Chicago makes Bywaters first pick in NWSL history

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She’s 21 years old, part of the United States’ U-23 player pool, and the current Pac-12 Player of the Year, but a few minutes after 9:00 a.m. Eastern on Friday morning, UCLA forward Zakiya Bywaters had another claim to fame. The Las Vegas native became the first college draft pick in National Women’s Soccer League history.

“I always knew after school I wanted to play professional soccer, I just didn’t know the means of how I was going to get there,” Bywaters said after the Chicago Red Stars made her the day’s surprise first overall pick. “I just took it day-by-day and made sure the environment I was in was helping me prepare for this day, so I’m very pleased with the outcome.”

It looks like a need pick for Chicago. After last week’s allocation, the Red Stars were left reliant on 34-year-old Maribel Dominguez for goalscoring. Bywaters’ athleticism, speed, and versatility led to her being selected ahead of highly-rated prospects Kristie Mewis (Boston College) and Christie Nairn (Penn State). The two midfielders fell to third and seventh, respectively.

Those steals made Kansas City and Seattle two of Friday’s winners. With Mewis, Kansas City gets a potential star to complete a spine that includes likely striker Lauren Cheney, ball winner Desiree Scott, defensive general Becky Sauerbrunn, and veteran goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart. In Seattle, Nairn’s best-case scenario would give former Arsenal Ladies coach Laura Harvey the type of midfield punch she enjoyed in London with England international Kelly Smith.

Another potential steal fell to Portland in the third round. North Carolina’s Amber Brooks, who signed with Bayern Munich last week, was selected with the last pick of the third round. Should the midfielder/defender return this summer, Thorns FC will add another first round-level talent. The fact that her name wasn’t pulled from the draft hints the former Tar Heel will play with Portland this summer.

But theme of the day was addressing need. With only six-or-seven players on each team’s books, the league’s eight clubs used the draft to address holes. The Boston Breakers selected three midfielders to complement right winger Heather O’Reilly. A Washington Spirit team lacking attackers took forwards with their first two picks. Five goalkeepers were taken among the day’s 32 picks.

Here are the full results (as copy-and-pasted from the link, above):

First round

1. Chicago Red Stars – Zakiya Bywaters, F, UCLA
2. Washington Spirit – Tiffany McCarty, F, Florida State
3. FC Kansas City – Kristin Mewis, M, Boston College
4. Sky Blue FC – Lindsi Linsonbee-Cutshall, D, BYU
5. Boston Breakers – Casey Short, M/D, Florida State
6. Western New York Flash – Adrianna Franch, G, Oklahoma State
7. Seattle Reign FC – Christine Nairn, M, Penn State
8. Portland Thorns FC – Kathryn Williamson, D, Florida

Second round

9. Chicago Red Stars – Rachel Quon, D, Stanford
10. Washington Spirit – Caroline Miller, F, Virginia
11. FC Kansas City – Erika Tmyrak, F/M, Florida
12. Sky Blue FC – Kendall Johnson, M/D, Portland
13. Boston Breakers – Mariah Nogueira, M, Stanford
14. Western New York Flash – Amy Barczuk, M, Colorado
15. Seattle Reign FC – Mallory Schaffer, M, William and Mary
16. Portland Thorns FC – Nicolette Radovcic, F, Central Florida

Third round

17. Chicago Red Stars – Taylor Vancil, G, Florida State
18. Washington Spirit – Holly King, M, Florida
19. FC Kansas City – Whitney Berry, M/F, Kansas
20. Sky Blue FC – Ashley Baker, G, Georgia
21. Boston Breakers – Jo Dragotta, D, Florida
22. Western New York Flash – Victoria DiMartino, F, Boston College
23. Seattle Reign FC – Kristen Meier, M, Wake Forest
24. Portland Thorns FC – Amber Brooks, M/D, North Carolina

Fourth round

25. Chicago Red Stars – Jen Hoy, F, Princeton
26. Washington Spirit – Colleen Williams, M, Dayton
27. FC Kansas City – Nia Williams, D, Missouri State
28. Sky Blue FC – Becky Kaplan, F, Maryland
29. Boston Breakers – Maddy Evans, M, Penn State
30. Western New York Flash – Jackie Logue, D, Wake Forest
31. Seattle Reign FC – Haley Kopmeyer, G, Michigan
32. Portland Thorns FC – Roxanne Barker, G, Pepperdine

And thanks to US Soccer, we have the draft by team:

