretty insecure person. It was hard to be a gay woman and not feel that great about it. So, I hid a lot. And boy, when they called me about this one, I was like, ‘Oh hell yeah, I’m going to stand up there and take that f**king award.”

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1966 FIFA World Cup™ – News – Alf Ramsey, England’s anonymous hero

  • Sir Alf Ramsey led England to World Cup glory in 1966
  • The iconic coach would have turned 100 on 22 January 2020
  • We look back at the man who gave England its finest football moment

Not even Queen Elizabeth II could contain her joy on 30 July 1966 when England, recognised as the birthplace of modern football, finally captured the FIFA World Cup™. As wild celebrations erupted inside Wembley Stadium and scores poured onto the streets up and down the country, it seemed there was just one man able to remain calm. Alf Ramsey, who had masterminded the nation’s greatest-ever sporting triumph, raised a warm smile but, remarkably, kept his composure as well as his seat on the bench.

Like Nobby Stiles’ jig and Bobby Moore’s lifting of the Jules Rimet trophy, the image of a restrained Ramsey sticks with every Englishman even 40 years after the famous event, underlining the importance of the role played by their coach and the quiet dignity that he personified. The ‘General’ also possessed an astute football brain, was flexible with his tactics, yet a strict disciplinarian, and as a technician was well ahead of his time. But perhaps his greatest talent was his ability to get the best out of his players.

“We will win the World Cup,” the Essex man announced with uncharacteristic bravado as he took the national-team reins in 1963. Never at ease among the press but nevertheless widely respected, a 5-2 loss to France in a European Nations’ Cup qualifying game had many within the media questioning the appointment. But Ramsey, who in his playing days as a right-back won 32 caps for England and a league championship with Tottenham Hotspur, was willing to take a major gamble by dispensing with the wingers English football had become identified with. He replaced them with an unfamiliar 4-4-2 formation, which led his side to become known as the ‘wingless wonders.’

Whatever criticism he took from the media, Ramsey’s loyalty to his players was always returned. “It worked both ways,” explained midfielder Nobby Stiles, who, despite a vicious tackle on French playmaker Jacques Simon during England’s 2-0 group win, was backed to the hilt by his manager amid calls for him to be dropped for the quarter-finals. “Because he was loyal to you, you’d run through brick walls for him. And it wasn’t just the players. Everyone concerned with England was doing it for Alf. Before the Argentina game I was in the bathroom putting my contacts in when Harold Shepherdson [Ramsey’s assistant] came in. He grabs me by the throat, pushes me against the wall and says, ‘Don’t you let Alf down’.”

Defying expectations

Despite Ramsey’s bold prediction, most football experts did not think England, even as hosts, could win the tournament. After all Ramsey himself was in the England team that suffered a humiliating defeat by the United States at the 1950 finals in Brazil. His last cap, three years later at Wembley, came on the day Hungary’s magical Magyars famously destroyed the home team 6-3. In three subsequent FIFA World Cups – Switzerland ’54, Sweden ’58 and Chile ’62 – England had failed to go beyond the last eight.

There was little reason to suspect that Ramsey’s men could dethrone Pele and Co, but England were about to wake up to the world. A goalless draw against Uruguay kicked off the finals for the hosts, which was followed by an unconvincing 2-0 win against Mexico. However, a confident 2-0 victory over France showed the team were moving in the right direction, and after vanquishing Argentina in a rugged 1-0 match – Ramsey infamously referred to the Argentina players as “animals” after the contest – the nation began to believe in the coach and his ‘wingless wonders’.

With Gordon Banks in goal and captain Bobby Moore majestic in front of him, England had not conceded a goal in the tournament to that point. When their net did bulge for the first time, it came just eight minutes from time in the semi-final against Portugal, and Eusebio’s penalty was too late to undo the damage of two Bobby Charlton strikes. That 2-1 success put England into the final where they would face West Germany, a side they had never lost to.

While the form book was in England’s favour, few could have predicted the full drama of the 1966 FIFA World Cup final – Germany’s last-gasp equaliser for 2-2, England’s controversial ‘third’ goal, Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick and finally the jubilation – all with Ramsey sitting resolutely on the bench. Hero Hurst related how Ramsey convinced the team to fight on before extra time: “You’ve won it once. Now go and win it again.”

A knight of the realm

Alf became Sir Alf a year later and under his charge, the 1960s continued to swing for English football fans. Many commentators believed the team Ramsey took to Mexico ’70 were even better than the champions of four years before, and the paternal England coach seemed to instinctively know what his players needed to perform at their best. Together with this psychological insight into the machinations of the modern professional, Ramsey’s hand extended as far as travel arrangements, diet and fitness. His planning and control were even more exact for the Mexico finals.

“Alf’s preparations for Mexico were incredible,” remembered Stiles. “They’d be reckoned obsolete by today’s standards but in those days they were revolutionary. No stone was left unturned. He even took HP Sauce to Mexico. I’ll always remember that – HP Sauce on the tables.”

“We had some tremendous individual players and we all had one thing in common – Sir Alf Ramsey. It’s easy to spot players who have ability. What’s not so straightforward is realising which personalities will combine well to form a strong team. That was Alf’s strength.”

