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Morgan to Portland, Solo to Seattle as Pacific Northwest dominates NWSL allocation

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For months we had speculated that the lure of the Pacific Northwest would lead the NWSL’s allocation to be unbalanced toward Cascadia. But as news started trickling out in the days before dispersal, it appeared as if parity would rule the day and the league’s impact players would be dispersed through the new league’s teams.

As with everything in this world, turns out the truth fell in the middle.

Portland cleaned up in today’s dispersal — the process that allocated 55 U.S., Canadian, and Mexican players to the NWSL’s eight teams. No, they didn’t get all of Abby Wambach, Christine Sinclair, and Megan Rapinoe, as many predicted. But they did get Sinclair, Tobin Heath, and Alex Morgan. Snaring the league’s most-marketable asset, Thorns FC made out better than anybody had predicted a week ago.

Seattle, who many thought would snag Alex Morgan, didn’t do too bad, either. They got Hope Solo, of course, as well as Megan Rapinoe. Along with Amy Rodríguez, Reign FC were award three players who played prominent roles during the last cycle.

Among the new league’s top-tier of stars, five of them will be playing in the Pacific Northwest.

MORE: Winners and losers from Friday’s allocation

Other notable allocations:

  • Abby Wambach went to Western New York – back to her Rochester roots. Surprisingly, Carli Lloyd joins her after many assumed she would end up with Sky Blue FC.
  • Sydney Leroux lands in Boston along with northeast native Heather O’Reilly.
  • Lauren Cheney and Becky Sauerbrunn land with FC Kansas City.
  • U.S.A. captain Christine Rampone ends up close to home with Sky Blue FC, returning to the team she led to a WPS title.

Here’s the full list. More analysis to come as the day goes on.

Boston Breakers
Sydney Leroux (USA)
Heather Mitts (USA)
Heather O’Reilly (USA)
Adriana Leon (CAN)
Rhian Wilkinson (CAN)
Anisa Guajardo (MEX)
Cecilia Santiago (MEX)

Chicago Red Stars
Shannon Boxx (USA)
Amy LePeilbet (USA)
Keelin Winters (USA)
Erin McLeod (CAN)
Carmelina Moscato (CAN)
Maribel Dominguez (MEX)
Dinora Garza (MEX)

FC Kansas City
Nicole Barnhart (USA)
Lauren Cheney (USA)
Becky Sauerbrunn (USA)
Desiree Scott (CAN)
Lauren Sesselmann (CAN)
Renae Cuellar (MEX)
Marylin Diaz (MEX)

Portland Thorns FC
Rachel Buehler (USA)
Tobin Heath (USA)
Alex Morgan (USA)
Luz Saucedo (MEX)
Marlene Sandoval (MEX)
Karina LeBlanc (CAN)
Christine Sinclair (CAN)

Seattle Reign FC
Megan Rapinoe (USA)
Amy Rodriguez (USA)
Hope Solo (USA)
Kaylyn Kyle (CAN)
Emily Zurrer (CAN)
Jenny Ruiz (MEX)
Teresa Noyola (MEX)

Sky Blue FC
Jill Loyden (USA)
Kelley O’Hara (USA)
Christie Rampone (USA)
Sophie Schmidt (CAN)
Melanie Booth (CAN)
Monica Ocampo (MEX)
Lydia Rangel (MEX)

Washington Spirit
Ashlyn Harris (USA)
Ali Krieger (USA)
Lori Lindsey (USA)
Robin Gayle (CAN)
Diana Matheson (CAN)
Alina Garciamendez (MEX)
Teresa Worbis (MEX)

Western New York Flash
Carli Lloyd (USA)
Abby Wambach (USA)
Bryana McCarthy (CAN)
Jodi-Ann Robinson (CAN)
Veronica Perez (MEX)
Pamela Tajonar (MEX)

West Ham United 2-1 Liverpool: Ogbonna strikes after 120 minutes

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Jordon Ibe of Liverpool takes on Pedro Mba Obiang of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Angelo Ogbonna is now an FA Cup hero.

Two sides willing to move the ball and attack produced a fine FA Cup tie on Tuesday at the Boleyn Ground, with Ogbonna heading home the match-winner in the 121st minute of play for a 2-1 win.

Michail Antonio scored a first-half goal for West Ham before Philippe Coutinho equalized for the visiting Reds.

[ WATCH: Coutinho’s cheeky free kick ties the score ]

All told, West Ham heads to Ewood Park for a fifth-round date with Blackburn Rovers. Peterborough United hosts West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday to sort out the fourth round’s other replay.

Liverpool played a more second-string set than the home side.

