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

UEFA playoff draw sets up intriguing battles

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The fight for the final four 2018 World Cup spots from UEFA is well and truly on.

On Tuesday in Zurich, Switzerland the draw for the two-legged playoffs was made as the eight best runners up from the UEFA qualifying group stages found out their fate.

[ MORE: Latest World Cup rankings released ]

The Republic of Ireland will face Denmark over two games, while Northern Ireland face Switzerland and two monster clashes have been set up as Sweden and Italy will lock horns and Croatia and Greece will do battle.

A spot at the World Cup in Russia next summer is the prize for the four winners of these home and away playoffs.

The Republic of Ireland seem to have got the better draw, especially as they will play at home in the second leg in Dublin. Northern Ireland will also be okay with having Switzerland but are slightly hampered by playing the first leg in Belfast. Italy against Sweden will be a tight game and one neither nation will relish, and the same can be said for Croatia vs. Greece with their intense local rivalry.

First leg matches will take place on November 9-11, while the second leg will take place on November 12-14.

Below is the full schedule for the two playoff games.


UEFA playoff schedule

First leg

Northern Ireland vs. Switzerland
Croatia vs. Greece
Denmark vs. Republic of Ireland
Sweden vs. Italy

Second leg

Switzerland vs. Northern Ireland
Greece vs. Croatia
Republic of Ireland vs. Denmark
Italy vs. Sweden

Watch Live: England, Mexico, Spain, France in U-17 World Cup action

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It is a busy day at the U-17 World Cup in India as four Round of 16 games take place.

[ LIVE: Stream U-17 World Cup ] 

Red-hot England play Japan, while France and Spain collide and Mexico clash with a very impressive Iran side who won all of their group games. Mali and Iraq complete the Round of 16 games on Tuesday.

The winners of the England v. Japan game will face the U.S. on Saturday after they blew away Paraguay 5-0 on Monday.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s four games, while you can click on the link above to watch all four games live.

Tuesday’s U-17 World Cup Round of 16 games

Iran vs. Mexico – 7:30 a.m. ET
France vs. Spain – 7:30 a.m. ET
England vs. Japan – 10:30 a.m. ET
Mali vs. Iraq – 10:30 a.m. ET

Benevento remains alone in Europe without a point

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ROME (AP) Benevento remained the only club in Europe’s top five leagues without a point after losing at basement rival Hellas Verona 1-0 in Serie A on Monday.

[ MORE: USA U-17s top Paraguay in convincing style ]

Romulo scored with a long volley to conclude a counterattack in the 74th minute.

Benevento center back Luca Antei was shown a direct red card for a sliding tackle late in the first half and Verona striker Giampaolo Pazzini nearly took advantage immediately when he hit the post.

With its first win of the season, Verona moved up to 16th place with six points.

Benevento has lost all eight of its matches.

All of the top-division squads in England, France, Germany and Spain have earned at least a point.

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

Calls for exiled player to go to WCup stirs storm in Egypt

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CAIRO (AP) Soon after Egypt qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1990, a hashtag began trending on social media: “Aboutrika to the World Cup.”

In a country where soccer and politics often mix, and often with explosive results, the pro-government media didn’t like that.

[ MORE: Tab Ramos confirms interest in USMNT job ]

The hashtag unleashed an intense online campaign by tens of thousands of fans calling for former star midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika, who is now living in exile in Qatar, to come out of retirement and play for Egypt at the World Cup in Russia next year.

It stirred a storm in the Arab country because of Aboutrika’s alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian Islamist group that has been outlawed and declared a terrorist organization by the government. The Brotherhood was outlawed after the military’s ouster of a freely elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013.

The 38-year-old Aboutrika faces a host of charges rooted in his alleged financial support for the Brotherhood and lives in exile knowing he risks arrest if he returns home. His assets have been frozen by Egyptian authorities and his name is on a terrorism list. He now makes a living as a soccer pundit on the Qatar-based sports channel beIN.

Aboutrika turned down the call to return in a message to his supporters.

“These are kind feelings for which I thank you,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “But realism is better and I don’t steal the efforts of others. Those men (on the current team) deserve to be there alone.”

Yet that gentle refusal didn’t stop the storm around him, and the unfavorable comparisons made by some between Aboutrika and Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, the team’s current star and new darling of the pro-government media.

“Mohammed Salah is the player who stood by his country, not like the other one (Aboutrika),” said Ahmed Moussa, perhaps the most ardent government supporter among TV talk show hosts. “He (Salah) is Egypt’s only star.”

The 25-year-old Salah endeared himself to fans with both goals, including an injury-time penalty, in a 2-1 win over Republic of Congo on Oct. 8 that ensured Egypt qualified for the World Cup for just the third time, and first time in nearly 30 years.

Salah has also been embraced by the government of general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and its supporters in the media as a patriot. A donation of 5 million Egyptian pounds (nearly $300,000) Salah made in December to a development fund founded by el-Sissi has gone a long way to endear him to them.

In the week since qualification, Salah has been branded “golden boy,” “legend” and “genius.”

One media commentator, Dandarawy el-Hawary of the daily “Seventh Day,” wrote of Salah’s decisive goal against Republic of Congo: “It touched off the volcanoes of patriotism, sense of belonging and love of one’s country.”

Not long ago Aboutrika was the national hero – he still is to many – after playing a central role in Egypt’s three straight African Cup of Nations titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Those triumphs made Egypt Africa’s most successful team with a record seven titles.

Now, the pro-government media refers to him as a traitor.

Another talk show host, Amr Adeeb, suggested the campaign to bring Aboutrika out of retirement was the work of government critics and berated him for his failure to lead Egypt to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Aboutrika has been labeled a mercenary, with his job with the Qatar-based beIN used as evidence of his lack of patriotism because of Egypt’s diplomatic spat with Qatar over the tiny Gulf nation’s alleged support of terrorism.

[ MORE: Mike Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale ]

Aboutrika’s supporters argue that to have him back on the team would be a just reward for his dedication to Egypt and compensation for his failed efforts to get the team to previous World Cups. They point out that Argentina great Diego Maradona and Cameroon’s Roger Milla both came out of retirement to play for their countries at the World Cup.

Responding to the criticism from government supporters, Aboutrika’s fans have also been posting videos of him scoring goals for club and country in years past, with commentators lavishly praising him for his skill and passion.