Abby Wambach of the U.S. kisses her gold medal after winning the women's soccer final against Japan during the victory ceremony at Wembley Stadium during the London 2012 Olympic Games

Breakthrough moment for women’s soccer? Nah – they “broke through” a long time ago

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Any long, tall and refreshing drink of women’s soccer success in the United States gets chased with a splash of cliché queries. Two questions are as inevitable as a goal kick after a well-wide shot:

  • What will this volley of success do for women’s soccer here?
  • Will it facilitate the development of a women’s professional league here?

On the first issue, I’ll get to the bottom line fast:

It won’t do much. And I mean that in a very positive way for women’s soccer.

I feel strongly about this: We are past the point where these glorious moments for U.S. women’s soccer are true game-changers. They are moments to be celebrated, of course. But they aren’t moments that will significantly elevate the profile of women’s soccer here. They’ll nudge it forward a little more, but we are past the time of momentous breakthroughs – and that’s all a testament to how far the game has come.

Think of it like this: once you’ve tasted ice cream, you know you love ice cream! You might renew your vows, re-asserting your adoration of Chunky Monkey or whatever, but you can only have that moment once.

By definition, we can only “break through” so many times. The original breakthrough domestic women’s soccer moment, of course, was The Girls of Summer swim through the Women’s World Cup in 1999. Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Michelle Akers, Carla Overbeck and the rest ensconced themselves splendidly as the nation’s sporting darlings. They hit all the right notes in the greater sports continuum, raising the profile of soccer and women’s athletics all at once.

It helped, of course, that the 1999 WWC was here, arranging the stage just so for maximum, heroic exposure.

From there, subsequent tournament success created moments to remember, whether it was about claiming Olympic gold or those stirring comebacks along the way in the Women’s World Cup chase. (Abby Wambach at the far post in the dying seconds against Brazil? Yeah, I’ve YouTubed that one a few times since, getting all goose bumpy every time at Ian Darke’s amazing call.)

So each new launch of summer soccer awareness surely moved the sport forward. Olympic gold in Beijing? Long, slow applause for you ladies! Well done.

Big, brave stab at glory in Germany at last year’s Women’s World Cup, undone only by a team of destiny from Japan? We held the U.S. players in highest regard, feting and lauding them no less for falling one match short.

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This time around, Pia Sundhage’s ladies were perfect in a 6-0-0 dash for gold medal glory in and around London. Three golds in a row? Are you kidding me? Truly a historic achievement.

But did those moments change the game? Not much. They’ve arrived already. Again, how many grand entrances can you make?

Everyone does realize that a 12-year-old who watched in wide-eyed wonder in 1999 is now 25 years old, with a career and possibly kids of their own, right? We know what women’s soccer is in our land – and it is grand!

What 2012 gold does mean: This new generation of talent has climbed steadily from the shadow of the 99ers (Hamm, Chastain, Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, Brianna Scurry, etc.) Alex Morgan will be the new Mia Hamm. She’s bound for Hall of Fame levels of marketing exposure.

Hope Solo’s athletic, skillful moments will allow her to dodge most public scrutiny from her Mean Girls moment, those unnecessary and distracting Twitter rants.

Abby Wambach’s legend grows taller and Megan Rapinoe begins to take her place among the giants of U.S. women’s soccer. Carli Lloyd’s drive and Tobin Heath’s technical grace isn’t lost on anyone paying attention.

We should talk about these championships on their own merit, for the accomplishment at team and individual level. What does it mean for women’s soccer?

Let me answer a question with a question: What will a gold medal in men’s basketball mean for men’s basketball in this country?

I doubt anybody is asking that, because it’s a goofy and irrelevant question. Well, same deal.

Soccer in the United States, and women’s soccer in particular, is past that.

(As for what the latest events mean for the potential development of a women’s pro league, we’ll visit about that one tomorrow.)