Brilliance met brilliance in the 38th minute, as Dimitri Payet struck a gorgeous dipping free kick over the wall only to see Mignolet get the slightest touch to help the ball crank off the goal post. Cheikhou Kouyate failed to scissor kick the rebound, and Mignolet flew back into the picture to parry Antonio’s header.

Antonio would get his glory next, as Enner Valencia took Payet’s pass and dribbled through the left side of the 18 and toward the end line before crossing the ball. Antonio let the ball sink to hip height before volleying home. 1-0, 45′.

There were three goal posts struck in the first half.

[ MORE: American takeover at Everton update

[ MORE: Recapping Week 25 in the PL ]

Coutinho scored on a clever free kick from the edge of the 18, betting on the wall jumping and cheekily rolling his shot under it and past Hammers keeper Darren Randolph.

Christian Benteke started and nearly finished a 56th minute chance inside the box, but his shot was blocked.

West Ham should’ve been awarded a penalty when Tiago Ilori pulled down Valencia in the box. Roger East didn’t see it that way.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s Courtois says FA Cup or UEFA Champions League final a must ]

The match went to extra time after eight minutes of second-half stoppage time.

Mignolet made a solid flying stop on Mark Noble in the first frame of extra time. At the other end, Benteke struck a low chance wide of the right post. Moments later, Randolph came out to thwart Benteke on a breakaway.

If anyone needed a reminder of Daniel Sturridge‘s skill, the late sub let fly with a 108th minute bullet that missed the goal by inches.

Then Lucas Leiva gave up a free kick just as two minutes of extra time stoppage began, and Ogbonna struck.

LINEUPS

West Ham United: Randolph, O’Brien (Moses, 83′), Reid (Collins, 64′), Ogbonna, Cresswell, Kouyate (Carroll, 76′), Noble, Obiang, Antonio, Valencia, Payet.

Liverpool: Mignolet, Flanagan, Stewart, Tiago Ilori, Smith, Teixeira (Origi, 60′), Lucas, Chirivella (Milner, 102′), Ibe, Benteke, Coutinho (Sturridge, 60′).

WATCH: Liverpool’s Coutinho bewitches West Ham with cheeky free kick

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09: Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool scores from a free-kick during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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Philippe Coutinho has some gumption.

Liverpool’s Brazilian wizard tied things up with West Ham United in Tuesday’s FA Cup replay at the Boleyn Ground, and did it in style.

[ MORE: Courtois says FA Cup or Champions League final a must ]

With a free kick from just outside the 18, Coutinho thought West Ham would expect he’d hit a ball that would get up quick before dipping after the wall.

They’d jump, he figured, and he’d roll it under the wall. He was correct (video courtesy Fox Soccer):

USWNT’s Solo says Zika fears could make her skip the Olympics

Hope Solo attends the premiere of "He Named Me Malala" at The Ziegfeld Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
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As it stands, Hope Solo would skip the Olympics if fears over the Zika virus don’t subside in Brazil.

It’s been speculated that Zika increases the odds of certain birth defects, and Solo said playing in the Olympics is not worth risking future pregnancies.

[ MORE: American takeover at Everton update

With CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying heading to NBC Live Extra at 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday against Costa Rica (All games of the tournament will be streamed on Live Extra), Solo is set to star between the sticks for the USWNT.

But in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, the 34-year-old netminder is far from ready to commit to the tournament.

She went as far as to say she wouldn’t go if the tournament was today, elaborating in this story from SI.com:

“I would never take the risk of having an unhealthy child,” said Solo, 34. “I don’t know when that day will come for Jerramy and me, but I personally reserve my right to have a healthy baby. No athlete competing in Rio should be faced with this dilemma. Female professional athletes already face many different considerations and have to make choices that male professional athletes don’t.”

Brazilian officials claim there will be minimal risk by the Summer Games because of the change in season, but that won’t alleviate all the concerns of female athletes. It will certainly be interesting to monitor how the situation develops in the coming months.

Chelsea’s Courtois says FA Cup or Champions League final a must

Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea FC
Brian Westerholt/AP Images for International Champions Cup
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Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is used to big matches, whether at Stamford Bridge, with the Belgian national team or during his loan to Atletico Madrid.

[ SPORTSWORLD: Courtois “standing tall” at Chelsea ]

If he doesn’t get one or two of those contests by the end of this season, a bad season will become an utter failure.

Courtois says it’s a long way to the Top Four, but Chelsea hasn’t given up on that hope. Regardless, he’s targeting wins over Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain in the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, respectively.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“After that we play in the Champions League and FA Cup against two great sides and we have to try to win those games because the only way to save our season is to reach the final in one or both of them.”

Chelsea’s star has fallen this year, but this is still largely the team that won the Premier League last season. Courtois’ goals are not unreasonable.