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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

VIDEO: Gerrard returns to Liverpool for training in MLS offseason

Liverpool v Sunderland - Premier League
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Steven Gerrard is back at Liverpool.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

The legendary midfielder, 35, has returned to the Reds just six months after leaving his hometown club for a new adventure in Major League Soccer with the LA Galaxy.

Gerrard spent a glittering 17-years at Anfield, guiding Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League title and winning every other major title except for the elusive Premier League crown.

[ MORE: Chelsea, United battle for Muller

After suffering an early exit from the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs with the Galaxy, Gerrard is now back in England and he’s using his time at home to train with Liverpool’s first-team and help out in any way he can as Jurgen Klopp has allowed him to come back into the dressing room he called home for nearly two decades.

“It’s a good situation,” Klopp said. “Everybody had a smile on their face when they saw Stevie. It’s good to have him here and we hope we can help him, and he can help us for sure with being in the dressing room. It’s cool.”

Below are photos and videos from Gerrard’s return as Klopp once again quashed any rumors regarding a loan move for the former Liverpool skipper who will enter his first full MLS season in 2016 with the Galaxy.

French PM says Benzema has no place on national team

Karim Benzema, France
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PARIS (AP) The French prime minister joined in the criticism of Karim Benzema on Tuesday, saying the Real Madrid striker “has no place” on the France team at the European Championship in the wake of a blackmail scandal.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Benzema is one of France’s key players as it gets ready to host the Euro 2016 tournament, but the forward faces charges of conspiracy to blackmail relating to an extortion scam over a sex tape. He is suspected of having played an active role in pressuring France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, a case that has badly damaged his reputation.

“A great athlete should be exemplary,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French radio Europe 1. “If he is not, he has no place within the France team.”

The investigation, centering on wiretap evidence, started when Valbuena took legal action after being contacted by a man claiming to possess an incriminating sex tape.

In a case that could drag on for months, Benzema’s involvement has not yet been fully determined. But investigators who charged him in October believe he was approached by a childhood friend to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers.

“If a minister was handed preliminary charges, he would no longer be part of the government,” Valls said.

Benzema denies any wrongdoing but his arguments were undermined last week when Valbuena spoke directly about his attempts to pressure him in an interview with Le Monde newspaper.

[ MORE: City now valued at $3 billion ]

The French football federation has also joined the case as plaintiff.

“There are so many kids, so many youngsters in our suburbs that relate to great athletes,” Valls said. “They wear the blue jersey, the colors of France, which are so important in these moments.”

Preliminary charges under French law mean magistrates have strong reason to believe a crime was committed, and allow time for further investigation. The charges may later be dropped. In 2010, Benzema was handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute but was acquitted in a case that lasted more than three years and tarnished his reputation.

Benzema’s image was further dented last month when he spat on the pitch after the national anthem was played at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium in a tribute to the 130 fatalities of the Paris attacks ahead of a match against Barcelona.

Benzema’s action ignited a wave of criticism on social media, prompting his lawyers to issue a statement in which they condemned “the scandalous interpretation” of the incident. Benzema, who has 27 international goals, had posted several messages in support of the victims in the days that followed the attacks.

League Cup preview: Man City, Liverpool, Everton look to make semis

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The Capital One Cup quarterfinals take place on Tuesday and Wednesday with five Premier League left among the last eight.

[ MORE: Follow League Cup scores live

Only one all-Premier League tie is set up with Southampton hosting Liverpool as Ronald Koeman pits his wits against Jurgen Klopp at St Mary’s in the tie of the round. Saints will be without captain Jose Fonte through injury, while Liverpool have Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge available but both may be used from the bench as they build up their match sharpness. Saints and Liverpool drew 1-1 at Anfield last month so expect another tight encounter down on the South Coast.

PL leaders Man City welcome Championship side Hull City to the Etihad Stadium with Manuel Pellegrini aiming to win the League Cup for the second time in three years. David Silva could make his first start in over two months for City, but Joe Hart remains out injured as Steve Bruce‘s Tigers come to town.

Everton also face second-tier opposition in Middlesbrough with a tricky trip to the Riverside awaiting the Toffees. Roberto Martinez’s team have to shore up at the back after drawing 3-3 at Bournemouth in the league last weekend, as they face Aitor Karanka’s flying-high Boro who are pushing for promotion from the Championship. This one seems like the biggest banana skin for PL clubs.

Talking of banana skins, Stoke City host Sheffield Wednesday at the Britannia and although the Potters will fancy their chances of making the final four after they knocked out Chelsea in the last round, Wednesday comprehensively beat Arsenal last time out and the Owls will provide a stern test for Geoff Cameron and Co.

Below are the fixtures for the next few days, while you can click on the link above to follow all the last-eight games live.

League Cup quarterfinals


Manchester City vs. Hull City – 2:45 p.m. ET
Middlesbrough vs. Everton – 2:45 p.m. ET
Stoke City vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 2:45 p.m. ET


Southampton vs. Liverpool – 2:45 p.m. ET

Arsenal still waiting on severity of Alexis Sanchez’s injury

NORWICH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29:  An injured Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (17) is given assistance during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Arsenal at Carrow Road on November 29, 2015 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Arsenal’s fans are sweating on news regarding Alexis Sanchez’s left hamstring injury and it seems as though the wait for a diagnosis will go on.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s new stadium plans ]

Arsene Wenger has come under plenty of criticism for playing Sanchez, 26, despite the Chilean star complaining of a hamstring injury before the Norwich game on Sunday, and when he pulled up clutching his left hamstring in the second half Wenger’s face was one of anger and disappointment.

Multiple reports claim that Sanchez’s injury is still being assessed by Arsenal’s medical staff as Wenger faces an anxious wait to see how long his star forward is out for.

Here’s what Wenger had to say directly after Arsenal’s draw at Norwich, as the media questioned why he would play Sanchez if he was already struggling with a hamstring complaint.

“Nobody is scientifically developed enough, not even the press, to predict exactly when a guy will be injured,” Wenger said. “I would have rested him but he felt perfectly alright before the game. We declared that he had no problem. Despite all the tests he looked alright. The players are there to play football not to be rested when the press decides that they need to be rested. He [Alexis] says it is a kick on his hamstring but I believe that is not really the reality.”

The reality is that Sanchez — who has scored nine times in 20 appearances this season — could miss some crucial games for the Gunners, including their UEFA Champions League Group F showdown with Olympiakos next Wednesday in Greece. Arsenal need a win by a two-goal margin or any win by scoring three or more goals to advance to the last 16 of the UCL, but with Sanchez out and plenty of others struggling, the dreaded injury plague struck the North London club in November, a month they always seem to falter in, once again.

[ MORE: City now valued at $3 billion ]

Santi Cazorla suffered a knee injury against Norwich and like Sanchez it’s unclear how long the Spanish midfielder will be out for. The only piece of good news to come from Sunday’s draw in Norfolk is that Laurent Koscielny should be available to play against Sunderland on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra) after overcoming a hip injury which forced him off early last weekend.

However, with Francis Coquelin out long-term, plus Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs making their way back slowly and long-term absentees Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky out until January, Wenger’s squad is being stretched to the limit.