Arsene Wenger confirms deals for Mustafi and Perez are complete

GETAFE, SPAIN - APRIL 24:  Shkodran Mustafi of Valencia applauds fans after Valencia drew 2-2 with Getafe CF during the La Liga match between Getafe CF and Valencia CF at Coliseum Alfonso Perez on April 24, 2016 in Getafe, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Arsenal has completed a pair of big-money deals with the transfer windows closing down,.

Manager Arsene Wenger confirmed that the club has finished the transfers of Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez, two players they have long been linked with. He also confirmed the club was unlikely to sign any other players, unless new opportunities cropped up before the window shuts on Wednesday.

“We have bought two players, Mustafi and Perez. We had to work very hard to get signings done,” Wenger said. “We have no plans for anyone else now.”

Mustafi fills the most pressing need, helping patch up a back line ravaged by injuries. He is set to sign a five-year deal, according to the BBC and other reports. The fee is a reported $46 million.

Perez, a 27-year-old Spaniard, also fills a heavy need up front. With just Olivier Giroud and Chuba Akpom as the only healthy strikers available to the Gunners, Perez will help fill a gap. Perez was purchased for a reported $22 million, triggering the player’s release clause.

It’s unclear how soon the players will be available to play for Arsenal. The club next takes on Southampton after the international break.

Dortmund, Wolfsburg, Gladbach all win in Bundesliga openers

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 14:  Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund is challenged by Alberto Moreno of Liverpool during the UEFA Europa League quarter final, second leg match between Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund at Anfield on April 14, 2016 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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The Bundesliga officially opened Friday with Bayern Munich’s 6-0 demolition of Werder Bremen, but the rest of the league got under way Saturday, and it was business as usual.

Borussia Dortmund cruised with a 2-1 win over FC Mainz at Westfalenstadion behind a brace from main man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The first came early in the 17th minute, a headed goal at the far post on the end of a beautiful ball from Andre Schurrle. The second on a penalty in the 89th minute after Schurrle was fouled by Karim Onisiwo. Aubameyang started last season with 13 goals in the team’s first 10 games, and he’s begun this year’s campaign on the same foot.

Wolfsburg worked its way to a 2-0 win on the road at Augsburg with a pair of impressive goals. Daniel Didavi bagged an incredible strike from a seated position in the 35th minute. After being knocked to the ground near the penalty area, the ball fell in the lap of the 26-year-old, and he spun around, looping the ball into the top corner.

The second was a late free-kick from Ricardo Rodriguez to double the lead.

Borussia Monchengladbach won a thriller at Borussia-Park 2-1 thanks to an 85th minute winner from Lars Stindl. The 28-year-old stayed just onside and beat Tin Jedvaj to the ball, slotting it in five minutes from time for all three points. Goals from Andre Hahn and substitute Joel Pohjanpalo had cancelled each other out. Fabian Johnson entered the game in the 61st minute.

Elsewhere, Timmy Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt held serve at home with a 1-0 win over Schalke. Alex Maier scored the only goal in the 13th minute, and while he had a later penalty saved, The Eagles held their opponents scoreless the rest of the way. Chandler came on as a 56th minute substitute and helped keep the clean sheet.

Ingolstadt pulled out a 1-1 draw on the road at Hamburg thanks to a 76th minute equalizer from Lukas Hinterseer. Marcel Reese and Anthony Modeste gave Cologne a 2-0 home win over Darmstadt.

Premier League Saturday Roundup: Chelsea, Arsenal cruise, United snatches three points

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New managers have quickly brought the attention back to the Premier League’s traditional powerhouses, but one newcomer continues to impress in its return to top-flight football.

Hull City couldn’t pull out a draw against unbeaten PL favorites Manchester United, but the Tigers still looked impressive at times. Meanwhile, Chelsea, Leicester and Arsenal all won on the day, with the Blues keeping their winning ways up as well.