Geoff Hurst

But the world champions were hit by incidents off the field that would test Ramsey’s managerial abilities to the full. First, his captain and great ally, Bobby Moore, was falsely arrested for stealing a necklace from a shop in a Colombian hotel. And, before the quarter-final rematch with West Germany, Banks – who made a miraculous save from a Pele header in the 1-0 group defeat by Brazil – fell ill. The resulting quarter-final in Leon was a turning point in the England coach’s reign.

An error from Banks’ replacement Peter Bonetti gave the Germans a lifeline at 2-1 in the second half, and Ramsey’s decision to take off Charlton just minutes before Uwe Seeler’s goal brought the contest level has been viewed as the moment when the boss’ messiah-like reputation was lost for good. Gerd Muller’s winner in the second period of extra time left England toppled in the most dramatic of fashions.

By the early 1970s football was transforming, and the change from black-and-white TV was accompanied by more colourful coaches who were more engaging with the media. Ramsey’s momentous feats in the 60s found little currency when after a one-sided home draw with Poland, England failed to qualify for the 1974 finals in West Germany. “If Bobby Moore had wept, we would have all wept with him,” said the deflated coach whose dozen-year reign came to an end. In all, Sir Alf’s England teams registered 69 victories, 27 draws and 17 losses.

“It was the most devastating half-hour of my life,” Ramsey later said of his sacking. “I stood in a room almost full of staring committee men. It was just like I was on trial. I thought I was going to be hanged.” The 53-year-old son of a smallholder remained the people’s champion, though, and with every passing year his unique feat of leading England to victory in the game they gave to the world appears more and more remarkable.

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Water Cooler Talk with Laura Harvey – Equalizer Soccer

Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer

Laura Harvey is the new coach of the United States Under-20 women’s national team. She topped by Podcast Row at the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Baltimore to talk to us about why she took that job and left Utah Royals FC somewhat abruptly after two seasons in charge. She also discusses that in the context of missing out on the U.S. senior team job, and why she wanted to still work with Vlatko Andonovski.

Harvey also tells us why the narrative that she doesn’t develop young players is a myth, and we go on to talk about tactical trends in the women’s game and her pursuit of the USSF Pro License; she’d be only the second woman to acquire it. Oh, and stick around for the end for Harvey’s recommended Netflix shows.

Listen to this pod on:  Apple  |  Spotify  |  Google Podcasts  |  Stitcher  |  Anchor  |  PodBean  |  Pocket Casts  |  Breaker  |  Overcast  |  RadioPublic

Special thanks to our podcast sponsor, FBref.com, where you can find comprehensive NWSL and women’s soccer statistics. Each episode, we bring you the FBRef.com Stat of the Week. Sign up for the Stathead Newsletter to get curated stats, recaps, how-tos and more from the Sports-Reference network in your inbox.

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FIFA Futsal World Cup 2020 – News – Rodrigo: Nobody will ever get close to Falcao

  • Rodrigo captains Brazil and world club kings Magnus Sorocaba
  • The dynamite-footed defender discusses the Lithuania 2020 favourites
  • Falcao, Eder Lima and Ricardinho are also on the menu

“It was like a scene from a movie.”

A bearded man, in the middle of a dusty highway, flagged down a truck and sardined 20 of his soldiers into its trunk.

Tom Hardy, who headlined Lawless, The Drop, Mad Max: Fury Road and Legend, would have fit the role of headliner. This time, however, another Hardy assumed the lead role. Rodrgo Hardy, captain of reigning futsal world club kings Magnus Sorocaba.

Suspension for the first leg of Brazilian National League final didn’t dissuade the selfless 35-year-old accompanying his team-mates on an exhausting, 12-hour coach journey to Pato Branco. There, en route to their final training session, the bus broke down. That’s when Rodrigo leapt into action, persuaded a Johnny-on-the-spot driver he wasn’t being robbed, and charmed him into transporting the squad to a gymnasium.

“Being captain is not just about what you do on the pitch, but I never imagined it would involve that,” Rodrigo told FIFA.com, chuckling.

Rodrigo is doubtlessly one of the finest players on the planet. He has, despite being a defender, just finished as the Brazilian National League’s leading marksman for the third time and hit 95 goals in 145 internationals – figures indebted to a torpedo of a right foot. Furthermore, he dazzled as Brazil won their fifth FIFA Futsal World Cup™ at Thailand 2012.

Magnus ultimately lost that aforementioned tie to Pato last month, but they conquered a third consecutive World Intercontinental Futsal Cup in Thailand in September, winning penalty shoot-outs against Corinthians in the semi-finals and Boca Juniors in the final. Rodrigo took, and scored, his side’s first spot-kick on both occasions.

“Boca eliminated Barcelona in the semi-finals and have great players, so we knew it was going to be a really tough game,” he said. “I’ve always had the desire to assume responsibility and take penalties. I think as an experienced player and a captain it’s my duty. It was my fourth world [club] title and third with Sorocaba, so I was delighted.”

Rodrigo is anticipating another clash against Argentinian opposition early next month. Brazil, the record five-time Futsal World Cup chiefs, and Argentina, the reigning champions, will begin South American qualifying for Lithuania 2020 – four slots are available – expected to clash in the final.

