U.S. WNT launch 2012 Olympic campaign with comeback win over France

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What’s a U.S. WNT match without some suspense, horrid defending, and heroic interventions from Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan?

The American women clawed out of an early 2-0 deficit and scored four unanswered goals to seal the victory against France in its opening match of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

– Alex Morgan did what Alex Morgan does. The U.S.’s newest superstar helped spring the comeback with her nimble equalizer in the 31st minute. Her second goal was significantly more pedestrian in comparison, as she met Tobin Heath’s squared pass on the goal line.  Her brace today leaves her just one goal shy of reaching the historic 20-goal threshold this year. It’s still only July and she’s barely 23. Scary.

– The U.S. defense had a torrid time in the opening stanza. After just 11 minutes Gaetane Thiney made the most of her unmarked positioning and unleashed a wondrous goal past Solo. France’s second goal arrived after several painfully inept clearance attempts by the U.S. backline. Marie-Laure Delie exploited the disorganization and made her opponents pay. The sudden deficit forced a tactical re-think. The U.S.’s switch to a more direct style helped shore up its defense. Amy LePeilbet’s positioning and 1 v. 1 skills were particularly impressive on the day.

 

– Murphy’s Law looked to be in full effect in the early going. Shortly after France’s flurry of goals, veteran midfielder Shannon Boxx came up lame with a hamstring injury. Carli Lloyd was then summoned from the bench to replace her customary midfield partner. From that moment on, the U.S. abandoned all attempts to play a more ambitious possession game – something the team has honed since the World Cup final – and went back to basics. The reversion to a more direct style of play worked. Morgan’s equalizer came as a result of a punted ball from Hope Solo. The U.S.’s fourth goal materialized from a deep ball from midfield. The long ball ain’t always pretty, but it’s effective.

– French striker Laure-Marie Delie is the prime definition of a goal poacher. Delie’s killer instincts were on full display in Germany last summer. Delie nearly got the best of Solo twice today. Fortunately for the U.S., their no. 1 was just as dialed in.

– As was the case in France’s opening match at the World Cup last summer, Les Bleues failed to hit top gear. There were glimpses of attacking ingenuity, but France were unable to sustain the pressure. One has to imagine the best is yet to come.

– Megan Rapinoe is in the best form of her career right now. Rapinoe ended the day with a pair of assists and helped engineer the U.S.’s other two goals. This comes on the back of an absolutely unstoppable performance against Canada in the team’s most final pre-Olympic friendly. Rapinoe has learned to balance her explosive dynamism with tactical discipline. Her transformation helps make the U.S.’s offense so fearsome.

Final verdict: France looked set to outclass a weary American defense. The U.S. attack – namely Wambach and Morgan – led an inspiring revival that helped galvanize their teammates. France ended up being bullied into submission by the U.S.’s superior physical strength and undisturbed mental focus.

Up next: Colombia on Saturday. A slew of Colombian players were hardly left standing by the time the final whistle blew in their 2-0 loss against North Korea today. An apparent aversion to running contributes to the team’s low fitness levels, as per the TV commentary. That doesn’t bode well for the young Colombians as they got tonked 3-0 by the U.S. the last time the two faced each other in the World Cup last summer. It’s hard to imagine any other result taking place this weekend.

Hopeful Newcastle buyer Staveley: Offer still on the table

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.

Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.

A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:

“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”

She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.

2018 MLS Mock Draft: LAFC, Galaxy hold the keys

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Major League Soccer’s latest batch of hopeful rookies learn the next steps of their professional careers beginning Friday with the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.

There are several intriguing prospects, including accomplished Stanford center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce and dangerous Michigan winger Francis Atuahene.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

An MLS mock draft is always tricky given the wildly varying opinions on players from the college game. This year, it’s even trickier as clubs without picks and some with multiple first round picks may be looking to move up and down even more than the norm.

Here’s how we think the draft could play out:

  1. LAFC – Tomas Hilliard-Arce, CB, Stanford
  2. LA Galaxy – Jon Bakero, FW, Wake Forest
  3. DC United – Francis Atuahene, FW, Michigan
  4. Montreal – Joao Moutinho, LB, Akron
  5. Minnesota – Wyatt Omsberg, CB, Dartmouth
  6. Orlando City – Ema Twumasi, FW, Wake Forest
  7. Montreal – Chris Mueller, FW, Wisconsin
  8. New England – Mo Adams, MF, Syracuse
  9. New England – Chris Lema, MF, Georgetown
  10. Real Salt Lake – Justin Fiddes, LB, Washington
  11. FC Dallas – Marcelo Acuna, FW, Virginia Tech
  12. San Jose – Brandon Bye, RB, Western Michigan
  13. Sporting KC – Ed Opoku, FW, Virginia
  14. Atlanta – Alex Roldan, MF, Seattle
  15. Chicago – Mason Toye, FW, Indiana
  16. New York Red Bulls – Alan Winn, MF, North Carolina
  17. Vancouver – Tristan Blackmon, RB, Pacific
  18. Sporting KC – Jon Gallagher, FW, Notre Dame
  19. New York City FC – Daniel Musovski, FW, UNLV
  20. Houston – Mo Thiaw, FW, Louisville
  21. Columbus – Brian White, FW, Duke
  22. Seattle – Tim Kubel, MF, Louisville
  23. Toronto FC – Oliver Shannon, MF, Clemson

There are a few players to keep an eye on for the later rounds that I won’t project for the first round due almost exclusively to first person bias (Some I’ve seen play in college, others at other levels). Afonso Pinheiro from Albany produced like crazy until this season, and Bowling Green defender Alexis Souahy has a skill set that could really transmit to the MLS level.

Mac Steeves (Providence) is a prototypical big body scorer, while Evansville’s heady Ian McGrath has a flair for the absurd and can play almost every position up the center of the pitch. Charleston’s Thomas Vancaeyezeele was a D-2 monster and is probably worth a shot earlier than people suspect.

Roma-Chelsea reports could see Dzeko, Batshuayi… and Sturridge on the move

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Here’s a wild rumor out of Italy, as Gianluca Di Marzio has UEFA Champions League Round of 16 sides Chelsea and Roma working out a big transfer.

[ MORE: PST chats with Dzeko in July ]

Again, before we lay it out, we know that both clubs would not be able to use Cup-tied players in the UCL and that gives the rumor its unrealistic bent.

Chelsea reportedly is willing to send $62 million and striker Michy Batshuayi on loan to Roma in exchange for Edin Dzeko and Emerson Palmeiri. Reports say Roma is holding out for another $20 million, potentially add-ons.

Dzeko isn’t producing at his otherworldly rate of last season, but is far and away i Lupi’s leading scorer and bagged a brace against Chelsea in the UCL. And Batshuayi scored in Chelsea’s first two matches of the tournament.

There is something to the rumor, at least in terms of Emerson. The London Evening Standard quotes the player’s agent as saying talks are ongoing and the move is a “dream” one for Emerson, who is behind Aleksandar Kolarov on the left back depth chart since returning from injury.

Roma would need a UCL-eligible center forward, as Czech youngster Patrik Schick has been unable to find his scoring boots since a summer move from Sampdoria. Football Italia says, sensationally, that Roma would use some of the money to pry Daniel Sturridge from Liverpool.

Maybe the Emerson move goes through, but the striker swap feels like a headscratcher for Dzeko and Chelsea.

Pardew the latest to scratch head at transfer fees

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West Bromwich Albion manager Alan Pardew is the latest to find himself baffled at the prices on the transfer market.

To be fair to the Englishman, 56, it doesn’t sound like he’s raving in ‘old man yelling at the sky’ fashion. Rather he thinks the numbers are hard for fans to gauge and perhaps it’s causing a disconnect.

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And for him, at least, it’s a challenge to sort out whether the prices he’s being quoted are reasonable relative to the market. That makes sense, considering that as Newcastle boss in 2012 he sold Fraser Forster to Celtic for about $3 million and PSG bought Yohan Cabaye — then 28 — from him for $26 million.

Both fees would be a little different right now, we think (from the BBC).

“It’s difficult with the prices now to gauge what’s good value,” Pardew said. “We live in a hyper-inflated world because of the TV money received by the football clubs. Therefore, transfers and wages are going way out of kilter with real life. I think we’re all losing the plot with the figures. It’s just becoming, ‘Oh okay,’ and not even reacting to things any more.”

Now, to play devil’s advocate, if Pardew is actually just old man yelling at the sky, he’d better get out of the manager’s box. The fees aren’t changing for top clubs, which is why Jonny Evans is at risk from a Man City bid but not Newcastle United or Crystal Palace. And the TV money he talks about is going to allow clubs like WBA to hold onto players by offering better wages if they choose that route.

But it’s a fair sentiment regarding how to gauge these numbers. While it’s usually a bit laughable when fans and writers estimate whether clubs have paid too much or sold for too little, managers and administrators risk looking foolish if they agree too low or too high a fee relative to other teams.