London Olympics Soccer Women

Let’s be crystal clear about Monday’s U.S.-Canada decision: It was wrong. Period.

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A few media colleagues have donned their oven mitts this morning, now baking up a fresh round of lesser informed excuse-making about the Norwegian referee’s decision yesterday during the Miracle in Manchester.

The theory goes, the referee’s assistant at the Canadian end “warned” goalkeeper Erin McLeod not to slow down the action.  So, this thin line of thought goes, the decision to punish McLeod was wholly justified.

A lot of this is coming from our friends who may not watch soccer as much – and some of them are making apples-to-orange comparisons.

(For the record, I hate that all this detracts from a rousing, brave U.S. win. It really was quite something … which is why we are writing all this other stuff about it.)

If you are relatively unfamiliar to soccer, I promise I’m not judging. My role here is simply to inform, to keep the conversation within the chalk lines of relevancy. Because some of what I’m hearing simply isn’t. Relevant, that is.

To wit: About this warning of “not slowing down the play,” I say “So what?”

It is absolutely immaterial in the context of such a meaningful decision from the woman in the middle, at such a critical time in the contest.  Referee assistants and referees are always providing information and communicating in formal and less formal ways.  So, there’s that.

But the more important issue here is the context and timing of this massive free kick award. (A decision that, as I’ve already tried to make clear, is never issued.)

So, let me be crystal clear about this:

Only the most egregious, blatant violation of the perennially-ignored six-second rule, one that demonstrated a nakedly overt effort to defy and show up match officials, deserved such harsh treatment.

McLeod’s actions didn’t even approach such a standard.

Warning? Only if referee Christiana Pedersen had pulled McLeod aside and said the following words would a “warning” be considered as such in this case: “Look, you are clearly stalling. You will leave me no choice but to award a free kick if you hold onto the ball for more than six – SIX, you hear? – seconds. Am I being clear?”

Even in that case, I might argue that McLeod got to her feet and released the ball in acceptable time.

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By the way, most goalkeepers would hear such a “warning” as McLeod apparently received and reasonably conclude she was being instructed not to dally on goal kicks. (Which McLeod didn’t appear to be doing.)

Want a fair comparison? This would be like a bunch of people heading out of town in a panic over Hurricane warnings. On the way out, police warn drivers almost in passing to “watch your speed.” And then someone gets tagged for going 71 in a 70 – and then gets their vehicle towed because of unpaid parking tickets from back in college.

By letter of the law, yeah, that’s justifiably enforcement. But I think we’d all agree it was pretty silly and utterly unnecessary.

Morgan, USWNT cruise past Costa Rica 5-0 behind early flurry of goals

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The U.S. Women got off to a flying start in Olympic qualification Group A play by torching Costa Rica 5-0, including goals from Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Crystal Dunn.

Morgan led the way with a double, including one in the opening 12 seconds – only six passes off the opening kick – that set the record for quickest goal in U.S. Soccer history. Lloyd and Dunn both struck in the opening 15 minutes to make it 3-0 before Costa Rica even had time to blink. Lloyd’s came on a penalty after Dunn was felled for the captain’s 83rd international goal, and then the latter bagged one of her own minutes later on a rebound off a shot by Morgan.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

The visitors were able to make it Morgan scored her second after the hour mark to cap the goal tally. Jill Ellis completed her trio of substitutions after the fourth goal and the U.S. saw the game out easily.

The fifth came late on a cross from Tobin Heath that fell to Christen Press in the box. With her back to the goal, the 27-year-old produced a simply stunning first touch, back-heeling the ball down before whipping around the opposite direction to lose her defender and firing home the fifth goal.

With the final whistle, the United States improved their record against Costa Rica to a perfect 13-0. The U.S. will play Mexico next on Saturday before finishing out Group A play against Puerto Rico on Monday, February 15.

VIDEO: Alex Morgan scores goal against Costa Rica in 12 seconds

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The United States got off to a historically roaring start in Olympic qualifying. Taking on Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas to begin Group A play, Alex Morgan opened the scoring in just 12 seconds, taking just six passes to complete the masterpiece.

According to the USWNT twitter account, the goal is the fastest in U.S. Soccer history.

According to CONCACAF, the goal is also the quickest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, breaking Abby Wambach’s of 35 seconds in a 14-0 domination of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The United States scored three goals in the first 15 minutes against Costa Rica tonight. They will take on Mexico and Puerto Rico across the next five days.

Watch Live: USWNT vs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 23:  (L-R) Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States is congratulated by teammate Alex Morgan #13 after a goal against Ireland at Qualcomm Stadium on January 23, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
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The United States women are set to begin Group A play in Olympic qualification, taking on 36th ranked Costa Rica at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The game takes place after a 17-day camp at the national training camp in Carson, California.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Other teams in the group include Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Mexicans dominated Puerto Rico 6-0 in the first game.

LINEUP

United States: Solo; Krieger, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg; Brian, Horan, Dunn, Lloyd, Heath; Morgan.

Columbus, NYCFC release new kits to mixed results

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New York City FC
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Two Major League Soccer clubs have put their kits out there for the 2016 season. They’ve received a mediocre welcome at best.

Columbus was the first, and their kit makes a bold statement moving away from the traditional yellow and black that so often adorns their regular shirts. Instead, the kit incorporates the Columbus flag onto it. The release has seen quite a negative reaction on social media.

The kit was unveiled at the Columbus City Hall on Wednesday, featuring the traditional adidas stripes, although instead of the usual placement on the shoulders, the stripes come down the side of the torso. Recently, adidas has the tendency to copy general jersey patterns across its multiple properties, so look for this design with other clubs in the near future.

The negative reaction to the Columbus release isn’t terribly surprising considering fans often enjoy sticking to tradition, and backlash is common when clubs deviate from the norm. As an additional hurdle, the color contrast between red and yellow is somewhat stark, lending to the difficult reception. Add in the bright pastel blue shorts and…yikes.

While the club didn’t describe how they will utilize this kit during the season, it’s likely to be the primary (at least for now) as the club release says the kit portfolio also includes last year’s black kit, which is traditionally the away kit.

NYCFC’s release of their secondary kit was more positive, receiving a mixed response on social media.

As you can see, adidas again copied their general outline with the stripes down the side of the torso. However, the German clothing manufacturer did much better with the general design of these kits than the Columbus ones. I will give a bit of personal opinion here: I absolutely love these kits. The ripple effect accentuates the crest with a near-3D effect, and the colors mesh perfectly which serves to assuage the eye from being overwhelmed by a busy design. If there’s any criticism, it’s that without an outline, the Etihad logo tends to get in the way a bit, but that’s nitpicking. Well done NYCFC. Columbus…I’ll leave that one to you all.