2013 NWSL Draft Team Selections
Listed per team with overall draft selection, name, position, college and round
Chicago Red Stars
1. Zakiya Bywaters, F (UCLA) – first round
9. Rachel Quon, D (Stanford) – second round
17. Taylor Vancil, GK (Florida State) – third round
25. Jen Hoy, F (Princeton) – fourth round

Washington Spirit
2. Tiffany McCarty, F (Florida State) – first round
10. Caroline Miller, F (Virginia) – second round
18. Holly King, MF (Florida) – third round
26. Colleen Williams, M (Dayton) – fourth round

FC Kansas City
3. Kristie Mewis, M (Boston College) – first round
11. Erika Tymrak, M/F (Florida) – second round
19. Whitney Berry, M/F (Kansas) – third round
27. Nia Williams, D (Missouri State) – fourth round

Sky Blue FC
4. Lindsi Lisonsbee-Cutshall, D (BYU) – first round
12. Kendall Johnson, D/M (Portland) – second round
20. Ashley Baker, GK (Georgia) – third round
28. Becky Kaplan, F (Maryland) – fourth round

Boston Breakers
5. Casey Short, M/D (Florida State) – first round
13. Mariah Nogueira, M (Stanford) – second round
21. Jo Dragotta, M (Florida) – third round
29. Maddy Evans, M (Penn State) – fourth round

Western New York Flash
6. Adrianna Franch, GK (Oklahoma State) – first round
14. Amy Barczuk, M (Colorado) – second round
22. Vicki DiMartino, F (Boston College) – third round
30. Jackie Logue, D (Wake Forest) – fourth round

Seattle Reign FC
7. Christine Nairn, M (Penn State) – first round
15. Mallory Schaffer, M (William & Mary) – second round
23. Kristen Meier, M (Wake Forest) – third round
31. Haley Kopmeyer, GK (Michigan) – fourth round

Portland Thorns FC
8. Kathryn Williamson, D (Florida) – first round
16. Nicolette Radovic, F (Central Florida) – second round
24. Amber Brooks, M (North Carolina) – third round
32. Roxanne Barker, GK (Pepperdine) – fourth round

While PSG has won the title, Areola’s playing for his future

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PARIS (AP) Although Paris Saint-Germain has easily won the French title, Alphonse Areola still has plenty to play for.

The next four games could be crucial in deciding whether PSG keeps the goalkeeper or tries to sign a big name in the transfer window, possibly Thibaut Courtois. The 25-year-old Areola is the same age as Courtois, but has nowhere near the international standing of the Chelsea keeper.

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It is hard for Areola to stand out, however, in a team noted almost singularly for its attacking prowess. While PSG has already scored more than 100 league goals, and remains on course to reach 100 points this season, Areola has rarely been talked about.

The common perception is that PSG will thrash teams in the French league, so letting in a goal or two is irrelevant.

However, Areola has been one of PSG’s most consistent players this season, and last Sunday he made a personal record of eight saves in a 1-0 win at Bordeaux.

He was also one of the few PSG players to come through the loss to Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League with any credit. Without Areola’s shot-stopping, and particularly his bravery rushing off his line, the 5-2 aggregate loss would have been bigger.

With 104 goals, PSG’s attack is the best in the league by far and has netted 25 more than deposed champion Monaco.

But PSG’s defense is also the best and Areola has conceded only 21 goals in the 31 he has played. Although PSG has dominated most of those, losing only twice all season, he has still made on average four saves per game.

Having replaced Kevin Trapp as No. 1, Areola has missed only three league games all season. It represents a reversal for both.

When Trapp was signed by former coach Laurent Blanc in 2015-16, Areola went on loan to Spanish club Villarreal. He established himself as regular in Villarreal’s side and gained further experience in the Europa League. Spanish media were largely impressed by his consistency and his agility on the goal-line.

He returned to PSG and battled with Trapp for the starting position last season. But coach Unai Emery seemed unsure who he really preferred, with Trapp starting 24 games to Areola’s 14. PSG ended up losing the title to Monaco.

But the hierarchy is much clearer now and the error-prone Trapp, once hailed by Blanc for his passing out from goal, is the one expected to leave.

Areola has further incentive to do well with the World Cup coming up. He is challenging Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda to be France’s No. 2 behind Hugo Lloris in Russia. For now, Areola is a squad member but has yet to make an international appearance under coach Didier Deschamps.

But he has done well at every level for France, starting with the under-16s a decade ago. He got his first taste of international success when he helped France win the Under-20 World Cup in 2013.