“Their coach at the last World Cup revolutionised Argentinian futsal,” said Rodrigo. “They’re a great side. They have great players, but they also know how to play the game.

“The rest of the South American teams are getting better day by day. We will have to play really well to qualify.”

Rodrigo is hoping to appear at his third Futsal World Cup – and unfinished business nags at him. He scored four goals in four games at Colombia 2016, including two venomous free-kicks and a breathtaking volley, but Brazil lost on penalties to IR Iran in a Round-of-16 thriller.

“We knew how good Iran were, but it was really upsetting because we were 2-0 up, 3-1 up, we were never behind, and we lost on penalties,” said Rodrigo.

“It’s really difficult to remain in the Brazilian national team. Brazil could put out four, five teams that could compete in the World Cup. But at that moment I said to myself, ‘I’m going to do absolutely everything to play in another World Cup.’”

Falcao scored a hat-trick in that game against the Iranians in what proved, agonisingly, to be his final appearance at the Futsal World Cup.

“Falcao is the best player in the world ever,” said the man who succeeded him as Brazil captain. “Undoubtedly. Nobody will ever get close to him.

“He broke so many records, won so many titles, made plays other great players can’t even dream about. He revolutionised the way the media treat futsal.”

Without Falcao, Rodrigo is confident, nevertheless, in Brazil’s chances at Lithuania 2020.

“Argentina are very good,” he said. “Russia have great players. Eder Lima is a killer in front of goal.

“Spain are Spain – we have a great rivalry with them, a lot of Brazilians play there. The Spanish learnt from the Brazilians, but now they have a great team of their own. Iran are strong. Portugal with Ricardinho, you can’t rule them out.

“Ricardinho keeps winning the Best Player in the World award, but Brazil has outstanding players too: Gadeia, Dyego, Pito, Ferrao, Leandro Lino, Guitta, Leozinho, who’s been a revelation.

“I think this is what sets Brazil apart. We have 14 great players. The issue [coach] Marquinho faces is that he has 14 players who are used to being decisive for their clubs. Some of us will have to do the running, the donkey work.

“But we’re very united, very strong, and I’m certain we’ll arrive in the best shape possible to try and bring the title back to Brazil.”

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Olympic Football Tournaments 2020 – Men – News – Saudi Arabia secure Tokyo 2020 qualification 

  • Saudi Arabia reach Tokyo 2020, joining hosts Japan as second qualified Asian team
  • Two more berths on the line in Asia
  • Men’s Olympic Football Tournament will begin on 23 July

Saudi Arabia have become the first Asian team, after hosts Japan, to book their place at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020.

The Green Falcons recorded a 1-0 victory over Uzbekistan to progress to the final of the AFC U-23 Championship Thailand 2020, with substitute Nasser Al Omran’s deflected strike from outside the box on 88 minutes proving the difference.

It is the first time Saudi Arabia have qualified for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament since Atlanta 1996.

Two more Asian sides will join Saudi Arabia and Japan: the second AFC U-23 Championship finalist and the winner of the third-place playoff.

Australia and Korea Republic face each other in the other remaining semi-final later on today, while the third-place off will be contested on 25 January.

The Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020 will begin on 23 July, with the gold medal match being played on 8 August at International Stadium Yokohama – the venue of the 2002 FIFA World Cup™ Final.

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FIFA World Cup 2022™ – News – African draw promises entertainment and excitement

  • Draw for second round of African qualifiers took place in Egypt
  • We have all you need to know about the groups and teams
  • 40 sides in the running; five slots available for Qatar 2022

The 40 African nations still in the hunt for a spot at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ discovered their fate on Tuesday.

The draw for the second round of the African qualifying campaign was held in Cairo, Egypt, and it produced some mouth-watering duels involving longstanding rivalries, chances for revenge and heavyweight clashes. FIFA.com runs the rule over the freshly minted groups.

Preliminary qualifying draw (CAF)

Group A

Algeria | Burkina Faso | Niger | Djibouti

As winners of the 2019 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Algeria will be regarded as favourites in Group A. Given that they missed out on Russia 2018, Les Fennecs will be even more motivated to qualify this time around. The other three teams in the pool will be just as driven to perform well, not least because none of them have ever appeared on football’s greatest stage, although Burkina Faso did come close to qualifying for the 2014 edition. Back then, it was Algeria who eventually denied Les Etalons a berth in Brazil.

Group B

Tunisia | Zambia | Mauritania | Equatorial Guinea

Tunisia will lock horns with Zambia, who have often shone in the Cup of Nations, which they won in 2012, but who have not enjoyed the same success in World Cup qualifiers. The Chipolopolo will be determined to reverse that trend, while Equatorial Guinea and Mauritania – who held the Tunisians to a draw last year – are also likely to play a pivotal role.

Group C

Nigeria | Cape Verde | Central African Republic | Liberia

Nigeria will doubtless be installed as heavy favourites in this section, having advanced to the World Cup on six previous occasions, unlike their three future opponents, none of whom have ever successfully negotiated a qualifying campaign. However, as the Super Eagles’ slip-up during the 2017 Cup of Nations qualifiers proves, a surprise outcome is always a possibility.