 

Hull City 0-0 Manchester United – RECAP

The points were surely going to be split between two of the better sides during the opening month of the season, but Marcus Rashford stole all three out from under Hull City. Despite a clever defensive effort from the Tigers, United remained unbeaten through three games after the second-half substitute smashed home Wayne Rooney‘s cross in the 92nd minute of play.

Chelsea 3-0 Burnley – RECAP

It was easily Chelsea’s best performance of the young season, and Eden Hazard looks to be back to his old ways after kicking off the day with a goal. The Clarets were held throughout the match at Stamford Bridge, limited to zero shots on target.

Tottenham 1-1 Liverpool — RECAP

Philippe Coutinho continues to present challenges for opposing defenses but luckily for Spurs the Brazilian was off with his finishing on the day. A James Milner penalty kick gave Liverpool the lead at White Hart Lane before Danny Rose leveled things up for the home side. Spurs remain unbeaten in their start to the new campaign but like many other PL sides, Mauricio Pochettino‘s men are still fine-tuning in the early portion of the season.

Watford 1-3 Arsenal – RECAP

A brutal schedule to open the season forced the Gunners to wait three weeks to find their opening win, but Saturday’s performance was a reminder of just how dangerous Arsene Wenger‘s group can be when firing on all cylinders. Alexis Sanchez looked like a menace from the opening kickoff, working his way into dangerous areas on the field and troubling the Watford backline.

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

 

Leicester 2-1 Swansea City RECAP

The Foxes don’t look dominating like they were a season ago, but the most important thing about Saturday’s performance was that they won. Jamie Vardy got back on track with a much needed finish off of a routine long ball, before captain Wes Morgan powered home a close-range strike.

Crystal Palace 1-1 Bournemouth – RECAP

It looked as though Josh King‘s first-half finish would be enough for Bournemouth to earn its first win of the season, but Scott Dann‘s late effort ensured that Palace would take a share of the points at home. Neither side looked dominant after the opener from the visitors, but it was a valiant effort from Alan Pardew‘s side to pick up a draw.

Southampton 1-1 SunderlandRECAP

Chances were limited until the latter stages of the match but some clever play from Jermain Defoe to earn a penalty kick handed the Black Cats the lead with 10 minutes to play before the home side equalized in the dying minutes. Jay Rodriguez was the savior for Southampton, after scoring with five minutes to play for the Saints.

Everton 1-0 Stoke City – RECAP

The Toffees have quietly gone about their business this season but Ronald Koeman‘s side have taken seven out of nine points in their first three matches. Leighton Baines‘ penalty kick secured the team’s second win of the new PL season on Saturday, and Everton will be certainly pleased with the start.

Hull City 0-1 Manchester United: Rashford strikes late on the road

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  • Rashford plays hero after entering as substitute
  • Jakupovic makes seven saves in losing effort
  • Hull held to two shots on target
  • United remains unbeaten in first 3 matches

Hull City did just about everything right to earn a draw on Saturday, but Marcus Rashford decided to flip the script in the dying minutes.

Manchester United came away with a 1-0 victory at the KC Stadium after the second-half subsitute smashed home Wayne Rooney‘s cross in the 92nd minute.

Robert Snodgrass nearly handed Hull the lead after 25 minutes when the midfielder’s free kick narrowly missed wide of David De Gea‘s net. The Spanish goalkeeper was easily beaten by the shot, but United dodged a bullet as he watched the attempt go off target.

Chances were aplenty for United throughout the match, including the first half, which saw the Red Devils’ claims for a handball inside the penalty area denied.

The Red Devils found another chance to break the deadlock on the stroke of halftime but Zlatan Ibrahimovic couldn’t find the back of the net. The Swedish striker appeared to be offsides on Wayne Rooney’s free kick but Hull survived the sequence unscathed.

It always seemed like United would find a breakthrough, despite Hull’s best defensive efforts, and Rashford’s late finish ensured the Red Devils would remain unbeaten to start the 2016/17 season.