While Paul Pogba was one of the stars of the tournament, Areola’s crowning moment came in the final itself. France drew 0-0 with Uruguay and he saved two shots in the penalty shootout. Prior to the shootout he had a word with France’s designated penalty takers, confidently telling them “do your job and I’ll do mine.”

With Emery almost certain to be replaced next season, it promises to be a frenetic offseason of buying and selling at the club.

But whoever replaces Emery should perhaps think twice before letting Areola leave. The Parisian-born Areola came through the youth ranks at PSG, as did center half Presnel Kimpembe and midfielder Adrien Rabiot.

Star-studded sides like PSG often import their best players and fans are happy to see them arrive, because it shows ambition. But they nevertheless identify more closely with homegrown talents such as Areola.

More AP Ligue 1 coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/Ligue1

Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Infantino has ‘full confidence’ in Samoura amid ethics issue

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA President Gianni Infantino says he retains “full confidence” in secretary general Fatma Samoura after an attempt to embroil her in an ethics investigation.

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Samoura has expressed irritation at “totally ridiculous and baseless” claims she broke FIFA rules by not declaring an alleged conflict of interest in the 2026 World Cup bidding contest.

FIFA has not specified the exact nature of the complaint or the progress of any ethics investigation after it was alleged she was a relative of former Senegal player El Hadji Diouf, who is an ambassador for Morocco’s bid.

Samoura insisted on Wednesday the former Liverpool forward “is not a member of my family and therefore everything is crystal clear.”

FIFA’s top administrator received a public show of support from Infantino.

“I can confirm my full confidence in Fatma Samoura to lead the FIFA administration,” Infantino said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday.

The former United Nations official was hired by Infantino in 2016 months after he was elected as Sepp Blatter’s successor.

Morocco is due to take on a joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico in the June 13 vote for the 2026 World Cup host.

Photo: Flamengo supporter tattoos club jersey on body

MAURÍCIO DOS ANJOS VIA VICE
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A supporter in Brazil has taken fandom to a whole new level with a piece of body art that shows his devotion to the club.

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Maurício dos Anjos, a passionate Flamengo fan, has been a life-long supporter of the Rio de Janeiro-based club, and has the tattoo to prove it.

While it may look like body paint, Dos Anjos has a tattoo on the upper-half of his body depicting the Flamengo jersey, and it’s pretty awesome.

“People ask me if I don’t find it strange that I’m always wearing a Flamengo shirt. And I just don’t,” dos Anjos told VICE. “To me, it’s normal. But it doesn’t seem like anyone I talk to about it actually dislikes my tattoo.”

In total, Dos Anjos says the body work took over 90 hours and 30 sessions to complete the tattoo.

Has the perception of MLS really changed?

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When David Beckham arrived in Los Angeles back in 2007 his presence changed the complexion of Major League Soccer for all the right reasons, and the perception of the growing league changed.

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Over the years, MLS has strived to move into the upper-echelon of the global game, in an attempt to compete with the likes of the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, but naysayers still indicate to this day that the United States’ top flight lacks the quality of the aforementioned.

Phrases like “retirement league” and “uninspired” have been used to describe MLS in the past, particularly when it comes to the league’s willingness to spend boatloads of cash on notable players well past their prime.

Examples such as Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard and Rafael Marquez have at times dampened the perception of MLS due to the lack of quality on the pitch from those players, along with several others that had previously boasted extensive resumes.

Now, we’re at a time where MLS has picked up its scouting, with clubs focused more on younger, more skilled talents from South America and Europe.

That has led to major signings over the past several years, such as Ezequiel Barco, Miguel Almiron, Diego Rossi and Jesus Medina, to name a few.

Has that changed the overall complexion of MLS though?

On Thursday, Kevin De Bruyne‘s agent, Patrick de Koster, suggested in an interview that the Belgium international would likely “finish” his career in MLS.

“For now, he’s very happy at this club,” De Koster said. “We always look what the best solution for the player, both financially and football wise. Kevin’s future? I can see him finish at Los Angeles.”

This comes on the heels of a 36-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining the LA Galaxy in a move that has sent shockwaves across the league and the world because of the Swede’s great presence on a global scale.

It’s not to say that players like Ibrahimovic, or previous signings like David Villa and Didier Drogba cannot help the overall growth of MLS, because they certainly bring an awareness to the matches and draw attention to their respective clubs.

However, the long-term viability of MLS has been and will continue to be sustained on youth players succeeding in the league, as well as being able to draw promising young talents into the top flight of the U.S.