Group D

Cameroon | Côte d’Ivoire | Mozambique | Malawi

Three-time World Cup participants Côte d’Ivoire were viewed as the team to avoid in Pot 2, and they find themselves pitted against the African side that has qualified for the World Cup most often (seven times), Cameroon. At least one continental powerhouse will therefore not make it to the third round, while the other two nations in the group should not be discounted either.

Group E

Mali | Uganda | Kenya | Rwanda

In stark contrast with Group D, this section features four teams who have never played at the World Cup proper. Out of the ambitious quartet, Mali appear best equipped to reach the third round, but Uganda are capable of springing a surprise, as they demonstrated by qualifying for the last two Cup of Nations tournaments.

Group F

Egypt | Gabon | Libya | Angola

In this high-calibre group, Egypt, propelled by the goals of Mohamed Salah, will not find the going easy against Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon. But Angola, who have one World Cup appearance under their belts, certainly cannot be ruled out, especially considering the talented crop of youngsters – who impressed at the most recent FIFA U-17 World Cup – they have at their disposal. The unpredictable Libyans make up the quartet.

Group G

Ghana | South Africa | Zimbabwe | Ethiopia

Ghana and South Africa, two nations with substantial World Cup pedigree, will face off in the standout duel in Group G. In addition, Bafana Bafana have a clash with neighbours Zimbabwe to look forward to. With Ethiopia, who are capable of competing with the best on their day, also in the mix, the pool promises to be a closely contested affair. “It’s a very even group,” noted Marcel Desailly, who assisted with the draw in Cairo. “Teams will have to get off to a strong start. Wins build momentum and generate confidence.”

Group H

Senegal | Congo | Namibia | Togo

The highest-placed CAF representatives in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, Senegal, boasting an attack featuring newly crowned African Player of the Year Sadio Mane, appear to be the team to beat in this pool. However, Togo, who competed at the 2006 World Cup, Congo and Namibia will not be there to simply make up the numbers.

Group I

Morocco | Guinea | Guinea-Bissau | Sudan

On paper, the outcome of Group I should come down to the matches between Morocco and Guinea, who both have players performing all over Europe. That said, Guinea-Bissau, likely to be galvanised by their rivalry with neighbours Guinea, and Sudan are more than capable of gatecrashing the party.

Group J

Congo DR | Benin | Madagascar | Tanzania

Arguably the most open section, Group J features four teams who all took part in the last Cup of Nations, two of whom – Benin and Madagascar – surprisingly reached the quarter-finals. Les Leopards, who enjoy a more elevated position in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking than the other three countries, were eliminated in the previous round by Madagascar at Egypt 2019, which suggests that some significant drama could lie ahead.

Did you know?

  • Group A: Niger have two derbies of sorts on the agenda, due to the fact they share borders with both Burkina Faso and Algeria.
  • Group B: One of Equatorial Guinea’s finest results came against Tunisia: a 2-1 win in the quarter-finals of the 2015 Cup of Nations.
  • Group C: In September 2018, at the age of 51, Liberian football legend George Weah played in a specially arranged friendly match versus Nigeria.
  • Group F: The last time that Angola found themselves in the same group as Gabon in a World Cup qualifying campaign (in 2006), they advanced to the finals.

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Making sense of the nonsensical 2020 NWSL Draft – Equalizer Soccer

The 2020 NWSL match ball (Photo: Jeff Kassouf)

With a single comment, Arnim Whisler altered the entire vibe of the 2020 National Women’s Soccer League College Draft, held last Thursday at the Baltimore Convention Center. As media did some hand wringing over the lack of transparency surrounding the trading of allocation money, the Chicago Red Stars owner offered up an explanation from the board’s point of view.

“It can be used for a lot of reasons. I think there’s a misunderstanding that it can only be used, for instance, for player salaries,” Whisler said in a joint press conference last week with outgoing NWSL president Amanda Duffy. “There’s no doubt it will, often, be used for player salaries, but there are also mechanisms that you can use it in other ways to support the operator or the team.”

The problem was that nothing of that nature ever showed up in when the league announced the introduction of allocation money in October. It did, however, clear up the uncertainty about why teams like Whisler’s Red Stars and Sky Blue FC were taking on allocation money instead of trading it away. A short while later, more confirmation came our way indicating that trades of allocation money are actual cash transactions. So, teams which have added allocation money — apparently just the Red Stars and Sky Blue right now — will be able to spend that acquired money on players or certain internal expenses at no cost to themselves beyond whichever assets they traded away for the money. That part was more of a clarification, though. Spending allocation money on team expenses was either a recent addition or intentionally left out of the initial announcement.

I’ll direct you to read John Halloran’s piece for more context on allocation money. I’ll say this, though: If that money is going to be used strictly for salaries then it is imperative the numbers are released. If it is going to double as a way to pay the bills, then I can understand a desire to keep them under wraps. But I digress…

The new information about allocation money temporarily diverted attention from the second mega trade in the last three draft days. Two years ago, Sam Kerr, Christen Press, and Carli Lloyd all changed teams. This time, it was Mallory Pugh. The one-time U.S. Soccer wunderkind was dealt from the Washington Spirit to Sky Blue FC in exchange for four draft picks including the No. 4 overall and Sky Blue’s first-rounder in 2021.

But therein lies another issue with how the NWSL handles information. When the trade was announced, Pugh’s name was not mentioned. Instead Sky Blue acquired a “player to be named later.” This is because the league prefers to wait until all traded players have been contacted before making the announcement official.

I have full sympathies for how awkward and jarring it must be to be traded as a professional athlete. It is also an occupational hazard to sometimes find out you’ve been traded in the media. Keeping Pugh’s name out of the announcement only served to add confusion to the day. Instead of the talent on the livestream being able to analyze the deal, they were left to speculate and ignore.

Furthermore, leaving Pugh’s name out of the announcement actually led to more names being brought into it. The Spirit really had only three players that could have fetched the return in a trade that they got from Sky Blue. The chances of Andi Sullivan being moved were slim to none barring a direct request, a la Kealia Ohai. The only other player it could have been was Rose Lavelle.

All in all, Pugh always made the most sense, and not just because it was lightly teased in last week’s Lowdown that if the Spirit traded into the first round, it would likely be in a trade that included the 21-year-old. But Pugh has been slower to develop than most thought she would be. The 2019 Spirit made incredible strides and while Pugh was occasionally part of them, she was also injured and with the U.S. national team much of the time. Spirit head coach Richie Burke said he did not want to part with Pugh, but it was a trade that made sense for Washington.

Meanwhile, the Pugh deal moved Sky Blue closer to relevance and helped shove the disaster that was the 2019 draft to the back burner. Sky Blue has now added Pugh, McCall Zerboni, and Midge Purce to a roster that was probably not as bad as the team’s record indicated last year. But it is notable that Zerboni’s teams have played in as many NWSL Championships (five) as Sky Blue won games in 2019.

“She’s a tremendous player,” LaHue said of Zerboni. “Obviously, [with] Rocky Rodriguez departing we had a big gap in the midfield we felt we needed to fill. To have an opportunity to get a player like McCall, who is absolutely phenomenal on the field but also brings a winning mentality, we feel that’s really important for us in the locker room.”

Leaving college for the pros is becoming more normal — at least for the elite

The Pugh trade was the last in a series of three that made for some of the most unique scenarios we have ever seen at the NWSL draft. And we have allocation money to thank for it. That’s how the Red Stars were able to persuade Sky Blue to move down from the Nos. 2 and 3 slots to Nos. 4 and 5. And yet, all the Red Stars did with their higher picks was flip them to Portland Thorns FC and the Orlando Pride, respectively. In return, the Red Stars received Rachel Hill, the No. 15 and 16 picks, and the Pride’s first-round pick in 2021. Oh, and allocation money from both.

A quick glance might seem as if the Red Stars gave away what was once five first-round picks with little to show for it. But as teams gobbled up attacking player after attacking player, the Red Stars used the two picks acquired from the Thorns to grab Julia Bingham and Camryn Biegalski, who Rory Dames said were the top two defenders on his draft board. Dames also finished off his usual practice of stockpiling future draft picks. The Red Stars currently have four first-round picks next year — their own plus the Pride’s, Reign’s and Royals’ (the Red Stars have no second-round pick).

It may seem odd that the Red Stars traded up and out while Sky Blue traded down and then landed Pugh. Asked if the Spirit held out for Sky Blue to keep the 2nd or 3rd pick for the trade, Sky Blue general manager Alyse LaHue said she was in the middle of signing paperwork for the first trade when the Spirit approached about the second. And as another team official told me later in the day, “All the teams got who they wanted.”

That means the Thorns wanted Morgan Weaver — which is obvious since they traded up for No. 2 and already had No. 1 which they used on Sophia Smith. The Thorns are attempting to do two things. One is to close the considerable gap that now exists between them and the North Carolina Courage. Two is to end a year-long issue of not getting enough scoring from their strikers. That was papered over more often than not, but when Lindsey Horan came back from the World Cup and struggled last season, the dearth of anyone to score was glaring.

The Thorns have also been tied to Paris Saint-Germain striker Kadidiatou Diani. Coach Mark Parsons confirmed the club is in the market for an international striker but stopped short of confirming any names, saying only that they’ve spoken with a French player and have their eyes on “world-class center backs.” Diani, combined with young talents Smith and Weaver, would be the start of a new day in Portland.

Bethany Balcer’s amazing 2019, and why the NWSL Draft is not a referendum

The Pride decided to take the jump to No. 3, having coveted Taylor Kornieck. It was an interesting move because the Pride had traded out of the No. 1 pick. But that hinged on the Thorns getting the pick and Smith declaring early.

“I don’t want to say [we’re] the cat that got the cream,” Pride coach Marc Skinner said, “but we were really happy with the fact that we got the opportunity to bring her to Orlando.”

As discussed last week, it is a pivotal offseason for the Pride ahead of an even more important season on the field. If Korniek was their top target all along, then they essentially traded next year’s first-round pick, Rachel Hill, and some allocation money plus the No. 26 pick for the Nos. 7 and 14 pick, Emily Sonnett, and the rights to Caitlin Foord.

The Pride used the 7th and 14th picks to shore up their defense, taking Virginia teammates Courtney Peterson and Phoebe McClernon. The Pride’s defense was woefully poor in 2020, giving up 53 goals in 24 games, and those picks plus Kornieck will go a long way toward determining if Skinner can get them into the middle of the table or higher.

The Spirit also nabbed their top target, Ashley Sanchez, at No. 4. And Sky Blue always had eyes for Evelyne Viens, who they took at No. 5.

In case you’re wondering, the other four teams participated in the draft as well. Many observers thought the Utah Royals got a steal when Tziarra King fell to them at No. 8. General manager Stephanie Lee suggested later that the Royals would be more of a fixture near the top of the draft than they had been in two years under Laura Harvey. It’s notable. though. that they do not currently have a first-round pick in 2021.

The Houston Dash were pleased to get Bridgette Andrzejewski with their first selection at No. 18 and have hinted there could be moves coming in the near future. Reign FC took Santa Clara midfielder Kelcie Hedge to close out of the 1st round and did not pick again until the end of the fourth round. The biggest Reign news of the week was the hiring of Farid Benstiti as the club’s new head coach.

And then there’s the Courage. The league champions traded up to the No. 6 pick, tried to do some more moving around, and appeared frustrated when they were forced to sit on that spot. They used it on Ally Watt, a lightning-quick forward from Texas A&M who will add depth to the best roster in the NWSL.

Every NWSL draft is important, and the truth is that it takes years to decipher who got the best of a given draft day. But something tells me we’ll look back on this one as a major turning point — for better or for worse — for several clubs.

Free Kicks

— The annual United Soccer Coaches Convention brings the whole soccer world together, from every industry. I enjoyed chatting with VEO co-founder and CEO Henrik Teisbaek during the convention. VEO is a multi-camera video technology that allows matches or training sessions to be filmed from such an angle that coaches can watch any part of the field during any part of the match. In other words, the picture can be frozen at any point and scrolled through the entire field. That means you can see where your defenders are positioned as your opponent passes out of the back. Teisbaek said he was selling cameras and subscriptions to the service right off the shelf at VEO’s booth on the exhibit hall. VEO can be found at veo.co.

— Although Sky Blue’s 2019 was a disaster in that their two first-round picks, Hailie Mace and Julia Ashley, sat out the season rather than report, it should be noted that Paige Monaghan and Julie James Doyle were quietly successful selections at No. 10 and 11, respectively. Monaghan wound up at U.S. national team identification camp last month. Even No. 29 pick Kenie Wright contributed some in 2019.

— Skinner expressed some confidence that Caitlin Foord will eventually play for the Pride, though he stopped short of suggesting it would happen in 2020. Foord’s rights were acquired by the Pride in the trade that sent the No. 1 overall pick to Portland. Reports have her linked to signing with Arsenal.

— The Red Stars and Sky Blue FC agreed to split some of the allocation money the Red Stars acquired when they moved off the 2 and 3 picks. This was first reported by Meg Linehan and later confirmed to The Equalizer. The exact figures that changed hands have been reported by various outlets and disputed by various clubs.

The NWSL says it has a ‘Rooney Rule,’ but no one seems to know much about it

— The Thorns are the first NWSL team to ever make the first two overall picks. Four years ago, they woke up sitting on the first two picks but moved No. 2 to Sky Blue in the trade that brought them Nadia Nadim. Sky Blue used that pick to draft Raquel Rodriguez, who was recently traded to the Thorns.

— Want more 2016-2020 draft weirdness? The Thorns acquired the No. 1 pick that year and used it on Emily Sonnett. This year, they used Sonnett to acquire the No. 1 pick. Both times were in trades with Orlando.

— The real noise of the 2016 draft came when the league announced a new player acquisition mechanism just as the draft started. It was designed to get Mallory Pugh to the Thorns as an allocated player without having to go through the draft. And of course, Pugh was part of the biggest trade of the 2020 draft. She has never played for the Thorns.

— Oh, and the 2016 draft was in Baltimore. The convention returns in 2028, so mark your calendars.

WoSo around the world


Manchester City 11 2 0 33 5 33
Arsenal 11 2 0 36 9 33
Chelsea 10 0 2 34 8 32
Manchester United 6 5 0 19 8 18
Everton 6 5 0 17 15 18
Reading 5 5 2 18 23 17
Tottenham Hotspur 5 7 1 12 22 16
West Ham United 4 6 1 15 22 13
Brighton and Hove Albion 2 8 3 9 28 9
Birmingham City 2 8 1 5 20 7
Liverpool 1 8 3 4 13 6
Bristol City 1 8 3 8 37 6

The latest: Sam Kerr’s first Chelsea goal was the middle strike in a three-goal explosion in the opening 20 minutes at Arsenal in a match that could go a long way in shaping the title race. Arsenal’s first loss of the season dropped them behind Manchester City on goal difference after Man City beat Tottemham 3-0 on two goals and assist by Katie Zelem. Chelsea sit a point back of the top two. At the bottom, Liverpool rode and early Rachel Furness goal to their first win of the season, 1-0 at Bristol who replaced Liverpool on the bottom of the table, also thanks to goal difference. The league is dark this weekend but returns with Manchester City hosting Arsenal on February 2.


Lyon 11 0 2 49 4 35
Paris Saint-Germain 10 1 2 48 5 32
Bordeaux 9 3 1 29 12 28
Montpellier 7 3 3 29 12 24
Guingamp 5 4 4 16 16 19
Paris FC 5 6 2 16 26 17
Soyaux 4 4 4 15 21 16
Stade de Reims 4 7 2 12 20 14
Fleury 91 4 6 2 14 23 14
Dijon 2 6 5 8 26 11
Marseille 2 11 0 9 48 6
Metz 0 12 1 5 37 1

The latest: Lyon were held 0-0 away to Bordeaux on Sunday which opened the door for Paris Saint-Germain to crash their annual title party. Following a rollicking, 11-0 whitewash of Marseille, PSG trail Lyon by just three points with the goal differential close. If things stay the same PSG will have a chance go to the top of the table March 13 when they host Lyon. Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Katoto both had hat tricks in PSG’s win on Saturday while Nadia Nadim added a pair.


Barcelona 15 0 1 65 6 46
Atletico Madrid 11 3 2 32 16 37
Levante 10 3 3 26 14 33
Deportivo de la Caruna 9 3 3 30 22 30
Real Sociedad 7 4 4 23 16 25
Athletic Club 7 6 3 23 20 24
Logrono 7 6 3 28 30 24
Rayo Vallecano 6 4 6 22 26 24
Tacon 5 7 4 25 38 19
Granadilla Tenerife 4 7 5 13 23 17
Sevilla 4 9 3 22 27 15
Madrid 4 9 3 14 32 15
Valencia 3 8 5 19 23 14
Sporting de Huelva 4 10 2 10 22 14
Real Betis 2 9 5 16 27 11
Espanyol 0 13 3 10 36 3

The latest: Barcelona’s grip on the title strengthened with a 3-1 win over Rao Vallecano while Atletico Madrid had to settle for a 2-2 draw at Sevilla. An NWSL-related note: Former Orlando Pride player Danica Evans has signed with Sporting de Huelva.

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FIFA World Cup 2022™ – News – Africa’s dreamers learn paths on road to Qatar 2022

Africa’s 40 national teams now know their paths to reach the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ following the draw for the second round of the qualifying competition on Tuesday 21 January.

The ceremony was held at The Nile Ritz-Carlton in Cairo, Egypt and saw the 14 first-round winners and the 26 highest-ranked African nations in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking drawn into ten groups of four.

Draw results:

Group A: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Djibouti
Group B: Tunisia, Zambia, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea
Group C: Nigeria, Cape Verde Islands, Central African Republic, Liberia
Group D: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Malawi
Group E: Mali, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda
Group F: Egypt, Gabon, Libya, Angola
Group G: Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia
Group H: Senegal, Congo, Namibia, Togo
Group I: Morocco, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sudan
Group J: Congo DR, Benin, Madagascar, Tanzania

The second round is scheduled to begin in October 2020, when the teams will play each other home and away in a mini-league format. The ten group winners will progress to the third and final round, which will feature five two-legged play-off ties.

Some of the standout fixtures include Cameroon v Côte d’Ivoire, two teams with World Cup finals pedigree, South Africa v Zimbabwe and Egypt v Gabon, the last of which will see elite Premier League forwards Mohamad Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang headlining their sides.

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Parting shots for pair of Matildas – Equalizer Soccer

Photo: FFA

Let’s get right to it: Here’s what happened in Week 10 of the W-League, plus some major transfer news surrounding Matildas stars.

Player of the Week: Natasha Dowie, Melbourne Victory

English international Natasha Dowie scored two goals and added an assist on Rosie Sutton’s first goal of the season in Melbourne Victory’s 3-0 away win over Adelaide United on Jan. 18. Dowie now has five goals on the season and is tied in the second spot for the golden boot with Melbourne City’s Emily Van Egmond and Western Sydney Wanderers’ Kristen Hamilton, and two behind FC Sydney’s Remy Siemsen. The win vaulted the Victory into a tie for the fourth and last playoff spot, with Brisbane Roar, while Victory has a game in hand.

Goal of the Week: Emily Van Egmond, Melbourne City

Van Egmond scored her fifth goal of the season on a low shot in the 50th minute of Melbourne City’s 2-0 home win over the Newcastle Jets on Jan. 18. Van Egmond was about five yards outside of the penalty area in the middle of the field and took a shot that hit the ground once and settled into the net close to the crossbar. Her precision goal ensured City the win in a game that was not as close as the score indicated, with City having 23 shots to only nine for the Jets.

Honorable mention goes to Van Egmond’s teammate and Serbian international Milica Mijatovic, who also slid a shot from near the top of the box narrowly into the goal after taking the cross from Kyah Simon, deeking Adelaide defender Tessa Tamplin and curling the ball into the net in the 7th minute. Mijatovic has four goals in her first season in the W-League.

Save of the Week: Aubrey Bledsoe, Sydney FC

Sydney FC goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit) made a tremendous save from Brisbane Roar substitute Tameka Yallop in the 81st minute as the two sides finished goalless on a wet evening in Sydney on Jan. 16. The ball bounced to Yallop, who was alone in the box and she measured a low hard shot that Bledsoe stood up for and then parried it away with her fists. Bledsoe made seven saves in the match, which was pretty evenly contested from both sides.

Import of the Week: Darian Jenkins, Melbourne Victory

Darian Jenkins, the Reign FC loanee at Melbourne Victory, has only one goal this season but has been very effective in supporting Dowie up top in attack. In her club’s 3-0 win over Adelaide, she had six crosses — tied for game high with teammate Amy Jackson — along with a 67% passing efficiency on 27 attempts, won 10 of 16 duels with the opposition and had an assist in 90 minutes. She has received important minutes with Victory ahead of the 2020 National Women’s Soccer League season. Frenchman Farid Benstiti was just named the Reign’s new coach, taking over from now U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski, and it will be interesting to see how Jenkins is utilized during the 2020 NWSL season.

Other News

Hayley Raso joins Everton; Foord looks England bound as well

Brisbane Roar and Portland Thorns forward Hayley Raso has announced that she has joined Everton in the English FA Women’s Super League on a six-month contract. It is unclear if she will return to the NWSL. Raso did not play in the Roar’s win over the Jets this week. Raso had four goals with two assists in her eight matches this season. She has 85 W-League appearances in her career with 23 goals from time at the Roar, Canberra United and Melbourne Victory. She won a W-League title with Canberra in 2011/12 and a NWSL title in 2017 with Portland. Everton sits seventh in the FA WSL in England. We will miss the “Raso Crossing” depicting a kangaroo behind one goal at Thorns home games in 2020.
Fellow Matildas forward Caitlin Foord — whose NWSL rights were recently traded from the Portland Thorns to the Orlando Pride — has reportedly had discussions to join Arsenal in England, coached by former Melbourne City head coach and Melbourne native Joe Montemurro.

Sam Kerr left the Chicago Red Stars to join Chelsea this winter. Coaches and players have said that Matildas players are being encouraged to play in Europe, even if they have to forgo a W-League season, as a result of the team’s defeat in the Round of 16 at last summer’s World Cup in France. The Matildas are built around a W-League base and one coach who wished to not be named said specifically that the players need to play in longer (8-10-month) leagues, which are more available in Europe, plus they can play in January-February in an important Olympic Games year for their region, whereas the NWSL does not start until mid-April.

Newcastle Jets Coaching Adjustments

The Newcastle Jets have appointed assistant coach Ash Wilson in charge of the women’s side on an interim basis, as Craig Deans stepped in as interim coach for the Hyundai A-League’s men’s side after veteran A-League head coach Ernie Merrick, at the club since May of 2017, was let go.

Newcastle hopes to have a permanent successor named on the men’ side by next week, with the possibility of Deans coming back to lead the women’s team. Deans said, “Ash has been my assistant since my first season in the Westfield W-League [in 2015], and is an extremely capable coach. There was a very open and honest conversation between myself, the [Westfield W-League] coaching staff, and the playing group and we believe this is the best course of action for the club given my commitments with the men’s squad… I’ll still be actively involved with the team, but promoting Ash to head coach in the interim will provide clarity to the situation and help the girls focus on a big game this weekend against Melbourne City [which Newcastle lost 2-0].”

Note: There is one make-up game from Round 9 that will be played on Saturday, Feb. 1 between Newcastle Jets (home side) and Adelaide United, which was postponed because of the air quality in Newcastle due to the bush fires in the state.

League table

Next week’s games

Thursday, Jan. 23, 3:30 a.m. ET: Newcastle Jets hosts Perth Glory

Saturday, Jan. 25, 3:30 a.m. ET: Adelaide United hosts Western Sydney Wanderers

Sunday, Jan. 26, 12 a.m. ET: Melbourne Victory hosts Canberra United

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FIFA eWorld Cup 2020 – News – Groups confirmed for the FIFA eClub World Cup 2020

  • FIFA eClub World Cup to take place in Milan from 7 to 9 February
  • 24 teams to compete in four groups
  • Draw sets the stage to crown the best club team in the world

Following an exciting online qualification phase involving over 190 teams, the groups for the FIFA eClub World Cup™ 2020 have been set following the Draw, which took place on Tuesday at the Home of FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland.

Twenty-four of the world’s best teams, consisting of an elite group of competitive FIFA players, will battle it out in a unique 1v1 and 2v2 format in Milan, Italy from 7-9 February.

After a round-robin group stage, teams will compete in the knockout phase to find out who will be crowned the official club team world champions of competitive FIFA.

As part of FIFA’s initiative to involve clubs and organisations in order to further improve its competitions, Tuesday’s draw took place during a dedicated workshop involving participating clubs at the Home of FIFA.

A total of 100,000 USD and essential Global Series points on the Road to the FIFA eWorld Cup™ 2020 will be distributed amongst the 24 participating teams.

For media interested in following the FIFA eClub World Cup 2020 on FIFA platforms, please note the following schedule for the tournament:

  • 7 February: Round 1-3 Group Stages (10 AM – 6.30 PM local time)
  • 8 February: Round 4-5 Group Stages, Round of 16 (10 AM – 6.45 PM local time)
  • 9 February: Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals, Final (11 AM – 5.30 PM local time)

The event will be streamed live on FIFA.gg, FIFA.com and the FIFA eWorld Cup social media channels from 7-9 February.

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